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Samson Equipment's Strength and Conditioning Coaches of the Year for 2014

by: AFM Editorial Staff
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NFL: Garrett Giemont Pittsburgh Steelers


Garrett Giemont’s first job in the NFL was with the Los Angeles Rams in 1978. With over 30 years of experience in the NFL, Giemont was also the strength and conditioning coach for both the Oakland Raiders (1995-2002) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2003-2005). Head Coach Mike Tomlin brought Giemont to Pittsburgh in 2007 and he enters his 9th season with the Steelers this fall. Coach Giemont also worked as the Director of Physical Development for the Chicago Cubs (1992-1994).


Looking back on our 2014 season, we saw the Steelers getting back to the playoffs but falling short of our goal. But we are getting ready for the 2015 off-season program. We had many players have a great season last fall and through hard work 2015 should be another great year.


My philosophy of strength and conditioning has had the blessing of time and the unique gift of being a part of both the old school NFL blending it together with the new school NFL. This has been very helpful in understanding where we are going today because I have been a part of where we were before conditioning coaches.

I was given an opportunity to interview for the strength and conditioning coaches position of the Los Angeles Rams and, after many interviews, I was hired as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach on John Robinson’s staff. This gave me the platform to institute a free weight compound movement program that is still the pillar of the program we use today. It is important to stay current and to never stop learning. This has allowed me to maintain both my performance conditioning philosophy along with my free weight / compound movements strength training philosophy.


When you get to work with the world’s best athletes everyday, it is a pretty good day and I would like to think that my daily attitude exudes the excitement of the chance to get better. There are so many movements that I hold in high regard it would be hard to list just one. But here is a list of the training movements that I think make athletes better - back squat, front squat, all (DB - Bar - Cables ) bench / incline presses, slam balls modified clean and horizontal press, hang cleans (with bar, KB’s, DB’s, vertimax, etc.), RDL’s,  and TKE’s. The one isolated movement that I really like is the one legged prone hamstring curl. I use this mostly as a test that we do within our FLS (Functional Lifting Screen). As great as all of the these movements are, we spend half of our training time on working on the complete posterior chain and posterior chain exercises.


 As I mentioned earlier, some of my philosophy is steeped in old school traditions. One of those is, before specialty training shoes, all NFL football players used to train in their cleats (7 studs). I have and still have a belief that any time your go out and condition, if you are in that phase of your program (we run in flats the day after games because I do not want to pull energy from the ground) you need to be in your cleats. Gravity pushes us to the ground and creates an energy connection which we cannot alter. We can’t play off the ground! This is exactly why we wear a cleat when we are playing in a game in order to create a strong base / better grip  / connection with the ground when we are cutting or applying force on another man.

The next addition is to add the weight of the game to your football drill work. Football is played with protective equipment that weighs X amount of weight (weigh your own equipment to get the actual weight). To get ultimate results and neuro-adaptation, wear your cleats and a Titin Weighted shirt during your football drill work. This maximizes your training time and has real value.       

The second tip is short and sweet – always keep learning, but trust what you already know.

FBS: Mickey Marotti Ohio State


Coach Marotti began his career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State (1987-88). He then became an assistant at West Virginia before becoming the Head Strength Coach at Cincinnati (1990-98). He later had similar positions at Notre Dame and Florida before becoming the Assistant AD for Sports Performance at Ohio State in 2012.


It was very memorable. This was probably the best “team” that I have been a part of. It was the most resilient group of players that I have been a part of. The leadership was unbelievable. The players were buying what the coaching staff was selling. There was an uncommon bond and commitment with all of the units on the team. They truly played for each other and it was a very special group to be around each day. They opened up their hearts and accepted hard tough coaching. They were extremely hungry as well.

Our philosophy is to provide the athletes with a consistent, productive way of physical training. We  believe in hard training, but also demand discipline and accountability. We create a culture of relentless effort, mental toughness within a highly competitive environment. We incorporate an organized, disciplined, and comprehensive strength, speed, and conditioning program based on scientific principles. Our goal at Ohio State is to physically and mentally prepare the athletes for competition with a ‘hands on’ approach.

My favorite moment was watching our players play so hard for each other and come together as a team the last three games – The Big Ten Championship, Sugar Bowl, and The National Championship. My other favorite moment was the dog days back in February when our team was being forged. It was also fun to see the players and coaches celebrate after the big wins. It makes everything all worthwhile.

Stay humble and continue to learn and seek knowledge on a daily basis. Coaches either get better or get worse each day. Have energy, be passionate , and remember it’s not about you – it’s about the team.

