Samsonís Strength & Conditioning Coaches of the Year
© More from this issue
From the NFL to High School, Strength & Conditioning Coaches
are trusted to maximize their team’s potential when they step
onto the field. Here, Samson Equipment recognizes those
coaches who made a big impact in 2009...
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Dalrymple learned a valuable lesson when he had a free agent tryout with the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. Dalrymple had been a four-year starter as an offensive lineman for Miami of Ohio (1983-1986). “I was good at power lifting so that’s what I concentrated on,” said Dalrymple. “I thought lifting was the answer so I just lifted and didn’t work on getting faster and improving my lateral movement. I was cut that summer, but I learned from it.”
It’s the concept of working on areas where you need improvement and not where you have strength that has been an ingrained part of Dalrymple’s philosophy of a strength and conditioning program. “It’s human nature to try to work on what you’re good at, your strengths and not your weaknesses. But it limits a player’s ability by not working on these areas and full potential is not realized,” said Dalrymple.
Dalrymple brought this philosophy to Miami of Ohio when he returned to his alma mater to become strength coach in 1989 and stayed in Oxford for 17 years. Along the way he worked with Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, who was the RedHawks quarterbacks coach and OC in 1994-95. The two formed a bond and Payton brought Dalrymple to New Orleans shortly after he became head coach in 2006. “You pay attention to certain coaches that you feel you’d like to work with some day,” said Payton. Dalrymple joined the Saints staff in February of 2006.
“I believe in a free lift, Olympic lifting base that promotes structural integrity.” said Dalrymple. “ I believe the body must be balanced with no apparent weaknesses. That’s our ultimate goal. The focus is on performance enhancement. We test every player and find out exactly what their strengths are and what they need to improve. We then concentrate on that improvement. All of our players believe in this philosophy and are open to suggestions and changes. After all, what we do, hopefully, will extend their careers in the NFL.”
Dalrymple and his staff create specific strength and conditioning programs for every member of the team. The program could be completely different, even for two people playing the same position. A good example are the two Saints’ safeties – Darren Sharper and Roland Harper. “Sharper is older, has been in the NFL quite awhile and has had many hits and tackles over the years,” said Dalrymple. “He needs a different, more streamlined strength and conditioning program than Harper. Roland is new in the league, just developing as a safety and so he requires a different program than Darren.”
Individualizing the players is different in college than the NFL. “You have a broader age range in professional football,” said Dalrymple. “The college kids are primarily 18-22 and have different degrees of expertise in the weight room. Some have never lifted weights and others come from sophisticated programs. In the NFL, the range is from roughly a 21-year old to, say, a 45-year old like John Carney, who was our kicker for many years. In college, you put together programs by position, but it’s completely individualized in the NFL. As an NFL strength and conditioning coach you also pay for the sins of improper training from college guys. Many may have used improper techniques that need to be corrected. As the players get older in the NFL, the physical abuse to their bodies grows and you have to adjust accordingly.”
Dalrymple also lets the players get involved in their specific strength and conditioning programs. “Each position player gives us input into the specific programs whether they are during the season or off-season,” said Dalrymple. “For example, Drew Brees is very active in helping put together an overall program for the quarterbacks. He knows what areas of his game he can always improve.”
Dalrymple also believes an off-season strength and conditioning program is crucial to the overall success during the season. “I am a firm believer in the Bill Parcells/Sean Payton school of off-season conditioning. If you don’t train religiously during the off-season, it’s going to affect your play later in the regular season. Look how many teams start out great in September but really struggle in late November and through December. It’s a 17-week season before the playoffs and teams get worn down. It’s hard to keep fresh and strong if you don’t train to the max in the off-season.
“My years at Miami of Ohio helped me in the long haul. I oversaw 19 different sports with one of them being ice hockey. The season was as long as an NFL season but it helped me to understand what’s needed to sustain a season that, for us, began in late July and ended the first week of February.”
The Saints continue to lift during the season but with shorter workouts, 3-5 times a week. Much of the training sessions are related to training that will help with injury prevention or be directly related to the nagging pulls. But it’s, again, the off-season that is a priority.
“After the exit interviews in mid-February we put together a complete off-season program for each player that runs to late April when we have our Organized Team Activities. Each player can then contact me with any questions or suggestions about the workout schedule even though many of them have personal trainers. We then give the players a daily program to take them through July with the goal being to have each one in peak physical condition by the start of training camp.”
