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Hiring the right athletic performance coach should be Diaz’s top priority

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Games are won and lost in the off-season, and in-season programs

Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards 2014 - Show Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The athletic performance coach, often referred to as strength and conditioning, will be the most important hire of the Manny Diaz regime. Many, including myself, are intrigued by the thought of big name potential offensive coordinator hires such as Major Applewhite or Jeff Scott but in reality the athletic performance department will make or break Manny Diaz’s time as head football coach.

Under NCAA rules, the athletic performance department spends more time with the student-athletes than the head coach is even allowed. The athletic performance coaches are ever-present through the summer, fall, winter and into the spring season. They work hand-in-hand with academic advisors, diet and nutrition experts, and the coaching staff to ensure maximum athletic performance on the football field.

When Urban Meyer took the job at Ohio State, it was on the contingency that Mickey Marotti was coming with him to Columbus, OH. Mickey’s formal title with the Buckeyes is Assistant AD for Football Sports Performance. Meyer actually first came into contact with Marotti back at Notre Dame when Urban was the wide receivers coach and Mickey was Director of Strength and Conditioning. When Meyer took the job in Gainesville, Marotti followed and then again to Columbus, OH. Mickey Marotti has three national championship rings due to his style of sports performance.

Miami needs less bodies with big bellies and small posteriors and more bodies like Joey Bosa. When UCF played LSU in the Fiesta Bowl the one thing I noticed about the Tigers is their posterior. The LSU defensive tackles all had massive posteriors (glutes, hamstrings and calves) and smaller bellies versus the UCF players, such as defensive tackle Joey Connors, who has a big belly and flat posterior.


Athletic Performance

I personally use the phrase athletic performance (here and on my resume) because I don’t focus my programming on strength or conditioning. I focus my programming on power and movement for the result of maximum athletic performance. Strength, in the S&C world, is typically defined as a one-rep max while conditioning often is defined in layman’s terms as doing cardiovascular aerobic exercises. Cross country, for instance, is an aerobic sport. Football is anaerobic and doesn’t require slow, long distance, jogging or running.

Power is often described as the force used to push or pull the weight, and the bar speed in doing so. In order to perform the olympic barbell snatch you need power. The athlete has to have the proper mobility, stability, bar speed and technique to pull the weight up and over the head. My power programming is built around the snatch and clean and jerk, even if the athletes never perform either lift from the ground.

Movement probably looks a lot different than you expect. My movement drills have no ladders, low hurdles, bags, plyo boxes, parachutes or other gimmicks. I simply use field paint. I don’t want athletes worried about tripping, thus looking down and losing their eye discipline while also breaking down their running form.

When teaching movement my guru is Dale Baskett aka The Godfather of Speed. Dale is simply a football speed coach. He doesn’t focus on other sports or track, he focuses on speed training for the game of football. That’s why the ladders and bags are thrown out of the window, because they aren’t on the actual football field during play. Dale drastically changed my perception and programming of football speed.

When it comes to agility drills I focus on Kurt Hester’s Combine 2.0 and Dale Baskett’s agility drills, too. Hester wanted testable movements for the football field. Movements that have athletes accelerate and decelerate, move lateral and linear in the same drill, and actually equate to football movements. Dale’s drills also focus on position specific movement and are adaptable between groups such as offensive line and defensive backs.


Pre-Hab For Athletes

The athletic performance coordinator’s job isn’t all just barbells and grunting. Their job is to also create pre-hab programs for athletes that keep themselves healthy. Miami’s tight end position group has been ravaged by injuries since Gus Felder, Mark Richt, and Todd Hartley arrived in 2016. Christopher Herndon IV, Michael Irvin II, Will Mallory, Brevin Jordan, and Brian Poledney have all been injured enough to miss substantial time over the past three seasons.

We can pre-hab in a variety of ways. One way is to focus on which joints need mobility and which need stability. From there, we can programme our workouts by incorporating unilateral lifts as well as yoga poses. I’m a huge proponent on the benefits of yoga as it focuses on balance, flexibility, stability and training all sides of the body (anterior, posterior, left and right) equally.

Regarding unilaterals, that’s the focus on lifting not just with barbells, but also with dumb bells, medicine balls, kettle bells, etc while focusing on one leg or one arm. This helps to overcome the deficiencies we create in bilateral barbell training. If I’m performing a one-leg RDL I’m forced to balance, stabilize, focus, and stretch- all things athletes need in competition.


Summary

In the end, head football coaches want the most powerful athletes they can acquire, develop and deploy. Someone that “could have” been great isn’t good enough. Hal Mumme (and I paraphrase) used to say something like “Your potential could get me fired.” In other words, if potential never transfers into reality I’m not long for this business.

Coaches want the work they do in the weight room and on the practice field to transfer to the game field. I wrote a lot about transfer effect on my blog thanks to Eastern Washington’s Amir Owens. Amir places a massive emphasis on transfer effect and getting the most bang for your buck from athletes.

In order for Miami to win football games the Hurricanes need to figure out how to turn those three start prospects into NFL quality players until recruiting improves. Someone like Kurt Hester or Dave Feely will know how to maximize their athletes potential and even grow their ceiling.

Take a listen to Kurt Hester on the Brute Strength podcast