NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Season 6 Episode 20: Gary Calcagno

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Gary Calcagno, MA, CSCS, RSCC*E
Coaching Podcast February 2023


Hear from the 2023 NSCA Assistant College Coach of the Year, Gary Calcagno, from Oklahoma State University. In this episode, Calcagno shares highlights from a more than 30-year strength and conditioning career and how being resourceful as a once aspiring coach prepared him for lasting professional success with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon. Calcagno also discusses his long history with the NSCA, recent areas of progress across the profession, and the role of quality leadership in managing a successful strength and conditioning program.  

You can reach Gary by email at gary.calcagno@okstate.edu | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“And I said, well Coach, just judge me on what I do moving forward. I don't-- I'm not going to try to act like a wrestling aficionado, but I do know about the human body and how to make guys more explosive and more powerful. And that, to me, is what your sport's all about.” 8:30

“I really think that I would start with the professionalism piece. I mean, you've got to comport yourself in a manner to make people follow you and want to follow you, not because you've got a title, but because you carry yourself the way you should, and that you've got knowledge that can help them, or help their team, or help their organization.” 32:52

“I also think you better know how to reach all kinds of kids. Part of our job is just so much involved into you're kind of part sports psychologist. So get to know your student-athletes. And it can be a day where, if you know them, you know they're not ready for you to jump down their throat.” 36:08


[00:00:00.48] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:04.31] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, season 6, episode 20.

[00:00:11.06] I would start with the professionalism piece. I mean, you've got to comport yourself in a manner to make people follow you and want to follow you, not because you've got a title, but because you carry yourself the way you should and that you've got knowledge that can help them, or help their team, or help their organization.

[00:00:35.10] 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.

[00:00:45.90] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today we are coming off of Coaches Conference. And at Coaches Conference every year, we celebrate our coach of the year award winners. We have one of those award winners with us today, Gary Calcagno, the college assistant strength and conditioning coach of the year from Oklahoma State. Gary, welcome.

[00:01:10.10] Thank you. I'm glad to be here. Appreciate the invite to do the podcast. I'm excited.

[00:01:16.05] We had a fun time at Coaches conference in Charlotte. It was great having you out there. Coach Glass, from your staff, was there. And your families came. It was a great time.

[00:01:28.38] I tell you what, it is definitely a first-class experience. And my wife said it-- and Coach Glass and his wife both echoed those same sentiments-- you guys do such a first-class job. It was really fantastic. And the ceremony was great. But even more so, the social afterwards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame was really, really cool.

[00:01:53.76] And I was obviously excited that Coach Glass and his wife came. And I think it was good that he was there because so many people came up to him during the social afterwards, and really after the ceremony as well. So a lot of people want to bend his ear. So that was good too.

[00:02:15.26] I think about the Oklahoma State program. You've been there for over 20 years. And that's one of those programs that there hasn't been a lot of turnover. We don't talk about that a lot in the profession. I think we get into this career, and we know we're going to be moving around. It can be a challenging profession at times. And it's obviously a testament to the work you do there.

[00:02:41.92] But that was my first time meeting, well, you in person, but Coach Glass as well, in person. And I think that really speaks to the value of going to an NSCA conference is the networking piece. And yeah, the NASCAR thing, that was pretty cool. We had a couple of sessions from Toyota racing. I met some of the pit crew strength and conditioning staff folks that were just local there. And what a cool dynamic, you know?

[00:03:12.51] That was really, really cool. I was excited, really, to just go to the conference itself. But then you guys add so many cool little things along with it. It makes it even better.

[00:03:25.79] So yeah, I think it's a testament to Coach Glass and his professionalism not only with the student athletes and the coaches, but the administration. And this is the second group that Coach Glass has been a part of as far as president and director of athletics when Coach Glass got back the second time. Because he had been at Oklahoma State and then went to Florida for 10 years. And then he came back. President Burns Hargis and Athletic Director Mike Holder-- Mike Holder was the longtime, uber-successful golf coach that won eight national championships in golf.

