TLL Interview With Jeremy Golden, Strength & Conditioning Coach

Photos by TLL
Joe Auletta

Joe: Thanks for taking time, I know schedules are busy this year. Your title says Assistant Director Athletic Performance, what is that?
Jeremy: My role is to be the strength and conditioning coach for women’s basketball and softball. My job is basically to train them in all facets of what strength and conditioning: speed, agility, conditioning, strength, explosiveness. With women’s basketball I am with them every single day; at practice I warm them up and cool them down. I will be on the road with them as well and that entails working on the nutrition component, helping them make good eating choices, developing good habits.
I also help them recover and prepare for the next game. When the game ends my mind shifts to what we have to do to prepare for the next day. How do I help them recover and get proper food in their system? What stretching do they need? How can I help Dre (Andrea Quintana, our Athletic Trainer), in getting the team ready to go for the next game.
Joe: You mention strength, endurance, explosiveness, and so on. Sometimes those pull a player in opposite directions–how do you balance all of those things? In your mind, what are the most important ones, or does it vary player by player?
Jeremy: I think it varies player by player. Everybody needs strength. A stronger athlete is more injury resistant. A stronger athlete is faster. A stronger athlete is more confident. But, the fitness component has to come in there as well. The key is how they are built together–how you create the program to build from the ground up. I see things that are happening in college athletics lately that have not been positive for strength coaches. One thing that I try to do is focus on the fact that it can’t be done in a day or a week. So I have to pick and choose what’s best for that particular player–that particular team–at this point in time.
I got here August 24th, and had four weeks to prepare them for the season, so what can I do? What I had to do was build a foundation. Brick by brick start that foundation to carry them through the season, and then continue to build on that foundation. Then, once we get to the off-season, you can really start adding to it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work, that doesn’t mean we can’t get stronger or more fit during the season. It’s just how we do it. I’ve got about thirty or 45 minutes to work with them, and then I’ve got to get them on the court. What matters most right now is basketball so everything I do has to correlate to basketball. I can put together the greatest plan in the world but if it hinders what they are doing on the basketball court, it’s not good. I’ll compare it to a golfer. I could hit a 300-yard drive, be out there hitting like Dustin Johnson or Tiger Woods, but if I’m in the trees 30 yards ahead of them–and they are in the fairway—I haven’t done very good.
Joe: You talk about doing different in season vs. summer. What are the things you do now compared to what you do in the summers? Where do you put the emphasis in-season, and I assume that changes between now and when they are dragging come the second week of March.
Jeremy: I think a lot is volume management and exercise selection. In the summer, I’m not worried about how sore they are so I’m going to do my heavier leg days with higher volume running days. I’m not going to worry about it so much because these are elite-level athletes and they are going to adapt a lot faster than you or I will adapt. But at the same time, I have to be very wary of how much I’m pushing them so everything I do is based on volume. I don’t have
heartrate monitors, but I do track their volume based on reps and weight–and on yardage when I’m running them in their conditioning sessions.  In-season it’s more about getting them ready for practice and games. How can I get them feeling good, but also how can I continue to getting them stronger? How can I protect them in certain areas: protect soft tissue, protect the knees, hips, ankles, etc. So, my mindset is injury mitigation, and that is more exercise selection. For example if it’s January, maybe today I won’t put a bar on their back. They have a lot of compressive forces on them every day, so why put more compressive forces on their spine when they are already jumping and landing however many times in a practice and game? So let me help them to feel better now and there are many
ways to do that in the weight room. There are ways to get stronger without crushing your body.
Joe: You’ve been at a number of schools, and you’ve worked with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, a lot of it has been basketball, but not all of it. What’s different working with basketball athletes compared with some of the other sports?
Jeremy: You know really, it’s all about culture. Every sport has its own culture. Each team has its own culture. So I will do that in two parts. First of all, with the sport of basketball, it’s about looking at the needs of the sport–I look at the energy system demands of that sport, and the biomechanical and physiological needs of the sport. I could go into the Xs and Os of basketball, and what I need to do differently from other sports. Obviously, with basketball players the ankles, knees and hips are your three big trouble points so I do a lot of focus on that, especially in my warm-ups and injury mitigation work. But, at the same time, you have to remember you are dealing with people. They have to know you care. If they don’t think you care, if they don’t know that you have their best interest at heart, it doesn’t matter what I do, they won’t respond. I think what I’ve learned from dealing with other sports is how to adapt to different cultures, different sports cultures, different people. I’ve worked with athletes from different countries at
all different levels. They can be elite athletes or your weekend warrior. But they are still people and you have to show them you care.
