Michigan Madness

It was interesting to read Charlie’s review of the HIT approach and mention Michigan State as the source of some of this madness. But I was even more bowled over from what I heard from an athlete that I have recently started training.

The athlete will remain nameless, but he attended another university in Michigan on a Track and Field scholarship. He ran some very fast times out of high school in the 100 and 200m, but never approached those times while at the university. I’m sure many people wondered why - poor adjustment to the university life, injuries, bad attitude. But when I heard about the training that was done at this institution, I was shocked. Here’s a bit of it to get you rolling in the aisles:

  • The strength and conditioning coach has software (that he developed and coincidentally sells to other coaches) to figure out the optimal workout for the athlete. The athlete logs in at a computer terminal and it spits out the workout for him or her. Talk about a personal touch.

  • The coach is a HIT advocate and claims that Olympic lifting is dangerous. He points to programs like USC that have lots of injuries. Of course, he seems to miss the point that USC does have the last two national championships.

  • The track coach has the sprinters run a 2-mile time trial during the fall. What he’s testing, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was for the 300m + 300m runs with 45 sec breaks done six times. Remember, we are training a 100m athlete here.

  • To practice curve running, the track coach also had the athletes run fast in a tight circle - 15-20m radius - many times consecutively. To balance out the pain, he would make them run in the opposite direction. Of course, this was done on a “recovery” day.

  • I also heard the athlete tell me that the strength coach was against using supplements.

There’s more, but I have to take a break. But it does make you ask the question, “What the hell is going on in Michigan???”

BTW - the athlete is a great kid, smart, listens well and hard working. His university let him down. It had nothing to do with his work ethic or desire.


It seems this is happeneing more often than not in “big time” college programs. There are quite a few horror stories about the schools in the state of Michigan. Apparantly, word on the street is that when John L. Smith came in as coach at MSU he immediately dropped the HIT approach. Out with the machines, in with the racks and platforms. Everyone’s buddy is still there, but i guess football isn’t using that crap method anymore. Imagine what the athletes at that other school in the state would be like if they had a sound training. Anyway, sorry to hear about the athlete you aree working with. Too many college athletes are getting short changed.

I checked the web page John Smith is listed as a coach

It’s an unfortunate situation which many athletes experience. Fortunately though he is now in very good hands and that potential that has been hampered can now be maximized.

#2, I am not 100% sure but a while back like from 1997-2002 I had a close friend play hockey for Princeton (where Matt Bryzick?) was the strength coach. I am not sure if he developed the actual program, but the hockey S&C program was HIT and it produced nothing but a mess for my friend…he said he always felt overtrained and his numbers either went down or stayed the same…never up, luckily he survived without injury due to the overtrained state he constantly operated in, and another interesting thing was that he was a goalie and his program was the exact same as everyone else’s (forwards, defense, waterboy’s :D) in terms of exercises and prescribed sets/reps…after two summers of that he said screw it and began doing his own damn crap…he got much stronger doing his own thing even though he had no real idea of how to structure his training, kinda funny and sad at the same time.

Wow - it sounds like there are a lot of stories out there with the same result. That’s very sad. Athletes have big dreams when they head off to college. It is too bad that they are being exposed to this kind of crap. Hopefully they are at least making the most of their education.

I can provide a little insight in this one. Though I am a UM fan and have been for years I have been disappointed over the years to witness the underachieving of major talent coming into the program. Mike Gittleson has been there since the late 70’s when a grad student there. Schembechler made him the s and c coach and since then no changes have been made, in my opinion, because 1) Bill Martin(a.d.) and Lloyd Carr(head coach) probably don’t know enough about s and c to make such a call regarding the differences between HIT and other programs-this is probably true at many schools-they probably would not know a bad one from a good one- not unlike many a.d.'s and head coaches. 2)one of the things Schembechler instilled in his players and assistant coaches was a sense of loyalty, etc(this. however, to the point where it can actually be detrimental to the development of a program). I have always felt that since Gittleson was a Schembechler hire, he was sort of the proverbial sacred cow. They are losing to teams which are often less talented than them but most fans look only at the football specific coaching and strength and conditioning flies beneath the radar so to speak.

As far as the MSU deal what happened is that John L. Smith got to MSU and unlike Lloyd Carr,recognized that Ken Mannie’s HIT program was just not developing the athletes adequately and not at all in the way it was being done at his previous head coaching job at Lousiville. He contacted his former s and c coach at Louisville, Mike Kent(whose work Smith greatly respected, Kent has since gone on to Pitt) and asked him if he had anybody to reccomend(sp?) and Kent told him to look at then head s and c coach at Appalachian State Tommy Hoke(who had been an assistant at ASU under Kent years earlier) who was my former roommate to boot. Hence the Hoke-MSU connection. Knowing what I do about Tommy, the s and c at MSU is in good hands. I just wish the same could be said about Michigan who is lead by the architect of athletic destruction Mike Gittleson. They waste more talent there in one year than some mid major programs will see in 10 years.

How long have you had with him now? Is he showing any signs of improvement?

Number 2, it’s quite funny that Gittleson would claim that one of the drawbacks to the type of program that USC employs would be high injury rates. Right now, Michigan is having one of the worst seasons in recent history in terms of injuries(and on the field performance). Not that they can all necessarily be attributed to primitive training(though we certainly can make educated guesses about such things) but going into last night’s loss at Wisconsin they had twelve guys on the injury report with three gone for the season, one out, one will play, one doubtful, three possibles and three probables. As a long time fan I don’t remember a more injury riddled season than this one with some all-conference players included on the list and at least 6-7 starters among those.