[00:04:12.71] So they were the people in power for several years until a couple of years ago. And then President Hargis retired. And we hired Dr. Casey Schrum from OSU Medicine, and then Chad Weiberg, who they brought back here to eventually, one day, take over, was our aide.

[00:04:33.53] And it was a situation where they promoted Chad. And because of Coach Glass and his unbelievable professionalism, the way he handles all of-- really, all of us-- and we all basically get held to the same standard because of Coach. So I think that's really a tip of the cap to Coach Glass. It's just, you're right, people don't leave because they're good jobs. And we're looked at in the organization at this level really because of Rob Glass.

[00:05:18.39] And I mean, that's just-- you can ask anybody that's there that works for him, whether it's Garrett Bailiff with baseball, or Mark Mitchell with basketball. Jake Manzelmann was the basketball strength coach for years, and years, and years. And then he just left a couple of years ago to go to Saint Louis to get reunited with Travis Ford. Any of the people that's been there for a long time can tell you that it all starts at the top with Coach Glass.

[00:05:42.61] So you work with football, but you also work with the wrestling program. Have those always been your go-to sports?

[00:05:50.11] Well, when I got into the business at Tulsa, there [AUDIO OUT] the head strength coach and me. And then Coach Cross came. Tom cross came. So there were really three of us. And then the other guy, Colby Schreckengost, had transitioned out to go back to the football staff. So it was two of us again. So I really did everything.

[00:06:11.02] And at Washington State, I did football, and basketball, and baseball, and a little bit of volleyball. And then, so when I got to Oklahoma State, because I'd interned with the Cowboys, I knew I was going to have football. Because Les Miles had had recommended me. And they were in the process-- old Gallagher Hall was where the arena is. And they basically raised the roof on Gallagher Hall. And then they renamed it Gallagher-Iba Arena.

[00:06:42.07] And so the arena now seats 13,600 and some. And then that's where all the athletic department offices are. And then in the basement, basically directly under the floor of Gallagher-Iba, is the weight room that's in Gallagher.

[00:06:58.51] So when they redid that in 2001, January of '01, the AD at the time was Terry Don Philips, who later went on to Clemson. But Terry Don was the guy that hired me. He said wrestling kind of was doing their own thing. Baseball was kind of doing their own thing. It was kind of a weird deal. But he wanted to get everybody back under one collective roof, so to speak. And so he gave me wrestling, and the rest is history.

[00:07:29.57] I was so unbelievably nervous to have to go meet with John Smith, being-- you know, I'm from Oklahoma, and obviously know the tradition of Oklahoma State wrestling, and obviously, the tradition of John Smith himself in wrestling. And he's a world figure. And so that was-- I was nervous to-- even though I'm really short, I didn't know a thing about wrestling. My high school is too small to have wrestling.

[00:07:57.26] So I should have wrestled. I mean, that was what I should have done. But my mom was-- along with being a professor, was a junior college women's head basketball coach. So I thought I was going to play in the NBA for years, you know? Because that's what I did. I went to practice with her, and games with her, and shot buckets all the time. And yeah, I thought I was going to be Dr. J, yeah, oddly enough.

[00:08:23.35] But I had to go meet with Coach. And he was a little bit wary at first because he was kind of doing it himself. And I said, well Coach, just judge me on what I do moving forward. I don't-- I'm not going to try to act like a wrestling aficionado, but I do know about the human body and how to make guys more explosive and more powerful. And that, to me, is what your sport's all about.

[00:08:50.30] And so that first year, he was a little-- would ask me, well, why are you doing this, or why are you doing that, and just how most coaches are. And then after that, it was-- he pretty much took the training wheels off. But it's been wonderful.

[00:09:07.30] And it's great that Rob Glass, Mike Gundy, John Smith, they all went to Oklahoma State. They all were there as students together. Now they're all back there. They've all known each other. And so it's a great situation for me because everybody that I work for, they all get along. And they've known each other for years, and years, and years.

