The grind is what brings you together. This couldn’t be truer than when working alongside peers in our industry. The early mornings and long days make you realize what you’re made of. It’s impossible to do alone. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people who continue to inspire and challenge me to be great every single day.

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The following group of former co-workers took the time to share some of their thoughts and ideas with me on not only training but also on the problems they see with our industry. This article was conducted in collaboration with David Kitchen (Head Strength Coach at Bloomsburg University), Matt Clapp (Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Indiana), Ryan Nosak (Director of Women’s Basketball at UNC Charlotte), and Parker Showers (Assistant Strength Coach at the University of Cincinnati). They each agreed to shed some light on their background, philosophy, training goals for in-season versus off-season, trends they shy away from, and advice for anyone who’s trying to come up in this industry. Part one of this two-part article highlights their journey, their personal training philosophies/training goals, and what they’re trying to achieve in-season versus off-season. Thanks, guys!


David Kitchen — Head Strength Coach, Bloomsburg University

I started at the high school level at a small private school where I was also a position coach for the football team. After that I took an internship with Todd Hamer at RMU and one weekend while I was home to help run a football camp to make a few bucks (and you never know what’s going to happen, by the way) I met my future boss at Bloomsburg. After my internship at Robert Morris ended, Coach Bill Perkins at BU brought me in as an intern to work with football. It was really a right time, right place situation—mixed with a lot of early mornings—that allowed me to become an assistant and take over seven sports within the first year at BU. When the department was restructured, I was given the opportunity to become head of the department overseeing all of our athletic programs.

My philosophy, if I had to put it into a box (which I don’t like doing because you get stuck pigeonholing yourself), would be training the athlete to enhance overall athleticism. I want athletes who are great movers. What I mean by that is that I experiment with a little bit of everything to get what I want. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m out here like a mad scientist throwing things together. Everything in my program has a reason, but I like to add aspects from different philosophies. I do a little bit of powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman, and even add in some HIIT or Triphasic elements at times. I try to borrow from everything. I’m not a philosophy-based guy; I’m a principle-based guy. We’re going to push, pull, hip hinge, and do a ton of posterior chain work, and we’re going to be savagely good at those basic movements. I believe in certain principles that free me up to do a lot of different things with the athletes.

In-season the first priority is keeping athletes healthy and on the field. This needs to be priority number one for any program. Prior to taking over at Bloom they had a ton of ACL injuries, so that was something I really addressed from day one, not just with a cookie cutter “prehab” scenario, but with more of a “why is this happening?” mindset. To me, part of the answer is that we have to get stronger both in the posterior chain and unilaterally. Getting stronger is injury prevention.

Our in-season training also isn’t going to be something totally new to the kids. I look at it as a continuation of what we do during the off-season. We will still lift hard in-season. I still want to get strong. We will still hit our heavy fives, triples, and singles, but it all depends on where we’re at in our training plan. With that being said, we have to be able to adjust at any point in time. I always stay flexible because you have coaches that will destroy athletes in practice, so I need to make the proper adjustments on my end. We will vary intensities, again depending on what the coach has planned for that day. My big thing is to always stay in contact with my coaches to know what they’re doing on the field so I can make the adjustments.


Matt Clapp — Assistant Strength Coach, Indiana University

It’s been a fun but challenging experience to get to where I am now. There have been a lot of long hours and early mornings. You've got to love the process and the grind that comes along with it. If you’re going to be in this business you have to learn to love the grind. I started my career out as an intern at Arizona before becoming a graduate assistant for the University of Akron. After a year or so working as a graduate assistant I got my first full time job as an assistant at Indiana working with our football program, which is where I’ve been the last two seasons.

I take a very holistic approach to training and developing the athlete. First and foremost, I believe our athletes need to be strong for obvious reasons. We are “strength coaches,” which a lot of people somehow forget in this profession. I also believe the athlete has to be properly conditioned for the demands of their sport. And the most important thing, of course, is that our athletes need to be healthy and maintain that health throughout the season. We need to plan accordingly. We need our athletes to stand the test of a long season. No one benefits from our players not being on the field, especially the athletes.