Dalrymple knows that competition will be fierce come August. “There will be 80 or so guys trying to make the 53-man roster. They know it’s important to be at their best when two-a-days begin. We climbed the mountain last year and won the Super Bowl. Now we want to do everything we can to stay there.”
Boise State University
Boise State has circled three critical dates for their football program in 2010:
March 8th: The start of spring football practice.
August 9th: The beginning of fall practice.
September 6th: A Labor Day opener against Virginia Tech.
As head coach Chris Petersen said, “We will be facing the toughest schedule we’ve ever had in 2010.” For Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Socha, the first date he circled was January 25th. That’s the day winter conditioning began for all of the Bronco football players.
“Our winter program started then and runs for six weeks as spring practice begins,” said Socha, Samson’s FBS Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year for 2009. “Our goal is to have every player recover completely from the fall season – whether it be through injury or loss of muscle mass – and get all of their strength back.”
Socha’s objectives for the football program are relatively simple. “We basically train our football players to be the best athletes they can be. We train with a foundation of Olympic lifts but we want them to improve all the time as football players. We’re not so much interested in numbers but we want them to be as fast and strong as possible and have the ability to change direction. We also do a lot of pre-hab work in order to prevent injuries.”
Boise State’s philosophy of strength and conditioning doesn’t really include specific programs for different position players. “It’s really a general strength program for all our athletes,” said Socha. “We evaluate each player’s needs in the weight room and will have what we call ‘extra needs workouts’ for players if warranted. Our conditioning is much more position specific so that the running workouts are different for the O and D-linemen as opposed to the skill position players.”
Socha came to Boise State from Louisville where he helped the Cardinals to a pair of bowl games. He also spent three years at the University of Washington and was a four-year letterman at the University of Minnesota. Socha joined the Broncos staff in May, 2006. In the four years he’s been there, BSU has gone 49-4. In his first year, the season ended with Boise’s thrilling 43-42 overtime win against Oklahoma which is considered by many to be the most exciting game of the decade.
But even with that outstanding record, the Broncos lost bowl games in 2007 and 2008. “We needed to make a change as we were getting ready for the Fiesta Bowl and TCU this past January,” said Socha. “We wanted the players to be fresh and ready to play after a six week or so layoff between our last game and the Fiesta Bowl. Instead of normal workouts, we put together teams and had competition in other sports like dodge ball, soccer, and team handball. Their cardio and conditioning stayed high and the players had fun. In the two previous years we stuck with our normal strength and conditioning program and the players were stale by the time of the bowl game. What we did this past year made a big difference. The players were fresh and ready to play.”
BSU players understand that success starts in the weight room during the winter and continues on the blue turf during the fall. “Our athletes know that the process of working hard throughout the off-season,” said Socha “will help them become successful during the season especially when it’s over four months long.”
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
Background: This past season was Justus Galac’s third as Strength and Conditioning Coach for Villanova, winner of last December’s Football Championship Subdivision title. The Wildcats came from behind and defeated Montana in the Championship, 23-21. Galac came to Villanova from Dickinson College and began his coaching career at his alma mater, SUNY College at Brockport. He started for two years at nose tackle and earned three varsity letters.
Philosophy: Galac’s philosophy of a strength and conditioning program is a simple one. “Our base philosophy is to train our athletes to be the best football players they can be,” said Galac. “We don’t have any specific lifts for each athlete but we have training programs to make them faster, stronger, and more agile players. We want them to be explosive, to be able to change direction as quickly as possible and to be injury free. All of these elements are in a program we use called Conjugate Periodization.
“During the winter I’m with the players all the time because the coaching staff is out recruiting. In that time we try to build physical and mental toughness and keep the players motivated. What really helped us as a strength and conditioning staff was that our coaching staff limited scrimmaging once the season began. It meant less injuries and we could continue our weight program – for the most part – for all the players.”
Tip: Galac believes that little things can make a big difference. “We’ve found the little things and attention to detail can make a difference. Completing our program without missing a workout or training to the max during our summer conditioning program or even completing our strongman circuit drills without an excuse all help make the players reach their potential. We feel it will make a difference, especially in the fourth quarter of games. That was shown in the Championship game when we rallied for the win.”
