by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Casey Kramer, CSCS
Coaching Podcast April 2020
Casey Kramer, Assistant Strength Coach for the Chicago Bears National Football League (NFL) team, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McM...
Casey Kramer, Assistant Strength Coach for the Chicago Bears National Football League (NFL) team, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about working with tactical, Olympic sport, and professional football athletes. Topics under discussion include advice for young coaches, scheduling strength and conditioning sessions in the NFL calendar, and different qualities coaches should seek to have outside of the weight room. Find Casey on Instagram: @caseykramer12| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
Casey Kramer, Assistant Strength Coach for the Chicago Bears National Football League (NFL) team, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about working with tactical, Olympic sport, and professional football athletes. Topics under discussion include advice for young coaches, scheduling strength and conditioning sessions in the NFL calendar, and different qualities coaches should seek to have outside of the weight room.
Find Casey on Instagram: @caseykramer12| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
“We have, you know, total access. So the guys are eating in our complex. We have the data that we collect for practice and everything, so we're able to really see a kind of a 360-degree view of our players during that time, so we take advantage of it.” 29:04
“They have to be better next year than they were the previous year. That's an expectation from our players and from our organization. Our guys are very competitive-- very, very competitive. They want to get better. They want to improve. They want to feel, like, as a strength coach, that you're helping them to develop and change their game in some way.” 31:25
“I think just be prepared to persevere. Start at the bottom and keep working your way up.” 32:48
“You can't just walk into strength coaching and expect that you're going to be running like a Power Five program or you're not going to be the head guy of a baseball team making it to the College World Series or being in the major leagues or anything like that. So you really have to take time to grow yourself, grow your knowledge, make sure you're staying up on what's new, and educating yourself and also trying to find ways that you can better yourself as a coach.” 34:51
[00:00:00.78] Welcome to the "NSCA Coaching Podcast," episode 76.
[00:00:05.17] Yeah, so I think-- you know, just be prepared to persevere. Start at the bottom and keep working your way up.
[00:00:14.37] This is the "NSCA's Coaching Podcast," where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.
[00:00:25.05] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon, and today we have Casey Kramer of the Chicago Bears, the assistant strength coach, with us.
[00:00:33.28] Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
[00:00:35.04] Yeah, this is my first time here at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and it's been really fun connecting and meeting a different group of coaches for me.
[00:00:45.33] Absolutely, it's a great time. Like I was telling you before we started, it's my third time to come here and it's always just a great time. They do a great job of putting on a good event. It's a good time for everybody to get together and to talk shop and a lot of really, really good guys in the NFL in strength and conditioning. A lot of guys are very humble and have worked their way up. And so it's just always a good time to get everybody together in one room and to just have a good time and spend the day together and get to know more about each other, the guy that you compete against every year. It's good to see everybody.
[00:01:21.30] That's awesome. So tell us-- I know we were talking off the air-- tell us your journey in strength and conditioning and how you got to the NFL.
[00:01:29.31] Sure. So I probably could start back when I was in high school. I grew up in a really, really small town in western Kansas and I knew I wanted to pursue sports. I wanted to play sports in college. I wanted to be a college football player and so I got great advice when I was younger. A coach of mine told me, he said, hey, if you want to play college football, you better get in the weight room.
[00:01:52.80] So I went to the weight room. I didn't know what I was doing, but just kind of followed along. And then I ended up playing junior college football and ended up going to Northwestern Oklahoma State. So through that experience of going to college, I never had a strength coach, per se, when I was going through college. And we always just had, you know, like one of our position coaches just kind of ran the weights, and kind of monitor the weight room and made sure that guys were coming in.
[00:02:18.78] And so myself and a group of buddies, we kind of tried to figure some things out and figure out how we could get ourselves better. And I always tell people that I became a strength coach because I literally couldn't play without it. I couldn't have played past high school without strength and conditioning and getting myself bigger, getting myself stronger, working on becoming faster and all those things. And so that was very, very key.
