Above a rack of beaten and tortured medicine balls in the center of the WSU Athletic Training Facility, hangs a mantra: “The pride and tradition of the Washington State Cougars will not be entrusted to the weak or timid.”
This condition is one that requires the acquired skills of the WSU strength and conditioning staff.
Although their philosophies and methods may vary, they all seek out both physical and mental weaknesses in their athletes to better prepare them for competition.
“It’s one thing that they’re really great at squats and cleans in here but if I’m not paying attention to how they’re eating, how they’re sleeping, how they’re mentally, how their classes are going, how some of their personal stuff is going it can really affect their performance on the court,” said Brigid Hamill, a strength and conditioning coach.
As a prior collegiate track and field athlete at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Hamill learned this method firsthand. Hamill now competes in weightlifting competitions, which she said fill her desire for adrenalin while also helping her to become a better coach.
“Going through and learning them all myself and knowing the cues and the things that allowed me to learn and do those lifts correctly really helps the athletes to know what it should feel like and how that also translates to their sport,” Hamill said.
Kenny Matanane, another strength and conditioning coach, developed Hamill’s continued passion for strength and conditioning after his own participation in college baseball at Central Washington University.
Matanane said one interesting things he encountered is having to use a different style of coaching than what he was experienced as an athlete.
“I’m a generation X-er and we were motivated through our coaches yelling at us and screaming at us,” Matanane said. “I try to motivate our athletes by giving them ownership in their workouts. Challenge them to challenge me. If we come to an exercise and I can’t explain it, if I can’t justify it, then I don’t use it.”
On top of the generational difference in training methods, Matanane acknowledges the gap in training methods between amateur and professional athletics.
His experience with the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Pirates helps him realize how the impact of certain NCAA regulations in turn affects his training style.
“In the NCAA, it’s championship mode all the time,” Matanane said.
Between the ownership he gives his athletes and the training they must endure, Matanane cultivates an emphasis on mentality.
“I really try and put it on them and try to develop mental toughness just through breaking some physical barriers by pushing them, knowing that their body’s won’t break,” Matanane said.
David Lang, WSU Director of Strength and Conditioning, echoes the thoughts of the individual strength coaches, speaking to the mental side of strength training for athletes.
“The mental part of everything that an athlete does underlies everything they are going to incur during their time in college,” Lang said.