Spend as much time as you can with your family. Remember that you are a very important part of the athletes’ life. They look to you for wisdom and direction, but do not enable them – just coach them.

FCS: Jim Lathrop Illinois State


Coach Lathrop played football at Northwest Missouri State, powerlifted and threw the discus through high school. His first true job in the profession came as a graduate assistant at Missouri (1983-1987). He then had a short five month stay at Cal-Berkeley  and from there went to Georgia Tech for a three year period.

Coach Lathrop then spent five years at Wyoming, four with Joe Tiller and one with Dana Dimel. From there, he became head strength and conditioning coach at Purdue and worked with Brock Spack, his present boss at Illinois State. The two have worked together for 18 years. 


Obviously the visceral thrill of an extended playoff run is tremendously exciting and will help bring back many memories. The opportunity to measure ourselves in the national championship game against North Dakota State University makes 2014 even more memorable. But the thing that to me was most memorable was the will of our guys not only on game days but within the workouts and the day to day operation of the program. They truly set a new standard of expectation for themselves and worked on a day to day basis to live up to that.


I would describe it as a developmental model and process of training athletes. Basically, we utilize tried, true and tested training principles in a fundamentally basic program which addresses the needs of the sport, our team and our student athletes. Emphasis is placed on building a solid base of training, creating both a volume of training and increasing a level of intensity as well as moving at greater rates of speed. We employ the Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.) principle. This philosophy is necessitated as we train beginning to intermediate level athletes.

It is important to work within the context of the football program integrating your speed, strength and conditioning program as a component part of the overall program. We give great care to being an effective complement as we are the other face of the program and we must project the head coach’s philosophy to the players. The time I have spent in our programs at Wyoming, Purdue and Illinois State University has been a tremendous challenge for me from a programming standpoint .


Though I am sure some will disagree with my answer, in particular, those who have seen my “Shut Up and Squat Shirt” will know. Suffice it to say, with training power/explosion sports like football, our exercise menu will prominently feature squat variations and Olympic movements. All dry land sports necessitate ground based movements like those. However, all movements have relevance and are important as long as they address two questions. Will that movement aid in improving sport performance? Will that movement help us prevent injury? So, do I have a favorite movement? No, but I do favor certain groups of exercises that answer those questions.


1.  Be cognizant of who the athletes are that you are working with. Training age and skill level are real concerns.

2.  Use the K.I.S.S. principle and learn how to do the little basic things right.

3.  Interaction with the athletes - after all, it’s about them.

4.  Be patient - absolute must.

5.  Challenge their bodies and their minds. The human body is remarkably adaptable given the appropriate stimulus.

6.  Learn to enjoy the process.                           

Division II: Bill Perkins Bloomsburg University 

Perkins graduated from Slippery Rock University and has coached at Bloomsburg University for 21 years as both the strength coach and defensive line coach.


One of the best memories was how hard our kids worked not only during the season, but in the pre-season. We don’t see a large number of athletes over the summer but we continue to communicate and press them to work the program and prepare for the stress of a long season. They know as a staff we try to develop and foster our program. We have had some defensive backs and running backs who were as strong as some of our linemen because they believed and trained with a purpose. 

The bye-week during the playoffs was another moment that I saw a transformation from a team that may have been a little tired and torn down to a confident, strong, and healthy team that made a formidable playoff run.

Injury prevention is my major focus – in order to compete it is necessary to have all of our “bullets in the holster”. We try to be very well-rounded, but we still focus on the core lifts. Our coaches are firm believers in moving weight, gritting things out, and gaining confidence in the weight room that would carry over to the field. I attempt to back that philosophy – using every motivational tool we can – keeping things fresh, competing in the weight room and challenging our players to improve. 

As a trained-educator, progressions and lead-up skills are the key. We do not have as much time as we would like in the weight room with our guys – so we need to maximize what we have and get the most from it. Our entire staff works in the weight room. They back the program and sell it to our kids.

As a coach I really don’t have one movement I appreciate more than another. When I train myself, I have always loved all the bench movements. I like to see our kids succeed at improving their test and workout scores. It motivates me when I watch an athlete accomplish something in the weight room or on the field. We have improved our facilities and that has made such a difference although I still love the memories of our grungy two-room training area which is where our foundation was put down. We have a core group of alumni that did as much as they could with what they had – I think this paved the way for both what the program has become and what our kids work with now.

Work hard and give as much as you can. Your program, facilities, and exercise regimens may be outstanding but if you first realize that relationships will build trust and, in turn, create an athlete who works his butt off for you, I believe you will then be successful.

