Young professionals who want to be the best strength and conditioning coach they can be should always be aware of who has gone before them. The internet has introduced the world to a lot of great strength and conditioning coaches, but it has also created a very mis-leading version of reality. If you are new to the field, you would think that the guys online are the only, or best coaches out there – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, there are great coaches like Mike Boyle or Eric Cressey who also have a huge online presence, but most of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the world don’t dominate the internet. It may be hard to believe, but if you’re looking for the top strength and conditioning coach in the world, the internet is not going to help you very much.
If all you read about are the “online” coaches, this list (and my follow-up lists of the Next Generation of Influential Coaches) may be a bit surprising to you. I’ve seen too many lists of “the most influential” or “best” strength and conditioning coaches in the world, and they almost always make me laugh. They all seem to lack any real perspective, history or understanding of what is going on in the real world; these lists are almost always 100% based on internet influence or marketing.
So, I’ve decided to create some lists about the coaches who are actually influential in the strength and conditioning world (they have definitely had a great deal of influence on me). These are not guys who post their personal workouts on Facebook every day. They don’t tweet about their max bench press or deadlift, and they don’t have mega YouTube channels with thousands of subscribers. Instead, these are coaches who have been in the game for years. They influence who gets hired and who doesn’t. Their networks in the real strength and conditioning world are wide and deep, they have the respect of other coaches, and they are definitely guys you need to be aware of.
Most of these guys speak at clinics or host their own. Many of them have written books or plenty of articles, but they don’t spend much (if any) time promoting their online presence.
Keep in mind that this is a list of current strength and conditioning coaches. There are plenty of guys like Kim Woods, Boyd Epley, Mike Gittleson and Dan Riley who have shaped the future for every strength and conditioning coach, but they are not on this list (maybe I’ll do something on them later).
I hope this list sheds some light on the real world of strength and conditioning coaches to everyone who is only aware of coaches with big internet influence. Again, a lot of guys on the internet are great (a lot of them are total schmucks, too), but there is a whole world outside of the internet where strength and conditioning is influenced by a completely different group of people.
These are some of the most influential and experienced coaches in America in no particular order:
Ken Mannie – Michigan State University: A legend in the field, Mannie has been the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for football at Michigan State University for over 15 years, while also directing the strength & conditioning programs for all men’s and women’s sports. He holds a Masters Degree from Ohio State University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through both the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Association (CSCCa) and the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). In May of 2002, the CSCCa awarded Mannie the title of Master Strength & Conditioning Coach in recognition of his professionalism, expertise, longevity and contributions to the field.
He has written over 200 articles and four book chapters on various aspects of strength/conditioning, speed/power development, sports nutrition, motivation, athletics and the anabolic drugs issue. He has been the keynote speaker at several national conferences and seminars. Mannie writes a monthly column called “Powerline” for Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director and is a frequent contributor to the NCAA News and the Championship Performance newsletter.
Mannie has served as a consultant to several NFL teams on training equipment, program design, and the administration of testing protocols. He has trained a host of collegiate players who have gone on to highly successful NFL careers. Before coming to MSU, Mannie spend nine years in a similar capacity at the University of Toledo where he worked with Nick Saban when the Rockets won a share of the MAC conference title in 1990.
On top of all of this, Mannie has done things “right” throughout his career, turning down great job offers that weren’t good moves for his family. There aren’t very many coaches who have lasted through multiple coaching changes. He has also helped plenty of young coaches get jobs in the field, making him one of the most influential coaches in the country that you probably won’t hear about on the internet every day.
Mickey Marotti – Ohio State University: If you’re looking for a job as a strength and conditioning coach, Mickey is one of the most important men you could know. He is connected to coaches all over the country because many of them have worked for Mickey at one time or another. He started out as a strength and conditioning coach at Grove City High School while he worked on his Master’s Degree at Ohio State where he was also a G.A. He moved on to be an Asst. S & C coach at West Virginia where he earned another Master’s Degree.
After that, he served as the head strength and conditioning coach at University of Cincinnati for seven years before moving on to Notre Dame for seven more years. When Urban Meyer took over at Florida, Mickey was one of the first hires he made. Marotti directed that program for seven years before recently taking the job at Ohio State.
Through his career, Mickey has mentored many coaches and held clinics at every school he’s directed in an effort to reach out to other coaches. He is also one of only 100 coaches to be awarded the Master Strength & Conditioning Coach honor by the CSCCA.