In-season I want to make sure my athletes stay healthy and maintain their strength we’ve built in the off-season. As I said, I want my athletes to be on the field. Staying healthy during season is key. As the season goes on, we also want to maintain or increase our strength. We don’t want the athletes to get weaker as the season progresses. The ability to do this comes from knowing when to back off and when to push them, making the right adjustments. Off-season, of course, you want to build the all-around athlete. In the off-season, I want my guys as strong and as conditioned as possible in preparation for what lays ahead of them.


Ryan Nosak — Director of Women’s Basketball Strength and Conditioning, UNC Charlotte

My love for training actually started off at the young age of 15 years old when I worked as a front desk attendant at a local gym. By the time I was 20 I started my first internship with Penn State, which is where I met Cam Davidson. Cam took me under his wing, mentored me, and most importantly allowed me to coach. Then when the new football staff came I was able to (thanks to Cam) become one of Craig Fitzgerald’s first interns. A role that started off with virtually no coaching eventually became me leading my own groups. In August of 2013, I became a graduate assistant at Tennessee State University but later found out my position was no longer being funded. I took an internship at Vanderbilt but financially was forced to move back home after a few months. I sold old farm equipment and worked odd jobs until I landed a part-time assistant spot at Robert Morris University. After just over a year at RMU I landed my first full-time job at UNC Charlotte, my current role.

My philosophy is to give the athlete what they need with a holistic approach on improvement. I like to use the tools-in-the-toolbox analogy: I use multiple tools to accomplish what our athletes need. This falls into a multitude of exercises and styles such as strongman, powerlifting, weightlifting, and sometimes even bodybuilding exercises. We train and aim to do the basics very well with an emphasis on how we are moving. We aim to get them one percent better each and every day.

In the early off-season, we try to increase the size of our engine with our training. Sport-specific conditioning is developed through work capacity methods in a progressive manner leading up to the pre-season. Lifting begins with work capacity before we progress into our strength blocks. The last block of the off-season brings us to the pre-season where we take what we developed in the off-season and express it in a sport-specific environment. Our emphasis in the weight room features more of a power emphasis rather than a maximal strength emphasis. I treat the in-season with just as much importance as the off-season, especially with basketball, since the in-season period is five to six months long. Our volume and training sessions are reduced to twice a week but our intensities will still remain high throughout the year to increase our strength. We typically undulate and are focused on hypertrophy, strength, and power. Practice and games should provide ample sport-specific conditioning for most players, and extra work is added on an individual basis as determined by the coaching staff and myself.


Parker Showers — Assistant Strength and Conditioning, University of Cincinnati

I started off interning for a year between Villanova and Bucknell University. After that, I was able to work my way up to a paid internship at Villanova working with some Olympic sports as well as football. After a year I landed a graduate assistant position with the University of Akron’s football strength staff. I worked there for a little over a year before coming to Cincinnati as an assistant strength coach working with football, tennis, and soccer over the course of the last two years.

My philosophy is based on creating a culture founded on intensity and integrity. Train hard and with great effort. The intensity/effort in your training will always be the limiting factor to desired outcomes and performance. All athletes must have conscious integrity about how they and their teammates go about business every day. It’s not about what is put in front of them but how hard, how enthused, and how disciplined they accomplish the task. From a performance perspective, it’s all about covering three main objectives:

  1. Instill the culture in a safe environment. It’s our duty to introduce them to stress in a controlled setting without hindering athletic potential.
  2. Reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Increase sports performance.

In-season, all factors depend on the variables of the sport. Volume? Frequency? Injuries? This is when communication between a sport coach, athletic trainer, and strength coach is at its peak. After these questions are answered, we present to the training staff and sport coach what type of training, in general terms, needs to be applied. This is for the both the short-term schedule for the week and long-term schedule for the entire season in regard to bye weeks and more challenging games. At the beginning of the season, we will usually design three to five different workouts based around these different modalities. Each training session and separate workout will then be progressed in load, volume, or intensity, based off the current and future needs of the in-season team.