This article is authored by Erik Schwager. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Coach Schwager is currently the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Hartford. Erik designs and implements training programs for numerous teams for Hartford Hawks. Before becoming the assistant at the University of Hartford, Coach Schwager owned his own business in Tampa, Florida. He also spent time working in the minor leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals with their single-A affiliate, The Batavia Muckdogs, as well as interning for numerous Division I institutions such as The University of South Florida, Michigan State University, and Princeton University.

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As I have talked to many athletes, coaches, and parents throughout my career, the term champion always seems to arise. When asked, well what is a champion? The answer has always been somebody who wins or does not lose. I will agree with that statement, but there is more substance to the term that relates to both sports teams and life after sports.

As strength and conditioning professionals it’s not just our job to develop athletically enhanced athletes, but to develop young respectable adults, who will excel not just on the field, but conquer life after they graduate. Athletes will always be a part of a team, whether they go on to play professionally or receive their first full time position of employment. They will always be a reflection of us, The University, or the business they work for. This is a crucial message I relay to my athletes on a daily basis and is why I have defined champion as follows:

Champion Defined:
C: Character– Be respectful, responsible, truthful (to your team, coaches, and yourself), caring, reliable.
H: Hard Work – Willing to put the time and effort into your team, training, practice, and school work.
A: Attitude – Willing to take anything head on, always positive, motivated, be a leader, no short cuts.
M: Mental Toughness – Be able to handle high pressure situations, is able to make good decisions under pressure, push through and battle no matter how tired or hard things get. P: Perseverance – Remain focused on team and personal goals/ purpose.
I: Intensity – Bring energy into the room that will uplift teammates and make a competitive training environment. Provide an all out effort for everything you do.
O: Obligation – To team, coaches, family, school, supporters (community), and administrators. They are the reason you are where you are, think about this when making decisions that could affect any one of these obligations.
N: Never Quit – You can never fail as long as you keep trying. Remember you are not alone!

A great team will always find a way to be on the same page. Using this term is a way to help athletes think about the decisions they make every day both in and outside of the sports realm. Every decision they make will have an impact on their team, coaches, administration, and family.

Erik Schwager believes that strength and conditioning is both training the mind and the body. Athletes need to be physically prepared to perform on the field, but if they are not mentally prepared it can be just as detrimental to performance as not being physically prepared. You can contact him at