Image University of Oregon Ducks

When pushing the limits of athletes to ‘get bigger, bigger, bigger, stronger, stronger’ is too much

While S&C coaches strive to push athletes to reach their fullest potential, a culture of hard work and selflessness can be created without sacrificing the safety and health of amateur football players.

For every substance, small doses stimulate, moderate doses inhibit and large doses kill.

– L. Garkavi, Russian sports scientist

New leaders often want to make a lasting first impression. This first impression sets the tone for how they will lead. All approaches are designed to do one thing: push people to reach their fullest potential.

For three University of Oregon football players, the first impression with a new head strength and conditioning (S&C) coach, Irele Oderinde, went terribly wrong. Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi, and tight end Cam McCormick, were admitted to the hospital with rhabdomyolysis following a grueling winter workout. Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly. Fortunately, all are in fair condition.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time an event like this has happened.

First, Do No Harm

When prescribing training, the S&C coach must often balance the demands of the sport against training. If the effects of what happens in the weight room inhibit performance on the field, that S&C coach will have questions from their head coach. If they injure a player in season, they are likely out of a job.

The time after bowl season to spring football allows enormous latitude to the S&C coach. The NCAA restricts football coach access to the players during this time so a reduction in performance on the field is not a constraint. The S&C coach can push the limits in the weight room knowing they will have time to recover.

But what happens when it’s too much?

Willie Taggart, the newly minted head football coach for the University of Oregon, made his vision for offseason conditioning clear: “… get bigger, bigger, bigger, stronger, stronger, stronger and faster and compete…”. He wanted the physical adaptations the weight room often affords, but also a transformation of culture.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have often stated the S&C coach is instrumental in creating the culture of the program. This opinion is both validated by their results on the field and in the salaries of both head strength coaches at Alabama and Ohio State. These salaries indicate the enormity of the task strength coaches at the highest levels of college football undertake. But it also should demonstrate the responsibility these S&C coaches have to the players. A culture of hard work and selflessness can be created without sacrificing the safety and health of amateur football players.

Image Irele Oderinde
Irele Oderinde, University of Oregon head strength & conditioning coach.

Jason Crutchfield,  Health & Fitness Correspondent, Lima Charlie News

Jason Crutchfield is an active duty U.S. Marine who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom working with  Afghan National Security Forces, before deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2012, he transferred to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Yuma, and then Programs and Resources where he currently serves. Having completed his Master’s Degree in Exercise Science: Performance Enhancement & Injury Prevention, at the California University of Pennsylvania, Capt. Crutchfield is an expert in exercise training, strength & conditioning. On the topic, Capt. Crutchfield has written for the Marine Corps Gazette and he hosts a regular podcast educating service members on new developments in health & fitness. Follow Capt. Crutchfield on Twitter @JCrutchfieldLC 

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