This month STT interviews Beth Byron, Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at West Virginia University. Prior to coming to WVU in March of 2008, Coach Byron worked at USF for a year and half. She worked with Volleyball, Men’s & Women’s Soccer, Softball, Men’s Tennis, and Men’s and Women’s Golf. Now at WVU, Beth works with Gymnastics, Men’s & Women’s Swimming & Diving, and Women’s Tennis.

STT would like to thank Coach Byron for taking the time to answer a few questions.  Beth’s passion alone is worth finding out more about.  Check out the Q&A between STT and Coach Byron below!

STT: Please provide you educational background including undergrad, graduate experience and certifications.

Coach Byron: BS- Applied Science from Springfield College, MS- Human Performance- Strength & Conditioning from U of Wisconsin- LaCrosse, and CSCA-NSCA, CSCCA, USAW

STT: How did you become involved in the industry?

Coach Byron: I knew I wanted to work with athletes, but I didn’t want to work with athletes who were injured, rather I wanted to help prevent injury and enhance performance. I was an Applied Exercise Science major and Springfield and did internships at Mike Boyle’s and Holy Cross. I had great experiences, worked with great people who challenged me in different ways and I really enjoyed my internship experiences. I went on to UW-L for grad school and was a GA there where I was thrown right in as the strength coach for volleyball, women’s basketball, swimming & diving, and gymnastics. My GA experience was invaluable that it taught me a lot that I didn’t see as an intern; I learned a lot about dealing with coaches, different teams, and got better at writing programs.

STT: What is your specialization? Feel free to expand upon your job responsibilities, interests or current project you are working on.

Coach Byron: I would say that my specialization by default as a result of my experiences is Olympic sports. I say this as a “specialization” because coaching Olympic sport teams is commonly very different than coaching football or basketball teams. I find that the role that a strength & conditioning coach on a football or basketball coaching staff is completely different than that on say a track & field team, or a softball or swimming & diving team. Don’t get me wrong- I’m still their strength coach and I train them hard, but it is a completely different animal in a lot of aspects. I find that football and basketball coaches typically make their strength & conditioning program a higher priority than many (not all) Olympic sport coaches typically do. Also working with multiple teams teaches you to be more creative and resourceful with your scheduling, facility/equipment use, exercise selection, program design, and workout set up.

STT: What aspect of the field do you enjoy the most?  Feel free to elaborate and provide multiple examples.

Coach Byron: I mostly enjoy interacting with the athletes and seeing them grow as a person as their self-confidence improves, their work ethic improves, and they set higher standards for themselves. It’s a blast to go to their games/meets and watch them have lifetime best performances, but also knowing them as a person on a day to day basis is special too.

STT: What is your favorite exercise?

Coach Byron: I have two right now, and it was different a year ago and might be different next year; Trap Bar Dead Lift and Power Snatch…..ok three- Pull Ups.

STT: For today’s Strength & Conditioning specialist, what type of academic and professional training can optimize a young person’s chances for success in the field in the 21st century?

Coach Byron: I would recommend having a great internship experience that not only allows you to see the practical side of coaching and program design but also stresses the value of hard work, attention to detail, and communication. I’ve seen a lot of interns that think they want to be a strength coach and think this field is a good fit for them because they like to lift weights and be in a weight room- being a strength coach is so much more than that.

STT: How do you approach a parent who is seen teaching his child an exercise incorrectly or dangerously?

Coach Byron: I don’t think I’ve been in this situation dealing with college athletes. College athletes however are grossly missed informed about a lot of things in life through the media, their peers, etc. The best way you can teach them what is right is through consistency and accountability in your program and in the way you coach. Unfortunately accountability is grossly lacking in our society today and it has become a greater challenge to instill that into sport/academic programs. Communicating with them and educating them on nutrition, recovery methods, and technique come with repetition over time. Also teaching by example is HUGE, your athletes are watching you and take note how you conduct yourself and how hard you work

STT: Years ago, the stability ball was the hot trend in the fitness field…one year ago it was the kettlebell (and kinda still is). What current ‘trend’ do you see in the fitness field today?

Coach Byron: Strong man training, stuff like tire flips, rope pulls, farmers walks, sled pushes/pulling is becoming more common. I also think more metabolic work or circuit training during the early off season are also coming up a lot more. The strong man stuff and the circuits are great ways to keep the athletes interested and teaching them how to work hard.

STT: What strength coach or trainer has had the most impact on you and why?

Coach Byron: My first collegiate coaching experience was my internship at Holy Cross with Jeff Oliver and Brijesh Patel. They are both great coaches and great people and both have different strengths and personalities that really encouraged me and have greatly influenced me as a young coach. They also had so many teams to work with between just the two of them that I got to do a lot more hands on and coaching than a typical internship might offer. Also Cal Dietz at Minnesota helped prepare me for my first job when I was interning with him when I was finishing up my masters degree.

STT: What does the term plyometrics mean to you? How do you quantify plyometric work? Is it by numbers of reps, time of reps or some other method?

Coach Byron: Plyometrics to me: Activating the stretch shortening cycle in a safe environment to develop explosiveness with very good technique in and safe landing mechanics. To quantify this work I keep track of the number of reps of jumps/hops. Technically jump roping and running are also forms of plyometrics so I am just mindful of how much/distance we spend doing jump rope and/or running each week to prevent overtraining.

STT: What sport skills can you improve during your strength and conditioning workouts?

Coach Byron: Sport skills are improved during sport practice. Strength, power, work capacity, speed, etc are trained through various methods to help improve or sustain athletic performance. If you want to get better at throwing a shot put- which is extremely technical, you need to throw the shot. If you don’t throw the shot for a week or two but you’re in the gym benching, doing dips, pulls, squats, push jerks, plyos and whatever else don’t be surprised if your throws are shorter and your form is rusty the next time you step into the circle to throw. I strongly believe this for any sport skill, tennis, football, swimming, whatever. I’ve seen athletes improve in their agility or strength measures or even in their conditioning, but if they haven’t worked on their shots (tennis or basketball for example) they’ll be limited.

STT: Are there any common injuries you’ve seen athletes suffer from repeatedly? How could they have been addressed so they don’t occur in the future?

Coach Byron: With swimmers most commonly low back pain- in most cases I don’t think this is an injury per se but rather extreme discomfort due to tightness in the hip flexors (try swimming & kicking for 2 hrs and see how your hips feel after), and upper back and shoulders. I have my swimmers do lots stretching w/bands, foam rolling, and we work on hip mobility and posterior chain exercises.

STT: What are some key tips for successful strengthening of the body core?

Coach Byron: Make sure the back is strong with good posture.  A strong core is more than just crunches and plank holds. Make sure your workouts are balanced between pushes and pulls- and actually I might do a little more pulling to make sure the posterior chain is strong enough.

Keep in touch with STT for an interview with Brad Pantall, Head Speed, Strength, and Conditioning Coach for the Penn State University basketball programs.  For more information about upcoming interviews, and to keep in touch with STT, join our mailing list and follow us on Facebook by searching SMARTER Team Training.

I hope all is well.  Have a great day!