Full-time strength and fitness

Safety and proper conditioning for Notre Dame student-athletes paramount for strength and conditioning coach.

According to “Careers in Sport, Fitness, and Exercise,” a book put out in 2011 by the American Kinesiology Association, strength and conditioning coaches have two primary goals: The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength,and power (although specifics vary according to athlete and sport). 

The second primary goal, says the AKA, is to reduce athletic injuries. 

In ideal environments, the AKA says, athletic departments — primarily at the university level — should hire one conditioning coach for every 10 to 20 athletes who use conditioning facilities. The actual number of coaches is usually much, much less. Depending on the size of the athletic program and the level of competition, there might be as few as one or two conditioning coaches in total. 

The University of Notre Dame, for example, has nine full-time S&C coaches who work with about 750 student-athletes. Iowa State University has four full-time coaches for about 450 student-athletes. Central College in Pella, Iowa, competes at the NCAA division III level and, despite also having about 450 student-athletes, only recently hired its second full-time conditioning coach.

A rare luxury

For the 558 student-athletes at Notre Dame Prep (about 75% of the entire upper-division student body), to have a full-time strength and conditioning coach available nearly 24/7 is a rare luxury indeed.

To have a strength and conditioning coach like Jake Siebert is even rarer, especially when considering that most other high schools do not make such a full-time commitment in the first place.

Like Siebert, Stewart Venable is one of those rare full-time strength and conditioning coaches. He works at a high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and notes that it wasn’t too long ago that head coaches not only had to coach their sport, they also had additional duties as athletic trainer, and strength and conditioning coach because there were no other options. 

“Today, in the same manner as secondary schools recognized the need for certified athletic trainers to take care of injured athletes, they are only just beginning to hire certified strength and conditioning specialists (CSCS) to enhance athletic performance of the student/athlete in the first place,” Venable said. 

For Siebert, who holds a B.A. in exercise science from Albion University and an M.S. in exercise science from Oakland University, he’s focused on the entire makeup of each student-athlete at Notre Dame and keeping him or her fit — and safe — for their specific sport.

Research-based conditioning

The programs he’s designed at NDPMA, for example, are based on up-to-date scientific strength and conditioning research that parallel the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s idea of long-term athletic development. 

“I develop the student-athlete as a whole and take into consideration the demands of their current sport, correcting imbalances, minimizing injury, increasing general and specific strength, and improving conditioning and overall fitness,” Siebert said. “To help ensure the effectiveness of Notre Dame’s training program, I regularly conduct sport-specific tests to see how we are progressing.”

He said that by using what he calls “intelligent-periodization,” he has seen many athletes at the school make tremendous athletic improvements in a short period of time. 

“My ultimate goal is to develop the student-athlete safely and effectively for the long-term,” said Siebert, who is finishing up his third year at NDPMA.

Top-notch facilities

Before coming to Notre Dame, Siebert served as assistant strength and conditioning coach at Oakland University where he worked with men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s soccer, track and field, cross country, men’s and women’s golf, women’s tennis, and baseball. Additionally, he assisted with men’s and women’s basketball and women’s soccer at OU. 

Siebert's also a USA Weightlifting sports performance coach (USAW-L1SP) as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). 

A native of Troy, Mich., Siebert, who was married last August, currently calls Auburn Hills home. He says he’s elated to be working at a school with such a great athletic program and stellar facilities.

“Notre Dame's Athletic Performance Center is unique in southeast Michigan in that there is a bit of everything there,” he said. “There are four Olympic platforms with half racks attached for the Olympic and powerlifting movements. We also have three dual-weight stack cable machines that provide for a wide variety of uses.”

Siebert said there is plenty of space for “rehab/return-to-play exercises” as well as cardio equipment to assist with “ease-back” exercises.

“We have an area where we do ballistic training, such as throwing medicine balls, etc., and functional/rehab-based training where we use BOSU balls and stability balls, etc.,” he said. “There’s also enough space to do agility, plyometrics (jump training), and strength training. And lastly, we have dumbbells, kettlebells as well as adjustable benches and machines that serve a variety of purposes. 

“Given our resources, there is really nothing we can’t do.”

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." The Marist Fathers and Brothers sponsor NDPMA's Catholic identity and manages its educational program. Notre Dame is accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.