The NCAA keeps injury stats, and the HIT schools lead the parade!

Please, I deal with this all the time!(colleges who just ruin athletes) It seems I spend more time fixing new problems with athletes when they come home, only to have them go through these marathon 5 mile runs to “build a base.” Please I am getting aggravated just talking about it!! They spend more time injured and rehabbing then they do training.

JohnG - So far we are into Week 3 and all is going well. Working on weightlifting technique (no machines here) and acceleration mechanics over 20-30m in flats, with some easy sled pulls, hill runs and drills.

Pioneer - Funny you should say. The athlete in question is still a UM fan, but he’s taking these losses hard. Don’t know if he can take another loss - especially against MS this upcoming weekend. Also funny you should say - I was watching “The Waterboy” this morning and almost wet myself when I saw the bit on Michigan having injury problems and were running out of healthy players - so they used their “towel boy” at receiver. Of course he got layed out in the game. Very funny coincidence.

At least there is good job security at UM. We’ll see after this season.

Since most fans are completely unaware of the variation from one strength program to another, the majority call for the head of the head coach and/or the defensive coordinator(which I think would also be a good move) and have no clue what goes on in the de-conditioning program. There is a small group of fans who do have a clue who constantly, like me, complain about a “program” which is so extremely primitive, involves many outdated methods of s and c. Once out of the program, almost every player prepping for the combines/workouts leaves campus to do so. Unlike some programs where the s and c coach might actually have a clue and some of the players stay to continue to train in the same system, almost all of the players leave. For the ones who do stay they have things to look forward to like a 235 lb fullback running a 4.93-outstanding!

Players come into the program with times ranging from high 4.3 to 4.5(I know you can’t often trust high school times) some done at the h.s. scouting combines and 3-5 years later when prepping for the draft run mid 4.5 to mid 4.7. Players who make a significant impact as sophs or even freshman like Steve Breaston simply are slower, less explosive as juniors or seniors-the longer they are in the program the worse they will look. Guys regress constantly in this disaster of a conditioning program. Fans and I’m sure coaches as well are at a loss for what happens to these guys. These are the same fans/coaches who believe that(due to their lack of knowledge about speed/strength development) all s and c is the same. If they can acknowledge that the football coaches have different philosophies/schemes/methods, why is it so hard to fathom that the s and c could also be very different? No one coach spends as much time with the players during the entire year(particularly the off season) as the s and c coach. So no program can undo/or develop the athleticism of a player like the s and c coach.

No changes will be made unless they go outside the program and find a head coach unaffected by this blind loyalty and a coach who has seen good speed/strength development at previous coaching jobs since virtually no one at UM will even know what that is. They know one program (s)HIT and they probably don’t know a bad one from a good one either. This garbage has been taking place since the late 70’s-that’s an incredible amount of time to be doing something wrong/poorly and still have a job-as #2 points out about job security. The only reason this has gone on is the guy has had incredible athletes to work with so they’ll get some results just based on the talent they are able to recruit into the program(great athlete + bad program= good results but certainly not maximizing the athletic potential).

Some fans offer up #3 overall nfl draft pick Braylon Edwards(Cleveland Browns) as the poster child for the program. He like many others bolted for help outside of the program and performed well in workouts. Also, it was said that that throughout college he continued to train with his dad Stanley(former UM star who played with Houston Oilers for 4-5 years) who to this day is still a high school/club track coach.

If they made the towel boy head coach or S & C coach instead of putting him in the line-up, they’d have done better!

I’m a little behind in this debate compared to you guys, so I have a few questions after reading this thread.

  1. What are some other schools besides UM that use HIT?

  2. What are some of the schools that do s&C well? 2a. What are their S&C programs like?

  3. If HIT mostly leads to diminishing results on the field, why do schools (who have a financial stake in winning and losing) continue to follow HIT regimens? I have a theory about why schools might stick with S&C coaches, but I cant figure out why those coaches stick with philosophies that arent that successful.

Any thoughts?


Read the HIT article on the front page of the site to identify the chief proponants of this crap and the BS excuses they offer up for its use.
The only advantage of HIT for the S&C coach is the complete lack of any sort of planning, supervision, or, what many of us call WORK.
It’s the perfect plan for a lazy sack of shit S&C coach for as long as he can get away with it. (Years, sadly!)

While we’re at it, how about a list of schools that have sHIT programs AND a list of those that have good programs.

Ya know, i have been having this arguement with people for years now. I think the most evident recent example of how bad HIT sucks is with Penn State Football. Up until the end of the 90’s they were getting the best recruits form across the country. They had a huge margin for error when it came to training. They were successful in spite of their training, similar to Michigan. However, when they came up short on the recruiting end, post 2000, they were pushed all over the place by teams like Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Northwestern, and even a MAC team or two. Sometime around last year, Joe Paterno was asked what was the reason for their recent lack of success…his answer was “we didn"t do a good job of recruiting the past few years”. Well, neither did those other schools i just mentioned, but they managed to do a hell of a job developing their middle of the road recruits into legit D1 players. What ever happened to developing the players you have? Show me how good of a coach you are, not how good of a recruiter you are. You are a coach, not a used car salesman.

know that these are not;

They have a bunch of damn great athletes now who I suspect will improve no matter what. Dereck Williams, Justin King, Tyrelle Sales from the year before (freak athlete), Sean Lee (baddest guy I have ever played against, dislocated his shoulder and split his chin in the first half of a game, needed 9 stitches and to get his shoulder back into place. Took care of it during halftime and came back for the 2nd half to dominate further), and many others.