[00:09:30.90] Yeah, I think that speaks to something that a lot of strength coaches have to do in their career is learn a new sport that they're not as familiar with, they didn't play, just to maybe have a job or get an opportunity. Or maybe you-- I was a baseball guy. Maybe the baseball job came with volleyball, or something that I'm not as familiar with. And that's something that learning sports, and basing it on quality movement, and being able to communicate with, obviously, head coaches and sport coaches that know their sport extremely well-- that is a-- that's a tough skill to learn for young coaches.

[00:10:12.72] I think it's something that can-- like you spoke to, it can intimidate us to go into a room with someone so knowledgeable, or maybe a legendary figure in their sport, and basically say, well, we do have knowledge that can help your athletes and your players.

[00:10:32.92] Exactly, and not try to-- I think the thing for me that was-- I guess. I'm acting like I know what they think. But I never tried to act like I was a wrestling coach. Or I went at it from really, hey, I'm certified. I'm qualified. I do know how to do this, this, this, and this. And this is going to translate to the mat and make the guys better.

[00:11:04.27] And then I just learned by going to matches and going to practice. And then that was another thing. Like, getting to be around John Smith all these years and listen to him just in a practice, I mean, he's unbelievable. And just the stories that he has of when he competed, just that was-- I mean, I'm super blessed to even get to be a part of that.

[00:11:32.86] And just asking questions-- I had really two good mentors that were coaches here. Mark Cody was the associate head coach, and then went on to be a head wrestling coach. And then Mark Branch, Mark Branch is an Oklahoma guy. Came to Oklahoma State, was a four-time NCAA finalist, two-time NCAA champion, and then was on the staff, and later became the head assistant. Now he's the head coach at Wyoming. Those two guys really helped me with a lot of questions and stuff that I had early on when I took over.

[00:12:11.40] So shoot, when I took over wrestling, we had Daniel Cormier, that was one of our club coaches Jamill Kelly, and Eric Guerrero were all trying to get into the wrestling Olympic cycle. And they were competing for the 2004 Olympic games. And so all three of those guys made the team. And that was another-- to know Daniel that long-- and Jamill wound up winning silver. And Eric was on the Olympic team as well and later became our associate head coach as well when Coach Branch went to Wyoming.

[00:12:50.42] I had a lot of people that guided me and were super positive about what I was trying to do. And hey, I was just there for them to put the program together, take them through it, and basically support them. And I think that came through in the beginning to where it really helped me.

[00:13:10.86] There's a lot of history in that program, and you've been a part of that for a long time. On the subject of young coaches getting into the profession, go back to the beginning for you. What were some of the key moments that maybe inspired you towards a strength and conditioning career?

[00:13:31.25] Yeah, I have several of those. I kind of was lucky at an early age, back to my mom and dad were college professors, and my mom coached. And I remember going back, they had the old AMF circuit that had the shoulder press, the bench press, the wrist roll, the high lat. And I would go back there, and I would hit sets on that. And then they had the leg extension, leg curl over in the corner.

[00:13:57.56] And I used to love those things. I used to get the best pump. But I mean, maybe that's why I didn't grow up to be very tall, you know? So I dealt with that. But it was something I liked right off.

[00:14:10.79] And then my high school football coach was really big into strength conditioning, had gone to-- I found out later, he'd gone to Nebraska and was at a clinic with-- that Coach Epley had put on. And so he pretty much had the whole Husker Power stuff up in our weight room. Well, my brother had taken me in because he had said, tell my brother Jim to go get me. And he said, he better start lifting-- he's pretty small-- if he's going to play quarterback. Because we ran the option.

[00:14:41.85] And so my brother was also someone that really helped me in the beginning. Because he was pretty jacked in high school and kind of helped me learn my way around the weight room. And then once I got started, my high school football coach was really key and a critical figure in me being excited about it.

