NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 85: Richard Howell

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Richard Howell, CSCS
Coaching Podcast August 2020

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Richard Howell, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Indianapolis Colts National Football League (NFL) team, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about his impressive 21 years with the organization. Topics under discussion include going from pre-medical to strength coach, building relationships with athletes and staff members, and how technology provides hard numbers for sport coaches to understand stress management.

Connect with Richard through email: Richard.howell@colts.nfl.net | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“…that's the biggest thing in our business. You got to have a relationship with the players. And you may know everything in the world. But if the players don't believe you, if they don't trust you, you know, it's not going to do any good.” 8:33

“I think what's also important as far as getting to the NFL or a job in general, what I've always told from older coaches, whether they were football coaches, strength coaches, whatever may be, was always be the best at the job you have right now.” 21:22

“That's probably the most important relationship with players where they can see the trainers and the strength coaches on the same page. Then you got total buy-in from a player for a system-- not rooms but for a system.” 29:18

“And each year, you're fighting to see that happen again and again to try to do that kind of camaraderie, you know, that team aspect, to see guys laying it on the line for the guy beside him, to see that, and to hopefully, eventually, get that ring, you know, when it's all said and done.” 35:50

Transcript

[00:00:00.75] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 85.

[00:00:04.95] That's the biggest thing in our business. You got to have a relationship with the players. And if-- you may know everything in the world. But if the players don't believe you, they don't trust you, you know, it's not going to do any good.

[00:00:16.71] 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.

[00:00:27.46] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, our guest is Richard Howell, head strength and conditioning coach of the Indianapolis Colts in his 21st year with the organization. Coach, welcome.

[00:00:40.30] Thank you for having me. Good to be here.

[00:00:43.00] Yeah, so excited to have you on the show. We connected earlier in the year at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, your hometown. And I think it's really awesome to hear from coaches that have been with an organization for such a long time. It's really impressive in this field when you meet someone that has had some longevity to their career, and it's just really impressive and a testament to your work in the NFL over the years. If you would, I just want to start with getting into your path into strength conditioning and kind of what led you to this position with the Indianapolis Colts.

[00:01:20.25] All right, I guess after college-- I attended college at Davidson in North Carolina. And to tell you the truth, Eric, I wanted nothing to do with coaching, never did, even coming out of high school. And I went into Davidson as a biology premed major, did all my prerecs and everything, MCAT. But towards the end, I was just like, I don't really want to do this.

[00:01:46.41] But I still truly enjoyed sports. Sports has always been a part of my life, and I played football at Davidson. Along with that, also at my last year there and I was graduating from Davidson, you know, I was still a little indecisive what I wanted to do next.

[00:02:06.83] But there was a position open on the football staff, and they were more than happy to have me to stick around and coach but also was able to play in a league in Sweden in the spring and try some arena stuff. I still had a love of football. I wanted to play, you know?

[00:02:21.49] But it allowed me to coach a little bit and to pursue football after college. But in total, I ended up coaching at Davidson four years, and those last two years, I got more involved on the strength side of things. We didn't have a traditional strength coach there at the time.

[00:02:41.15] So one of the football coaches would become the strength coach, you know? So I kind of got the title the last two years where I coached DBs and also ran the strength for the football. But that slowly ramped into a position where I was helping all 21 teams build their programs, you know?

[00:03:00.49] So-- and just give them some guidance with what to do. So that kind of ignited a fire right there, it really did, where I was like, man, I like coaching football. But you know what?

[00:03:11.23] I think I like this strength side even more. I'm really enjoying it. So I end up leaving Davidson, and I went to the University of North Carolina as a graduate assistant looking to work towards a master's degree in exercise science. That was my overall goal.

[00:03:27.37] And I was there up under George "Bulldog" Smith, and Coach Torbush was the head coach. And I was working there, and I was there altogether two years. But while I was there, I did not finish up the masters because I got the job here with the Indianapolis Colts right at the end of that second year.

