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Imagine this—you're 38 years old, and you've been working in the same field for the past 15 years. You have a 19-month-old son, and you're in no way a fan of either action films or Will Ferrell's bad version of comedy. Knowing this information, imagine that you're now responsible for driving five other strength coaches (all under the age of 26) nine hours in a minivan with 10 USB ports, a DVD player, multiple outlets and multiple places to feed a 20 something's ADD. This was me last week. Other than listening to bad action films and quotes from the worst film ever made (Step Brothers), I had a blast and I learned a ton. I hope some of what I share does the same for you.

Tuesday, May 5: We had to pick up the rental minivan and then I was off to a quick dentist appointment prior to hitting the road. Luckily, we were able to get on the road by 3:00 p.m. and avoid any traffic out of Pittsburgh. The drive went smoothly into Cincinnati, where we stopped to experience the local flavor for dinner (Skyline Chili). Eating in Cincinnati reminded me of how closed-minded young people can be. Yes, I love these guys, but I explained that Skyline is the Primanti Bros. of Cincinnati and they couldn't even wrap their heads around how, in other cities, there was a pride just like there was in whatever city they are from. It reminded me of me in my twenties. From Cincinnati, we drove about 100 miles away from Nashville before getting a room (actually two) for the night.

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Wednesday, May 6: I woke up around 5:00 a.m., grabbed a coffee and went for a walk outside. I saw a baby bird that appeared to be in trouble. I texted a quick picture to my ornithologist, editor and world expert wife. She called me back with the type of bird it was, how far the parents were and how one could help this bird without endangering its life (yes, this happens often in my life). I'm proud to say that I saved the bird and then did 50 pull-ups off the swing set behind our hotel. While doing the pull-ups, I thought about how much my hands hurt from yesterday's deadlifts.

From our hotel, we drove on to Nashville and were lucky enough to be able to train at Tennessee State University. I was very impressed with how Josh Chance had his weight room set up. It isn't a large weight room, but it does have everything that you need, and we were lucky and thankful to be able to train there. When traveling, my training becomes chaos. I'm in someone else's house, therefore I do whatever is on the menu for the day. I asked what we were doing that day and the answer I heard and feared was deadlifts. I knew that my hands would hate me, but it was time to pull. I had a push/pull eight weeks ago, and I haven't pulled anything above 385 pounds since then and haven't pulled sumo at all.

Todd Hamer

I then asked for sets, reps and weights, and the answer was sumo for 5 X 3 X 430 pounds followed by one set to failure. I quietly began warming up. The weights actually felt very light and the reps went smoothly. Then for the set to failure, I did 7.4 reps. At this point, the Georgia Tech staff showed up, and as I was lying half dead on the ground, Zach Reed came over. Not only did he deadlift the bar, but he didn't touch it. He only gripped it with his beard (OK, this may not have happened). Zach is a very nice guy and one heck of a lifter. It was good to see the Georgia Tech staff getting after it the way that they do.

The rest of Wednesday was spent catching up with new friends and old friends. Pulling up to the hotel, we saw the Baylor staff unloading. They are great coaches and even better people. It was great to see and speak to all 59 coaches that they had in attendance. From there, we saw staff from Eastern Michigan, Villanova, Georgetown, Delaware, VCU, Vassar, Penn State, Pitt, WVU, Maryland and probably many others that I apologize for not mentioning. After much catching up, I had a few beers and was in bed by 11:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 7: I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and found that most of my staff survived the night. No one had choked on the freedom of being young in a new city. I headed down to train. Because I do whatever the house is doing, I saw my friend and all around great guy Cameron (long arm big dead) Williams of Vassar and, of course, he wanted to deadlift. Great, I thought. So what's the plan? He wanted to do 545 pounds for 3 X 2. I mentioned that I was insanely soft and had deadlifted two straight days in a row. Maybe I could just get 500 X 1?

The warm ups felt good and we got to four plates when Tim Kontos joined us and we started all over at 135 pounds. I finally got the last heavy sets and did some down sets at 405. All in all, we had a good training session, and it is awesome to see the passion that others bring to their training. In addition, hearing what it's like to coach at Vassar was very interesting. I hope Vassar realizes what an asset Cam is to their school.



