By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat April 30, 1997
FEEL THE BURN
When Arizona lineman Joe Salave'a sacks the quarterback or basketball center A.J. Bramlett throws down a dunk, Arizona fans marvel at that athlete's skill and wish they had that natural talent.
Yet few realize the amount of time these players spend in the gym, and even fewer give credit to the coaches behind these workouts.
Arizona's corps of strength coaches are in many ways the unsung heroes of Wildcat athletics. Working from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., these coaches not only create the programs used by the athletes, but also keep them motivated in their workouts.
"Arizona athletics are pretty successful across the board, so you know that these athletes have the desire to succeed," UA head strength coach Dan Wirth said. "The hard part is trying to convince these guys to keep it up during their season when they have practice everyday."
Wirth said most people don't realize the importance of in-season weight training, when athletes are highly susceptible to injury.
"The maintenance of an athlete's muscles during the season is something that is very important. Each sport has muscle areas that are high risk for injury," Wirth said. "For instance, in football the neck and shoulders are under a good deal of stress and n eed to be maintained to discourage injury."
When a player does sustain a serious injury, such as a torn rotator cuff, the coaches have to keep an athlete's spirits high and avoid the apathy that sometimes accompanies a player who sees his or her athletic future in limbo.
"There is some added mental strain when a player suffers a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or other serious injury," UA assistant strength coach Carla Garrett said. "But you just have to get them back in the gym as soon as possible and be positive w ith them. But that also depends on the athlete, some will work their butts off after an experience like that and others will need a kicktm to get going."
Two sport Arizona freshman Ortege Jenkins was faced with this dilemma when he tore his ACL earlier this year. The mental letdown was hard for Jenkins to overcome.
"It was pretty tough watching the basketball team play against North Carolina when I had just been practicing a couple weeks before," Jenkins said earlier this season. "I knew I could have been out there playing with them and it was hard not to be a part of that."
But Jenkins stuck with the rehabilitation and has been cleared to begin full workouts.
Another danger the training staff runs into is having athletes keep the drive to improve themselves even months after their season.
"We try and keep it fun and spontaneous for (the athletes)," Garrett said. "We even let them decide what exercises they want to do sometimes."
With each sport and athlete having different needs, the staff also has to tailor-make each set of routines.
"You have to look at the individual movements of each sport and you want to boost the performance in certain skills," Wirth said. "For linebackers, lateral movement is real important, so we would want to target that area."
Most athletes also come into the university looking to add on some weight.
"We get some players that come in at 6-foot, 10 iches tall and 200 pounds and that coach wants him to be at 260," Wirth said. "So then you not only have the weight-lifting aspect, but you also have nutritional concerns to help them add positive weight."
One player that knows this aspect of training from firsthand experience is the sophomore Bramlett. In his first year with the program, Bramlett has put on over 20 pounds, and wants to add even more this summer.
"The staff really works with us and keeps us motivated. Everyday," said Bramlett, who started at center the entire NCAA Tournament. "Marc (Hill, the assistant strength coach) and Dan (Wirth) work with us and change things up to keep us interested. They se t up a goal for us to shoot for and are very positive in helping us achieve that goal."
One big obstacle for the strength coaches right now is trying to correlate each of the 17 Division I sports in a facility that is only 7,300 square feet in size.
"We have a very functional facility, but have conflicts with the space," Wirth said. "It's hard for anyone else to train if the football team is working. It takes a lot of strategic scheduling.
"When you look at Nebraska having about 34,000 square feet of space and most big schools at least 20,000, it's also hard for us to convince kids to come here. These recruits want to see high quality facilities. So, in that respect, we are a little behind. "