[00:02:44.25] And me turning that switch in my mind of learning a little bit more about how to do it myself and how to get myself better and program for myself-- you know, I was really my own lab rat, kind of my own crash test dummy in programming. And it started way back when I was a freshman and sophomore in college and it just kind of blossomed from there. And so I graduated from college and the coach kind of coincidentally that I said was the weight room monitor, he became a junior college head football coach. And so he calls me up-- I had just graduated, and he says, hey, I want you to come and be the strength coach here and have you coach the tight ends. And so I said, you know, I'm looking at some other stuff, some graduate assistantships and some things like that.
[00:03:37.67] But anyway I end up going to Fort Scott Community College to be head strength coach. I was 22 years old. I really had no idea what I was doing. I studied for my CSCS during that same time I was studying and I remembered to take that. So I was strength coach, coaching tight ends, studying for the CSCS, trying to get all those things in line. So I did that for a year.
[00:04:00.12] Working through that process, I had the summers off, so we didn't have anybody around training for the summer, and so I asked, hey, can I go to an internship or something in the summer, go to a school, go to a college, learn from somebody else? And so they allowed me to. I ended up getting an internship at Auburn University.
[00:04:17.67] So I went down to Auburn for the summer and it ended up so when I was there, I was lucky enough that they had a GA spot that opened up in Olympic sports, and so they hired me for that. So I started my graduate assistantship there on the Olympic side of things. I ended up being at Auburn in total for three years-- two of them as a graduate assistant, I worked with-- the numbers are kind of blurry, but somewhere around nine different sports in all the weight rooms there. So I just had a great time learning.
[00:04:53.97] I did a lot of different things there. I was an assistant to some sports. I had my own sports that I was able to program and work with. I worked with a lot of really good people, a lot of really good guys that came through there. It's kind of funny to be in this position now. Actually, three of us who played at Auburn at the same time are actually here at the combine as NFL guys, so it's kind of funny to trace that back and to have that.
[00:05:20.23] Through that process, when I was an intern and a GA my first year that I was at Auburn, a guy named Jason Loscalzo, who's my current boss with the Bears, was the football assistant at Auburn. Kevin Yoxall was the head football strength coach. And so Jason moved on and went to Boston College. I still had some GA to finish up, so I finished up my GA. I'm looking for jobs and looking for jobs, applying, interviewing, and nothing's hitting. Nothing's happening.
[00:05:48.99] You know, I actually was an unpaid intern again at that point because I just you know as a GA, I was struggling to find a job. And, so anyway, he had something open up. His assistant took off and left, and so he said you know, hey, I got this spot open here if you're interested. So yeah, I went, of course. I moved to Boston. For a Kansas guy, moving to the city was a little bit intimidating. But I took that. So I was at BC for three years.
[00:06:14.11] And then kind of took a little bit of a stranger turn. Around that point in time was when the tactical strength and conditioning was being put together. And I had a good friend of mine named Jared Aldridge, who was working in there, and he kind of got me started on that road. I talked to him about it. He said, hey, you know, I think you really would be interested in this.
[00:06:33.43] He told me about what he was doing and working with special operations in that community and it sounded really interesting. And so I just kind of blindly applied to a posting and it was kind of crazy.
[00:06:48.01] The posting was up for a very short amount of time. It was tough to find. It was, like, scrolling through a government website and doing all this and that. And so I ended up applying for it. And they called me back. I ended up taking the job, so I leave BC. I spent a couple of years in the tactical sector as a contracted employee doing strength and conditioning.
[00:07:08.98] Some things kind of fell through toward the later parts of that. There's some growing pains in there. And so I was just kind of looking to get back into college, so I started to apply for college jobs. And I had some interviews and had some things happening, and so again I called Jason Loscalzo as a reference, you know-- hey, reference for me. I'm applying for these jobs, just in case you get a call, something might come up. Sure.
[00:07:36.61] So, you know, a few weeks after that, he calls me. He says, hey-- he had gone from Boston College to Washington State at the time as part of Mike Leach's staff. He went over there to be the head football guy at Washington State. So he calls me, he says, hey you know if-- I know you're looking to get out of currently what you're doing. If you want to do that, you know, you could come-- I got an assistant spot. You can come work-- I'd love to have you work for me. So I said, yeah, sure.