[00:03:46.24] But the cool thing about that process at the University of North Carolina also, after that first full year there, that summer, I went over and did NFL Europe with the Barcelona Dragons and Coach McNeil. So that was kind of another unique experience that I could add to my resume and just gave me some experience working with guys at a higher level even who were trying to get to the highest level. But after that summer in Barcelona, I came back and finished up another fall at UNC and then came here to the Indianapolis Colts.

[00:04:21.79] So my track was not the usual track, I tell people. So look at what I did. I was truly blessed, and things just kind of fell right in line for me with the right people and with some right connections. And I was truly blessed to get here when I did and to be here this long.

[00:04:41.80] Yeah, so you know, just listening to your story, something that jumps out to me was you had a really strong scientific background coming out of your undergrad program and maybe a little untraditional to be a biology premed major and then pursue strength and conditioning. Speak to the value of really diving into the sciences as a student of strength and conditioning and how that can benefit you in this field.

[00:05:11.41] Yeah, what you said is exactly right. Even though I didn't-- I'm not doing exactly what I went to college-- when I thought I would do as a doctor, per se. But my background gave me a huge foundation on the body. I mean, so my initial goal was to work with the body.

[00:05:29.00] Now I work with the body. It's in a different way. But with what I learned at Davidson and through the sciences was gaining a-- I mean, you talk about just ground level understanding of the body, how things work, learning all of the muscles, which we all do. But then even with the hormone levels-- I mean, just the whole process through my chemistry side of things, with the biology side of stuff.

[00:05:55.52] And trust me, I wanted to get out of chemistry as fast as I could. So don't think I was great at it.

[00:06:01.13] So I made those steps through. But it gave me a better understanding and a better appreciation for the sciences and how important the science side of things is even when it comes to exercise science, you know, and how to apply that more and how to spend time reading the research and diving into things that's happening from the science side, in the lab, and how that can actually be used in the field, you know? So I think it gave me a greater appreciation and a greater knowledge base as I wanted to pursue the exercise science degree. I just took what I knew from the biology side and science side of things and just tried to adapt that with the exercise part of it all and mesh it all together, which I think has truly helped me to have a greater understanding of how to develop the body and to help men to be their best.

[00:06:54.82] So over 21 years in the NFL, you've had the opportunity to work with a ton of great coaches and other professionals. Who are some of the biggest influences on your coaching style?

[00:07:10.10] Got you. Well, certainly, one of the first guys I worked with, and he hired me here as a strength coach, he's-- the head strength coach at the time was Jon Torine, you know? And he's like a brother to me.

[00:07:22.97] He's a Springfield guy. I'll throw that out for you, Eric. But--

[00:07:28.93] We find a way to work into every podcast episode the Springfield College connection. But you work with a few Springfield guys with the Colts.

[00:07:39.17] Yes, I have. I got two guys with me right now-- Rusty Jones and Doug McKenney also. Yeah. Springfield guys.

[00:07:46.07] But yeah, just being around John and his energy-- and you talk about every day coming to work with him was like a brand new day of class. Like, what am I going to learn today? I mean it was just forever evolving, learning.

[00:07:59.49] You know, he'd be asking about this. Did you read that yet? It always became extremely critical with him.

[00:08:04.73] And listen, you cannot stop learning. And he was always forcing and asking me questions and pushing me even more and more. So just being around him and saw how he loved this field so much, what he put into it, and what it was going to take for me to be great and maybe even hang around somewhere for a while, that's what I needed to do as well.

[00:08:23.94] So just to watch him day to day in our room, it was pretty cool, you know? And even to see his relationship with the players-- as you know, Eric that's the biggest thing in our business. You got to have a relationship with the players.

[00:08:35.70] And you may know everything in the world. But if the players don't believe you, if they don't trust you, you know, it's not going to do any good. You're not going to be very productive with your program.

[00:08:47.19] And just to see his relationship with the players and how he would be firm with them, you know, and but also had a little bit of play with how he would coach the guys, you know, and different guys especially-- so each guy is an individual and treating them as individuals but also being very firm. Hey, listen, this is going to help you, and how guys could follow along. and they appreciated that as well, you know?

