Occidental athletics ended their search for a new full-time conditioning coach this past August with the hiring of Dr. Melinda Houston. The staff did not have to look far, as Houston has been a professor within the Occidental Kinesiology program for the past four years. Houston hopes to update athletes’ current conditioning program with more of an emphasis on mental health and team development.
“Sometimes it is difficult to separate the mental from the physical, but I think the first aspect that needs to be focused on is the mental state of athletes, and their drive and desire to want to be in the weight room, to want to make themselves better, not only for themselves but as a team,” Houston said.
In pursuit of this goal, Houston altered the morning conditioning schedule that athletes have grown accustomed to in previous years. Instead of two workouts a week, with one focused on weights and the other on running, teams will be conditioning three times a week, and each session will involve running and weight lifting. However, athletes used to be able to choose from several different workout times, but now have to stick to their assigned times.
“Having three conditioning sessions a week definitely helps in terms of lifting within a more focused atmosphere, because sometimes when you lift by yourself it is easier to get distracted or not push yourself as hard,” junior baseball player Kyle Yee said.
Aside from the schematics of the lifting schedule, athletes will find themselves in a new atmosphere. The early morning conditioning classes will host numerous sports teams, essentially flooding the gym with players. Houston plans on shuffling up athletes from various teams into smaller lifting groups during the conditioning class to elicit a new type of environment. Houston hopes this will promote inter-team bonding along with the development of team chemistry and a greater student-athlete community.
While Houston emphasizes the importance of mental fitness and team building, she has not lost sight of the physical side of training. In addition to tailoring workouts to specific sports, Houston went to the coaches to find out what they feel their players need the most, finding that most simply wanted more time for their players in the weight room.
Aside from offering their input as to what Houston should incorporate into the early-morning workouts, coaches are excited to have a full-time conditioning coach.
“I am very excited for my players to take part in Coach Houston’s off-season workouts,” men’s and women’s golf head coach Andrew Larkin said. “Having someone who will help ensure that a player will stay active and not come into the season out-of-shape will be a big help in terms of player progression.”
One of Houston’s biggest goals is to focus on the participation of off-season athletes, as they are the ones who are the most susceptible to fall out of their in-season training habits.
While Coach Houston would like to emphasize the mental and physical growth of an athlete, another overarching theme for the conditioning program is the translation of those developments into various aspects of a player’s life beyond the field.
“I believe that the work ethic, confidence and team chemistry that athletes experience and cultivate within the weight room and on the track during conditioning can be utilized in more places than just the field,” Houston said. “Whether it be in the classroom, the workplace or with other friends, it is all applicable.”