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The Importance of the Strength and Conditioning Coach

Michael Boyle

A recent post in the forum on the value of the strength and conditioning coach made me repost this article. I wrote it a few years ago but, the debate continues regarding the value and impact of the strength and conditioning coach. Football is the best example as football has employed the strength and conditioning coach the longest, and generally employs organized off-season programs. I'm going to give you a few surprising stats.

1- Do you know that the person in the NFL with the most Super bowl rings, is not a player and did not even play college football?

2- Do you know that only one man in history has coached world championship teams in two sports and in fact has coached nine world championship teams?

3- Did you know that only four strength and conditioning coaches have coached nearly half of the teams that have played in the Super Bowl in the last 19 years?

Before I go on, let me state my bias. I am also a strength and conditioning coach, although not as accomplished as those I'm writing about. Also three of the men I'm discussing I consider to be both friend and mentors.

The man with the most Super bowl rings in NFL history is current New England Patriots Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Woicek, with six. In 2005 Woicek passed Charles Haley, one of his former players. Coincidence, I don't believe so. Another interesting statistic: Since 1987 thirty eight teams have played in the Super Bowl.
Four strength and conditioning coaches have coached 18 of the thirty eight, nearly half. Mike Woicek obviously leads the way with six Super Bowl appearances and six wins. Current Chicago Bear Strength and Conditioning Coach, current San Francisco 49'ers Strength and Conditioning Coach Johnnie Parker and recently retired Atlanta Falcons Strength and Conditioning Coach Al Miller have both been to four each. Parker has the distinction of doing it with three different teams. An interesting trend or a correlation? Knowing most of these men I'll vote for correlation.

All four are among the most committed in our industry. It is a coincidence that Tampa Bay declined after Parker left in 2003? Is it a coincidence that Chicago was in the second round of the playoffs in 2006 after adding Jones to their staff? The relationships of strength and conditioning coaches to team success can be hard to measure. Injuries happen, personnel changes. However in these days of Moneyball and statistical analysis, there seems to be a correlation between good strength and conditioning coaches and NFL success. Parker has been to Super Bowls with the Giants, Patriots and Buccaneers. Woicek with the Cowboys and Patriots. Jones spent his entire career in Buffalo prior to taking over in Chicago. Al Miller's appearances were all with Denver. The head coaches have varied and have obviously been outstanding. Assistant coaches may have also had a similar level success, although I am not aware. The key is that this is probably more than coincidence. With Parker helping to rebuild the 49er's and Jones in Chicago, the theory will be put to the test. My bet: Within two years you will see either San Francisco or Chicago appear in a Super Bowl.

The answer to my second question is Al Vermeil. Al coached a Super Bowl team in San Francisco before moving on to the Chicago Bulls and I believe 7 more World Championships. Coincidence? I don't think so. FYI- Since this article was initially published the Bears and Rusty Jones went to the 2007 Superbowl and, in 2008 the patriots in Mike Woicek also appeared in the Superbowl.