[00:07:58.15] So there I go again from Colorado. I moved to Colorado Springs for the tactical thing, so I moved to Pullman, Washington. I spent two years at Washington State. I started applying for-- again, I was looking to be-- all through my time as an assistant, when I was an assistant, I was always looking at FCS-level jobs or maybe mid-major type jobs, and so I applied for a few of those and ended up getting interviewed by Tennessee Tech, which is in Cookeville, Tennessee.
[00:08:31.64] And so I interviewed for that job. They ended up giving me the job, so I moved to Cookeville, Tennessee. I was there for a little over four years as the head of overall sports-- head strength coach and I loved it. I had a great time there.
[00:08:48.13] But then again, since I've only worked for one guy my entire career and that's [LAUGHING] Jason Loscalzo, he calls me again. He says, hey, man, I'm going to the Bears-- interviewing for the Bears job. If I get the job, would you be interested in working as my assistant for the third time? Yeah, yeah, I'm in, you know? So he gets the job and hires me and so here I go.
[00:09:09.36] That's awesome, man.
[00:09:11.09] You know, it's-- listening to you and going kind of back to the beginning of what you said, there's a lot of strength coaches out there, and myself included, that I feel like first connected with this field maybe with not the best strength and conditioning experience or not having a true strength coach.
[00:09:27.64] And I always feel like that's such an inspiring story for young coaches because we all kind of have a different pathway in this business.
[00:09:36.57] And hearing that and all the way from just starting off up to the NFL, that's a really, really inspiring story and that's just really cool.
[00:09:45.50] I mean, it's crazy. Like, I remember back when I was in college, the very first thing-- some of the first things that I found was that I don't know how I got a hold of it, but I did, like, that old Nebraska program, you know, the Husker Power stuff.
[00:09:57.33] Boyd Epley--
[00:09:58.57] Yeah, you know, there's like a block periodized program, you know? But somehow I got a hold of that booklet and so my first programming was-- I basically copied that. And I bought the Arnold encyclopedia from a bookstore, and so I was like, I'm just kinda like mold these two, you know?
[00:10:14.63] So I was like, I'm gonna do these Olympic lifts and everything like that. And then I'm looking through the Arnold thing, just trying to get jacked like everybody else, you know? So it's just it's kind of funny how you know all that happened.
[00:10:27.00] That Arnold encyclopedia is the first exercise book I ever actually came across.
[00:10:30.91] Oh, man, yeah, I still have it, too. And it's like just-- I got my notes. I remember I was looking through this thing, taking notes and I'm like, how to do your workouts. And then I'm looking at the Husker Power manual and so I'm just trying to put all that stuff together. And it's just kind of funny now.
[00:10:47.72] And then I was at Washington State and they had a strength and conditioning minor out there. So we had interns in our weight room that were minoring in strength and conditioning and I'm just like, man, are you guys kidding me? You're learning all this good-- you don't realize what you're learning right now. They're like-- the guys like me, I would have loved to learn that kind of stuff when I was in undergrad. I would have just soaked it up and taken it. The field has come so far.
[00:11:11.84] For sure, in a relatively short period of time, right?
[00:11:14.86] Right. Yeah.
[00:11:15.93] You know we're both still pretty young in our careers, and we've seen just in the past 20 years-- you know, it's 2020-- just how much--
[00:11:26.12] How much it's grown.
[00:11:26.96] Yeah, it's crazy. So obviously, you've had one primary mentor throughout most of your career. Who are some of the other influences in the field now that you have studied strength and conditioning that you look to?
[00:11:42.71] So, I-- you know, obviously, my very first boss, per se, was Kevin Yoxall at Auburn, and he had been around a long time. He's had a great career as a strength coach. He was my first wave of learning in I guess how to program for football outside of the Husker Power and the Arnold encyclopedia, like, he was being the next thing. And so I just learned from him.