[00:09:09.15] But he's one of the great-- you know, again, I spent most of my career just with him especially in the league. So I learned a lot from him. But when it comes to the head coaches behind that building, I mean, you talk about guys that are hall of famers. Even the general manager, Bill Polian, who was a Hall of-- who is a Hall of Famer-- and then there was Coach Dungy.

[00:09:25.67] And the first head coach I had there was Jim Moore, which, I learned a great deal from him as well. He had a Marine background, you know? And that's kind of how the team was. He expected you to show up at this time, and you're going to work hard.

[00:09:39.71] And you're going to do this. And if you don't, there would be consequences. And that was how things were done, you know, and I do that early on.

[00:09:46.58] And the way he set that tempo at that point in time, it was like, hey, listen. It created a work ethic that sustained us for many years to come because those young men who came in knew what was expected from them. We had a coach way of doing things.

[00:10:01.02] This is how you're going to work. This is how we do things, you know? And all that came from Coach Moore. Just understand it's OK to believe what you believe.

[00:10:09.28] And the one thing he always would tell us as coaches was that don't tell somebody to do something or ask to do something that you're not going to follow up and make sure that it's getting done, you know? So you just-- you stay on them. You be the coach. So that was really, really important for me early on to see how he would handle men at this level, you know?

[00:10:32.03] And then there was Coach Dungy, who came in after him, who also had a different type of style. He let guys have a little more freedom of things, you know? And he allowed leaders to step up and be leaders.

[00:10:43.81] And the thing I think that really helped those guys to be leaders was because they had a great foundation, a great work ethic already. And they knew how to be leaders. And they could lead the team the way coach wanted to. But coach just loved all the players so much.

[00:10:57.91] I mean, he had a bond with them where they could listen and how he talked to them. And he spoke to them as men, not down to them at all.

[00:11:05.29] And that created a buy-in from the guys, where they wanted to please him. They wanted to follow and do what was told to them. And Coach-- and then there was Coach Caldwell and Coach Pagano.

[00:11:17.80] I mean, there's so many guys that helped me along I've watched develop throughout the years just from the coaching side of things that way. And each one is something. There's a little nugget along the way.

[00:11:26.41] And like I said, right now, I mean, I'm with The Godfather, Rusty Jones, OK? I'm just going to-- he would shoot me for saying something like that, but he is. He's one of the best coaches in the league.

[00:11:38.83] And for me to actually be with him from day to day is amazing, you know? Ever since I was in the league, I knew of Rusty, and I was kind of like one of the guys in his tree because Rusty had taught John, you know, when John was an intern for Rusty at Buffalo. So I've always been in the little family tree.

[00:11:57.97] But now to actually be with Rusty and see how he approaches things, how he's still at the age of 50, 67 now, how he still is on fire-- he has more energy than I do when he walks in the building. You better be ready to go when he hits the door. And he's excited and is always on top of things and always challenging myself and the guys.

[00:12:18.07] And again, he builds relationships with players. He builds relationships. And it's amazing. A guy at 67 can still grasp the tension and the heart of a 20, 22-year-old guy generations apart. But they'll be on board with Rusty, and they'll give him a hug, and they're ready to go to work. Just to see that dynamic even and how he does that has been valuable, invaluable, for my profession and for my growth.

[00:12:47.90] Yeah, I met Rusty at the NFL combine earlier this year, and it was really inspiring just to see the energy he was walking around and just so engaged with everyone at the event. And everybody knows who he is in the league, and I just thought that was so great to meet him. And obviously, we had this Springfield connection.

[00:13:08.45] But listening to you talk about the people you've worked with over the years. I think it's really valuable on two ends-- one, to surround yourself with people that push you and that challenge you to keep thinking-- like, you talked about Coach Torine over your time with him-- and also to really find the positive qualities in the people you work with because I think it's one of those things that in this field, there's a lot of challenges in working at the professional level. I mean, we're going through it right now with COVID, and we're just trying to make something out of an upcoming season.

