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A Brief Word On The Strength And Conditioning Shakeup

I had planned a posting on the early returns from the 2010-2011 basketball season for today, but as in other avenues of life, college football news is what happens while you're busy making other plans. So basketball will wait until tomorrow.

By now I assume you've all read Kyle's excellent take on the announcement yesterday that Coach Dave Van Halanger will be transitioning out of the S&C Coordinator position into an administrative role which appears to be "Special Assistant Life Coach/Dr. Phil/Driver's License Commissar.*" He did not sound particularly happy about the move, but as Kyle indicated yesterday, this season we've been outscored in the 4th quarter as often as not. We've lost as often as not, as well. Some of that has been the result of mental lapses at the end of the game. Caleb King's fumble against Colorado. The missed block/sack against Arkansas. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. To Coach Richt's credit, for the second season in a row, he's doing something different.

Coach Joe Tereshinki and Coach John Kasay, long familiar faces around Butts-Mehre, will be moving into the Strength and Conditioning Program. The uniform initial response to this move from the Dawgosphere and message boards seems to have been a collective face palm followed by a cautious reservation of judgment. I think the former was perhaps a bit premature and the latter certainly justified. What follows is the roundest, rankest speculation imaginable. I don't have any "inside sources", a fact which I happily acknowledge here a lot. It allows me to bloviate without feeling the need to be accurate, which believe you me is a nice scinture to be free of as a college football blogger. But I digress.

Contrary to popular opinion, the director of your strength and conditioning program does not need to be a world reknowned exercise physiologist. The director of this portion of the program needs to get guys into the football complex on cold February mornings at 5:00 a.m. (not hard, really) and then get them to give maximum effort on every repetition of every set of every exercise once there (i.e., the hard part). A lot of this work is done by assistant strength coaches, most of whom even the most diehard Bulldog fans could not name without first finding that ubiquitous picture of them in the media guide. It falls to the Director of Strength and Conditioning to make sure that those unknown stuntmen of the weightroom are getting the maximum effort.

I do not think that either Coach Tereshinski or Coach Kasay is going to be the one personally spotting the squats. I think what we're seeing is an acknowledgment that the problem was not what we were doing in the strength & conditioning program, but rather how we were executing it. Expect to hear some grumbling from the players. Life is about to get a bit tougher for them. This is about a change in the culture of our strength and conditioning program. And culture shock is no fun.

One aspect of this of this story that I think has been undercovered is the fact that Greg McGarity's fingerprints are all over this move. Florida employs a slightly different model in their S&C program, in that they have a Director who oversees the program for all sports and assistant coaches who work with specific sports on sport-specific programs. I am willing to wager that this is a move in that direction and that we will see additions to the staff that put that model into effect.

It also bears repeating that it matters not what Justin Anderson can bench press, or how fast Brandon Boykin can run the Spec Towns track on a July morning. What matters, what is required from a strength & conditioning program, is the inculcation of mental toughness. The physical strain is merely a means to an end. A way of demonstrating to young players who have spent their high school years dominating lesser physical specimens that they can in fact do more than they believed that they could. That they can, in the words of Erk Russsell, get the stop "one more time."

Teams that win the 4th quarter go into the 4th quarter knowing that they will win. Not because they have developed an overabundance of fast twitch muscle fiber, but because 4-5 days a week for the preceeding months and years they have pushed through their own barriers and come out the other side. It's about being mentally tougher than the guy across the line. That does not happen in October. It happens in January, and March and July when nineteen year old men would rather be sleeping.  This isn't a move about plyometrics and hyperplasia. It's a move about changing what kind of young men we put on the football field. And while we'll certainly hear the occasional trickle of information about how that's going over the next few months, we won't truly know if this move, perhaps a move which is still in progress, was successful until the Georgia Bulldogs next play football and have to mentally outlast someone to win a football game.

*I added that last part out of pure aspiration. Bloggers have dreams too.