August 01, 2008
Meyer Enjoys USF Coaching Internship, But Always A Spartan...
By junior Greg Meyer (Clearwater, FL)
As most of my teammates, coaches, friends, or anyone on campus who sees me can attest to, I have a pseudo-obsession with the Florida State Seminoles. However, this summer I have been working an internship with another prominent college football team in Florida. In fact it is FSU’s complete opposite. No, I am not speaking of the University of Florida, rather the University of South Florida Bulls (USF).
Over the years I have toyed with the idea of pursuing a career in coaching. It always seemed unrealistic in my mind. It wasn’t until I came to Case that I saw that regular guys could become football coaches as well. You did not have to be a Bobby Bowden or a Joe Paterno to make it in the profession. Honestly, it was Angelo Mirando, a former Spartan and teammate, who made me believe that becoming a coach was possible after he did an internship at The University of Florida and was later hired by the Gators as a Quality Control Coach. Our former coach, Coach Kauffman also played a role. Just the amount of passion he brought to practice every day and the level of connection he made with us as players really inspired me.
This summer those dreams became a reality. With the help of my High School Coach, Coach John Davis, and through his contact, Coach Mike Canales, I was given the opportunity to work as strength and conditioning intern at USF. I owe a lot to Coach Davis. Not only did he provide me with four of the best years of my life, he has given me a start in one of the most difficult careers available.
While strength and conditioning is not my ultimate choice for a career path, I was just happy to be doing something in football. Lifting weights is much more intellectual today than it has ever been. Hiring a good strength staff is your most important job as a head coach. Over the past two months I have learned from the best. Little did I know the first day I stepped into the weight room I would be going to school for the next 60 some odd days.
Overwhelming does not do justice to how I felt at 5:45 A.M. the first day on the job. Since I live in Clearwater and it is about a 30-45 minute commute every morning to Tampa I wake up at 4:15 A.M. to make our morning meetings. When Coach McKeefery, the head strength coach, first told me what time I would have to be there every morning at 4:15 my stomach dropped. No nightlife during the week and limited time to do anything after work, but if I figured if I wanted to pursue this career there is no better time to get acclimated to crazy hours than the present. The first day I was there I just tried to take everything in. I was now one of twelve other interns, all of whom had been coaching for nearly a month now.
At USF, the weight room runs with prison like efficiency. Not to say that the mood is like a prison, it is far from it. In-fact, between the blaring music, the players dancing in between sets, and the joking and laughing, the mood is great. There are twelve weight platforms in the weight room. Each platform plays host to four or five players in the first and second sessions, with an intern managing their workout, and a full time strength coach that oversees four platforms during each workout. The team is split into offense and defense to avoid having 70 some players in the weight room at once. The first group comes in at 6:45, and then the team runs as a whole at 8:15, followed by the second group coming in to lift around 9:30.
My biggest challenge was trying to standout. First off, I was working with the offensive and defensive lines, which put me about five inches shorter than the majority of my players. Secondly, being loud does not come to me naturally, something that should for a coach. When I play I like to lead by example, earn a reputation, and then become a more vocal leader. I did not have time for that here; I was being baptized by fire. The first day I took George Selvie, All-American Defensive end and an early candidate for the Heisman, through a workout. Here I am with the cornerstone of the entire team; I was just trying not to mess something up let alone try to coach him.
It took some time for me to build a relationship with my guys, but it came along gradually. In the beginning I was coaching with another intern and I was sort of his compliment. He was very loud and in your face while I was more reserved, and I think the players appreciated that. Once the new freshman came in, Tony was assigned to coach them and I took over our platform. It was hard to believe that these were the same guys I watched beating West Virginia from my Pittsburgh Hotel room last year, the mystique of a big-time football player fades I suppose when you are with them every day. Whether I was Aaron Harris (Aka Sleepy) cracking some kind of joke, Marc Dile playing air guitar, or Jeremiah Warren doing some of the worst dancing I have ever seen, they always reminded me that they were just regular guys, not the celebrities they are built up to be by the media or whomever. The one thing I was most impressed with was how respectful all the players were. Here I am the same age as most of them, and they called me sir or coach and followed all the instruction and coaching I gave them.
The coach who I was under, Coach Frank Wintrich, looks like your stereotypical strength coach. He is big, bald, loud, and yells more than a drill sergeant. Coach Frank and I did not get off on the best foot. The second day I was there I brought a bagel outside before the players began their run, and I got yelled at (Just like Spicoli Coach Slesh.) After a couple of weeks went by I must have made some sort of good impression because I got my own nickname, Chuck. I think it was because I looked a little bit like Jon Gruden, who is dubbed Chucky, or just because one of the other interns, Cameron, who turned out to become a great friend, did not know my name for the first week. Either way, I will remain Chuck forever in the USF weight room. Coach Frank really acted as my mentor through this whole thing. He gave me insight into the strength and conditioning profession, talked about his own career path, and gave me advice on how I should approach my own coaching career. He has been an asset and friend to say the least.
While I had a great time with everyone down in Tampa, it made me want to be with my team. I followed the same training program all the USF players did while I was here, worked out in their beautiful facility, and even got to run with them on several occasions which has put me in great shape for our season. Coach McKeefery has been busting my chops all summer saying that I need to represent the USF program well this season and anything less than an All-American designation will be a disappointment. While that would be nice, I have higher hopes for our team than I do myself. With the group of core players we have coming back there should be no reason why we can’t go further in the playoffs than we did last year. The attitude around campus and everywhere else is beginning to change, we are getting respect. It is on us now to show that the respect is well deserved. Go Spartans!
Posted by: Creg Jantz August 1, 2008 10:02 AM | Category: Football