[00:13:49.88] And there's so many negatives that we can focus on. And when you focus on the positives in your environment and the positives in individuals, I think it really brings people together on a staff and within a team. And just how you answered that question really-- I thought that was really great how you just connected the dots and why everybody that you worked with really benefited the team environment and how it impacted the strength and conditioning staff as part of the team and as part of the staff and as not something completely separate and off to the side.

[00:14:24.53] And so that is such a huge concept in this field is that I've heard Andrew Hoody say the practice culture is part-- or the weight room culture is part of the practice culture, or the weight room is part of the practice environment. And it's not separate entities. And sometimes as strength coaches, we do feel like that.

[00:14:48.26] And so I really liked how you talked about that. I want to ask you something about Jon Torine. You know, seeing him speak over the years, a lot of what he would talk about is movement screening and corrective exercise. And that was always connected with the Indianapolis Colts as a major part of the program. How much has that evolved over the years in your time there, and how important is that to your programming with players?

[00:15:18.21] Yeah, again, after spending so many years with John, you know, that is deeply embedded in me, the foundation of the functional movement screen and why that is important. We still do the screen, you know? And yes, over the years, because of doing it and what you've learned and the stats you run on certain things as you are doing the test, you learn certain things about certain positions, certain people, certain corrective exercises which are great to use, some maybe not so much in other instances.

[00:15:48.55] So we've used it, and we continue to use it. But I think we've been able to refine it to truly dial in on what can help us get guys better or even give them better movement and give them a great foundation so we can build strength, so we can build power, so we can build speed, you know? And that was the whole thing from the screen from the get-go that I truly remember and still appreciate to this day is that when something isn't right, you know, you just cannot continue to build strength and power on dysfunction, as Gray would say, all right?

[00:16:23.07] You've got to have a firm foundation in what you want to build on. And not only did the screen kind of help point out where some things may not be right, but it kind of gave you a path of how to correct some stuff, you know? But there's also a room for you to figure out on your own.

[00:16:35.50] OK, let me try this or let me try that. But it open your mind up, OK, how can I make this pattern better? Because weight alone is not going to do that. I'm going to continue to feed a bad pattern.

[00:16:45.66] And that bad pattern is going to show up on the field. And when it shows up on the field, most likely, it's going to end up being an injury. And the most important thing at our level is keeping guys on the field.

[00:16:54.75] If you want to have a job, you better keep guys on the field, you know? And we always tell the players the best ability is availability. So you want to be available, OK? So you do all you can to take care of your body.

[00:17:06.39] So we've been able to just advance even the screen, using it still. But something big that even with Rusty now, and we started a couple of years before, but even he has just driven it home even more.

[00:17:20.43] We are all in the Thomas Myers and with anatomy trends. And again, you're talking about the entire body, you know? And even with John, we talked about not training muscle groups, but how do we train movement, you know?

[00:17:34.32] Not just trying to work on the chest but work on everything that's connected with the chest that we can get a movement pattern established that they're going to use on the field. And with Thomas Myers, I mean, everything that he talks about with the fascia and getting those muscles moving and how they're all connected and learning those body parts-- but not just the parts, though, but how it's one unit. So being able to use the screen with Thomas Myers even more and delve into what he does a little bit and bringing it into our role with our trainers to help the guys be even functional, more functional, to have better movement, to hopefully, as we believe, less injury with how we train them as we give guys the exercises where they have issues-- you know, how can we link up this spiral line or this deep frontal line, these muscles that involved with this lift, that help correct something that we see going on within the pattern, which, again, has a big basis all the way back to the function of movement screen that I learned many years ago?

[00:18:39.93] Functional anatomy or anatomy in general or physiology-- those are courses that could be considered gateway courses into this field. Typically with exercise science majors, that's something that you take in your first or second year and really provides the foundation for you to study Ex Phys and all these other classes, strength and conditioning, that you pursue. And that speaks to your background in the sciences as well. What other advice do you have for young and aspiring strength coaches that would like to get to the NFL one day and work with NFL players?

