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April 7, 2009

What it's like to be... a strength and conditioning coach

By: Matt Kovatch

Jamie Meyer
Before student-athletes ever step foot on the field or court at Virginia Tech, they have already been through countless hours of strength training and conditioning, preparing both their minds and bodies for the grueling season they are about to endure. But they don’t go through it aimlessly – a member of Tech’s athletic performance staff is there to guide them every step of the way.
As the strength and conditioning coordinator for women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer and tennis, Jamie Meyer (a former Hokie volleyball player herself) is one of those mentors for Tech student-athletes. Here’s a look at some of the ins and outs of her job:

It’s more than simply demanding more reps.
“We spend a lot of time mapping out each semester for the athletes. It truly is a science with all the different phases that your body goes through. You could make it your fulltime job just to research the trends and philosophies that are entailed in all of the programming that we do. We spend a lot of time reading new books and going online for articles and videos of new ideas. I spend a lot of time trying to find new exercises that are not only challenging, but also that are working the right muscles and that are geared toward the sport that I’m working with.”

I do it because I loved it when I was an athlete.
“When I was an athlete here, I had a couple of injuries, so I spent a lot of time in rehab and in the weight room. The weight room was something that I always had. If I had an upper-body injury, I could still come in and do the lower-body stuff. I really came to love the weight room and I loved the time that I spent in there. As I neared graduation in my senior year, my strength coach approached me and asked if I ever considered doing this as a career. My response was, ‘I’m not sure – I don’t know if I could do this.’ It very quickly became a ‘yes’ as soon as I learned more about the field.”

An athlete’s effort with me usually mirrors their effort on the field.
“Usually, the approach for an athlete is the same in the weight room as it is on the court. You need to know whom you are dealing with before you deal with them, so we talk to the coaches about that and set goals for kids. As far as seeing a direct correlation in performance, it’s interesting. Sometimes, the hardest workers in the weight room are hard workers because they’re not as naturally gifted on the field or on the court. I sometimes wish I could take those players who are more naturally gifted and give them the same heart and intensity as the players who are working and fighting for those spots and playing time. It’s been challenging as a professional to be able to relate to an athlete who might be less driven than I was when I played. I see the potential in all of these kids and I really want to pull them along and make them better.”

It’s always rewarding when an athlete wants to continue training after graduation.
“I love seeing athletes ready to leave here in a great position physically, emotionally and mentally, and ready to attack the world. To have them say, ‘Hey Jamie, do you have a workout plan for me that I can do when I leave here?’ – I love that. I’ve put together a 500-page manual for them because I think continuing to work out is the most important thing. I want these girls to know that fitness is a big part of their lives. It’s really important to me that I don’t burn them out on fitness and that I don’t make them see running and lifting as a punishment. I try to repeat over and over to them that there are some things that they don’t have control over, but their fitness is something that they have 100 percent control over.”

I don’t just talk the talk – I walk the walk.
“I feel that if I’m going to be a strength and conditioning coach, I can’t ask anyone to do something that I cannot do. I take my fitness very seriously and I think it’s very important for a fitness professional to show a healthy and athletic physique that is desirable in a healthy way. I probably work out six days a week and that is one of the great things about working in a weight room – I can get it done here. But in all honesty, I do a lot of my exercise outside of here.”