Strength and conditioning coach Smith vital to team’s success

By Mark Strotman

Marquette is known perennially as one of the nation’s best-conditioned teams, and it’s not by chance.

Head strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith is in his sixth year with the Golden Eagles and is the brains — and certainly brawn — behind the Golden Eagles’ mentality to out-run and out-tough opponents.

Smith previously worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at San Jose State for one season and was the director of athletic performance at the University of Pacific before joining Marquette’s staff as the strength and conditioning coach.

Since his arrival in 2006, Smith has employed his own philosophy in the weight room involving heavier weights and less repetitions to make athletes quicker and improve a player’s confidence during workouts.

At Pacific, Smith admitted he incorrectly gauged what was important for players, believing that if a player looked the part, they were ready to compete physically.

“It’s more about how fast your muscles turn on and off, and how much force you can produce and put in the ground,” Smith said. “Those are the important things that help you become a better athlete.”

Smith referred to conditioning instead as “movement training,” something freshman point guard Derrick Wilson said has given him a better feel for what Marquette does on the court.

“Just the pace we go out,” freshman point guard Derrick Wilson said. “We go fast-paced on the court. We also go fast-paced in the weight room, and you get conditioned working with Todd. And that’s something I’ve never experienced, so that’s been great.”

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Smith has turned Marquette into one of the most well-conditioned teams in the nation. (Photo: Marquette Athletics)

Instead of improving a player’s stamina directly, Smith believes working on lateral movements and quick first steps leads to better overall stamina, which players benefit from on the court.

“I try to get them to stop faster, start faster, change directions faster, react quicker and jump higher,” Smith said. “It’s not so much needing to be able to run up and down the court more times than anybody else. You get that if you do your movement training the right way.”

Smith is responsible for the physical improvement of the players’ strength and stamina, but he said building confidence is just as crucial to success, referring to the weight room facilities as the “Confidence Room” where players build mental toughness as well as physical strength.

“Mentally, he has helped us out a lot,” Wilson said. “Once we beat a personal goal, he really hypes us up. And him having so much enthusiasm into what we’re doing, it helps us to get excited for it and to able to push through when we’re getting tired.”

Senior forward Jae Crowder, who has worked with Smith the past two seasons, said the strenuous workouts have had a direct improvement on his on-court play.

“Of course you’re going to get banged up,” he said. “But with the things we do off the court, he helps you fight through those nagging injuries and keep playing throughout the whole year. So the stuff we do is the right thing, and it helps you play a full season.”

At the same time, Smith said seeing progression from the weights and movement training to the court is a personal reward, specifically mentioning junior center Chris Otule and junior guard Junior Cadougan. Both worked extensively with Smith recovering from major injuries two seasons ago.

“The fact that Chris (Otule) and Junior (Cadougan) have come so far from their injuries and hopefully will be a productive part of our team this year,” Smith said, “that is why I do what I do.”

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