Luther College Chips

Building strength in body and mind

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Director of Athletic Performance Jeff Jones with Rashawd Williams (‘21).

Director of Athletic Performance Jeff Jones with Rashawd Williams (‘21).

Gillian Klein (‘20) | Chips

Gillian Klein (‘20) | Chips

Director of Athletic Performance Jeff Jones with Rashawd Williams (‘21).

Gillian Klein, Staff Writer

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It’s 6:15 a.m. Legends Fitness Center is filled with country music, and the football team has just begun their strength workout for the day. Various sports teams will come to the 10,000 square foot gym throughout the day to lift weights, but the athletes are not doing a typical strength workout.

“You don’t see what you expect to see in here,” Assistant Director of Athletic Performance and Legends Center Director Allison Jenicke said. “We’re not teaching Olympic lifts or back squatting. We use equipment in a much different way than other schools do. We don’t want anyone to potentially hurt themselves with the technique required for traditional movements like back squats.”

Director of Athletic Performance Jeff Jones and Janicke take  a different approach to training the different sports teams, have developed a foundational program of various exercises for every team.

Cross-country and track runner Vera Lindhorst (‘20) commented on the program’s universal yet specialized program.

“As runners, we aren’t the usual rah-rah lifters lifting heavy amounts of weight,” Lindhorst said. “The program we have been using, for example, has us perform a lot of ankle strengthening movements, which is particularly effective for runners.”

This approach to strength training effects not only Luther athletes, but also student workers. Student-athletes or students pursuing degrees in athletic performance are given the opportunity to assist Jones or Janicke when they coach teams through workouts. According to Janicke, the student workers establish connections with the coaching world because of the connections Jones has created.

“We coach mindset more than we coach technique,” Janicke said. “It’s the person more than the athlete you are coaching. This is Jones’s method and it’s because of this that he has formed connections for not only himself, but his student interns to utilize down the road.”

The experience students have in Jones’ weight room is part of why students choose to work with him. The in-class education student workers get helps them train the athletes and gives them first-hand experience in what the career entails. Swimmer and student worker Hunter Barnard (‘18) appreciates the experience of working alongside athletes.

“Jones has done an excellent job educating us in material we would not learn in class,” Barnard said. “We’re getting a hands-on experience, and it can be a way of seeing if you would actually like to do this after Luther.”

Students such as Barnard have had eye-opening educational experiences since Jones accepted the position two years ago. Upon being hired, Jones designed the strength system to achieve four goals.

First, meet the training goals each team sets out to achieve. Second, build resilience. Third, improve strength, power, and speed. Fourth, build athleticism. Jones commented on the shared goals all sports teams have, and how he specializes each teams’ program.

Gillian Klein (‘20) | Chips
Director of Athletic Performance Jeff Jones and student coach Matt Brown (‘18) give instruction to Drew Wangler (‘21).

“We don’t do a lot of sports-specific movements to develop an athlete for, say, soccer, “ Jones said. “Different sports have different needs though, such as in-season versus off-season training, frequency of training, and what training qualities the team strives for. Our goal is developing athleticism.”

Jones works towards this goal by supplying athletes with individual folders to record their progress. Athletes record their workouts, including exercises, repetitions of those exercises, and the weight used. Janicke and Jones then review the workouts with the athletes and make adjustments when necessary. According to wrestler John Keifer (‘20), the unique program has helped athletes inside and outside the weight room.

“It’s about recovery,” Keifer said. “He wants us to feel better when we leave than when we came in. Our muscles might be sore, but it’s our mindset that’s fresh. We are ready to attack the day after our workout.”

Athletes and student workers alike continue to train and work at Legends and gain experience from collaborating with Jones and Janicke in training body and mind. Janicke highlighted the importance of these experiences for athletes and student workers in the growth of the program.

“We want a positive experience for everyone in here,” Janicke said. “We have more interns and athletes this year, too. A few workers have even changed their majors to athletic performance after seeing the fun Jones and I have in the weight room.”

Jones summarized the goal of the program and its intended purpose.

“We want to make this experience more than lifting weights,” Jones said. “We coach attitude and mindset more than movements and exercises because it’s those two things that are going to make the difference in their life and athletics. No doubt we want to get them faster, stronger, more explosive, and build resilience but it starts with attitude and mindset first.”

Looking ahead, Jones and Janicke anticipate the growth of the program.

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