[00:19:22.03] Yeah, even with what you just mentioned, I mean, you just set off a light bulb in my head is the earlier classes that some of these young people have-- that as they get deeper into the field, it seems like they sometimes regress back to the old method of doing things of just body parts, of lifting or doing this and doing it that way. I would encourage them to continue to think-- if I had to say it, I don't think it's outside the box. But usually, they learn even earlier on if you say what the functional movement stuff they have, and it was the science of things. And continue to try to grow that into what they're doing as they get older and see how that can mesh together with whoever they are learning from at that particular time and to grow from that because there are a lot of people out there who are doing things through the science way, you know, and are trying to work in patterns and in movement while you're still getting the guy strong.

[00:20:12.78] Listen, you've got to have strong athletes. That's a prerequisite, you know?

[00:20:17.51] If you got weak guys, that's an issue. So yes, they must have a certain amount of strength. But they don't have to squat 1,000 pounds to be a great player in the NFL, you know?

[00:20:26.91] And they get to that point where you know guys are good, OK? What other areas can you work on? And usually, you will find some deficiencies in their movements.

[00:20:36.57] And that may come from previous injury. That may come from just bad movement patterns that's been established years before. It could come from having the injury and not having a full rehab, you know, which again can cause someone to be deficient in their performance more importantly on the field.

[00:20:53.55] In the weight room? Yes. More importantly, in their performance on the field where they really get paid, you know?

[00:20:59.82] So it'd be great for those who are young to continue to grow, continue to learn, and to use some of those things which they may not see everyone using as much of. But even on their own, try to develop and try to figure out how they can incorporate some of those things they have learned in school into the programs where they're at. That's just on that side of things.

[00:21:22.26] I think what's also important as far as getting to the NFL or a job in general, what I've always told from older coaches, whether they were football coaches, strength coaches, whatever may be, was always be the best at the job you have right now. I think too many times, people are so caught up in looking at the next job, how can I get that job-- no. I was always told, you be the best at the job you have right now, right?

[00:21:50.64] And you'd be amazed at what happens when you grow at the job you have because people are watching. They will notice. They will see.

[00:21:59.73] And as you continue to expand and grow in your job and your profession, that the jobs will be there as well, you know? Make some connections. I know even for myself early on just getting started, I did like quite a few young people I see each year do with me, where they write letters or they send their resumes and they'll make calls and ask about internships. You know, they're reaching out there.

[00:22:23.43] I mean, I was reaching out to people I didn't even know. And some coaches would send back a response. Some coaches wouldn't send back a response.

[00:22:30.01] But they don't even know I'm out there unless I reach out to them, you know? And so that was through letter, through calls. It happens by going to the NSCA conventions or whatever convention you may be around, and there's coaches there.

[00:22:42.99] And you can talk to them, and you can just pick their brains a little bit about something that you're interested in. That's all great things that you can look into doing. But making those connections and networking a little bit, using the people you know, can help you continue to grow your profession, which again can help you get to know more people and maybe get you the job that you're really looking for. But the big thing I really truly believe is helpful is to be the best at the job you have right now because when you're really good at that, whoever you're working for, they'll continue to take care of you and even push forward even more because they see your hunger. They see your work ethic, and they see your drive, not that you're just trying to not do something well to get to the next step, you know?

[00:23:29.91] Yeah, you talked already about relationships with players and how important those are. Talk about your coaching style. And you know, what is your process in working with NFL players?

[00:23:43.02] It's a good, good question. I'll tell you one thing that helped me out a lot, I think, with my coaching style in the league-- I don't think it's changed a lot. Probably has some, but it's made me more aware of each individual player in treating each as individuals.

[00:24:02.31] For about three years, I also was head of the player development program here with the team. We had some changes on staff and different things. And so they asked me to come in and lead that up.

[00:24:12.78] I had help from other people as well. But during those years of being the player development guy and with the classes and the things that we did during the summer with rookies and with all the players, it gave me a better understanding of what these guys are facing day to day on the other side, you know, outside of football, you know?