[00:12:13.47] I also follow a lot of guys that are outside of, I guess you would say team sports, guys like Joe Franco. Looking at some different things in physical therapy now is kind of-- I follow some of that type of stuff. But I think I am a traditionalist, I guess, when it comes to strength and conditioning-- you know, kind of the old-school barbell strength-type stuff. I have a lot of respect for guys that do that, that run good Olympic lift programs-- guys like Tommy Moffitt. There's different guys, Buddy Morris, guys like that, that have been in the NFL and had a lot of success, done things, you know-- stick to the basics and do all that type of stuff.
[00:13:04.55] So just to shift gears for a second, here at the NFL Combine-- I said this was my first time here. How much involvement-- a lot of strength coaches here-- how much involvement do you guys have in the actual testing of athletes that goes on here or whether it be the scouting process, or-- you know, what's your role like?
[00:13:23.75] So I think it's different from team to team. And we're actually with the Bears. We're not really, I guess, called upon to play a huge role in the evaluation process. When our club brings guys in for interviews, we'll meet with them at that point, but through the combine, we're not going to-- we're not doing evaluations or interviews or anything here.
[00:13:53.16] We'll check the weigh-ins out, some stuff like that. But as far as, like, watching the bench, watching them run the 40s and stuff, we're not really involved in that process. We know we'll see the numbers and get the data and all that kind of stuff.
[00:14:04.82] But on the flip side, you know, friends of mine and guys that I've talked to here, they're very involved in it. Like, they're watching everything. They're critiquing how the guys run, how they move, and all that kind of stuff. But for us, we're pretty hands-off in that process.
[00:14:21.26] Yeah, we're here at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and as you probably heard, with the announcement in the background. We always record these podcasts kind of in an open trade show environment. So we always-- I remember when I did the podcast with Scott Caulfield a few years ago, there was a band was warming up in the background, so it was like this rock concert going on, so you never know what you're going to get here with the "NSCA Coaching Podcast."
[00:14:49.49] So Casey Kramer of the Chicago Bears, the assistant strength coach, I'm going to just ask you a few questions about your coaching philosophy and how you feel about working with athletes. Let's start with what makes a strength and conditioning coach successful, based on your experience in the field and where you're at today?
[00:15:09.75] So I think overall, you know, as a strength coach we're kind of like the gatekeeper of the program. And it really doesn't matter where you're at from high school all the way up to the NFL. A lot of times, like when I was at the college level and even still at the NFL, when you get your new players in, it doesn't matter what sport you work with. It was the same way for me when I was working with basketball or what have you.
[00:15:35.43] You get your new athletes in, so you're kind of the first one to see the athletes from every standpoint. You get to see how they move, their flexibility, their mobility, the way that they can bend their body and how they work, their work habits-- every part of it, from how they take care of themselves, to their approach, and everything. So I think what makes you, in my opinion, a good strength coach is just being able to have an effect and an influence and impact on all those factors.
[00:16:07.92] I got into strength and conditioning because I wanted to give what I didn't have. And so like I said, when I was coming up as an athlete, I didn't have anybody telling me these things. And so that's kind of my biggest thing-- I want to be able to help athletes, help them with what they need, whether it's their flexibility or just getting stronger and putting together a good program for them and just helping them have success in the competitive arena, whatever sport that may be.
[00:16:35.71] And so for me, I think I consider myself a success if I'm able to do all those types of things. And I guess just be a good coach for our staff and in helping develop our players and helping for now developing better human beings and just helping guys to excel and grow and get better and get stronger, and maybe do something that they couldn't have done or known on their own. And so I think that as a strength coach, you have all that to take into account.
[00:17:13.61] When you're working with football, you're not like the Titans coach, where you have four or five guys that you coach and see every day. You know, we see everybody throughout the entire course of their year and everything like that. So that's a big part of it for me, is just being a good gatekeeper for the program and then being really good for your players and helping them get from somewhere where they are and taking them to where they want to go and achieve their goals and everything that they want out of it.
[00:17:42.70] That's awesome. Now, has your perspective changed a lot over the years, or would you say that's kind of held true from job to job, or now that you're in the NFL versus being in college versus working with tactical strength and conditioning? How do you look and feel differently now?
