Strength and conditioning programs push Bulldogs in summer months

Strength and conditioning programs push Bulldogs in summer months

By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director

Amid the competitive landscape of college athletics, Concordia University aims to do more than just keep up with the Joneses. The recent completion of a new weight room in the renovated PE Building lends to a bigger commitment than ever to strength and conditioning, evident even as Bulldog athletics come to a lull in the summer months.

June, July and August are critical months in a new age where athletes run faster, jump higher, lift more and log increased hours in the weight room.

“I’d say in the last decade or two, it was common that some coaches just didn’t do strength training or lifting or anything,” says Concordia Director of Strength and Conditioning Amy Harms. “Our athletes are improving and they’re getting stronger and more powerful. Your opponent – you would assume – they’re working to improve and you’ve got to do your own work too.

“It’s really come along with the modalities of training as well as the strategies that we’re using. It’s not just go out for runs and get on a machine and lift some weights. There are better strategies that are coming along.”

After a disappointing first-round exit at the national tournament in March, Bulldog women’s basketball is working as hard as any program. Head coach Drew Olson’s squad stands to benefit mightily from a dedicated bunch of returning players, many of whom remain in Seward to improve for next season.

Up-and-comer Taylor Wissing, a sophomore-to-be and Seward native, welcomes the prolonged stay of teammates who in the past may have returned home during the summer.

“It’s really nice to have everyone here,” Wissing said. “I know last summer I was one of the only ones here, but with all those older girls here it’s really nice to have them here to help push and motivate. It’s also nice to get that one-on-one time because when you have people like Bailey (Morris) and Connie (Kristen Conahan) and all these older girls that are really going to push you, it really helps you to get that one-on-one time before (the season) starts.”

In today’s climate that promotes an arms race in which many college campuses are offering up sleek new weight rooms, Wissing and company understand they could quickly fall behind the competition if they do not adhere to a strenuous workout routine.

Harms, who played on the Bulldogs’ school record-setting women’s basketball team of 2002-03, has seen significant change in the way strength and conditioning is handled even since finishing her college career. The days of being able to get away with summer inactivity are gone.

However, holding these athletes accountable for sticking to advised summer routines gets tricky considering the large number of them that still do go home.

“That’s really tough because a lot of them are at home this summer and everybody is on a different schedule,” Harms said. “I’ve just encouraged them to find what works for them. I keep telling them they have to plan, plan, plan, because if you don’t plan it doesn’t happen.

“Ultimately it’s up to them. If they want to get better they’re going to do it. They’re going to show up in August and we’re going to be able to tell who’s done their workouts or not.”

Harms plays a large role in devising workout strategies for many student-athletes at Concordia. Specifically, she has worked most extensively with men’s and women’s basketball, tennis and men’s and women’s soccer. With her office connected to the Walz weight room, Harms is readily available for those who need assistance in virtually any aspect of strength and conditioning.

“Ideally I’m just taking them step-by-step through the workouts,” Harms said. “When I work out with the team, it’s best if I’m here to implement and queue exercises so they’re doing them properly. It’s a motivational thing too. If I just hand them a piece of paper and walk away, they may not remember exactly how to do something.”

Other programs like football and wrestling operate independently in terms of strength and conditioning. Both sets of coaching staffs reside in the PE Building, home to the new weight room. This state-of-the-art facility is seeing heavy usage even in the summer months as a group of 20 football players has remained in Seward. This is the largest contingency that has stayed on campus to work out under head coach Vance Winter, and perhaps the most in the history of the program.

Linebacker Langston Jones, a senior-to-be, says this has strengthened team unity and allowed everyone to improve collectively.

“It’s just a close-knit group of guys here this summer,” Jones said. “I feel that everyone is striving to make each other better. The coaches are really pushing us. They gave us a new workout and everything to try to get us a little faster and more explosive.”

Jones, a two-year starter from Loveland, Colo., has noticed significant gains in his own conditioning. His hard work has helped him become one of the team’s top playmakers on defense. This summer he is lifting and running four days per week with the rest of the team.

“I just feel I’ve gotten a lot bigger, not weight-wise but muscle-wise and everything,” Jones said. “I’m a lot stronger and I feel like my speed has increased a lot.”

Inside Walz Arena, women’s basketball summer open gyms have featured plenty of stars with not only Conahan and Morris, but also local Seward High School standouts such as Husker recruit Hannah Tvrdy and Northern Colorado signee Kourtney Zadina. Like football, Olson’s squad has more of his student-athletes remaining in Seward for the summer than ever before during his tenure, making Concordia the premier hot spot in Nebraska for summer women’s basketball.

Head men’s basketball coach Ben Limback has been greeted with similar dedication from his group as he enters his first season at the helm in 2013-14. Senior-to-be Adam Vogt is living in Seward this summer and is working vigorously with teammate and Seward High School product Micah Kohlwey, the son of assistant coach Marty Kohlwey.

Vogt and Kohlwey lift three days a week, participate in the team’s Wednesday and Sunday open gyms and regularly get one-on-one time with the coaching staff. Kohlwey, a transfer from Nebraska Wesleyan, has taken a liking to the strenuous Bulldog offseason approach.

“We had a workout program but we weren’t required to go back to the gym at Wesleyan to work out with the coaches or anything,” Micah said. “It was all pretty much on our own. I didn’t like that at all really because there wasn’t a lot of pressure on us to get any better. We weren’t working with the coaches. It was all by ourselves. Here we’re working with the coaches almost every day of the week and I really feel like that is something that’s helping us get better.”

Head volleyball coach Scott Mattera has smaller numbers around for the summer with a roster not as rife with local players. However, his weekly open gyms are characteristic of a program pulsating with energy. The athletes that do make it often show up well ahead of the 7 p.m. start time to get in extra practice with Mattera.

All of these examples signal a new era in strength in conditioning. Bulldog athletes have embraced the year-round commitment necessary to succeed when the season rolls around.

7 June 2013

Strength & conditioning feature video:

Coach Scott Mattera places workout examples for his volleyball team online. Check out the volleyball YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/cunevolleyball.