[00:24:31.68] And then when you think about things-- OK, so for our world, we talk about stress and how that can be bad for the body when it truly builds up. Well, your body does not differentiate what kind of stress is stress.

[00:24:44.49] It just knows its stress, whether it's financial, relationship, whether if it's us in a weight room beating them down or they're running. All that creates stress within the body. And when it gets to be too much, there is an issue.

[00:24:56.58] There's going to be some breakdown And part of our job is to be stress managers within the weight room. And I guess I would say within my coaching style in my time as being a player development guy, I began to understand and to value that outside stress that players go through even more, you know, here at this level, meaning they have a lot of stress from their families.

[00:25:19.83] Financial stress-- people are on them about different things even just making this team is so stressful. You talk about a lot of injuries happen at and during training camp time. Guess what?

[00:25:31.71] That's probably one of the most stressful times because these guys are trying to make the team. They have no idea where their next meal is going to come from or where their next job is going to be. And they're probably still fielding calls from home or whatever going on there.

[00:25:47.98] So I guess I'll bring that up in a way that with my coaching style is that I do truly try to be firm with the things we want guys to do. But I also try to understand who that guy is, especially when I've been around a player for a while. And whenever he comes into the weight room and he's doing things a totally different way, be really easy for me to jump all over him about something.

[00:26:11.11] But instead, it's kind of like to learn, like, wait a minute. Now Eric doesn't do things this way usually. Usually, he's right on point. He's here, here, and here, and he's [AUDIO DROPPED] something must be up.

[00:26:20.25] So maybe that's a time for me to put my arm around him a little bit and not worry about the weights right now but just like kind of connect with him and say, hey, look. Are things OK? Can we help you?

[00:26:30.48] Or you're not-- well, listen. I can tell you're not feeling it today. Your numbers are all down.

[00:26:36.76] So let's do a different type of workout for you instead. But trying to meet the need of that guy but still being firm that something probably should be done-- or more so, how can I help him? So now that player even knows, yes, I am the strength coach.

[00:26:50.82] I am concerned about what happens in the room. I'm concerned about his overall health. But I'm concerned about him as an individual. So I think that has helped shape me also more with my coaching style has been able to truly treat each player as an individual even though we are together. And I do want to see certain goals as a team and for them to do what we ask but knowing there's got to be some leeway and some play within the process as well, you know?

[00:27:22.50] I really like the term stress manager, you know? And I've heard stress absorber for our strength coaches before, but I hadn't heard stress manager. And I think that really brings a lot together in terms of the way athletes communicate with us and are open with us as strength coaches.

[00:27:45.61] And I thought that was a really great term and a really, really great approach to connecting with athletes and just always having your ears open to more than sets and reps, you know? It's really important to go beyond that in this field. So we talked about your time in the NFL and getting into coaching. How has your perspective towards the field changed over the years?

[00:28:14.17] I know the one thing I don't think necessarily has changed over-- the perspective of it all? I mean, I think we're still a very crucial part of the overall development of the players and the performance that everyone sees on the field. I think the things that have changed in our field a lot is the use of GPS and all these other metrics that are out there and instruments that we can use.

[00:28:43.21] The one thing that I think I still hear a little bit of sometimes, which, I was never told this way as a strength coach even early on and especially with John and he and I working together-- the thing that bothers me sometimes in our field is the relationship maybe between the athletic trainers and the strength coaches. Over the years, I think that may have gotten a smidge better. But like I said, I've never been taught that those two rooms are against each other-- that we have to work together.

[00:29:18.50] That's probably the most important relationship with players where they can see the trainers and the strength coaches on the same page. Then you got total buy-in from a player for a system-- not rooms but for a system. So when the trainers and the coaches can develop a system of working together and getting the players back on the field without a tremendous amount of confrontation-- because the players can feel things.

[00:29:46.54] They understand that things aren't right and people aren't working together. When the players know that, you've got buy-in from people who can take your team to another level. So that's the one area I think, even with my perspective, I would say hasn't changed enough from what I still hear from time to time, you know?