[00:18:02.46] Yeah, so I've had a good-- the way that I came up has been really, really, really good for me because like I said, when I first started at Auburn, I was in Olympic sport, so I was working with soccer and I was working with gymnastics and softball and women's basketball and baseball. And some of the sports that were non-- you know, I came up as a football player, and so when you're in football strength and conditioning-- I mean, you can always default to cranking the music up and lifting. It's kind of one of those things where it's like, you know, you can always default to that motivation mode of get the guys loud and kind of have a good time doing it.
[00:18:44.76] But sometimes with the other sports, it doesn't work that way. And so it's been like the way that I started was great because it kind of slapped me in the face, you know? I came from being a meathead football player and I was working with soccer and gymnastics and things like that, where they are a little bit different in the weight room, and so you have to come up with a different way to say it and a different way to coach it.
[00:19:07.47] So I feel like that helped me become a better coach. It was dealing with some of those different sports and the different personalities and things like that. Maybe I strayed away from the original question.
[00:19:24.11] No, that's good. Yeah, I think that's really great. You know, on this podcast we don't ask a ton of questions about the X's and O's of strength and conditioning and we try to get to the kind of the core of your journey and what your philosophy is about working with athletes. And I think a little bit about we were talking about off the air, some of the non-weight room components of being a strength coach, and so for you, what are the non-weight weight room skills that are important to strength and conditioning coaches, and just some things outside of the weight room that affect your lifestyle as a strength coach and the way you look at the field?
[00:20:11.29] Sure, and I think one thing we touched on earlier is we were just having a conversation was the work-life balance. And so for me, I think it's important for all strength coaches to be a good leader of yourself and taking care of yourself. We're constantly on our athletes to take care of their bodies and to make sure they're doing things like eating right and getting sleep and taking care of all those little things outside of their sport that we know play such an important factor in having success in the sport. So I think as strength coaches, maybe we could follow a little bit of our own advice on that and make sure that we're doing all that we can to take care of ourselves in everything-- spend time with family or spend time doing things that you like to do, gaining mental clarity, things like that.
[00:21:06.12] I know I always feel like I'm most on top of my game as a coach when I'm well-rested, when everything in my life is working the way that it should work. And so for me, that's a huge part of it and also leadership and instilling good values in your athletes. Like I said, we get to be with the athletes all the time. And so when I was the head strength coach at Tennessee Tech, we had-- I think we had like 13 sports. I had one full-time assistant and two TAs, and so we were all seeing those athletes all the time.
[00:21:45.90] So it's important to put skills and values and morals and beliefs and to help with that. So as a coach, you have to pursue those things yourself and really take care of yourself again, and just always become a better leader, become more well-rounded, I think, outside of being a coach.
[00:22:08.43] And even like now, as when I was working in the tactical sector, I was coaching and working with guys that were either my same age or older than me. And so you have to kind of find common ground with them and be able to talk to them and relate to them on more of a personal level. So I think the better person you can become, and if you have hobbies, great-- like, have good hobbies. Have a family that, you know-- spend time with your family so that you can teach your athletes and you can relate that to your athletes or to your clientele or whoever it is that you're working with. I think, for me, those things are very, very important. It's important that you're a good strength coach, but it's also important that you have good work-life balance and you're a really healthy human being outside of the weight room.
[00:22:52.77] Absolutely, yeah. Yeah I always think about, you know, for me having kids, it's you know, I don't want to have two levels of communication-- one way that I communicate with my kids and what I would tell them and what is true, and the way I communicate with my athletes. And to me, until you really get there in life, it's something that it's hard to wrap your head around. But, you know, something just-- this stage of life, kind of where we're at--
[00:23:23.31] --you know, hits home with me.
[00:23:27.54] So talk about the NFL calendar as a strength and conditioning coach-- different times a year that you have more time with the athletes, obviously, end season all the way up through the playoffs, and then what kind of happens afterward. What's the off-season like?
[00:23:40.86] Sure, so if we start in the off-season from the time whatever it is that you play your last game all the way until what's typically mid-April when, I guess, which would be your quote-unquote off-season time starts. You're in this kind of weird period where your players aren't-- there are some rules in the CBA-- the collective bargaining agreement-- where players aren't required to stay. There's no incentive for them to stay. There's no incentive for them to go through your program as a strength coach. And so for many teams, in a lot of different places, the guys are gone.