[00:15:04.35] And he would come and pick me up actually before school because I couldn't drive at that time. And he would bring me in. And I would lift with him. And then I would go to school. And then we'd have practice later in the day. So that was-- he was a big mentor for me, along with my brother.

[00:15:21.33] And so I had told my mom, we-- at NEO, at that time, they were a dominant, dominant junior college, the best junior college football program in the nation. And that was back when you could get-- there was really no out of state type stuff. So guys would load up. They had players everywhere, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, just really all over the country. And so college coaches would come around all the time.

[00:15:48.51] Well then, my mom, her secretary was also the football secretary. So she would get all these media guides that the college football coaches would leave. So I would pore through those media guides. And I saw that there were strength and conditioning coaches. And that was just starting to kind of be a normal thing for everybody.

[00:16:10.14] And I told my mom, one day I said, I want to be a strength coach. And she said-- I said, well, how do I-- what do I go about doing? And she said, you need to write Boyd Epley at Nebraska. And so because I had the media guide from the football secretary, I wrote him a note. And he wrote right back and said that I needed to join the NSCA.

[00:16:34.26] And they'd already changed the-- I don't know how many people know, it used to be National Strength Coaches Association. And then they changed it. But it had already been changed by that point. That was '86. And said to look into being a certified strength coach.

[00:16:51.54] And I kept the letter. I had folded it up, put it back in its envelope. So I had the letter and the envelope. And so then, the next step was, because of NEO again, Mack Butler was a football coach at NEO, defensive back coach. He actually got hired at the University of Tulsa. Well, he and his wife were both faculty members. Even though he coached, he taught business at NEO with my mom and dad.

[00:17:21.87] And so he knew about my desire to be a stength conditioning coach. So when he went to Tulsa, he was there for that first season of '89. And December of '89, he called and said, hey Gary, would you be interested in being a student assistant at Tulsa? Because they had, really, one slot. It was for a GA, but the guy had left.

[00:17:43.55] And so I said, absolutely. And I went down, and I interviewed with the director of athletics and the head football coach, Dave Rader. And at the time, the head coach was Colby Schreckengost. And I got the job. So if it really wasn't for Mack Butler as well, I would have never gotten jumpstarted into my career.

[00:18:04.10] I love that story about digging through the media guides for information. This was couple of years before we had Instagram and Twitter and everybody had their information out there. So it's something that, I mean, I remember going through-- whenever I could find a bio of someone that maybe I thought their job title or career was something I had interest in, I'd read that bio, or I'd save it. And I remember the first couple programs that I got my hands on in professional baseball. And that really ignited that interest for me to pursue it further.

[00:18:44.99] I love that. I think that is-- it speaks to the process that we had at the time, but also the process for coaches today. It's a reminder to be resourceful and use the information you have. And there's so much of that available now. Let's get into that a little bit. What are some of the things you see that have really changed over a 30-plus-year career? I think this is good for the experienced coaches listening to hear, but also for the young coaches that are just getting their feet wet in the profession.

[00:19:23.42] I think one of the first things that would come to mind for me is the sport coach now, at whatever school you're at, they're pretty knowledgeable. Whereas years and years ago, they would even just say, well, I did it. But I did some bench, and this, and then I was out. Well now, those coaches that are head coaches now, they've come through programs that had a strength coach. So they're a lot more knowledgeable about what they want and how they see their program headed.

[00:20:00.20] And so to me, that's-- Coach Glass does a great job of this as well. You better get to be on the same page quickly with the head coach. Because it's their program. Even as good a strength coach as Coach Glass is, if Mike Gundy wants something done a certain way, or a group at a certain time, or whatever it may be, ultimately, he's the head coach, just like John Smith for me. I mean, yesterday was a snow day. Like really, it was an ice day. But they canceled school. So he wanted to be on the mat at 9:00 and lift at 10:00. That's what we did.