Joe: The last several years there has been a lot of writing and talking about knee injury differences between men and women. How do you address that?
Jeremy:  Normally with a female athlete you get a more quad dominant athlete. But in my mind, there are still a lot of similarities in the sense that you have to train the posterior chain of the body–you have to look at the hamstrings, the glutes and the lower back, in balance with everything you do. You can’t just train the back and let the front go, or the front and let the back go. It’s like a puzzle: a change of direction component, a weight training component, they all have to complement each other. You see a lot of younger female athletes that are quad dominant that run on their toes, but that’s about teaching. Teaching proper mechanics and proper movement skills, those are really big to me. You can’t be strong until you can move properly; you can’t be powerful until you have strength.
Joe: I would think it’s easier to say, here are some weights, lift them. It’s harder to train and
teach those small mechanics you don’t always think about.
Jeremy:  Oh, exactly, but to me that’s the fun part. Breaking down someone’s movement, seeing somebody who can’t move and turning them into an athlete that can move. That’s exciting.
Joe: What got you into this career in the first place?
Jeremy:  I was a walk-on football player at the University of Tulsa. I was undersized and strength and conditioning basically got me on the team. It saved me. I learned how to be an athlete because of that. I became interested in all aspects of strength and conditioning.
At first, I thought I just wanted to work with football. But then, as I started my journey in this field, I began working with other athletes. I worked with softball, tennis, golf, rifle, hockey, soccer, just to name a few. I enjoyed working with so many other sports. Then I found a love for basketball, too. What I love about being here is I can work with basketball and softball, so I get two different sports, two different cultures, and it’s a lot of fun being around that.
Joe: What’s the hardest group of athletes to work with?  Not as people, but just in terms of the demands of what they have to do physically?
Jeremy:  Basketball is the longest season by far. They get beat up consistently throughout the year and it’s a much more physical game more than people think. Just because we’re not tackling, doesn’t mean it’s not physical. They are landing on that suspended wood floor over and over.  Guys like Lebron and Kobe have a very long life-span, but they spend hours preparing their bodies for the game. It’s hard; I’d say it’s the hardest. Hockey and soccer are the other two that are really hard sports to train because of the nature of the game and just how physical those sports are.
Joe:  You’ve been back here only a few months but this is not your first pass through New
Mexico. I noticed you had gone to school here. So what brought you back?
Jeremy:  I was born and raised here. The opportunity to be a Lobo brought me back. It’s a dream come true for me to be a Lobo. I grew up watching Lobo basketball, both men’s and women’s. As a coach you get to experience a lot of different things around the world. You travel a lot and get to see so many different things and experience new cultures. I would not trade that for the world. I got to live in some of the greatest places in the country and grew to love places I never would have thought of visiting. I spent six years in Cornell and I got to go to every Ivy League campus; Ithaca, NY became a second home to me, a place I go back to two to three times a year just to visit. I got to coach in Madison Square Gardens and the Staples Center.  All those experiences were great. But the chance to come back home to where I was born and raised and be a Lobo–that’s what I’ve always wanted and I always knew if the opportunity came up I would pursue it. Coach Bradbury gave me the opportunity and I’m so grateful for that
Joe:  Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Jeremy:  Hopefully here.
Joe: Okay that’s physical location–but doing what?
Jeremy:  Still coaching. I’m a coach, that’s what I do. When I get frustrated, I say, “I’m tired, but I love it”. I love being around competitive sports and I love the atmosphere of being around these athletes. Right now, I’m just enjoying the ride here and want to help this team reach great heights.
Joe: Last question: when we post these interviews we usually get a few hundred people who
read them. What do you want to say to them?
Jeremy:  I think we have something special here. Between my two sports of basketball and softball, these teams are on the rise. Softball is a team that has worked extremely hard this off-season, and I can see them doing some big things next season. They have a very good attitude and a very good mentality. This women’s basketball team is really something special. It is a team that has the potential to be very, very good. I think that a lot of people know it and they are starting to see it. Every day they are improving. It’s a very exciting time to be a Lobo.
Joe: Thank you for taking the time today.
Jeremy:  Thank you!