The Health and Strength of Stanford Football
The spring session is finished, so Stanford will not hold a traditional football practice for roughly four months. But those involved with the team understand that this current stretch may be more important to the Cardinal's 2013 success than any other period of preparation.
"From now until we report to camp, [Shannon Turley] is the program," David Shaw said. "We come into training camp flexible, and healthy, and strong, and explosive. That's what this session is about from here until we report."
Turley, the program's strength and conditioning coordinator, works closely with team physician Dr. Jason Dragoo, head trainer Steve Bartlinski, and physical therapist Floyd Vito Cruz to create an environment that optimizes health and performance in the Stanford football program. The intricacies of this collaboration are detailed in The Bootleg's exclusive 48-minute radio roundtable discussion with the crew and in the text below it.
Radio: Steve Bartlinski, Dr. Jason Dragoo, Shannon Turley Roundtable
Egos Left at the Door: A Collaborative Effort
In a sport frequently marked by glaring disconnects between coaches and medical personnel, the staff surrounding Stanford football engages in a collaborative process. Bartlinski, Cruz, Dragoo, and Turley meet on a weekly basis to ensure that their work operates in harmony with "egos left at the door" to create a healthy, physically dominant football team.
A measure of their success: this past year, the training room was busier in June (primarily due to new freshmen who had not yet acclimated to college training) than it was in January after a taxing 14-game long Rose Bowl campaign.
Even when unpreventable injury does rear its ugly head (see the cases of Jim Dray or Shayne Skov), the crew remains dedicated to its team-oriented approach with a simple objective: return the player to action safely, better than he was prior to injury.
"It's very important within our foundation that we have our physicians, our strength staff, our athletic training staff, our physical therapy staff, our human performance lab staff, and our coaches on the same page," Bartlinski said. "It's a synergistic approach."
Since Dragoo, Turley and Bartlinksi assumed their current positions in 2007, Stanford's injury rate has plummeted. The program has shed its age-long soft, finesse-based reputation and established itself as a physical bully with an edge optimized for football. It's come through an innovative training philosophy that includes a battery of physical tests for incoming freshmen, sled-pushing in the strengthening process, and a commitment to Pilates as part of a constant search for functional strength.
"I'm not concerned with how much our guys can bench press, back squat, power clean... any of the numbers that really have nothing to do with playing football," Turley said. "Rather than being concerned with how much weight we can move in the weight room, we're more concerned with moving guys around on the field. If it won't block, tackle, or score touchdowns for us, we're not really concerned with it."
That's all part of a cutting-edge approach that has a chance to benefit not only Stanford, but also the entire college football world. Even the most bitter of rivals can agree that a reduction of injuries in one of America's most violent sports is a positive development, wherever that improvement may occur.
Stanford's players have bought into the system. Fullback Ryan Hewitt is already tweeting about the fresh conditioning phase, while linebacker A.J. Tarpley has emphasized the team's commitment to flexibility and football-specific strength over standard bench-pressing exploits. Teamwork on the field is mirrored by this teamwork behind the scenes, a collaboration that has taken Stanford football out of the doldrums and carried it to new heights.
"You have to do the little things and measure the small muscles. You have to prepare players to lift and throw people around in multiple directions, and not just under a bench press or a squat," Dragoo said. "It's made a tremendous difference as far as really gaining good football players... It's been a tremendous link between the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning staff, and even the rehab staff."
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com. and @DavidMLombardi on Twitter.
JD Haddon is a senior at Stanford. He covered the Cardinal's 2012 Rose Bowl as the on-air analyst for KZSU radio. Follow him on Twitter @JDHaddon725.
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