By MAGGIE WESLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Now in his 21st year of shaping the mind and body for the Iowa football program, director of strength and conditioning Chris Doyle is dedicated to the basic fundamentals and stability for sculpting the culture that is Iowa football.
While new recruits come from all different high school backgrounds, Doyle keeps it clear and concise with the training process for new Hawkeyes.
“It starts initially with an evaluation process when they first get here in June. The very first week we do multiple evaluations on them, physically,” said Doyle. “During that time, we’ll look at their functional needs and put them through a functional screen. We look at their performance indicators, their ability to run straight ahead, jump and change direction. We’ll use a force plate analysis and do body composition testing with some dietary analysis. We want to gather as much information as we can on these young guys so we can then use that information to develop individualized programs. The individualized programs typically address three areas – functional need, training maturity, and positional need. That’s where the training maturity typically provides some individuality.”
One aspect of strength and conditioning that can take a toll throughout the season is the mental strain one faces. Doyle focuses equally on mental health when training an athlete, and seniors are used as examples when players hit setbacks.
“The mental aspect takes time. If you have a good, solid culture within the football program, the best teachers are the older athletes,” Doyle said. “We teach the guys how to go about their business on a daily basis with things like sleep, nutrition, mental approach, and focus. We lean on the older guys to help pull those younger guys into the program and successfully enter our culture. I’m proud of the job they’ve done mentoring and leading the younger guys and really developing a culture of a winning football team. This year has been exciting like any other year. Every year you have a new set of seniors, so you have different chemistry and make-up, but it’s been really positive.”
Every team faces injuries. Depending on the circumstance, players usually take the recovery process alone, away from their teammates. When looking at the mental pull it can have on a player, Doyle takes the team approach when rehabbing his athletes.
“It starts with our orthopedic surgeons, it’s typically a long process,” Doyle said. “A guy may need some orthopedic intervention to start the process. We sit down weekly as a team, orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine staff, athletic trainers, head coach Kirk Ferentz, and myself. We design a plan long-term to bring that athlete back to participation. It’s never about how fast you return, but how well you return. That’s our number one goal, to put the player’s best interest in mind so they can safely transition back onto the field.”
Doyle has worked alongside head coach Kirk Ferentz for 21 consecutive years. Not a lot of coaches can say their program has stayed consistent for that long. It resonates throughout the program and provides a sense of comfort to the athletes.
“When you’re working with young people, 18-23 years old, stability is a good thing. The athletes know what they can expect day-to-day from the coaches, from a philosophical perspective and from the fundamentals of what wins at the University of Iowa,” Doyle said. “When our guys come in, it’s explained very clearly on the front end of the recruiting process what they can expect from our coaching staff and football program. I think they have a better chance of meeting those expectations because they are clear and stable. We’ve benefited from that. I have been very fortunate to be here 21 years with coach Ferentz as the head football coach, and I believe everyone in the building benefits from that level of clarity and stability within the Iowa football program.”
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium against No.16 Wisconsin. Kickoff is set at 3:05 p.m. (CT). The game is televised on Fox.
Iowa football hosts Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday, Nov. 16. Fans are encouraged to wear black for the Blackout game, and it is the annual military appreciation celebration. Active duty military and veterans are eligible for a military ticket discount. Click here for tickets and pre-paid parking and additional game information.