Coach Radcliffe became an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Oregon in 1985, a position that he held for 2 years before assuming the duties as Oregon’s head strength and conditioning coach. Coach Radcliffe directs the year-round participation and preparation of Oregon’s football, baseball, and men’s and women’s track & field teams
During his tenure at Oregon, the longest of any current Pac-10 strength & conditioning coach, Coach Radcliffe has established himself as a highly respected teacher, coach and author. An active clinician throughout the United States, he is widely recognized as one of the leading authorities regarding exercise for the development of strength, speed and agility.
Prior to Oregon, Coach Radcliffe was a teacher and coach at Aloha High School (Oregon) for six years in addition to serving as athletic trainer for 2 years.
Ray “Rock” Oliver – University of Kentucky: “Rock” is one of the most interesting backgrounds of any strength and conditioning coach in the business – he’s seen it all and done it all. A 25-year veteran in pro and college sports, he is currently the strength and conditioning coach at University of Kentucky.
Oliver was a strength and conditioning coach for the Cincinnati Bengals after three years as Director of Performance Enhancement for the University of Memphis basketball program. His resume includes prior experience as a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL (Tampa Bay 1992) and in the NBA (New Jersey Nets, ’96-97).
Oliver worked in strength and conditioning at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s, and during that time he also worked a Bengals training camp and several Bengals minicamps as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach.
Oliver has a long association with University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, having worked with Calipari previously at the University of Kansas, the University of Pittsburgh and with the New Jersey Nets. Oliver also worked under coach Rick Pitino at the University of Kentucky from 1989-92. During that period, he was also the strength and conditioning coach for the United States Ski Jump team.
Oliver’s work with NFL athletes also includes the years 1997-99, when he was involved in programs for 35 NFL players while working for the Synergy company in Columbia, S.C.
Jason Arapoff – Detroit Lions: Jason Arapoff has been the strength and conditioning coach for the Detroit Lions for 11 years. He arrived in Detroit prior to the 2001 season with 13 years of experience with the Washington Redskins. While serving as the team’s conditioning director for nine years, he was instrumental in computerizing and implementing the team’s strength and conditioning and nutritional programs.
A frequently published author, Arapoff has been a monthly columnist for Scholastic Coach Magazine and is a frequent speaker for industry events, schools, universities and football camps. He has also served as a content expert for area media, including guest spots on a variety of television and radio programs.
During his playing career as a collegian, Arapoff was a four-year letter-winning defensive back at Springfield (Mass.) College, where he earned his undergraduate degree in health fitness. He went on to obtain his master’s degree in exercise physiology from American University in Washington, D.C.
Arapoff is so respected by coaches and players that he is one of very few coaches to keep his job through multiple staff changes. This is very uncommon in professional or collegiate sports.
Chris Carlisle – Seattle Seahawks: After nine years as USC’s head strength and conditioning coach, Carlisle joined Seattle Seahawks in the same capacity on February 4, 2010. He was named the 2006 National Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society.
He came to USC from the University of Tennessee, where he was the associate head strength and conditioning coach for three years (1998-2000). The Volunteer football team won the 1998 BCS Championship Game and Southeastern Conference championship while he was there.
While coaching at Tennessee, Carlisle learned he had Hodgkin’s Disease in December of 2000 and began radiation treatments. He was hired by USC in February of 2001, kept his illness a secret except to Trojans Head Coach Pete Carroll, continued treatments in Tennessee and at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, then doctors told him in the summer of 2001 that the cancer was in remission. He informed the USC players of his ordeal at the start of fall 2001 camp. He was one of 17 nominees for the 2003 Most Courageous Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America and was one of 11 nominees for the 2005 award.
Carlisle began his career as the head football and strength & conditioning coach at Dodge (Neb.) High in 1985. He then spent six seasons (1986-91) as an offensive line coach and strength & conditioning coach at Blytheville (Ark.) High. He next was a strength and conditioning graduate assistant coach at Arkansas for two years (1992-93) before becoming the head football coach and strength coach at Subiaco (Ark.) Academy, a college prep school, for four seasons (1993-96). He spent 1997 as an offensive line coach and strength coach at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, winning the NJCAA national champion that season.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Chadron State in 1985 and a master’s degree in history from Arkansas in 1997. His influence on the west coast is incredible. Through speaking at clinics and helping to educate young coaches, he is a very popular figure.
