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Clemson Football Strength and Conditioning: Looking at Nutrition

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

So the weigh-in has come and gone and every pro-Batson person has had their say (boy do they love to defend that man...)

Did you think STS would miss an opportunity to moan and groan about S&C? That just wouldn't be STS, now would it. But I am not going to merely recant the same tired argument, I'm going to show you an entirely new way to beat the dead horse. Progress! Let me be clear, I am in no way an expert on weight training (please feel free to rip anything I say to shreds in the comments) but I do know a thing or two about data analysis and the modernization of analytics. Part 1 looks at the gains we have made in nutrition and Part 2 looks at where we need to be--incorporating analytics (and an explanation of the 'Sports Bro').

For the record, I am extremely encouraged by the direction we are going. We are finally exiting the stone age of S&C. This encouragement comes from a recent Dabo interview where he says, "it is now cool to be nutritionally competent" at Clemson. Dabo is throwing around words like "body composition" and "muscle mass" and has reviewed the muscle to fat percentages of players. Bipod scores?? What is going on here?

What is going on is that our S&C program has had its head in the sand for the past twenty years and Swinney forcing some hires in the AD have resulted in a more holistic approach to training that Batson and his staff have let slide during his tenure. The training table has helped immensely, make no mistake about it, but the integration of health and nutrition into S&C had been almost non-existent. Since the beginning of this website Dr. B and FigureFour have called for this modernization--when no one else was (certainly not local journalists or sunshine pumping sites who want as much access from the AD as possible).

Go read these articles as a refresher. STS back in 2010 called for the training table (and to Batson's credit he was calling for it too but improvement weren't going to happen without the table and additional staff as nutritionists) laying out why it was so important to the program and here gave the most comprehensive look at the S&C program under Batson to date.

As Swinney said about Spencer Region, "better late than never" but the blueprint was right here on STS.

This is a great article put out by Will Vandervort at TCI because no one else is really talking about this stuff. While I applaud the subject matter and the area of research, it predictably puts an extremely positive spin on nutrition and the eating habits of our players. Vandervort gives some of the history:

Swinney started paying attention to it pretty early as a head coach. There were a few players on his team that needed to lose some weight and some that needed to gain weight. At the time, Dr. Loreto Jackson, Associate Athletic Director for Student Athlete Services, brought to the football program’s attention that there needed to be a full-time nutritionist on staff as part of the strength and conditioning program.

For a while, she helped in that capacity as she cleaned up some of the unhealthy habits the team was doing as a whole when it came to nutrition and getting a complete and balanced diet. She even took some cases on individually.

Basically this tells us that Dr. Jackson realized it was a problem and wanted to help but could do very little (not her fault at all) because it wasn't her full-time position, she wasn't a trained sports nutritionist, and it obviously wasn't in any way an integrated part of the S&C program.

Again, I applaud Swinney and Dr. Jackson for having the foresight but somebody is to blame in the Clemson AD for lacking the foresight and knowledge to implement a more holistic approach to strength and training. Zero accountability in regards to nutrition and diet. No wonder guys were gaining so much weight during THE SEASON, especially under Bowden (which is also under Batson). Then this gem:

Though a health enthusiast herself, Dr. Jackson has no problems admitting she is not a trained nutritionist, but instead is a trained exercise physiologist. With her help and Swinney leading the way, Clemson hired Lisa Chan as the athletic department’s full-time nutritionist in October of 2012.

That is right October of 2012. We didn't care about nutrition enough at Clemson until 2012 and the proof that no one really took it seriously within the program is the resistance put up by the players when some semblance of accountability was enacted.

"It is a critical, critical edge as far as being competitively great that you have to have," Swinney said.

Chan helps design and recommends optimal nutritional programs for student-athletes that help with performance, weight gain and weight loss. Her nutrition programs compliment the strength staffs’ training programs to enhance performance and body composition.

She also helps educate student-athletes on diet and nutrition choices away from the athletic district. In addition she plans menus, delivers and monitors the football training table and preseason meals.

When Chan first came on board, the players tried to fight her on everything when it came to their diet, but now—21 months later—her methods have helped players put on and take weight off in much healthier ways.

Everyone always says when the S&C debate comes up--well the players have to decide for themselves. Apologetic bologna. It is true to a certain degree but the AD needs to have a system in place to optimize performance and demand accountability.

I think the Crowder versus Region comparison is a great one. Crowder comes in at 380 (actually close to 390) and everyone is understandably upset, some on the Internets saying he is a waste of a scholarship (player needing personal accountability etc.). But he comes into a structured system where nutrition is emphasized and there is a culture of accountability being developed (coaches aware of bipod scores and hopefully S&C coaches integrating that knowledge into workouts). He quickly sheds the pounds and is able to play this year. Region comes in at 400 pounds and skates by until this training table and nutritionist give him the tools to lose the weight now that he really wants to.

So we have arrived right? We are integrating nutrition into S&C--only ten years behind other elite programs.

Unfortunately, no because the next wave of innovation in S&C--being the best--is in data optimization. Part 2 is about how data analytics (wearable technology like the Sports Bro) are rapidly changing player monitoring and tracking to tailor workouts and conditioning, essentially tailoring practice, through data and analytics. The claim is that this improves performance while decreasing injuries. Teams around the world from top Soccer clubs to the Seattle Seahawks are beginning to tease out the competitive advantages.

FSU and Jimbo Fisher have been at the forefront of this push into college football, this conjoining of S&C with data. We shouldn't be far behind.