[00:24:17.10] I know for us, like in Chicago, it's cold and so a lot of our guys are going to try to go someplace where the sun's shining and where it's warm, you know? They're going to be in Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, wherever. It may be just someplace warmer where, you know, it's not snowing and the sun's shining a little bit.
[00:24:33.54] So we battle against a little bit of that. But also, we encourage our players to get away. Again, our season's so long. We start training camp the middle of July, and most of the time, you're playing after the first of the year if you make the playoffs or you're lucky enough to go deep in the playoffs, you're playing longer than that. So it's a long time to be around all day, every day, and to be held accountable to a calendar and have all these things that you have to do.
[00:25:01.86] So we kind of encourage our guys to get away. And I think-- you know, I don't want to speak for everybody here, but I think that's mostly the case with a lot of places. The players just kind of scatter and move on to somewhere else and get their bodies right, get their mind right, all those things, and heal and recover.
[00:25:19.87] So early on, like maybe January, February, that time of the year, we'll see some guys kind of start coming back in to train and start getting back with us and what we're doing in March. And then, like I said, April is when our real off-season starts. And so for the calendar, the way we split it, we have phase one for the NFL off-season, which is only strength and conditioning, so that's like our prime time. We get two to three weeks in there.
[00:25:50.44] Then we have phase two, where we're still able to train. We still have our normal training groups and our normal training time and we're lifting and we're running, but they also have football. So they're able to go out on the field with their coaches for, I think, it's like 20 to 30 minutes. And then they're also able to do some film stuff, too.
[00:26:10.11] And so after that, we start our OTAs-- organized team activities-- which takes us three or four more weeks after that, where they're actually practicing. It's non-padded practices, but they are full speed and so we're able to train through that period of time, too. That's, I believe, four weeks in length. And then that takes us to the first week or so of June.
[00:26:33.94] We typically have a mini-camp that's mandatory at the end of that. And then from middle of June to middle of July, we're off again, so we have another kind of dead period time where we're not allowed to train our guys. We're not allowed to be with them and to coach them.
[00:26:53.83] The rules are pretty specific on what we can and can't do, and so-- but anyway, that calendar alone in the off-season lends itself a lot to having a good work-life balance because we're prohibited at times to even coach the guys. You know, if they come in, they come in. We can tell them what to do and show them, you know, here's what you should be doing, but a lot of it is done on their own in the off-season, in those off times.
[00:27:21.76] When the season starts and training camp gets going, training camp is, like, I think for everybody, just a time to get through and survive. And so we try to do the best we can to continue to train our guys. Our coaching staff philosophy really, really helps us out in that, so we're able to have good time with the guys and still be able to work with them.
[00:27:43.24] And then the season comes around. Once our roster is set, we have a really long 16-game in-season that spans the course of most of the year. And so for us, in the NFL, your in-season time is the longest uninterrupted training time that you have with your players, and so you really have to make the most of that. That's the time when you're guaranteed to get the most time with every player on your team. And so for us, it's really important that we maximize that time, that we're intelligent with our programming, that we're able to help our guys that need help, and try to get our guys better through the year.
[00:28:17.00] And if we have an injury or something that may come up, we're going to address that. We're going to-- we're able to, again, just spend a lot of time with the guys that are with us. There's no leaving during that time, so it's just a time that we definitely have to maximize. I know sometimes that's an area where I've grown as a coach. You know, when you first get into strength and conditioning, it's always kind of tough to design a good in-season program because things start to come up and the sessions get canceled and what have you, and there are some things like that go on.
[00:28:51.75] I know I've talked to some people that are like, our in-season lifts are just a waste, you know? And so, we can't do that. We can't just go through the motions because it's really the most amount of time we have.
[00:29:02.25] It's your most access to the players.
[00:29:03.28] Right, yeah. We have, you know, total access. So the guys are eating in our complex. We have the data that we collect for practice and everything, so we're able to really see a kind of a 360-degree view of our players during that time, so we take advantage of it.
