CLEMSON -- Summer vacation. For most college kids, these words bring to mind days at the beach, taking a cruise, or even sightseeing on the other side of the Pond. For the members of the Clemson football team, however, summer translates into something entirely different: week after week of juggling WesternSummer vacation. For most college kids, these words bring to mind days at the beach, taking a cruise, or even sightseeing on the other side of the Pond.
For the members of the Clemson football team, however, summer translates into something entirely different: week after week of juggling Western Civ, Contemporary Lit or Statics around an everyday routine of weightlifting and running in 97° heat. Sounds about as appealing as playing goalie for the archery team, right?
“That’s just the way of life for athletes,” offers Assistant Strength Director John Sisk, “Because they have to be physically prepared for a twelve-game season.”
This marks Sisk’s fifth year working on Strength Director Joey Baston’s staff here at Clemson, and his voice exudes pride when he talks about the team’s progress this summer: “All of our guys take their off-season workouts as seriously as regular practices. They work hard every day of the week, whether it’s lifting or running.”
Sisk says the regiments include everything from pumping iron before 8am to running shuttles under the sweltering afternoon sun, all in the pursuit of becoming stronger and faster, building resilience to heat and recouping from injuries. Indeed, Coaches Baston, Larry Greenlee, Russell Patterson, Sisk and the rest of the Strength Training Staff go to great lengths to ensure that today’s sweat and toil will translate into on-field success this fall: “We run them hard three to four days a week to increase lateral movement and pursuit speed. To help them come off the ball better, we even have them line up in three- and four-point stances before they take off.”
The result of this hard work? Sisk points to the great strides he has observed from familiar names like Todd McClinton, Brain Mance, and Kevin Youngblood – each of whom surpassed some previous personal marks. “Without giving too much away too early,” he says, “People are going to be surprised with the speed we have at certain positions – linebacker and defensive-end.”
He cites the fervor created by the performances of defensive players John Leake, Altroy Broderick, Rodney Thomas, Donnell Washington, and J. J. Howard; however, Sisk could not discuss these players in detail, saying only that they recorded excellent times in the 40 and took great strides in the weight room.
For players who were injured in 2000, this summer is integral to their coming back full-speed. Whether it’s Woody Dantzler’s exemplary performance on the leg sled, Nick Eason’s increased quickness and muscle mass, or Travis Zachery’s increased foot speed, improvement abounds. Sisk sees enthusiasm and pride across the board, but especially from team leaders like Dantzler, Eason, Jackie Robinson and Kyle Young, who often rally the troops with fixed determination. “Don’t bend over!” the veterans yell at the younger players, for this is a team that refuses to look tired. And the younger players, including a handful of incoming freshman, learn to get on the same page as everybody else as quickly as possible.
What does all this mean to the Tiger fans that can’t wait to see that bus roll to a stop in front of the Hill? “Our team’s conditioning test is one of the toughest in the country, and probably 10% of the players don’t make it the first time,” boasts Coach Sisk – a valid claim considering that the test includes three 300-yard shuttles and a 1 ½-mile run, both of which players must complete in certain timeframes. As for the players, Sisk says, “Our goal is perfection . . . Now, you may not end up perfect, but a lot of good things will happen if that’s what you’re aiming for.”
So, when the Tigers take the field, they will be in far better shape than the vast majority of their opponents.
“You have to have invest something if you want it to mean anything,” the strength staff continually tells the players, and the team believes it.
For Tiger fans, this bodes well for 2001; for the Tigers’ opponents, however, it means world of pain.