Strength coaches raise expectations among athletes, teams
July 6, 2016 | Lynchburg, Va.
Molding individual athletes to achieve success in their respective sports is the goal of Liberty University Club Sports strength and conditioning coach Chris Kerr, who pursues this purpose with a passion on a daily basis.
"I love coaching, I love working with people, I love working with athletes," Kerr said. "I'm a competitive person and I want to see the teams that I work with win. Working with athletes and individuals in the weight room and then being able to see all that hard work and everything we've worked for from September to March finally come into fruition from mid-October to late May, those are the things that motivate me and drive me."
Kerr, who graduated from Liberty with a degree in exercise science in 2014, was hired as the first full-time Club Sports strength and conditioning coach that summer. He has since added two graduate assistants to his staff, Shayne Short and Blair Bennett, both 2015 Liberty graduates with exercise science degrees. All three are National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certified specialists.
The staff's mission statement, posted on the Club Sports website, entails "working with coaches and athletes to develop, implement, and execute strength and conditioning programs (designed to) create the healthiest, strongest, and fastest individuals in the weight room who will create the best teams at competitions."
"The overall concept of strength and conditioning here for Liberty and Club Sports is to do everything off the ice, the mat, the court to help the team win," Kerr said, noting that the training regimen varies depending on the athlete and their chosen sport. "I really collaborate with the coaches, asking them ‘What do they want more out of from their teams?' Ultimately, we're trying to develop individual athletes to be better physically by reducing injuries, by making them faster, making them stronger."
The addition of an expanded weight room next to the ACHA Division I men's hockey locker room in the LaHaye Ice Center to complement the Club Sports weight room built in 2013 across from the rink's back parking lot has provided ample space for the department's 500-plus student-athletes to train.
"With the addition of a second weight room, it allows teams to work out simultaneously, making it more efficient and allowing more teams to come into the weight room," Kerr said. "It was a real blessing to be able to design a college strength and conditioning facility (in the rink), with (Club Sports Athletic Director) Kirk Handy's backing, that opens up a lot more opportunities for different exercises to increase athletic potential."
Kerr, along with Short, and Bennett — the former DI men's hockey goalie who works primarily with Liberty's five men's and women's hockey teams, and their goalies, in particular — tailor workout plans to individual athletes.
"I write all the workouts for all five hockey teams, wrestling, men's volleyball, and men's and women's crew, and my GAs will help with coaching," Kerr said, noting that he will write workouts for other teams' athletes upon coaches' or players' requests. "We base workouts off of need and try to turn each individual into the ideal athlete for their sport."
He also does research to identify the major injuries in each sport and develops workout plans with Club Sports Athletic Training Coordinator Angie Witt to make sure the exercises he selects for athletes in those sports will help prevent, rather than exacerbate, those injuries.
From the time Club Sports student-athletes arrive at Liberty in August to the time they leave in May, Kerr and his staff will have at least one workout designed for them every single week. In addition, wrestlers and hockey players have 15 weeks of workouts, tailored to each team, to complete throughout the summer.
"We hope to in the 2016-17 school year be able to give workouts to each individual team and have them run by captains and see where that goes and where that can take us," said Kerr, who is also looking to add more speed training sessions and personal training time slots to complement team workouts, "so athletes from any sport can come in and work out with us. Rather than bring in more teams, we will bring in more individual athletes who want extra workouts."