High School: David Aoyagi Marcos De Niza High School (AZ)


Coach Aoyagi has had the opportunity to work with athletes in strength and conditioning programs in Arizona, Hawaii and Utah, combining techniques and plans from all the coaches he has worked with. He has worked with student athletes ranging from seventh grade all the way up through high school and into college. 

This season was a challenge because the school was in the middle of a weight room renovation. I was rotating classes of 50 student athletes through one tiny room with four benches and four racks. We had to become very creative with space and workouts. At one point we were performing our hang cleans and other lifts out on the driveway in the middle of campus, but often had to stop the workouts to move out of the way for construction vehicles. This created challenges in safety and setting up proper workouts for the athletes. However, the students took it in stride and we were able to make it to our new weight room with no injuries. We are now rolling through our workouts in the renovated weight room for the last quarter of school.

I stress safety, technique and keeping athletes healthy. Ultimately, athletes win games. So we must develop athletes and this consists of a year-round, in season and out of season, four-year development plan. Key components to athleticism include power or explosiveness, strength, speed, quickness, flexibility, nutrition, and pre/rehabilitation. We educate athletes in all these areas and develop them with an age appropriate implementation. l use the latest studies in athletic development to focus our development through open-chain, multi-joint, ground-based, three-dimensional, weight-resisted movements such as Olympic lifts like the clean, snatch, and squat.

I am a huge fan of the clean, power clean, hang clean, basically all variations of the clean. A close second is the front squat because of its relationship with the clean. We have broken down the various parts of the clean and spend a part of most workouts working our technique. I like how many different muscle groups it works and also how it correlates with the explosion needed in athletics. It is a lift that with practice and technique all athletes can see improvements.

Keep learning. Go to clinics and visit other strength coaches at the high school, college, and pro level. Every coach has something to offer your program. There are so many knowledgeable coaches out there. Learn from them. Everything you can learn will help student athletes and that is what it is all about. Help every kid you can. Keep them healthy and increase their performance.

High School: Chris Reese Monte Vista Christian School (CA)


Reese graduated from the University of Texas in Tyler, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. He has been the strength and conditioning coach at Monte Vista Christian School the past two years. 


This season was memorable in a number of different ways. We had the opportunity to expand our academic and athletic facilities during the 2014 season. This expansion included 8 Custom Triple Sided Power Stations from Samson Equipment. This renovation captured the vision of our strength and conditioning program by increasing the functionality of our weight room. In return, we were able to complete more lifts in a minimal amount of time. We then made Monte Vista Christian School history in the 2014 season by advancing to the CCS Championship game. Our athletes reached an entirely different level of performance in the weight room and on the football field.

Our strength and conditioning program at Monte Vista Christian is designed to develop and enhance sport specific movements. The main objective is to decrease the risk of injury and improve overall performance. My responsibility is creating an environment that enables each athlete to perform to the best of their ability. We focus on three pillars:

•  Ground-Based Movements
The emphasis is on the athletes’ ability to produce force when executing these types of movements. When an athlete is running, the amount of force applied to the ground dictates the speed of the athlete and how high an athlete is able to jump.

•  3-Dimensonal Movements
The importance for this type of training is the replication of movements that occur on the playing field. These movements require the athlete to stabilize their body when executing front to back, side to side, as well as up and down movements

•  Acceleration and Agility Development
The development of an athlete’s ability to change direction and react to stimuli is crucial in the world of sports. This is why we utilize a number of different exercises that require our athletes not only to react, but also anticipate the next movement. 

We tend to favor the movements required to execute Olympic lifts. For instance, the power clean, deadlift, and hang clean which are core Olympic lifts. We build up to Olympic lifts through the use of back squats, front squats and a variation of shrugs. Olympic lifts enable our athletes to perform explosive movements. Each Olympic lift requires our athletes to combine a number of different actions in order to execute the lift correctly. We believe the lifts we introduce in the weight room need to share a direct relationship with the movements performed on the football field.  


The fact is there are a number of different strength and conditioning programs available to coaches. Your job is to find the best strength and conditioning program that fits your system and time frame. The best approach is a realistic approach. Know what movements your athletes can execute successfully without compromising the proper technique.

High School: Rich Lansky Manatee High School (FL)


Coach Lansky is in his fifth year as the football strength and conditioning coach at Manatee High School. He also serves as the head boys and girls weightlifting coach and teaches weight training at the school as part of the Physical Education Department.