Allen Hedrick – Colorado State University – Pueblo: Hedrick was named the first ever Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Colorado State University – Pueblo in September, 2009. Hedrick is a graduate of California State University – Chico (B.A.) and California State University – Fresno (M.A.). Following graduation from CSU Fresno Hedrick was hired as a strength and conditioning coach at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. After working three years at the Olympic Training Center Hedrick was selected to fill the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach position at the United States Air Force Academy, also in Colorado Springs. Hedrick stayed in that position for three years before being named the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the Academy, a position he held for nine years.
Hedrick then moved to the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s headquarters, also in Colorado Springs, first as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and then into the Education Department as Education Coordinator. Hedrick stayed in that position until moving into his current position at CSU – Pueblo.
During his career Hedrick has worked with a variety of athletes, from elementary school age athletes to athletes at the professional and Olympic level, including athletes who have medaled in the Olympic games (Bonnie Blair, speed skating and Matt Ghaffari, Greco-Roman Wrestling). A frequent writer, Hedrick has been published over 100 times in a variety of publications on a variety of topics related to strength and conditioning and has published a book on strength and conditioning for football along with numerous DVD’s on a variety of topics related to strength and conditioning. In addition, Hedrick has spoken at numerous conferences and clinics, both nationally and internationally, including Guatemala, Japan, Australia, and China. In 2003 Hedrick was selected by his peers as the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year.
Ronnie McKeefery – University of Tennessee: McKeefery was named football head strength and conditioning coach at Tennessee in 2010. The 2008 Under Armour Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, McKeefery recently spent 11 seasons at the University of South Florida from 2000-10, where he served as assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning and the head strength and conditioning coach.
McKeefery’s most recent role was as the human performance coordinator for the United States Army Special Forces, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, in Fort Campbell, Ky.
A key member of the South Florida coaching staff, McKeefery’s tenure with the Bulls coincided with that program’s rise from Division I-AA to perennial Big East Conference contender. In addition to six consecutive bowl games and 16 NFL draft picks, the success of his strength and conditioning program is best exemplified by the fact that South Florida was 10-0 in overtime during his tenure and also outscored opponents by a three-to-one margin in the fourth quarter during his 11 seasons.
After spending one season as a coach at Ottawa University in Kansas, McKeefery worked as an intern with the Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball. In the two years before coming to South Florida, he worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1999 season, a year in which the Bucs played in the NFC Championship Game. McKeefery also spent the 2000 season as the head strength and conditioning coach with the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe.
He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist w/Distinction (CSCS*D) and Coach Practitioner under the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as well as a Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) under the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA). He also served as the state NSCA Director for Florida (North) and is certified by both the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA).
McKeefery has helped dozens of young strength coaches attain jobs all over the country and his internship and graduate assistant programs are legendary for preparing coaches for careers in the profession.
Greg Werner – James Madison University: Greg Werner became the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at James Madison University in 1995 after working as an assistant in the program the previous three years. He received his Masters degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from JMU. He became interested in speed, strength and conditioning while earning his Bachelor’s degree in Human Performance with an emphasis in Exercise Science at Austin Peay State University. In his tenure as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at JMU, Werner has grown the program from himself and one part-time assistant working out of two weightrooms (5,000sq.ft.) for 27 sports to its impressive size now, with himself, a full-time Football Strength & Conditioning Coach, and four full-time assistants working out of five weightrooms and a couple multi-purpose/cardio rooms (19,800 sq.ft.) with 19 teams.
In addition to directing JMU’s strength & conditioning program Coach Werner is the faculty instructor for the School of Kinesiology’s Concepts of Strength & Conditioning course. In 2006 Coach Werner received the prestigious title of Master Strength & Conditioning Coach from the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association and he was nominated by his peers to be a finalist for the NSCA’s College Strength & Conditioning Professional of the Year Award. In 2005 he received the highest honor from the National Strength & Conditioning Association and earned the Coach Practitioner distinction. In 1999 he was selected the National Strength & Conditioning Association, Colonial Athletic Association Strength & Conditioning Professional of the Year, and was nominated for the National Professional of the year award. Also in 1999, he was selected to be the Strength & Conditioning coach for the US National Field Hockey team.
