By JOSH FURNARY
As the fall 2012 semester winds down and the prospect of exams loom, it seems inevitable to nostalgically look back over the past few months. Yet, as one looks back during this time of year, many in the athletic department are fixed squarely on the future. Teams throughout the department are in the perpetual cycle of training and preparing for their next opponent. With that, emphasis on strength and conditioning across the entire athletic department is high.
Athletic Director Ken Tyler began the steps to find a full-time strength and conditioning coordinator for the roughly 500 student athletes competing for the university. In line with Tyler’s goal of being a school with elite programs, he acknowledges that “most good DIII athletic programs have a strength and conditioning coach—and have a weight room that is designated for varsity athletes only.”
Currently, the role of shouldering the athletic department’s aims for improving the quality of our strength and conditioning program has been shared between coordinators Steve Erle and Chris Ellis.
Erle first became involved with the university in January 2012 after discovering the complete vacancy of any department-wide strength and conditioning program for its athletes. He quickly volunteered his expertise as a physical therapist, chiropractor and licensed strength coach because, as he pointed out, “[UMW] didn’t even have the basics.”
He began to request much needed new equipment in the lower gym, such as barbells and Olympic-style bumper plates. Through funds raised by athletic teams throughout the department, he was able to purchase the necessary equipment to safely begin training student athletes in Olympic-style lifts. Currently, Erle works directly with men’s and women’s crew, as well as the men’s lacrosse, basketball, rugby and tennis teams.
Meanwhile, this fall, Tyler discovered Ellis as a “confluence of fortunate events.” Ellis was hired as an assistant baseball coach as well as the interim strength and conditioning coordinator because of his background and national certification in strength and conditioning.
Once the University hired him, Ellis brought legitimacy to the athletic department’s goal of maintaining a varsity athlete-only gym because he could staff it appropriately. Currently, the movement towards this vision remains transitional, as open hours for non-student athletes still exist. However, the tide of UMW athletics is shifting.
The athletic department feels committed to increasing the quality of the space utilized for strength and conditioning in Goolrick as well. Tyler described many pieces of Goolrick as “the land that time forgot,” but he emphasized that it still has “good bones.” His goal is to maximize the efficiency of the available space. Along with raising money through corporate partner programs and the reallocation of money in the budget, Tyler plans to use the insight of Erle, Ellis and the coaches to turn the lower gym into an elite gym for the student-athletes.