During his 27 year coaching career,  Lansky has worked in the private sector as a personal trainer and sports performance coach, as a high school strength and conditioning coach, a  collegiate sports conditioning coach, a combine preparation specialist and as both a club coach and team coach for USA Weightlifting. A 1988 graduate of Syracuse University, he has helped coach five different USAW National

Champions and served as an official TEAM USA coach at the Pan Am Championships, the Junior World

Championships, the World University Cup and the Mermet Cup (USA vs. Australia).


The manner in which our kids were able to focus, block out distractions and adapt to a slightly different environment really impressed me this year. The 2014 off-season was marked by change.

With a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new scheme, a lot of people thought that Manatee Football was going to be in a state of disruption. After being ranked nationally for the last few years, people were throwing their opinions around as to how successful the team would be in terms of competitiveness, quality and effort. An opening day loss in Georgia set the stage for even more adversity.

But I am proud of the way these young men responded to the pressure. They banded together and embraced each other as both a team and as family. They responded to our new coaches and schemes in a professional manner and continued to work their butts off in the weight room and on the field. Our leaders stepped up and led by example. They held each other accountable.

The results were impressive to say the least as we won the next 12 games, winning district and regional titles and making it back to the state semifinal.


I have had a love affair with weights and the development of strength, size and power since I was a 14 year old ninth grader visiting the YMCA for the first time. I am a firm believer that your coaching philosophy is just as important as your strength and conditioning philosophy.

A core consideration is the fact that we are in a position of great responsibility, especially when dealing with young athletes. These athletes and their parents are trusting us to provide proper guidance, effective coaching, and safe practices throughout their high school career.  A strength and conditioning coach MUST take that responsibility seriously. We are essentially ‘writing checks’ with their bodies that they will have to ‘cash’ later in life.

My second core belief is that it all boils down to relationships. Developing relationships with your athletes allows you to know what makes them tick, what motivates them, what scares them, where they come from and where they want to go. These are invaluable sources of information for a coach or teacher to draw upon when building a ‘buy-in’ into your program.

I am not so naïve to believe my kids enjoy every exercise and drill I prescribe. However, they trust that I would not be asking them to perform an exercise, drill or rep scheme if it did not benefit them and contribute to their goals. If I put an exercise on the whiteboard and cannot tell them how it correlates to their on-field performance, they don’t have to perform it.

Our main goal is preparing athletes for performance in the game of football. As such, I want our kids to be the most explosive, powerful and best-conditioned athletes on the field. We strive to develop strength, power and speed in the weight room so that we can express it in a functional manner every Friday night.

Over the last twenty seven years, I have tried to learn as much as I can about as many different disciplines as possible in the field of athletic development. I want to have the biggest toolbox possible, so that I can choose the correct tool for the correct situation. Bruce Lee was credited as saying, and I paraphrase this, ‘Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what is uniquely your own.’  With this in mind, I tend to utilize training methods that enhance an athlete’s ability to produce the greatest amount of force possible in the shortest amount of time.

When properly taught and executed within the framework of a well-rounded strength plan, these explosive lifts carry the most ‘bang for the buck’. They help enhance the rate of force development/production as well as training the key athletic action of triple joint extension.  When performed at the proper intensities and volumes, these lifts can also help an athlete learn to absorb force.

Football is a contact and collision sport. Our athletes need to prepare themselves for these stresses to help minimize injury potential. In the same way, I stress the importance of training deceleration in addition to acceleration work. The number of non-contact ACL and lower limb injuries is a serious matter and we need to take every opportunity to reduce injury risk for our athletes. A well-rounded, scientifically-based program must prepare the athlete to tolerate concentric, eccentric and even isometric forces.

In addition to the Olympic lifts, I stress ground-based squatting, pulling and pressing movements that incorporate multiple joints, multiple muscle groups, and coordinated actions within multiple planes. Single limb training and posterior chain work are also addressed. Aside from a few cable and pulley machines, we rely on free weights, medicine balls, and bands as our tools.  The benefits in terms of proprioceptive adaptation and the recruitment of the stabilizing musculature are keys to helping enhance structural integrity and movement capabilities.

From a programming standpoint, you MUST have a plan. Each level correlates to specific grade level, and maturation and adaptation considerations.  This is something I picked up during my years coaching weightlifting with quadrennial, annual, monthly, weekly and daily plans. I am also able to incorporate many ideas from the LTAD (Long Term Athletic Development) philosophy. Paying attention to each individual’s stage of maturation and the ‘sensitive training age windows’ is integral to the success of a long term plan.

