Updated: Feb 27, 2020
What are your philosophies for athlete development?
When it comes to athlete development first and foremost, we want to have research guide what we do. There are tried and true strength and conditioning methods that have stood the test of time and we want those principles to guide our training process. With that in mind new research comes out all the time on methods to improve speed, strength, and power, and it is our duty to integrate these into our program to stay up to date and ahead of the curve. With athletes spending more and more time on their sport from a young age we also feel it is important to include blocks of training, in particular during the early off-season, to include movements and training techniques that take them away from their normal environment. For example: In the summer I will take our basketball team to the pool or use boxing for conditioning. The players enjoy it, push themselves, and it gets them off the hard wood floor and applying a new skill that requires them to use different muscle groups and movement patterns. As athletes progress individual needs become the most important factor. Additionally, our athletes are with us for 4-5 years, therefore each year they will be on a different program that continues to challenge and progress them over time.
Do you train athletes differently in the university setting, than you would if they were full-time professionals?
I think every stage of an athlete’s career is unique and the difference between a professional athlete and college athlete has more to do with training age then it does their status in terms of the X’s and O’s during the off-season. However, with the time commitments of a college athlete versus a professional athlete there are major differences. In the university setting an athlete’s day is jam packed with classes, study hall, and tutor sessions with practices and lifts built into their day. In the professional setting their singular focus is their sport. Therefore, if an athlete needed to have more sessions per week or more time spent on recovery, they have more flexibility. The other major difference is the amount of games played over the course of a season. Most professional sports have significantly more competitions then the college athlete so volume and intensity would vary significantly during the in-season training block for a pro vs. college athlete.
Can you give an example of your S&C programming for a year
When athletes first step on campus they go through our block zero program. We took this concept from Coach Joe Kenn, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Carolina Panthers. Regardless of the sport, we have every new athlete start here. Athletes must pass competency in each of our main movements before progressing to more advanced movements. This is a system we have had in place as a department for the past 3-years and, it has allowed us to:
1. Teach and enforce proper movement from Day 1
2. Safely progress athletes with varying training histories
3. Separate the incoming players from the returners so we can have more eyes on the athletes during a critical time period
4. Create good training habits and break bad ones
Incoming freshmen who play a spring sport are split from the returners during the session and have a completely different program. For those that compete right away in a fall sport, the block zero exercises are used to replace our more advanced exercises that the returners are using. For example, if our upperclassmen are front squatting, the freshmen will be landmine or goblet squatting. If our upperclassmen are barbell benching, our freshmen are doing tempo push-ups or DB bench press. This allows us to keep everyone together to account for the demands of the hectic in season schedule.
Below is the “bank” of exercises our coaches can choose from when designing their block zero program. If you have a more advanced freshmen or transfer, you can continue to challenge them within these parameters, such as by adding tempos to a landmine squat, or adding a vest to the single leg squat.
Squat Pattern: Banded BW Squat, Goblet Squat, Landmine Squat Hinge Pattern: Dowel Hinge, Band Good Morning, DB RDL, Band Pull Through Single Leg: BW SL Squat (off short box), BW or DB Split Squat Press Pattern: DB Bench Press, Tempo Push-Ups, Seated DB Shoulder Press Pull Pattern: Chest Supported Row, Lat Pull Down, Cable Rows Core: Suitcase Carries, Pallof Press (and variations), Dead bugs, Farmers Walks, Plank Variations
Team and individual factors determine the progression from here.
How do you develop coaches and interns? What are important factors for you?
For mentorship it really comes down to time, support and patience. You need to be willing to spend time with people to help them grow and learn, you need to provide support when challenges come up, and you need to have patience as young coaches make mistakes. This profession can be very challenging early on in your career as you learn to navigate how to communicate at a high level, program, and manage your time effectively. It is important to understand a person’s goals as well. For example: If you know someone really wants to be a head strength and conditioning coach, you should work to have them involved in administrative tasks they will need to understand to help them as they move on.
What should young coaches do who are looking to get into the collegiate S&C profession?
Young coaches who are looking to get into the profession should be looking to check several boxes to help them land their first job or graduate assistant position.
a) Get a degree in a related field
b) Sit for one of the two national exams through the NSCA or the CSCCA
c) Set up a minimum of two internships
I would recommend doing at least two internships as part of your undergrad. One during the summer of your junior year. This could be at a local university in your area and will give you a chance to see things firsthand and get your teeth wet heading into your senior year. Following graduation, I would recommend doing a post grad internship for an entire semester. The goal should be to find a place where you will have an opportunity to earn coaching experience once you establish trust from the head strength and conditioning coach. I would also suggest looking into programs that will give you the opportunity to learn from multiple coaches. Some larger universities might have 5 weight rooms on campus and your internship might be at one location with 1 or 2 teams. That isn’t necessary a bad thing, but if you could make a positive impression on 5-6 different coaches you are expanding your network significantly in your first year. I would also highly recommend working with as many sports as possible early on. This will give you a chance to coach athletes from different cultures, genders, and help you sharpen your communication skills.
The last thing I would recommend that leads into the next question is do not be dead set on one area early on. As you are applying for jobs following your internships consider high school positions, tactical positions, and private sector jobs. These will expand your knowledge base, put money in your pocket, and with the hours typically more manageable then at the collegiate level, you can likely keep your foot in the door at a local university. A GA position at the college level may require you to move across the country and find an apartment and most of these positions require coaching experience. Below is sample schedule for a recent grad in their first year out of school who would like to work at the collegiate level.
6am-10am: Assist at local university with the football program 10am-12pm: Regroup, rest, travel 12-7pm: Work at a local sports performance facility
This example does 3 things 1) It allows you to put another year on your resume of working at the collegiate level. Hopefully during that time, you gain valuable coaching experience, network with both the strength staff and coaching staff, and get an inside look at some of the nuances of navigating at this level.
2) You can save some money: depending on your living situation you might be able to put away a rainy-day fund. This will be critical for when you land a GA position or entry level assistant position with equal or less pay.
3) You have experience that you can use as a back-up plan.
What threats are there to the university S&C profession?
I would say the biggest threat is there are more people who want to be college strength and conditioning coaches then there are jobs. This is a very attractive profession which leads to many young coaches doing an upwards of 5 internships before they land full time employment. The good part is there are many other opportunities opening in the tactical, high school, and private space which will only continue to evolve and improve like it has at the college and professional level. Another threat is the lack of people who have retired as strength and conditioning coaches.
Who should manage/supervise the S&C/Performance department? Who should carry out audits and reviews?
The reporting structure for college strength and conditioning coaches is one of the biggest challenges that this profession currently faces. In the perfect world, the strength and conditioning staff would report to a senior administrator or high-performance director who has hands on experience (programming, working with head coaches, leading a team etc.) in the strength and conditioning profession. One of the biggest issues with reporting structure is most of the time there is a lack of understanding of how to effectively evaluate the job strength and conditioning coaches do.
Why not give Coach George Greene a follow on twitter to have a closer look at how Stony Brook University run their Strength & Conditioning Department