[00:29:23.13] That's awesome. So talking about, you know, your access to players during the season, how much emphasis would you say is on development versus sort of what you touched on is that typical in-season mentality of like, OK, we'll just dial things back and kind of keep things almost that maintenance mentality, you know, at the professional level dealing with-- I mean, we all know NFL athletes are at the top of their game.
[00:29:53.71] How much development is going on?
[00:29:55.88] You know, actually a lot of it. I think a good program continues to evolve and grow and change over the course of years in the NFL. And so, like for us, our youngest player was 21 and our oldest player was 34. And so within that wide range of ages, you still have to find ways to help guys improve. And even then, we may have a guy that's very young, but has had different surgeries and different things like that, and so we're always looking to try to develop our guys in some way, some shape or some form, in the best way that we can.
[00:30:36.13] I would say the most basic level of development is in our first few years with our guys that they come in as rookies, our 1, 2, and 3-year guys. We're almost training those guys no different than you would train a college player during the time that we have them. And then as they go on and as they mature throughout their career, we want to make sure that we mature the program too so that it's like, oh well, hey, he's got a little bit older. He's got some mileage on his knees and his ankles and things like that. We can't just stop, you know-- we can't stop the progress.
[00:31:11.20] So for us, it's being innovative enough to find a new way to get the same results and find a new way to make sure that we're always pushing the needle and trying to move our guys up and getting better in some way. They have to be better next year than they were the previous year. That's an expectation from our players and from our organization. Our guys are very competitive-- very, very competitive. They want to get better. They want to improve. They want to feel, like, as a strength coach, that you're helping them to develop and change their game in some way.
[00:31:49.94] So I would say for us, we're always trying to-- even in the season, we're always trying to get stronger. We're not going to sit here and say, hey, we're just going to let you fall off at a slow rate. No, we're always trying to get stronger. And as a matter of fact, we've had some players tell us, hey, you know, I got stronger last year through the course of the season. I was stronger at the end than I was doing camp. And that's phenomenal.
[00:32:14.56] A lot of it is their work ethic and the work that they put into it, but that's our goal and our intent. We want to pursue it. We want our guys-- we're going to be intelligent with the programming, but we're still going to continue to try to get after it and do what we can to kind of meet them where they're at with their body and their age and everything like that and make sure that we're improving.
[00:32:35.77] That's great, man. What advice do you have for young strength and conditioning coaches getting into the field? Do you have advice that you give young coaches that, you know, something that kind of-- that's helped you over the years.
[00:32:48.54] Yeah, so I think just be prepared to persevere. Start at the bottom and keep working your way up. You know for me, when I was a graduate assistant, I finished my graduate assistantship and then it's like, hey, time for me to get a job. And so I was humbled real quick because I finished my GA, and I think I played for, like, three jobs, interviewed for a couple of them and didn't get them. I kept applying.
[00:33:19.54] I applied to a few different places, interviewed at a few different places, had on-campus interviews. I had phone interviews. And again, just didn't get-- I wasn't getting hired. And so I was going on these interviews and I was losing the-- you know, it's just like losing the interview process. And so I don't remember how many times I interviewed on-campus, but it was like eight or nine.
[00:33:40.63] And so I think doing things like when you go to the conferences, that'll humble you, too, when you're a young strength coach because you see all these people. When I was a GA, I went to the conference and I would see hundreds of other people who were just like me, same situation that I was in, you know, finishing the GA or finishing an internship or whatever that may be, looking for jobs. And so you have to be willing to kind of persevere through that time and stick with it and also continue to find ways to get yourself better through that too.
[00:34:17.48] I know it's tough. You're interviewing for jobs. You're kind of looking to make that next step, but you still have to find ways to continue to educate yourself through that and make sure you're getting yourself better so that when you do get your job-- you get your first full time job-- you get it.
[00:34:32.62] And I think coaching, in general, no matter if you're a strength coach or you're coaching a sport or whatever, is kind of like the ultimate ladder of jobs and climbing in a profession because you have to start from the bottom. You have to grow your knowledge. You can't just walk into strength coaching and expect that you're going to be running like a Power Five program or you're not going to be the head guy of a baseball team making it to the College World Series or being in the major leagues or anything like that. So you really have to take time to grow yourself, grow your knowledge, make sure you're staying up on what's new, and educating yourself and also trying to find ways that you can better yourself as a coach.