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
West Texas A & M University
Background: Sarah Ramey first thought about a career in strength and conditioning when she was an undergraduate at Wichita State. “I was a member of the volleyball team and had a great rapport with our strength and conditioning coaches. I learned a great deal from them and then had a five-month internship with the Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning School in Massachusetts. I was convinced.”
From there, Ramey became a graduate assistant at Kansas State and then worked as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for three years at Colorado. She went to West Texas A & M in 2007 and started their strength and conditioning program. “I was accepted by just about everyone and my experience at two Big 12 programs really helped,” said Ramey. “I’ve now seen the progress by our players both in the weight room and on the field.”
Philosophy: Ramey believes in the total body workout. “Football is a meat grinder and there is no sport like it,” said Ramey. “We want to prepare the players for everything that football is – collisions, change of direction, all kinds of hits. We want to prepare the entire body and have the players as conditioned and strong as they can be.
“In season, the varsity lifts two days a week – Sunday and Wednesday. We also do core work and flexibility training on Thursdays. We don’t do specific weight programs by position but do so for our summer conditioning program. Each position has their own program in preparation for the start of fall camp.”
Tip: “I feel you should hold all players accountable for what they do, no matter what level your program is at,” said Ramey. “They have to be responsible for what they do (and don’t do). We create competitions during the season and while they’re in the weight room we make sure there’s very limited down time.”
Defensive Line Coach,
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Background: Doug Smith serves as both the defensive line coach and strength and conditioning coach for Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. An assistant at Juniata in the early 90’s, Smith coached at Lock Haven University from 1993-1996 before returning to Juniata in 1997. He works regularly as a strength and conditioning expert with two baseball teams during the spring – the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. “I’ve learned a lot from both teams as it relates to strength,” said Smith. “The Rangers have helped us with shoulder maintenance in which we apply their conditioning program to our QBs.”
Philosophy: Smith’s strength and conditioning philosophy is simple. “We want to hit all components in the weight room – flexibility, balance, footwork, conditioning, total body strength and core strength,” said Smith. “Our goal is to make each player a better athlete. We break down specific plans for each player, work on their physical components and try to reduce the risk of injury. We want to transfer want they accomplish in the weight room to the practice field and ultimately to game situations.
“I’m a big believer in the word ‘demeanor’; that is, how to act like a football player which includes a strong work ethic, the right attitude, communication with each other and attention to detail. The right attitude can translate into leadership. We want players committed to year round development.”
Tip: Smith believes in total commitment. More specifically, “the team starts with individuals and they must commit to being the best they can be,” said Smith. “If you don’t reach your potential, you become a weak link and it hurts the overall team’s effort. You have to have all of your players committed to maximizing their potential.”
Defensive Line Coach,
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Background: Blake Seeds played at South Dakota State and later played professionally in the National Indoor Football League and the German Premier Football League. After completing his graduate assistant work at Chadron State, Seeds became a coach at Wyoming Indian High School in Effete, WY. He just completed his second year as both defensive line coach and strength and conditioning coach at Lindenwood. In those two seasons the Lions have gone 24-3.
Philosophy: “We believe in building bulk and strength and improving every athlete’s speed and explosiveness,” said Seeds. “The game has changed. Football is a speed game and it’s all about being fast and flexible. You have to do what you feel is best for your specific program. While we don’t have position-specific programs for our athletes, we try to fit a weight training/conditioning regimen that works for everyone. The goal of both offensive linemen and defensive backs is to keep their opponent in front of them so, even though these are two diverse positions, we’ll do the same general training and drills.”
According to Seeds, football is a total commitment. “Each player has to know that training is 24/7,” he said. “We teach aggressiveness all the time whether it be in the weight room, part of our 3-4 defense, or our no-huddle offense. Our athletes are not power lifters, so tempo in and out of everything they do is important. A lot of our emphasis is on feet, speed and agility drills. Our players have to be able to swivel their hips quickly to either make the play or change direction.”
Tip: “I was a coach at Wyoming Indian High School and didn’t have a lot of resources. My advice is to improvise as much as you can with whatever equipment you have. You can’t ask your athletes to do things they can’t because of your equipment limitations. Improvise your situation no matter what your limitations are.”