Kaz is like Madonna. He only gets one name, and if you don't know him, shame on you. Kaz is the director at Baylor and he made some great points. One of the take homes was stay in your lane. I took from this that you have to do what you do and do it the best that you can. Don't try to do what you can't do. Also, use your staff's strengths.

Kaz spoke about three teams that left the weight room when he got to Baylor. All strength coaches who oversee multiple sports will deal with this. If a coach doesn't like your style, he will pull his team from the weight room. Kaz hired a young lady and said, "Go get me those teams back." I loved his proactive approach. Don't cry about it. Just get it done.

CSCCa Conference

25-minute breakout presentations

The CSCCa tried something new this year. They did 25-minute breakout presentations. You just went room to room for 25-minute talks. I liked how small they were, but I wasn't wild on how brief they were. Once the speakers got rolling, the bell rang and it was time for the next class. I thought the idea was good, but it just didn't work for me.

There were a few take homes from these sessions. First, I need to speak to Ethan Reeves more. This guy has been there and done that and he knows his stuff. Also, Don Decker has some cool information on how to control volume. I'm actually going to email him to dig deeper into this. We spoke briefly after his talk about it, but then the bell rang and I was stuck without a hall pass. Sorry, I had a flashback to high school with the bells.

The Dinner

The day ended with the Master Strength Coach dinner. This is when the CSCCa honors coaches who have been there and done it and are deserving of being call a Master Strength Coach. A good friend and mentor of mine, Tim Kontos, received his jacket that evening, so my staff and I tied each other's ties and enjoyed a nice dinner while honoring those who have come before us. Congrats, Tim!

I ended this evening (after my staff ditched me) having a talk with some interns from NC State. It is good to talk to young kids eager to make their way in the profession.

Friday, May 8: We trained at 6:00 a.m. My staff joined me this time for some pressing. We decided to try one of the large equipment manufactures and it reminded me why I don't buy their racks. A rack should be made by one who trains. The J hooks had about six inches of movement in them, and the benches were slick and low. I wasn't impressed at all with the equipment, and my younger staff members couldn't explain why, but they repeated, "I couldn't get tight." This led to some great talk about how and why we spend our money the way that we do. To paraphrase my mentor Michael Pollan, your dollar is your vote.

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After training, we were able to catch two presentations before the drive back. We saw Mike Boyle speak first. As always, Mike was full of solid information and made me question what I think I know. Mike can many times set people off because he believes very much in what he does. Where I see the mistake here is that I don't do what Mike does, but I steal information from him all the time. He showed his clean technique and justified why he does it how he does it. This doesn't mean that what I teach is wrong. It just means that we have a different way of looking at the same movement. This is what makes our profession great. We can disagree and yet still learn from one another.

I really like Mike's use of unilateral training, but I was still able to critique it with a critical eye. Yes, I agree that his unilateral stuff is very useful, but I disagree that a single leg deadlift is half a deadlift. I think this fails to recognize that there is a lot of other muscle tissue involved in a deadlift than just the legs. My advice is learn from Mike. He's a wealth of knowledge and experience, but don't be afraid to question everyone on what he or she knows.

The last presentation was special for me because the presenter was Ryan Horn. Ryan began his career eight years ago as an intern for me. The day that I met Ryan I knew he was going to do some great things. He is a sponge when it comes to soaking up information, and I learned a ton from his talk. I learned so much that when I returned to campus, I met with my men's basketball coach to try to change some of what we do in practice. Luckily, I have a very supportive and open-minded coach.

After the talks, we drove back to Pittsburgh. We arrived just in time to get some sleep and dream of how we can become better from what we learned.

Here are my lessons learned this year:

  1. Remember and know what you don't know.

  2. It takes a village to accomplish great feats.

  3. We have more awesome people in this profession than anywhere else in the world.

  4. Don't be afraid to ask engaging questions to those who have achieved more than you.

  5. A smart staff finds alums of your school in any town to buy them a round of beers.

  6. I don't know much, but what I do know I will put to good use.