I utilize percentages in the 70-85% range and stick to sets of doubles and triples. Volume is based on a variation of the Russian system, especially in terms of weekly and monthly variation. Squats, presses and rows will often utilize some higher rep schemes, although I tend to stick in the 4-8 range and utilize clusters and rest-pause training when dealing with these schemes.

Training waves have proven very successful for our kids, especially with the Olympic lifts, squats and presses. As far as total number of exercises per session, I keep it simple and always remind myself that stress is cumulative. With the developing high school athlete, less can be more.

I have to take into consideration the amount of running we do in practice, the volume of training performed in other sports during the football off-season and other sport calendars. The bulk of our athletes participate in track, baseball and/or weightlifting and the practice and competition schedules are all associated stressors that need to be taken into account to ensure maximum recovery and proper adaptation to the strength and conditioning program.

As far as conditioning, my philosophy stresses the inclusion of sport specific movement patterns and specific times and distances that match up to what our kids do on the field. We do not run the mile. We work for 5-9 seconds (roughly the time of the average run and pass play) in a ten to thirty yard ‘athletic box’, incorporating change of direction, reaction, acceleration, deceleration and re-acceleration. Skill players will often have adjusted distances based on a variation of a route tree with reaction and readjustment cues thrown in to the mix. If we choose to run a lot of ‘no-huddle’, the work-recovery intervals will reflect this in our conditioning.


If you ask my kids what my favorite exercise is, the answers will be evenly split between the clean and the squat. There is a good reason for this. Over the past twenty plus years of training, competing and coaching, these two movements have consistently made our athletes more explosive and stronger, respectively.

I guess if I had to pick just one exercise, I would combine it and say the squat clean.

In my opinion, when trained with the appropriate volumes and intensity loads, the back squat can be the single greatest stimulator of muscular size and total body structural strength. There is something about taking a heavy load to proper depth during the squat that helps develop more than eccentric strength and core stability. It helps build mental toughness and confidence, all of which can be helpful on the field on Friday nights.

Proper form and technique is key on any lift, and especially so with these two movement patterns. That being said, teaching these movements is not rocket science. It drives me crazy to hear a coach say that these movements are too difficult for their athletes to learn to perform. These are the very same athletes that can sprint, cut, jump, throw, catch, block, tackle and kick in a variety of stressful situations every day at practice.
There are a number of important lessons that I learned the hard way over the last twenty five years. Here is a list of the most important ones:

•  Be the same guy every day to each athlete – Consistency is key. I have struggled with this in the past and am always working to improve. Be the one consistent force in the weight room or on the field. Treat the fourth string punter with the same level of caring and excitement as you would the starting QB.

•  Be a lifelong learner – Never stop trying to learn as much as you can. That includes those that have different viewpoints than your own. You never know how something can get you thinking in a totally new direction. You owe it to your kids to be the best prepared coach that you can be. The day you stop learning and adapting is the day some other guy outcoaches you.

•  Get a mentor – I have been blessed to have met and learned from some of the best in our field. You should do the same.

• Surround yourself with people and professionals with different skill sets – You don’t have to be the jack of all trades. Doing a little bit of everything at a satisfactory level is not as effective as being the best you can be at one or two things. I love being in the weight room, being hands-on with our athletes, motivating, cleaning up technique and being a positive force. I love getting athletes stronger and more explosive.

• Don’t chase numbers for the sake of chasing numbers – We are not building weightlifters or powerlifters. We are training to perform on the field. Don’t lose sight of your training goals and objectives. A 600 lb. squat that takes 6 seconds to grind out is impressive, but your offensive guard may get more carryover from a 275 lb. power clean that he executes in 1.5 seconds with speed and power.

•  Build more than muscles, build character – Sometimes we are the only strong male figure in an athlete’s life. That is a heavy responsibility. When one of our kids stumbles, be there for them. Don’t toss them away like yesterday’s news. Help them back to square one. Whether it is coaching or teaching, you are in a very important place in that student athlete’s life. I remember every great teacher and coach I have had. Unfortunately, I also remember every less than positive coach. Your athletes will as well.

•  Have a life outside of your job - I spent ten years on the road with USA Weightlifting. Once or twice a month, I would leave on a Thursday morning and come back on a Monday night. Whether it was a national meet or a ten day international competition, it took a toll. I justified it this way and that. But in the end, I was not home. I was not giving my own family the same amount of time that I was giving the sport. These days, I cherish every minute I have at home with my wife. I am a more balanced, happier and more effective coach and teacher for it. With the long hours coaches put in each week, it is a blessing to be able to spend quality time with your loved ones. Make time for family. They deserve it.


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