ASU Football: Summer Conditioning


This week, Arizona State University finished final exams and had their commencement ceremony for graduates.  The campus has quieted down quite a bit as students have cleared the campus.

For ASU football players, this is the beginning.  While it’s technically the “off-season”, Sun Devil players are actually starting their summer conditioning program.

Up until about 15 years ago, summer conditioning for college football players was somewhat optional and rarely organized.  Players would go home for the summer with the understanding that they needed to work out on their own in order to show up for Fall Camp in decent shape.  For the most part, those days are gone.  While players are certainly free to go home if they want (and some still do), the unspoken expectation is for players to stay in town to take summer classes and conduct their workouts under the supervision of the ASU strength coaches.

This routine is not unique to ASU, as every major college football program has the same expectations.  This accomplishes a couple of things; first, it allows the student athletes to get caught up with their credits.  Usually, athletes take a lighter load of classes during their season.  Summer school allows them to stay on the four-year plan.  And often times, it allows them to actually graduate early.  Additionally, and most importantly as it pertains to football, it allows the ASU strength coaches to train, monitor and keep track of the progress of the team’s conditioning.

Strength and conditioning is now a scientific process and has become a discipline unto itself.  The ASU strength and conditioning staff has a periodization schedule for the football players.  (Periodization is just a fancy word for a varied schedule of training during a calendar year.)  The strength coaches have devised a routine for the summer that is different from the routines they follow during the season, immediately after the season, and during spring football.  For players to maximize their physical potential, it’s imperative that the players stick with the program.

Then, there is also the unofficial practices.  During the summer, the football coaches cannot coach their players.  However, the players themselves are allowed to (and expected to) practice on their own.  This is where team leadership comes in.  Quarterback Mike Bercovici has to organize and lead throwing sessions with his receivers.  Preferably, he would do it with defensive backs present to help out the defense.  Center Nick Kelly needs to run the offensive line through footwork drills and practice adjustments to different defensive fronts.

These unofficial practices will take place on a field somewhere, as well as some film-work and white-board work.  The idea being that when official camp opens in August, the team is physically and mentally ready to go, having to do as little learning as possible and focus on full speed repetitions. The quality of these summer sessions falls on the shoulders of the team captains and quite truthfully, the individual players themselves.  They must accept the reality that if they aren’t working hard, somebody else is.  And that somebody else will take their position.

ASU fans will remember the 1996 team that chose to stay in Tempe for the summer to practice on their own.  At the time, it was unusual for a college team to do that.  The result was an undefeated regular season and a Rose Bowl appearance for the National Championship against Ohio State.

Since his arrival, head coach Todd Graham has done an excellent job of setting up the team for success in the summer time.  The players have bought in and have thrived during the summer.  Size and strength gains by players during their ten week program have been impressive.  This current group of seniors have been vocal about their intentions for next season.  And they have all stated that it begins now, in the weight room, the film room, the track and any patch of grass they are allowed to utilize.

If this team is serious about winning championships, fans will see it in August, when every player is bulked up, trimmed down and a step quicker.  The timing between quarterbacks and receivers will be near perfect and the players will be hungry for contact and 11 on 11 play.

So, enjoy your summer, Devils fans.  And enjoy it knowing that your football team is working hard to bring a championship to Tempe.