[00:20:38.75] So it's just the coaches nowadays are really probably a lot more advanced in the strength and conditioning area than support coaches were when I first got into the business. But also, the flip side of that, I think, is you should be even more advanced as a strength and conditioning professional as they are. So you better stay on top of it, and stay on top of the business, and keep trying to get better.

[00:21:11.77] Whether you're adapting to-- like, I'm not great at the West Side barbell piece with bands and chains. That's something that I try to get better at. We've got a wrestler on our team whose dad is a West Side barbell protege. They're from Ohio, Vic Vinovich. And so to help Vic, because that's something that he's done from the time he was a little kid to I got him-- they're into that. So I've tried to immerse myself into that as much as I can to try to help him succeed because he's had great success with it.

[00:21:50.95] So the old adapt or die deal, I think, is applicable now. I think that's-- like you said, there's so much out there, and it's so easy to get. That's one thing about all the technology. It can kind of get overwhelming. But I think if you know what you're looking for, if you're trying to challenge yourself, you'll find some stuff to make yourself better. And you have to, especially in the area that we're in, because it's always evolving. But it's always going back to the same old stuff, if you've noticed. Kettlebells are big again. I mean, everything goes full-circle.

[00:22:32.44] Yeah, a mentor of mine always says, the pendulum of strength and conditioning always swings forward and back. And it's going to revisit some of those same theme areas. Kind of goes back-- you were talking about Boyd-- those foundational principles, the Husker Power principles. Those are still so relevant today. If you're a young coach listening in and you don't know those, look up Husker power. Those are really impactful.

[00:22:59.89] And those are going to-- I guarantee, if you don't know what they are, you are probably doing them already if you're in the profession and you're working with athletes. And it's a good framework that really put the profession on a pedestal about what we do and the services we provide as strength coaches.

[00:23:21.98] And I think too, when you look at Boyd and what he was doing, he sort of is doing what Coach Glass does here at this level. Boyd was very professional. He had the coat and tie on and lots of pictures. And he was an educator. And I think that went a long ways early in our profession to help really make our profession relevant.

[00:23:51.65] It wasn't just a bunch of the old meathead deal. Because I mean, the people that Boyd was spitting out into the profession, they were highly intelligent. A guy I think right off the top of my head, John Jost. I mean, there are people that are highly intelligent individuals that just happen to be strength and conditioning coaches. They could have done anything they wanted to do.

[00:24:12.39] But I think everybody needs to thank Boyd Epley for getting us on the most solid footing as possible. Because if he was any other way than what he was, I think it could have gone poorly actually.

[00:24:31.16] I had a few really great moments at Coaches Conference, especially at the RSCC reception. We were are all hanging out. And Boyd's in there, and Bill Ferrin, and Jerry Palmieri, all these legendary figures in their sport, in their field. And it's pretty special to be a part of that.

[00:24:52.61] After I got done-- I think I was talking to you-- Coach Glass was like, hey Gary, come here. And so I see two people there, but I don't know-- I think I know one of them, but I didn't know for sure. When I walk over, Coach is like, this is Jerry Palmieri and Chip Sigman. Well, Jerry Palmieri had been at Oklahoma State back in the mid '80s. He did Oklahoma State wrestling. He trained John Smith as a student-athlete.

[00:25:17.81] Wow.

[00:25:18.83] Yeah, so he was like, hey, congratulations on your award. That's awesome to see a Cowboy get it. Please tell Coach Smith I said hello. And he gave me a couple John Smith lifting stories when he was a student-athlete. And so when I got back that very next morning, when Kimmy and I flew back-- I had wrestling the next morning. And Coach Smith stuck his head in my office.

[00:25:41.46] And he goes, is that the strength coach of the year? And I said, yes, sir. And he comes in, he gives me a hug. And I said, hey, Jerry Palmeri told me to tell you hello. He was like, what? Was he there? And I said, oh, yeah. I said, Coach, he's a bigwig in the organization, big-time. And he's like, oh my gosh, he's so awesome.