[00:30:10.84] Just to have those two room to truly work together, you know? And I'd be very fortunate-- I know you mentioned earlier in another question just about all the people I've worked with, which I failed to even mentioned a guy who is the head coach right now, Coach Frank Reich, you know, and how he-- I mean, he puts a premium on our room, you know?

[00:30:35.29] And when you have a head coach like him who backs what you say and who in a team meeting will talk about things in the weight room and show how guys are working and how they're getting better with the information that we give him and how we talk about stuff, you know, that creates buy-in as well, you know? And I think there are more coaches like that as well-- maybe not as good as Frankie. But I'm telling you, he is incredible when it comes to that.

[00:31:01.42] Even during this whole COVID thing, as we had our Zoom calls and stuff, you know, the guys are on their own. This year, you're going to see which teams have pros on their team, you know? Which team truly has the most professionals, those guys went out there who take care of themselves who are going to show up ready to go to work here when we actually get started?

[00:31:24.28] And Frank was a big push. He was behind us all the way with what we were trying to get done and just own the guys in the positive way about training and how to work and how to follow through with the program and to stay on it. So I think it's great to have a coach like that with your program and who believes. And I think there's more coaches like that now as well, you know?

[00:31:49.47] Yeah, so there definitely is a stigma in our field. And sometimes, it hurts us as strength coaches that we are these disciplinarians, you know, and that we're the ones cracking the whip on these teams and holding everyone accountable. And you know, you can probably speak to it as well, but just the size of staffs in all sports have grown over the years, and it really puts a premium on the value of the head coach to instill those values of discipline and for the whole team. And that includes the weight room, and that includes the weight room. The head coach, the general manager, the leaders in an organization can really make or break the weight room environment.

[00:32:36.34] Yes.

[00:32:36.88] And it can be-- it's tough in a strength coach role to make up for poor leadership, you know? And it's great when you have leaders that you can look up to as professionals that you work for that really value what you do. And it sounds like you've had just an all-star lineup of people to work with with the Colts over the years. And it's no surprise that the Colts have been a great franchise in the NFL over the years as well. What's your most memorable coaching experience as a coach in the NFL over the years?

[00:33:24.01] Shucks, Eric. I mean, everybody wants their championship I mean, you have to go back to that year where we won at all, you know, really, when we were the world champions and winning the Super Bowl and beating the Chicago Bears in the, rain the first ever rain Super Bowl in history-- to have that moment to be crowned as world champions with those men that we had. That's an awesome moment. It really is because as you know as well, Eric, I mean, I know guys right now who have been doing this in the league even for years and had never even been to the playoffs, much less make it to the Super Bowl and even win it, you know?

[00:34:08.02] And the one thing I would expound upon even with that team in 2006 is that that wasn't even our best team. If you were to ask Coach Dungy or some of the guys, that wasn't even our best team per se, you know? But what you saw was a team that loved each other, that played for each other. There was no selfishness.

[00:34:26.23] It's whatever each guy could do to make the team better. That's what they would do, you know? I mean, how many times you ever hear of a wide receiver who wasn't open, right?

[00:34:35.65] In the NFL, they're always open. Throw me the ball, you know? We went through times during that year where they were saying, like, hey, listen.

[00:34:42.37] Run the ball. They're doing this, this, and this. Run the ball. It'll be better.

[00:34:46.72] You know, guys would give up what they usually would want to see-- more numbers, more catches. No, what's going to help us more-- if we run the ball right now, all right? Then we can get back to their pass game if that opens back up.

[00:34:58.84] So it's just-- but you saw that, what truly a team is supposed to be about and see all that take place in that one year. And to it end with a championship was truly incredible. And I'll add to that was that we just had our 10 year anniversary, you know, about two years ago.

[00:35:16.23] And so a lot of those guys were back together. And for a moment, I was able to step back in the room where we all were and just kind of watch the guys interact a little bit. And Eric, it was kind of cool to see.

[00:35:26.48] And I told my wife, you know, these guys really love each other. I mean, Eric, if you could have seen them-- I mean, a lot of them still stay in contact. But you can still feel like, hey, listen.

