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Winning Ways:
A Day in the Life...

Saturday, February 27, 1999

By Gregory "Graig" White
SJSports Physical Fitness Advisor

I titled this piece, "A Day in the Life...", to give you, the reader, a glimpse into what a day in the life of a conditioning coach is like. First, let me say that people often refer to me as a trainer. In the world of sports, there is a big difference between what trainers and coaches do. Athletic trainers are the people that work with athletes who have suffered an injury. Their focus is to work with the athlete on getting them back in their activity as quickly as possible, but also keeping in mind that the athlete must sufficiently heal so that re-injury does not happen. The conditioning coach works with well athletes; it is our job to make sure that athletes are as injury resistant as possible. Some people call me a trainer, and granted, some of our duties are very much alike, but we serve two different functions.

I got involved in conditioning relatively late in life. I am the product of two people who have been, and still are very competitive, involved in athletics my whole life. After earning my degree in psychology, I looked for a way to stay involved in sports. With my commitment to developing and teaching skill enhancement, coaching would be the way to go.

I got started in the coaching profession as a volunteer. It was enjoyable and loved the whole experience until I started coaching on the high school level. It was here, after I had to tell a kid that he wasn't good enough to play that I thought there has to be a better way. I am a naturally positive person. Just because of this I work to keep positive energy around me. I worked to create a situation that would allow me full use of my abilities. Then it happened. I had the opportunity to meet Boyd Epley, director of Performance Enhancement at the University of Nebraska. We had a great conversation and that's when it all fell into place for me. It was then that I decided to work to help athletes prepare to compete at levels that surpassed the ones they were currently playing.

My goal is to improve an athlete's performance, regardless of the sport. My prime objective as a conditioning coach is to create the right conditions so that learning can take place, and identify ways to motivate the athletes. More often than not, athletes come to me highly motivated, but there are times when it is necessary to "light the fire under them". I also work with them to make sure that there is always a certain amount of enthusiasm and excitement whenever we get together.

I love my job! On any given day I can be a coach, friend, instructor, mentor, counselor, and a source a support to my athletes. My job also allows me to mingle freely with the coaches of different sports, because I need to be aware of movement patterns of lots of different sports. Currently, I am charged with the care of the athletes from ten different teams and eight different sports. As a result, working with each program gives me the opportunity to assist athletes in overcoming obstacles to reach peak performance.

One of the more challenging aspects of my job is getting all the athletes in, having them lift and getting them out as efficiently as possible. In a university setting, this is always a challenge with class and practice schedules. I meet with the coaches to get a sense of what time their practice is and then I start from there. Since most of our in-season sports practice is in the afternoon to early evening, those athletes come in early. This way, it's done and they get to go home right after practice. The sports that are not in-season are encouraged to come in the afternoon so that the weight room in not too crowded. Having too many athletes in the weight room at one time can be hazardous, and the chance of injury increases greatly.

The second thing I must concern myself with is teaching my athletes our training protocol. The protocol we use is not a secret, but in the interest of time and space I won't go into detail. What is important is the fact that every year I deal with new athletes, athletes who have not "bought into" our way of doing things. I work to show them that our program has merit. Therefore, once they choose to believe in it, the results they get from it will be all the reward they will need. This "sell" sometimes can be hard, because athletes coming from successful programs are sometimes hesitant to change the way they do things. My job gets easier once I can convince the athletes that I care about them as people and that I have their best interest at heart.

The biggest thrill that I get from my job is to see my athletes succeed. I work to make sure that I never put down any of my athletes. I know that success breeds success. Every challenge we meet with and overcome leads to an athlete who is more confident and has a better sense of self. Once an athlete believes that they have prepared as best as they can, all that is left for them to do is to go out and compete.

It's a great thing to watch athletes get stronger and faster. During the school year I can turn on my television and watch the fruit of our labor. It is a job that gives me a greater sense of community. I wouldn't trade this job for anything in the world!

Graig White with 76ers President Pat Croce

Graig White with sportscaster Howard Eskin

Graig White with Lisa Lowe (1997 Ms. California Fitness)

Graig White with Alexandra Beres (1996 Ms. Fitness World)

Graig White with Don Long (1995 NPC National Champion)

Graig White with Monica Brant (1999 Ms. Fitness Olympia)

Photos by Judy Grice

Do you have a fitness or conditioning question for Graig? Send it to If your question is used in an article, you will receive a free Team Conditioning Systems t-shirt.

For previous Winning Ways, visit Graig's Archives

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