[00:26:00.80] And so he sat in my office for 30 minutes talking about Jerry Palmieri. So I mean, that's pretty cool.

[00:26:08.07] Yeah, I love that, when you're becoming a part of the history. And there's so much history like we're talking about at Oklahoma State. And it speaks to-- coaches travel all over. I mean, I forgot that Jerry was at Oklahoma State. That is-- we think of his NFL career as being so important. And he does so much for us to support the NFL coaches today. But that is such an awesome story.

[00:26:37.16] I actually went back and went online. Because he told me he had written a couple-- or one, I know for sure-- journal article. And so I went-- I logged in after that lift that day, and went on the archives of the NSCA Journal, and found the Jerry Palmieri strength training for wrestling at Oklahoma State article, and printed it off. And yeah, it's pretty wild.

[00:27:03.44] That's awesome. So question for our coaches getting into the profession-- you talked about getting sort of a GA or student assistant type position. Have you seen that landscape change in terms of GA positions, internships? What advice do you have for coaches that maybe want to get into the Power Five level working in football or on the Olympic side?

[00:27:31.77] I've seen it change. And Coach Glass does a really good job of this. Back when I was coming up, it was, you were a GA. You went to class. You got your master's. I wanted to get my master's, so that was fine. But now it's really an intern title. And it's a catch-all.

[00:27:51.37] It could be someone that is an undergrad that wants to do it. It can be someone that's got their undergraduate degree that's not going to school but wants to intern. It can be someone that's in the master's program that's interning. My wrestling intern right now is a PhD student at Oklahoma State. So it's got kind of all levels. Coach Glass just calls them interns.

[00:28:17.67] And I think, to me-- you know, I know he gets a lot of emails. I do too. Probably everybody in the-- all of our strength coaches at Oklahoma State probably get the same emails. But he goes through them. And we go through interns. And what Coach Glass really does-- if you do a good job at Oklahoma State, and you have been a really good intern, and it's someone that we can stamp, there are so many high school jobs in the state of Oklahoma now. We had-- at one time, a year and a half ago, we had six former interns that were head high school strength coaches in the State of Oklahoma making over $50,000.

[00:29:02.63] That's awesome.

[00:29:03.55] I had a female that helped me that was my intern. She played softball at Oklahoma State. She's a stud. Taylor Pence is her name. She left Oklahoma State from that intern spot and went to Pryor High School-- no, Piedmont. And I think she makes $65,000.

[00:29:24.77] Yeah. Boy, that's a long way from where the field was 15, 20 years ago. And we've seen that. We presented, at the conference, the recent salary survey we did. And we're seeing growth. We're seeing-- it was 22% growth across all NSCA coaching demographics. But high school and college were actually two of the highest areas of growth, which was really nice to see.

[00:29:53.18] Breaking it down by the director level, the head coach level, and the assistant level, I think the assistant level at the college actually grew the most. And we're seeing growth for the first five to six years of the profession. And that, I think, is good. Because there's been so much attrition in the profession over the years.

[00:30:17.96] I remember my first two years in pro baseball, I was in Helena, Montana with a rookie ball team.

[00:30:25.25] Grinding.

[00:30:26.55] Yeah, and never, never thought I'd go to Montana, loved it up there. It was so cool. But there's eight teams in the league, and we're playing each other all the time. So you get to know the strength coaches on the other side. And this was still kind of the early days where we were just happy to be there in strength coach jobs.

[00:30:45.09] And it was-- but then the next year, I'd be the only one back. And I'm like, where did everybody go? And it became pretty obvious that this profession really wasn't for everybody. And some of that was financial, a good portion of that. Life happens, and the money game becomes important.

[00:31:08.02] But it's nice to see salaries on the rise. Obviously, that's something that we are continuing to advocate for.

