Coach Stig has a mantra for the football team “Last Play”. The guys shake hands before practice and tell someone from the other side of the football that they will play every play like it is their "last play" because you never know when it will be. Football ends for everyone, Some in high school, college, pros, or as a coach. Some go out on top and others their careers ends abruptly with an injury. Everyone has a last play so enjoy the moment, the process and give your best every play. That is the mantra for SDSU football but it goes way beyond football. I wrote about this life lesson last fall on in my blog Enjoy Today about my best friend Erik Mathison. I have been on the sidelines for football games every year in some capacity since 1986. First as a player, then student assistant, graduate assistant and full time strength coach. My “Last Play” as a collegiate strength & conditioning coach occurred this fall with the ending of the football season.
I have been a collegiate strength & conditioning coach for 25 years. I always believed the S&C coach should be in the background, not out front making a show like some do. Also, we should never take credit for athlete’s success. God and their parents made them great athletes. The athletes themselves are responsible for their success but, I do know strength & conditioning plays a small part in putting them in the right place to achieve that success. The Student Athletes are the ones that do all the Heavy Lifting.
I started strength training at 14 years old with a goal of playing college football. I was too short, too slow, and too fat but strength training made it possible. It made me stronger, faster, more agile and more resistant to injury. However, some of the workouts we did were just downright silly. My motivation as a strength & conditioning coach has always been to provide a better training plan for my student-athletes than I had. I always thought I would be a strength coach to the day I retire. What I did not realize when I was young is that as you grow and get older you change, things change, life changes and your priorities change. When I was in my 20’s I worked crazy hours and planned that I would be the head strength coach at a power 5 program one day. I remember watching one guy leave his job at the University of Texas and thinking to myself “why would he do that? This is the University of Texas”. I took my first head job still kind of thinking the same way, but then kids came along. I took the opportunity at SDSU to again be a head coach at a DI university and be closer to family and friends. Lord knows it wasn’t for the weather.
When we came back in 2005 there was talk of building a new weight room and football stadium. I said if we can do that I could be here a long time and now I have. I realized in my early 30’s that being near family and raising my children in a safe community is immeasurably valuable. I have watched coaches come and go and many move continuously chasing bigger and better. I am not against moving, I moved when I was a junior in high school. Kids adapt and it can push them out of their comfort zone. I also remember telling Justin Sell I did not just want to be here to be here, I wanted to be successful. We have been very successful on the field, court, pitch, mat, track, diamond and the class room. The last 16 years have seen over $100 million in athletic facilities, Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference Championships and NCAA playoff runs. I have been climbing the summit of collegiate athletics for over 20 years. It has been an incredible run but my “Last Play” as a collegiate strength & conditioning coach has come and gone. Thank you Jackrabbit Nation, coaches, administrators and most importantly student-athletes. It has has been my pleasure to train you and help assist you in some small way in achieving your goals.
When developing a strength training plan you lay out the structure on a high level looking at a yearly plan and then break it up in to Off-season, Pre-Season, In-season phases. Then as you plan each individual cycle within those phases you get more specific and dialed in. What any coach will tell you though is that when you get into the program, things will change, you do have to adapt and make adjustments. That is what I am doing with this decision. I am adapting and changing. I have been climbing the summit of collegiate strength & conditioning, plugging away and playing each day like my last day. What I have realized is I have made it to the top. I have heard “make the big time where you are at” and that is what I have done. Now it is time for me to embark on another journey and pursue a different Summit. This will be a unique and different challenge but the same qualities of showing up and doing the work (Keep climbing) will help me in this new climb. I have always attempted to help student-athletes achieve their goals, be successful and grow. Now, I intend to do the same assisting farmers and ranchers. I am pivoting to become a project manager with Summit Contracting. We build storage sheds, pole barns, grain bins, grain systems and shouses. I continue to be a Jacks fan and will continue to support them in every way I can. So in one sense it is “Last Play” but in another it is just “New Play”. I remain a Jackrabbit but now I am a fan, supporter and donor. I won’t be on the sideline or in the weight room but I will be in the stands and cheering loud. We love SDSU and Brookings.
The Future of Ag is Building,