Werner has been active in the National Strength & Conditioning Association for several years, he served as the Virginia State Director for the maximum term, and has been an active speaker at the NSCA Sport Specific Training Conference, CSCS Symposium and several other coaches clinics and camps. In addition to his coaching and teaching Werner has published over 30 articles in various coaching journals and magazines, and is the webmaster for an impressive and educational website. Coach Werner is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, is Strength & Conditioning Coach Certified through the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association, an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health/Fitness Instructor, International Sports Medicine Association Certified Sports Nutrition Consultant, as well as a Nike SPARQ Certified Trainer. Coach Werner is the President of AthElite Strength & Conditioning services, a training and consulting business.
As the head of Iowa’s strength and conditioning program, Doyle has helped the Hawkeye program become bowl eligible in each of the last nine seasons. Iowa has earned six appearances in January bowl games in the past eight seasons.
Doyle is a certified strength and conditioning coach with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). That group named him the Big Ten Strength Coach of the Year in 1999. He was one of 20 nominees for the Professional of the Year Award, an award given annually and selected by the NSCA membership.
He served as director of strength and conditioning for the University of Utah in 1998. Under Doyle’s direction the Utah basketball team played in the national championship game. While in Utah, Doyle also served as state director for the NSCA. Doyle was also the assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Wisconsin from 1996-98. He oversaw the training programs for football and hockey teams during this time.
As a strength and conditioning professional, Doyle has tutored 149 student-athletes who have advanced to the professional ranks in the NFL, NHL and NBA. Iowa has had a total of 24 players selected in the past six NFL Drafts, while as many as 31 additional Hawkeye players have signed free agent contracts in the past six years.
He also worked as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 1991 and Syracuse in 1990 and a student assistant for the football program at Boston University from 1986-88 where he earned his B.S. in human movement in 1990 and his M.Ed. in education in 1991.
Jeff Fish – Atlanta Falcons: As Director of Athletic Performance, Jeff Fish directs all aspects of Falcons physical development, injury prevention, rehabilitation and nutrition, among other responsibilities.
Prior to joining the Falcons, Fish spent the previous four seasons (2004-07) as the head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Oakland Raiders. Before joining the Silver & Black, Fish was the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Missouri (2001-03) where he oversaw a program that worked with nearly 500 student-athletes from 20 Missouri sports teams.
Fish’s second stint in the NFL came with the Kansas City Chiefs as a strength and conditioning intern in 1998. After one season, he was promoted to Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach where he served from 1999-2000. He earned his start in the league with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a strength and conditioning intern in 1997.
Fish spent eight seasons in the college ranks with four different schools. The certified strength and conditioning specialist started his coaching journey with Western Michigan University as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach in 1989. He served as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Clemson University from 1991-93 and then moved on to Kent State as the head Strength and Conditioning Coach from 1993-95. Fish’s last stop at the collegiate ranks came at the University of Tulsa where he served as the top Strength and Conditioning coach from 1995-97.
Many athletes credit Fish’s programs as a major reason for their success and longevity in the NFL
Jerry Schmidt – University of Oklahoma: At three different schools- Notre Dame, Florida, and Oklahoma, he has won football national championship rings. He played a role in the development of no less than five Heisman Trophy winners: Tim Brown (Notre Dame), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State), Danny Wuerfell (Florida), Jason White (Oklahoma), and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma). He has also tutored 23 National Football League first-round draft picks.
Schmidt began his career as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Notre Dame in 1987. He later moved to a director’s position at Oklahoma State before assuming the coordinator’s role back at Notre Dame in 1989.
It was in 1995 that he moved south to serve as strength and conditioning coach with Steve Spurrier at Florida. And in 1999, he moved with then-Florida assistant Coach Bob Stoops to Oklahoma to begin one of the greatest runs in college football history.
Mike Woicik – Dallas Cowboys: The Dallas Cowboys named Mike Woicik (pronounced WOY-sick) as the team’s strength and conditioning coach for the 2011 season. Woicik, now in his second tour with Dallas, served as the club’s strength and conditioning coach from 1990-96. Since his first stint with the Cowboys, Woicik headed up the strength and conditioning program for the New Orleans Saints (1997-99) followed by the New England Patriots (2000-10). Woicik returns to Dallas with 31 years of strength and conditioning experience, including 21 years in the NFL.