Danny Ray Cole
Defensive Line Coach
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Northwest Mississippi CC
Background: Coach Danny Ray Cole just completed his eighth season as both defensive line and strength and conditioning coach for Northwest Mississippi Community College. In addition to those responsibilities, Cole teaches a fitness class at the school.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Cole spent ten years as the D-line and strength and conditioning coach at South Panola High School in Batesville, MS, a traditional powerhouse in the southeast.
Philosophy: Coach Cole’s strength and conditioning philosophy begins and ends with attitude. “Having the right attitude is critical,” said Cole. “In order to get bigger, faster, and stronger, the players must have the right attitude. If they don’t have it, I’ll meet with them privately and work with them to make sure they’re on board. Many of our players have personal issues and I spend as much time as I can with them to try to work through these issues.
“We have a seven-week conditioning program during the winter in which our goal is to make the players bigger, faster, and stronger. Then, during spring practice, the players are in the weight room 2-3 times per week. All of our players are on campus during the summer and our conditioning during that time is intended to make sure they’re at their ideal weight for the start of fall practice. So January through May they bulk up but lose weight during the spring and summer with an emphasis on conditioning.”
Tip: Communication and encouragement are both important factors in Cole’s program. “It’s easy to get discouraged in the weight room but I keep encouraging them by staying positive,” said Cole. “Make sure they’re 100% committed to being the best athletes they can be. In this day and age, you have to show your athletes you care and be there for them.”
Head Football Coach
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Venice High School (FL)
Background: John Peacock of Venice HS also serves as the school’s strength and conditioning coach. A native of Venice, Peacock has the distinction of lettering as a RB at East Carolina and then playing LB for Georgia Southern. Recently, a 4,000 square foot weight facility has been completed for the Venice athletes. Last fall, Venice finished 9-2 and averaged 37 points per game.
Philosophy: Peacock believes in a 24/7 program in order to be successful. “I keep telling our football players that they have to live their intensity every day,” said Peacock. “It’s not just during the season any more. We work our athletes very hard in the weight room but don’t focus on weight amounts or bench press weight.
“We had one serious injury – an ACL – during all of 2009. I attribute that to the intensity and focus of our program that is year round. We prioritize gaining size and strength during the off-season and running as a conditioner in the summer. The focus is the weight room in the winter months and being conditioned and ready for August camp in the summer months.”
Tip: “What has really helped us is learning from college strength coaches. We’ve worked with Jeff Connors of North Carolina and Mickey Marotti of Florida and both have helped improve our program.”
Peacock believes that regardless of the status of your weight facility, you can build strength for your team. “Even if you have a limited facility or hardly anything, push-ups are a great way of building strength. You can go back to the elementary ways of gaining strength. Be creative and make teams among your players and have them compete against each other, even in elementary exercises.”
Head Football Coach,
Strength & Conditioning Coach
Mayfield High School, Las Cruces (NM)
Background: Michael Bradley serves as both head football coach and strength and conditioning coordinator for Mayfield High School. From an 0-11 first year record in 1994, Mayfield went 11-1 his second season. Since then the Trojans have gone 178-28 and finished 11-2 this past fall. Bradley has coached a total of 22 years.
Philosophy: Bradley believes the cornerstone of his program is a strong work ethic. “The success of our program is based on that work ethic,” said Bradley. “We push the kids to the max but really do nothing fancy in the weight room. Our program includes squats, power cleans, and benching. We have many slogans in the weight room that try to inspire and motivate our kids. One of them is ‘Poor, Hungry, and Driven.’
“There’s really no off-season with winter training and spring and summer conditioning. One of the priorities of the winter and spring is to build that family atmosphere and feeling of working with each other. We come together as a team in the off-season. We just lost 34 seniors but have 27 coming back this fall.”
Tip: Weightlifting technique is crucial to Bradley and the Mayfield program. “You’ve got to make sure you teach your athletes the proper technique for different lifts,” said Bradley. “So often they use the wrong technique which is obviously not good for them and sometimes hard to break.
“The other point to remember is the mental side. We believe the ratio of importance is 4 to1 mental. We work the heads of our athletes all the time. During the two to three minute breaks in the weight room we talk about what we call ‘character quotes’ of the week. We use the many motivational signs in the weight facility to motivate our kids. It’s all about attitude and this helps build team leadership.”