[00:31:14.52] Well, and that's what I told Coach Glass. I know he got-- and he didn't want to talk about it. But I told him-- I said, congratulations, Coach. That's unbelievable. Any time you can be the first of something, I mean, that's pretty remarkable. But the bottom line too with Coach is-- it goes back to the beginning part of our conversation about his professionalism, the way people think about him from the other side of campus over to the athletic side of campus, all of our donors and fans.

[00:31:48.13] I mean he's got a-- you don't have the body by Glass nickname for nothing. There's a reason that our fans and people talk about it. But his professionalism is what got him-- and he does a great job. And so they were all too glad to say, hey, we believe in you, and we're going to give you this money, which he deserves.

[00:32:13.91] Yeah. It definitely opened some eyes this year, Coach Glass being the first million-dollar strength coach, and USA Today article. And people reach out. It's a big topic of conversation right now. One thing, you were talking about professionalism that he carries and the impact he has on that program over so many years. Let's talk about leadership for a second. What are some of the other leadership qualities that you think make a program leader great?

[00:32:52.37] I really think that I would start with the professionalism piece. I mean, you've got to comport yourself in a manner to make people follow you and want to follow you, not because you've got a title, but because you carry yourself the way you should, and that you've got knowledge that can help them, or help their team, or help their organization. But also, I think consistency.

[00:33:21.57] I think getting up, going to work every day, and coaching, and being consistent, I think, is-- because that's what strength training is. So if you're not consistent in going to work every day, then how are you going to be consistent with your student-athletes in trying to get over a barrier, or break through a PR, or whatever it may be? I mean, consistency, to me, is really critical, I feel like, in leadership. And Coach Glass is one of the best at that. And so I try to mimic what he does there.

[00:33:59.74] I'm not just clocking in. I'm at work. And I want to be ready to go in the lift.

[00:34:06.73] I was told years ago by Tom Cross-- I remember this vividly. It was my first year as a GA. I'd gotten my undergrad, and I stayed at Tulsa as a GA. And I had-- he had-- I can't remember what group he was working with. And so he had me do the men's tennis team. I just remember I had them that next morning.

[00:34:27.79] Well, I had class or whatever that night before. And one of the very few times that I was late getting to work. And he-- I didn't miss the workout, but I walked in like right before it started. And I got the guys going, got the workout done.

[00:34:48.52] He makes a beeline for me. And he says, listen, you need to get here 30 minutes before work or more and get ready to go. Get the workout set up so when they walk in, you're ready to go. Because if you aren't excited about their workout at this time in the morning, how in the world do you expect them to be? So you need to do a better job. And you don't need to be late again, or this late again.

[00:35:15.16] And I think about that all the time. And I've told a bunch of the interns that. Get up. Get showered. Wash your hair. Look presentable. Whether you drink coffee, or Red Bull, or whatever it may be, a spark. But get your mind right, so when--

[00:35:32.23] It's like with Coach Glass. He meets with us at 6:00 AM. And then he tells us what we need to do for the workout. The workout starts at 6:30. But nobody walks in at 5:58 for his meeting at 6:00. We're already there, sitting, waiting to go.

[00:35:49.26] And so I do the same thing with wrestling. I'm there early. My intern knows what time to be there. And I think that story was very helpful for me. So it's something that I try to still do to this day as far as the consistency piece.

[00:36:08.99] I also think you better know how to reach all kinds of kids. Part of our job is just so much involved into you're kind of part sports psychologist. So get to know your student-athletes. And it can be a day where, if you know them, you know they're not ready for you to jump down their throat.

[00:36:40.97] But you've got to get to know your athletes on a level to where, hey, I know how this guy is. I know how this guy is. I know how this guy is. He's not ready for this. Or he lost a big match the other day. He's not going to be ready for me to critique him. Or he's looking for that. Or that's the way this guy is. I mean, you just-- to me, learning and getting to know your student-athletes is critical in their development. Really, on the field, or off the mat, whatever you want to say, I think that's a huge, huge piece.