Woicik he has claimed six Super Bowl Championships in his 21 NFL seasons – three with Dallas and three with New England. Woicik’s six Super Bowl rings are more than any player or head coach has earned in NFL history. He was twice named the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Society’s Coach of the Year Award (1992 and 2004).
Woicik was named the Patriots strength and conditioning coach in 2000 and initiated programs that have contributed to the success of three Patriot Super Bowl teams. Prior to his time in New England, Woicik spent three seasons with the New Orleans Saints under Head Coach Mike Ditka.
Woicik began his NFL coaching career in 1990 with the Cowboys and was voted the NFL’s Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 1992.
Woicik spent 10 years (1980-89) as the strength and conditioning coach at Syracuse University. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in history from Boston College and Master’s in physical education from Springfield.
In 2002, Watterson was awarded the President’s Award from the Professional Football Strength and Coach Society for his contributions to the field of strength and conditioning. In 1999, he was appointed to the National Research Council for Health (NRCH) scientific advisory council. NRCH was formed in 1977 to expand the scientific foundation and understanding of natural health science.
In 1992, Watterson received one of the highest honors of his career when he was named Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. Watterson joined the Oilers in 1986 as strength and conditioning coordinator before becoming an assistant coach in those areas prior to the 1988 season.
Before joining the Oilers, Watterson spent two seasons (1984-85) as the assistant trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles. From 1979-80, he served as the head trainer at Tucson (Ariz.) High School before accepting a similar post at Amphitheater High School in Tucson (1980-84). Watterson’s other activities have included serving as a trainer at the 1982 Olympic Development Camp and at the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs in 1983. Following the 1990 season, Watterson received national attention when he personally supervised the rehabilitation of auto racing superstar A.J. Foyt.
Watterson has patents pending on shoulder and leg rehabilitation devices and on a leg measuring device through his company, Kelsea Plus Corp. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island and his master’s degree from Arizona.
Joe “House” Kenn – Carolina Panthers: Known simply as “House” to players, Joe Kenn employs a holistic and integrated philosophy in his comprehensive training plan that utilizes strength training, explosive development, high intensity interval training and performance-based nutrition.
An accomplished strength and conditioning coach with nearly two decades of experience on the college level, Kenn comes to the Panthers from Big House Power Competitive Athletic Training, where he coached professional, college and high school athletes and teams from several sports.
Prior to that, he was the director of athlete development at Louisville for two seasons from 2008-09, working specifically with the football program. In 2009, he was recognized as a master strength and conditioning coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
Kenn started his coaching career at his alma mater, Wake Forest, in January 1991 as the assistant strength and conditioning coach. Later that year, he went to Boise State as a graduate assistant and remained there for eight years. Elevated to the Broncos’ strength and conditioning coach in 1994, Kenn was named the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Big West Conference Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 1998.
He then moved to Utah as the director of strength and conditioning for two years from 1999-2000. He also received accolades as the NSCA Mountain West Conference Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2000.
Next, Kenn spent seven years at Arizona State from 2001-07, serving as the head strength and conditioning coach for football for two seasons before being promoted to head coach of sports performance in 2003 and overseeing all sports.
John “JT” Thomas – Penn State: In his 20th year at Penn State, the efforts of John Thomas have made a significant impact on the profession. His efforts were recognized with his 2002 selection as Master of Strength and Conditioning Coach, a title held by fewer than 30 people worldwide at the time. He also was chosen the 1997 National Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. Thomas spent two seasons at the U.S. Military Academy, the second as the head strength and conditioning coach in 1990-91. Thomas spent two years as a graduate assistant football and strength and conditioning coach at Toledo. At the University of the South (1986-89), he coached football and served as a strength and conditioning coach in football and baseball.
Many former Penn State players credit Thomas with teaching them the meaning of hard work and effort. He is a no-nonsense coach who has helped many other coaches learn the trade and move forward with their careers.
Mike Gentry – Virginia Tech: Gentry is the most tenured strength and conditioning coach in the ACC. He oversees the training of all 21 varsity sports, but is directly involved with football, women’s basketball, and manages the nutrition programs. Gentry is also a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach. His roots are on Tobacco Road, as the Durham, N.C. native received his master’s from UNC in 1981. He also received his doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in motor behavior, from Virginia Tech in 1999. Gentry was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at UNC and the head strength and conditioning coach at East Carolina prior to being hired at Virginia Tech in 1987.
Gentry is a leader in the field, and many coaches believe that he is one of the most influential coaches in the country.
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