The Bronco volleyball team has been hard at work this quarter in the gym, outside in the sand and in the weight room. SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCU) sat down to talk with Bronco assistant coach Aaron Mansfield (AM) about the team's time in the weight room and what results they are hoping for this spring and beyond.
SCU: In the off-season, the coaching staff was looking to change its approach to the team's strength and conditioning program. After talking with three of our programs here, you approached Sparta and decided to go with them. Can you talk about that decision?
AM: We have seen Sparta work with our men's and women's basketball teams as well as our baseball team. After talking to the baseball coaches specifically about their experience with Sparta, we began to become very interested in what they do and how that would benefit our program. We sat down with the people at Sparta in late December and talked about their fitness business plan. After talking to them, we thought that it was the best thing for our team because of the accountability with the app that they use as well as their objective and scientific approach to training.
SCU: Talk a little about the app because everybody always has their phone in their hand.
AM: Phil Brady, the trainer who's working with our team, is an excellent teacher. He's an terrific communicator. He's highly motivating and he's highly motivated at what he does. He instantly created a culture in the weight room of doing things the right way and our team took to it right away.
The Sparta app allows you to access your workout for the day. You input the weight that you use in each of your workouts. It is also a tool that is used to monitor what you're eating, so nutrition-wise, they're much more educated in what they're putting into their body and are aware of how much protein, vegetables and water they're drinking and eating on a daily basis. They're logging these things on a daily basis. They're also more aware of how much sleep they're getting each night. They input their sleep for the night, how much water they're drinking and what they are eating in regards to vegetables and protein. This allows us to see who's staying on track and who's getting off track. The team can see their workouts, log their nutrition, sleep and hydration. For our team - it's not just about what they do in the weight room, but it's about taking care of their body outside of the weight room to regenerate their muscles to be able to train hard every single day, not only in the weight room but in their sport.
Sparta bases their workouts on a force plate. The force plate is hooked up to a computer and gives a lot of objective information about the student-athlete. When you jump on the force plate, it shows essentially where you're efficient and where you're deficient, and implementing force into the ground to use for vertical jump, and then they use this information for their workout planning.
SCU: This type of technology sounds great for a sport like volleyball.
AM: It's fantastic. Based on that output, each of our girls has an individualized workout as to where they're deficient and you work hard on those things in order to balance out the student-athlete. Some of these deficiencies are strength-based, some are due to a lack of mobility. It's not just a training program to gain muscle, it's really an educational program of how the body works. Your deficiency isn't necessarily from strength but a certain component of your body that might be through ankle, knee or hip mobility. These show up in your force plate scan. There are lots of things that a trainer can't see when evaluating you, and all these things can be seen on a force plate scan. The training is very objective. It's based on your scan, it's based on numbers. It's not as if someone is appearing to jump higher. They're tested on a weekly basis so they know and there's measured success. Each of our girls has improved two inches on their vertical in six weeks.
It's been a testament to the hard work that the girls have put in, for sure. It's also been a testament to the accountability that Phil has brought to the weight room. And what we like about it as a coaching staff is a lot of the things that Phil teaches and preaches in the weight room are the same messages we teach on the volleyball court: discipline, doing things the right way, understanding that hard work is going to pay off in the long run. Creating that culture in the weight room is something that all of our student-athletes, since they've been here, have not always had. And now that they've seen what a weight room's supposed to feel like and be like, we've already seen the transfer in our sand training and even in the limited indoor training that we've had. We've seen a different mentality from all of our girls and a large part of that is due to Sparta.
SCU: When you go indoors, you start your sand schedule this weekend, but when you go indoors, what differences are you seeing?
AM: I think from a physical standpoint they're able to jump higher for a longer period of time.
SCU: In volleyball that's really important.
AM: Yes, in volleyball that's really important, obviously. They're able to generate a little more power on the ball with their hitting through the use of muscles that they probably haven't been using all the way up until this point. Almost more than that, again going back to the moral and culture part of it, there's more voices in the gym, there's more talking, there's more encouraging, there's more accountability, and I think that that really stemmed from the culture and atmosphere that was started to be created in January with Phil. We see it from a physical level in their play, but we also see it from an emotional investment standpoint as well. And we made a decision as a staff in January that our No. 1 priority from January to June is strength and conditioning. We do train in the sand and we train indoors, but it's never going to get in the way of doing Sparta workouts.
SCU: How much do you enjoy being there with them throughout this six month period?
AM: I love it – I love being in the weight room. It's a way for me to be around the girls, not in a volleyball setting. I also want to work hard to set a good example for work ethic in the weight room. But it's been great to just kind of be able to talk with them and get to know them more on an individual basis, just as people, first and foremost. They're a fun group to be around and I've really enjoyed seeing the change and the transformation of the commitment level, the level of communication, talk between everyone and really how hard they've gotten after it in the weight room. It's been awesome to see.
SCU: Spending that time with them, as a coach, what is most surprising to you? What are a couple things that you've learned from them that you would say, 'Wow, I was really surprised'?
AM: I've been pleasantly surprised with how vocal our freshmen have been. I think that it was a tough situation with them having nine new freshmen and nine girls returning and I'm not sure they ever found their voice in the fall. What's been really great to see and be around is hearing them communicate and motivate even the older girls. And I think that they're starting to kind of find their voice a little bit and gain some confidence from the weight room, and that's transferring into the gym as well.
SCU: Anything else?
AM: In the past, it's been hard for our team to be able to see results short-term. What I do like about Sparta is hard work is a part of it and it's obviously essential to get the results you want to get but there's clear feedback, there's objective feedback over a period of time to show you that your hard work is paying off. So when they do their force plate tests once a week, you can physically see the improvement on a screen in numbers. Seeing that, for them, gives them a great sense of accomplishment and pride to what they're doing three days a week at 7:30 in the morning for an hour and a half is paying off. We've gotten feedback from them that they do feel better on the volleyball court. They feel like they're moving more effortlessly, jumping higher and they do feel stronger which is a big part of it as well. But I like the fact that there's objective data that shows that their hard work is getting them to a good spot.