Maybe it was the fact that Jeff Connors grew up in Western Pennsylvania. Maybe it is just the fact that some of his principles and beliefs were formed the same way as mine. Whatever the reason, I connected with the former police officer through his book and then again during our interview. I resonated with the blue collar environment and the idea that sports are the ultimate escape from the reality of the steel mill and coal-mining region. Unselfish work habits were the norm and youth sports was what you did as a young boy. Contrary to today's young males without positive male role models in their lives, we grew up where father figures came in many forms. Our dads, uncles, coaches, teachers, big brothers,  and older cousins all provided us with the guidance that would stick with us for a lifetime.

Connors has done something with his book Strength Coach: A Call to Servethat has not been done very often.  He has combined a practical guide for coaching athletes with the background from where his belief system and principles were formulated.  It is a college football training manual with a backbone principle of unwavering integrity. Everything from speed mechanics to his thoughts on discipline, from max effort cycles to guidelines on hiring a staff — everything is included in this book. Connors provides some insight on the book that he wrote as a tribute to the coach that made him who he is today—his father.

Topics Covered in this Podcast

  1. What motivated Coach Connors to write Strength Coach: A Call to Serve
  2. The biggest lessons learned from his father and coach
  3. Instilling discipline in today's athletes
  4. Hiring a staff and communicating foundational principles in philosophy
  5. General overview of the off-season program
  6. Adapting the training to enhance acceleration
  7. Key components that every athlete needs
  8. Advice for young coaches trying to to get into the profession

Foundational Perspectives

Several chapters in Strength Coach: A Call to Serve end in what Connors refers to as "Foundational Perspectives." These are ten to fifteen summary points of his ideas. Here are a few of my favorites from Coach Connors:

  1. Treat every athlete the same, even if the people you work for do not.  It might cost you a job, but never your integrity. You must confront even subtle forms of insubordination, quickly and effectively.
  2. Football is a game of acceleration. Acceleration requires strength. It is possible that a player may have to accelerate, decelerate, and re-accelerate over 200 times during the course of a game. Strength training must be specific.
  3. Collegiate coaching is a "dues paying business." The most effective method of advancement is a relentless work ethic combined with a willingness to meet people who can facilitate your strengths.
  4. As you coach you need to clearly define your goals. As it stands, your destiny as a strength and conditioning coach is connected to winning. That's it. Remember that.
  5. Strength training is a long, hard, grinding process. As you make progress, you must become consumed with reaching new levels of achievement. It's a lifestyle. We knew this about strength training for quite some time before the research establishing deliberate practice.

Strength Coach: A Call to Serve

Strength coaching is, in many ways, a scientific endeavor, blending the latest theories of performance enhancement with practical strategies to build mobility, speed, flexibility and power. But for Jeff Connors, it is also a calling.

For thirty years, Connors has devoted himself to helping collegiate athletes excel on the field by grinding away relentlessly in the weight room. Through those decades, he has crafted his own distinctive philosophy of his profession, using both his heart and his head.

Part memoir and part training manual, this book gives football fans, strength coaches and exercise enthusiasts alike a thorough inside look into Connor’s world -- where speed and power can lead to Saturday victory and young men forge character through long, tireless hours away from the roar of the crowd.

The Jeff Connors File

Jeff Connors enters the third year of his second tour of duty as assistant athletics director for strength and conditioning at East Carolina after rejoining the Pirates' staff Jan. 21, 2011.

Connors took over ECU's top athletic performance position after spending the previous 10 seasons on the University of North Carolina staff as strength and conditioning coordinator and assistant athletics director, a title he was elevated to a year after his arrival in 2001.

His current assignment at East Carolina marks his second stint with the Pirate program after an earlier 10-year strength and conditioning leadership tenure with head football coaches Bill Lewis (1991 season) and Steve Logan (1992-2000). Connors' efforts helped produce five bowl appearances, three post-season victories, 15 National Football League draft selections and representation in two final Top 25 polls (9/1991, 23/1995).

The Pirates also gained a reputation as one of the best fourth-quarter teams nationally under Connors' conditioning guidance. In 1996, the ECU defense did not allow a point in the fourth quarter until the seventh game of the season, and in 1999, the Pirates outscored their opponents 102-56 in the final period. In 2000, ECU held a 94-57 advantage in the fourth quarter.

He is also credited for playing an integral role in the design and development of the Pirates' 22,000-square-foot strength and conditioning facility inside the Murphy Center, which opened in 2002 after his departure.

Connors, 56, has been honored as a Master Strength & Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa). The Master Strength & Conditioning Coach certification is the highest honor that can be achieved as a strength and conditioning coach, representing professionalism, knowledge, experience, expertise and longevity in the field.

In addition to helping develop some of the top players in UNC's program, including Julius Peppers, Jason Brown, Ronald Curry, David Thornton, Kentwan Balmer and Hakeem Nicks, 73 of 77 all-time football strength and conditioning records were bettered during Connors' stay in Chapel Hill.

Connors also maintained department-wide responsibilities for the Tar Heels, conducting the strength and conditioning program for the four-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion and two-time Final Four participant women's basketball team, while also training the wrestling squad.

Before accepting the East Carolina position prior to the 1991 campaign, Connors was the head strength and conditioning coach at Bucknell from 1987 to 1990.

Connors is a frequently requested speaker asked to present his strength and conditioning program and philosophies to clinics and conferences across the country. He was also a competitive powerlifter who won four state titles in powerlifting and held a ranking as high as fourth nationally. Connors holds Level I certification in Olympic Weight Lifting by the U.S. Weight Lifting Federation and has had numerous articles published in Wrestling USA, NSCA Journal, Training and Conditioning Magazine and Bigger Faster Stronger Journal.

A 1980 graduate of Salem (W.Va.) College, Connors was a four-year starter at cornerback and was team captain as a senior. He led Salem in interceptions as a sophomore and junior. His efforts as a collegiate standout and career accomplishments were recognized in the summer of 2011 when Connors was inducted into the Washington-Greene Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

After college, Connors served as a police officer in Palm Beach County (Fla.) for two years. Prior to becoming a strength coach, he coached high school football and wrestling at The Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Fla., and coached linebackers at the Tennessee Military Institute in Sweetwater, Tenn.

Connors and wife Michele are the parents of two children - daughter Kaitlin and son Beau.

Bio courtesy of East Carolina University