Aug. 21, 2009
- 2009 Fall Preseason Camp Central
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch (2009-10 season)
- 2009 Football Media Fact Book
- 2009 Football Media Guide
- 2008 Highlight Video
- New and renewal season ticket customers: Purchase yours online!
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Iowa Football wallpaper
by Richie Zawistowski
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Inside a stereotypical college weight room you will find the usual — bench press, leg press, dumbbells. The University of Iowa strength and conditioning facility has its own distinctive signature. Within the towering doors is a stone with the inscription, “Break the Rock.”
The underlying theme is that through hard work and sacrifice, a Hawkeye student-athlete can chip away at any obstacle and accomplish goals.
How fitting, because Iowa’s strength and conditioning program is built solid as a rock. So much so that Florida State University offensive line coach Rick Trickett traveled to Iowa City recently to study Iowa’s recipe for success.
As for physicality, the Iowa program is known to be among the best in the Big Ten, a conference recognized for its toughness.
UI strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle has been in charge of the program since 1999, and has tutored 149 student-athletes who have become professionals in the NFL, NHL and NBA.
Doyle, one of the top at his craft, credits UI head coach Kirk Ferentz for the success of the program.
“It starts at the top with Kirk Ferentz,” said Doyle. “Kirk is a head coach who sees strength and conditioning as a critical part of a successful program.”
Strength and conditioning is an important facet of UI athletics, and it is an emphasis across the board, especially in recruiting student-athletes.
“We put a strong emphasis on it in recruiting. We recruit people that want it, who want to come to college and find out how good they can be through a daily commitment of strength and conditioning. We bring in guys that are like-minded and want that environment. It’s our goal to create the best training atmosphere for the college athlete.”
UI strength & conditioning coach Chris Doyle
“We put a strong emphasis on it in recruiting,” said Doyle. “We recruit people that want it, who want to come to college and find out how good they can be through a daily commitment of strength and conditioning. We bring in guys that are like-minded and want that environment. It’s our goal to create the best training atmosphere for the college athlete.”
Some universities may not put as much emphasis on strength and conditioning, or may not view it as necessary as other aspects of the game. Some players may not like to lift weights and put in the effort and would rather go to a school that has a lacksidasical strength and conditioning program. That is not the Iowa way.
“I see it as you get what you emphasize,” said Doyle. “When you say strength and conditioning is important and you recruit players that want that, and you put the time and effort and resources into it, you get what you emphasize. And here at Iowa, we’ve made strength and conditioning a critical component to being successful.”
Iowa has a program that is specifically designed for each individual, which allows for the best training process and optimal results for each student-athlete.
“There are three things that dictate individual program design,” said Doyle. “The first is the functional needs of the athlete. Every athlete is different when they come into the UI football program. The first thing we do is put them through a functional movement screen to determine what needs they have.”
Once Doyle and his assistants know what they have in a player, they move on to the physical growth of that player.
“The second is training maturity,” said Doyle. “Some guys come here with a long history of training. Other guys come here and have never lifted a weight in their life. We don’t care where you start, but we need to identify training maturity and we need to develop them as their maturity dictates.”
Finally, they move to what a player is going to be doing Saturday on the playing field.
“The third is positional need,” said Doyle. “Football is the greatest sport in the world because in no other sport do you have 11 guys counting on each other to accomplish a task, and no one can do it alone, and every single position has a unique set of skills. So those unique skill-sets require unique training.”
This tough and individualized regimen has allowed Iowa to get the most out of its players every season. While some programs routinely acquire top-of-the-line, “five-star” recruits and do not work as hard to develop them, Iowa does not value talent as the only barometer of a player. Of the recent Iowa players — Shonn Greene, Chad Greenway, Bob Sanders to name a few — none have been “five-star” recruits. Many of the players Iowa recruits are talented, hard-working student-athletes with a strong work ethic. Talent does not matter on the field if the player is not willing to work.
“First of all, talent is overrated,” said Doyle. “It’s what you do with it, on a daily basis. It’s how you work, and the habits you develop, and the consistency that you develop with your approach. If you create a culture of success where a guy is rewarded for doing things right and doing things right consistently and they see progress, it’s about building a culture.”
“My favorite part is being allowed to be in a young man’s life and watch him achieve his goals. When Chad Greenway comes back here three years out of college and he’s got a wife and a kid and you see how he acts and how he conducts his business and you see the type of man he’s become, that’s what it’s all about.”
UI strength & conditioning coach Chris Doyle
That culture has been created at Iowa, thanks to the staff, and it is a tradition of tough, successful, hard-working individuals.
“If you get the right people and you marry them with that culture you’re going to find out that the three-star, four-star five-star — that stuff is all recruiting hogwash,” said Doyle. “It’s about getting guys in here and putting them to work and seeing how good they can get by marrying them with the right culture.”
A winning and successful way of life does not take off days. The program that Doyle & Co., run is a 24-7, 365-day task. The great players put in work away from the gym as well — eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest. This is a critical component to the strength and conditioning program as well.
“Nutrition and recovery is a key aspect of what we do,” said Doyle. “It’s the guys that get better away from the complex that make the fastest progress, and make the most progress. It’s the guys that live a clean, healthy lifestyle away from here that recover from Monday to Tuesday, from Monday to Monday, from month to month and year to year. It’s our job to educate our players and enhance their recovery through proper nutrition, proper lifestyle choices, getting eight hours of sleep a night, staying hydrated, eating breakfast every day, getting five fruits and vegetables every day — the basics.”
It isn’t the number of repetitions a player gains in the bench press, or how many seconds he shaves off his 40-meter time that makes Doyle love his job. It is relationships and the impact he has on lives that excites him.
“My favorite part is being allowed to be in a young man’s life and watch him achieve his goals,” said Doyle. “When Chad Greenway comes back here three years out of college and he’s got a wife and a kid and you see how he acts and how he conducts his business and you see the type of man he’s become, that’s what it’s all about.”
Not only being able to look back at what once was, but being able to see what could possibly be as a new group of youngsters comes in eager to play in the black and gold is another thing Doyle enjoys.
“To see guys come in as 18-year olds and four to five years down the road watch them develop into men, that is really, really rewarding and it’s really fun,” said Doyle. “It gets me excited every year. There’s a renewed group of guys, you have a chance to re-invent yourself and have another group of 20-25 guys who come through the door and have an opportunity to interact and hopefully have a positive impact on their growth and development and that’s what gets me really excited.”
Fans and players should be elated to know there is a thriving strength and conditioning program at the University of Iowa. A critical component to the physical demands of all sports, Doyle and his three assistants — Raimond Braithwaite, Alex Wilcox, and Alan Weber — make sure that UI student-athletes are physically and mentally prepared to meet and exceed the standards of the program.
A program that continues to chip away at the rock.