[00:35:20.68] I always give that advice. You know, it's a long road, but it's very rewarding. And you're going to learn a ton. And so it's not one of those things where it's just done in vain where you're just doing all this work for nothing. I mean, you're going to learn a lot. And I've learned so much and still continue to learn a lot of things on a daily basis.
[00:35:44.90] But, yeah-- just be prepared to-- I think now we're in a great time of strength and conditioning, too. There's a lot of jobs. There's a need for it. Things are great. Things are happening.
[00:35:57.49] I know when I was first getting into it, that the thought of being like a basketball-only guy or some schools that have baseball-only guys or whatever the case may be-- that didn't exist. And so now there are so many different avenues in strength and conditioning, like we were talking with the tactical sector, too. You know you're in a good field. Continue to learn, continue to grow, and just continue to try to get yourself better and become a better coach and things will happen for you.
[00:36:28.65] Good. So take that one step further-- what's the future of strength and conditioning look like to you 5, 10 years from now or even further out?
[00:36:37.99] You know-- so I think a few different things can happen. We need to still continue to advance our own profession within what we have. And I know we talked some about in football, it's being able to, I guess, set ourselves apart as being a valuable part of the program, not necessarily tied in with whatever the football staff or the basketball staff is trying to kind of make our profession set alone and on itself so that when-- you know, it's always kind of heartbreaking when someone gets hired and they come in and they just cut ties with everybody at the school or the organization or whatever it is. And so I think we need to, as a profession, continue to make steps to make sure that that's less of an occurrence.
[00:37:30.06] There's a reality there, too. Coaches come in, they want to have their own guys working with their players, which is understandable. But you see a lot of great guys and a lot of great people that just kind of lose their jobs for really, really no reason other than there was a change, you know, like some kind of a changeover.
[00:37:45.23] And so I think in that, you know is continuing to move and advance in that, continuing to move and advance in the growth of salaries, and year-to-year contracting and things like that. I think those things are going to happen. Those things have happened, just in my short time as being a strength coach.
[00:38:04.65] And then as far as future is speaking, here is a great example of it-- there's vendors and there's different kinds of technology and there's all kinds of things coming up. And so for someone getting into the field, too, another piece of advice is educate yourself on all of this stuff, you know, all the technology that there is and everything is out there. The more you can do, the more valuable you're going to be to your organization, to your team, to your coaching staff, whatever it is.
[00:38:34.41] There's really been no limit to what's coming out as far as the technology stuff goes, and the tracking, and seems like there's something new coming out every year.
[00:38:41.97] For sure.
[00:38:43.11] And so I think that's going to continue to grow and help our programming and just make us more aware and more knowledgeable as professionals and as strength coaches. And I see strength and conditioning kind of opening in different avenues, too, like we were talking about with the tactical sector. There is becoming more and more high school strength coaching positions that are coming open.
[00:39:09.48] People are just placing, I guess, a premium or a level of importance on having a full-time strength-- certified strength professional at their other school or with their organization and things like that. So staffs are growing, even in the NFL, where there used to be places that had, like, two guys or maybe-- whatever. Now there's like five and there's internships and there's different things coming along. So I see those things happening in the years to come.
[00:39:39.06] Nice. So how can our listeners connect with you? Are you on social media? Are you--
[00:39:44.37] Yeah, so I'm not very active. I'm not a huge active social media guy. My Instagram is casey_kramer12. So if you want to check it out, it's a lot of pictures and videos of me riding horses, which is-- my main hobby is doing some stuff like that, some cowboy-type stuff. This goes back to my farm and ranch background from how I grew up. But yeah, you could check me out there. You can look me up on the Bears-- through the Bears organization and reach out for my contact info there, yeah.
[00:40:22.27] All right. Well, Casey, thanks for being on the podcast.
[00:40:24.90] I appreciate it.
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[00:40:41.85] This was the "NSCA's Coaching Podcast." The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.
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