[00:37:17.34] One thing that comes through there is you talk about being professional and consistent in your delivery, being prepared for the day. But if you do those things, you're going to have enough in the tank mentally. You're not going to be so strung out preparing just to get the workout done that you're going to be more personable. You're going to be able to connect with your athletes.

[00:37:39.77] And so I think you really laid the foundation there. And then, yeah, we talk a lot about, now, the psychology of what we do, just the relationship piece, the communication piece. And I think we all know that that is largely dependent on our ability to get ourselves up for a workout, a session, a conversation, a podcast, you know? I think it's something that we-- that is a skill. Our level of preparation impacts our ability to communicate well on a daily basis.

[00:38:17.19] Absolutely. And I think too-- I said this the other day, oddly enough. When I got done with a football group, I really just wanted to sit down. And one of our younger interns, he was rolling out, getting ready to get his lift on. And I told Nate Peoples, one of our other full-time football assistants-- I was like, man, I remember those days. And he said, me too. I said, now I just want to sit down.

[00:38:47.00] Well, when I went to go get something to drink, I was-- when I was walking to the juice bar to get something to drink, in my mind, I thought about something that I read somewhere, that if you do what you're supposed to do during a lift group, if you're working hard enough, you shouldn't feel like lifting right after that. Because you've put enough energy into your student-athletes that, honestly, I don't have any energy to lift after that. Now I know part of that is definitely being 53 years old. I get it.

[00:39:24.52] But that's something that-- I watch Coach Glass do that too. I mean, he puts a lot of effort into coaching. And the first thing on his mind is not getting his own lift in. That's just the way it is. We're there for the student-athletes. We're not there to get a-- to pump every day. That's just-- to me, that's got to be part of it.

[00:39:50.96] Yeah, that's unreal advice. I think that is-- one thing I like about this episode is that I think, for those that have been in this profession for a long time, there's a lot of cool takeaways and cool stories that they can resonate with, but also the young professionals, the lessons that you've learned along the way but are still delivering with your interns, with your young coaches, with your athletes.

[00:40:19.85] And it also speaks to the coaching progression that happens of-- you said you're 53 years old. Well, it's a lot different than when you're 23 years old just getting in, and you have nothing but energy to-- and there might be some strategy that goes into ramping up for your day. So this has been cool, man. I really appreciate you being with us. We had a great time at Coaches Conference getting to know you, your family, and just learning about your program at Oklahoma State.

[00:40:52.68] Well, as you know, I'm unbelievably humbled to just be-- I was blown away when I got the email from you that I was nominated. So that was a huge, huge deal for me. To even think about winning. It was so far down the road, it never even-- I never even thought that would even come to fruition. But to win it, I'm just really, really humbled just to be a small part of the NSCA, and what it stands for, and who started it, and what he stands for.

[00:41:27.88] And so yeah, we were excited. My wife was excited to go. And I was awful pumped that Coach Glass and his wife got to go. It was awesome. So as much as I thought it was going to be great, the Coaches Conference surpassed what I thought it was going to be. So yeah, it was fantastic, first-class experience. And today's been great. I was excited to do this.

[00:41:52.20] Yeah, these are fun. What's the best way for coaches listening in to get in touch with you?

[00:41:59.73] You can use my email it's Gary-- G-A-R-Y-- dot, my last name, Calcagno-- C-A-L-C-A-G-N-O-- @okstate.edu.

[00:42:14.28] Awesome. We will drop that into the show notes. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in today. Gary, thank you.

[00:42:23.13] Thank you, Eric.

[00:42:24.48] Also, a special thanks to Sorinex exercise equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:42:30.07] Hi, coaches. This is Mike Caro, longtime college strength and conditioning coach now working on the technical side of the profession. The NSCA Coaching Podcast brings highlights from all areas of our growing field to help you navigate your coaching path. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so that you don't miss an episode. Thanks for listening.

[00:42:46.86] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:42:49.23] 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.

Photo of Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E
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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

NSCA Headquarters

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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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Gary Calcagno, MA, CSCS, RSCC*E

Oklahoma State University

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