Beyond a victory on the field

To make a team successful it takes more than a player’s determination to win. At Saddleback College, coaches see nutrition and training as a crucial part of a team’s performance on the field.

Photo courtesy Jerry Hannula 


Kerry Crab, assistant football coach at Saddleback College focuses on getting a team stronger by creating a training regiment that is intense in nature yet executed safely.

“My job is to make sure we’re functionally strong, that we’re explosive in nature, and that I can put a solid athlete on the field,” Crab said.

At Saddleback training for the football team is determined by the season. Currently the team is off-season, training 4 days a week. Monday and Friday mornings player’s are in the weight room for an hour and 25 minutes and Tuesday’s and Thursday’s training is 3 hours a day with running workouts, according to Crab.  Through out off-season the main focus is on power development and speed.

“We play fast,” Crab said. “And we want to train that way.”

On the contrary during post-season the team has just finished a long football season and their bodies have paid a price, therefore training is geared towards recovery to maintain the overall health of the team.

“They’re banged up and have been grinding for awhile so our focus is low intensity with low weight, moderate volume meaning reps aren’t too high or too low and focus is more on technique, teaching and recovery,” Crab said. 

This training will last for 4 to 6 weeks and after post season they are tested for baseline. The baseline is a three rep max for testing using fundamental movements such as bench press.

The foreseen problem with the sports teams at Saddleback is that it’s not a scholarship school, meaning that not as much money is invested in the teams as there would at a 4-year university. This causes a lack of certain attention, specifically nutrition.

With no sports nutrition players are held accountable for their diet and intake.  Most 4 year schools have a nutritionist if you’re spending 100,000 a year, you want to make sure you’re getting a great return on your investment according to Crab. 

“Nutrition is probably the toughest hurtle for us,” Crab said. “When you have kids that get on this campus at 8 in the morning and don’t leave until 6 at night and they’ve had only one meal in that time, it’s tough.”

This can affect the health and safety of the athlete. When player’s have up to three hours of practice on the field with little to no food their tanks are already on empty according to Crab, coaches much be aware of that and lend help where they can.

If a team can follow the intense training and discipline of following a structured nutritional guideline together, it can then bind a team even more.

“They’ve done it, they’ve worked through it,” Crab said. “The off-season workout is where you really establish a lot of chemistry within your team because they’re all working and all pushing each other and all supporting each other.”

Photo courtesy Jerry Hannula

            Saddleback’s cross-country team also follows strict training and nutrition guidelines. Unlike football where body mass is key to a successful athlete, a cross-country athlete’s success is being lighter in weight. Matt Sherman, track and field coach at Saddleback explains that with weight being a large concern for performance, it can create problems with an athlete’s body image.

            “Distance running equates to faster times,” Sherman said. “The lighter you are the faster you become. Some people go to the extreme to achieve this, which lead to a lot of eating disorders.”

 If you’re carrying around an extra 10 pounds, this creates 20 seconds a mile slower. You’re now a minute behind the leaders and according to Sherman that’s detrimental.  The main priority is to teach runners balance.

Typically when running long distance according to Sherman males burn anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 calories in training and females burn around 1,000 calories. The main challenge is sustaining enough calories through macros and micros to keep performance high and have enough energy to compete.

“People think they’re getting enough but in reality may be getting only 1,000 calories a day and should be consuming 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day,” Sherman said.

Sherman has found to his surprise that most male runners don’t get enough caloric intake where as female athletes will over eat and consume too many calories. In either case this becomes detrimental to performance.

Strength workouts are the foundation of training, including hill repeats and more specific training connecting to what race their performing in.

What these coaches share is the satisfaction of hard teamwork. Seeing their athletes work together to push one another to achieve greatness in their athletic career as well as their educational careers.

“You come out with a sense of team because you’ve challenged them and those that have met the challenge you’re happy about, those that maybe have not met the challenge with as much success as you had hoped but you find other team mates bringing them along,” Crab said.

“They encourage one another. Working together making those sacrifices, if it wasn’t a collaborative effort it would’ve been different, but because they did they’re running faster than they ever did before,” Sherman said.