[00:35:36.41] These guys, they're a special group. And it's those kind of groups, whatever you see, when they had that bond, they care for each other, and they're about team-- you know, that's where you get those special moments, and that's when you know that's why I do this.

[00:35:49.66] And each year, you're fighting to see that happen again and again to try to do that kind of camaraderie, you know, that team aspect, to see guys laying it on the line for the guy beside him, to see that, and to hopefully, eventually, get that ring, you know, when it's all said and done. So it's that little hunger over and over each year. You want to see that, again especially when you've had that taste.

[00:36:12.22] That's awesome. No, that's awesome just to hear the excitement. And as you talk about it, you just-- it's like you're reliving it, you know, those guys.

[00:36:20.77] And it's just really, really great to hear that, and we don't always get into the wins and loss columns on this podcast. But I think it's really great to hear. I just want to ask you one more question on the strength and conditioning side.

[00:36:39.76] You touched a little bit on GPS and technology. That's kind of made its way into our field. You know, to you, the next 5, 10 years, what does the future of strength and conditioning look like, and how do you see things progressing in the future?

[00:37:00.12] Well, it's a good question. The cool thing to watch right now with the use of technology and all of these systems, Eric, which you may have seen and even early on in my career, what technology has done is kind of validated what we've always tried to tell coaches in the past. You know, sometimes, they're like, they're kind of worn out, or maybe we should do this or we should do this instead where a lot of times, coaches are always driven to go, go, go, go, you know, on the field.

[00:37:34.08] And we're always saying maybe not today or do something different here because we're monitoring the guys. We can see what we see, where the numbers were at at one point in time or where the numbers are now, but just visually seeing how they're responding and how they're coming in each day. And what technology has done for us is now allowed us to put a number on some things where we can actually take to the coaches and say, hey, look.

[00:37:56.82] This is why this guy is going down it looks like, this little spiral down, because of the load that he's getting every single day, OK? Or as I mentioned earlier, the stuff we don't know about, the outside stress, the stress outside the building, that's also affecting him. And you see these numbers going that way and why he may be leading towards an injury or something like that.

[00:38:20.52] That's the thing that technology really has helped us with somewhat. Us strength coaches, we were ahead of time, you know? They just didn't want to listen to us here. That's all. We're done.

[00:38:30.58] [LAUGHING]

[00:38:31.46] That's another story.

[00:38:32.78] I like that.

[00:38:35.28] But--

[00:38:36.51] That's awesome. So how can our listeners connect with you and get in touch if they want to reach out?

[00:38:45.87] Yeah, right now, Richard, email richard.howell-- H-O-W-E-L-L @colts.nfl.net N-E-T. Definitely can hit me there, and I usually check it pretty often. And I can get back with you. Just because of where things are, just-- I may not get back with you right then. But within a day or two, I'll try to hit you back up, and you can go from there and leave me all the information, and I can hook up with you.

[00:39:14.82] Well, definitely a lot going on right now and in approach of this season, and it's exciting. And we're all hopeful that COVID-19 is on its way down and not going to affect fall sports significantly. But Richard Howell, thanks for being on the podcast today.

[00:39:35.32] OK. Thank you, Eric. Really, I appreciate it. It was fun.

[00:39:38.80] To our listeners, thanks for tuning in. And we'd also like to thank our sponsors Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:39:46.83] And as you know, we at the NSCA love research, especially applying that research. If you're not a member yet, join us and get access to the best strength and conditioning journals available. Just go to nsca.com/membership.

[00:39:57.80] And to all of you listening, we appreciate your support. Again, if you like the podcast, make sure you subscribe wherever you download your podcast from. Write us a review and keep listening in. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you all soon.

[00:40:09.60] 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.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D

Strength & Conditioning Coach, NSCA Headquarters, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Richard D. Howell, CSCS, RSCC*E

Strength & Conditioning Coach, Indianapolis Colts

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Howell enters his 21st season with the Colts and his third as head strength and conditioning coach. He served as the team's assistant strength and con ...

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