Meet Coach Mylo, Part II

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Tom Myslinski got to work as strength and conditioning coach in Chapel Hill in early March, just a couple of weeks before the start of spring practice. Getting to know the Tar Heels players, and their weight room technique, was job No. 1.

"When I came in, technically, I started looking to see where they were – because that designates where we go. I know that we can only go so high until I clean up technique," Myslinski said.

It is not that Myslinski is being critical of his UNC predecessor, Jeff Connors. He feels it is important to make his own assessments about technique.

"Everybody has kind of a different perception of how a lift should look. I'm sure I look at things differently that Coach Connors did. Different athletes are going to have slightly different techniques just because their bodies are different. So, you have to allow for some individual differences. Everybody does not look the same, and you've got to adjust for those individual differences."

Studying the technique that each individual player should use for individual lifts and exercises helps Myslinski increase a player's strength and improve his conditioning, but paying attention to individual differences also help decrease the odds of injury during performance training.

"It's ultimately putting the athlete in the best position for them to have the safest posture," Myslinksi said. "I tell our athlete that if they can't maintain posture, they can't maintain load. The object of what we do in the weight room is to help the athlete get better, not to hurt the athlete. Playing football already pre-exposes our athletes to injury, just because that's the nature of our sport. Our job is to eradicate injuries and try to keep them as healthy as we can."

Myslinski's personal experiences as a professional football player heavily influence his approach to performance training. He strongly believes that each football player needs a regimen designed for him as an individual, dictated by the requirements of individual body types and specific position groups to achieve the desired on-the-field results.

He also believes in communicating the "why" to the players, not just the "how."

"When I was a player, I always wanted to know why," Myslinski said. "As a coach, I want to tell my athletes why. I want them to learn, ‘Hey this is where it's going to translate to the field; this is where it's going to help me. This is why we do this; this is why the big guys do this and the little guys don't do this.'

"I want them to understand why because, to me, a more educated athlete is a much more self-aware athlete. And, in the NFL, the athletes that last the longest are very, very self-aware. They understand their bodies -- they're very mature. They know what their bodies need -- they know how to take care of their bodies."

When "Coach Mylo" gets into the minutia of his profession, the technical details can be overwhelming for the uninitiated to grasp. He talks about ‘alactic anaerobic' and ‘lactic anaerobic' training, about loading and de-loading athletes, and for the layman it's tough to keep up. However, there are a couple of points that he continually emphasizes – in football, it is all about getting maximum effort over a short span of time (the length of a play), and sustaining that ability over the duration of a game and a season.

"Football plays are very alactic, meaning that the shortest play in football lasts for five seconds or less, maybe five and a half at the most, and that's the average for a first, second or third down play – fourth down plays, kickoffs or kickoff returns might last longer," he said. "But, you have to train that energy system," Myslinski said. "It is also very important that an athlete is in shape and has great stamina that can last the entire length of a game, because a game might last up to 80 plays. Or, in the second half of the season and into a bowl game, an athlete has to be fit in order to withstand all those repetitive, high-intensity bouts."

It is the application of all the forms of performance training, the combinations of lifting, stretching, sprinting, running, designed specifically for individuals according to their needs, body types, and position groups on the field, for that express purpose – explosive output repeated 80 times a game, a dozen or so times a year, that is Myslinski's stock in trade. That, at least, is the science of what he does.

"Everything we do in the weight room actually supports developing those abilities," Myslinski said. "The fitness of having the athlete having that alactic anaerobic fitness, and to have the stamina to last the extent of the game, the extent of the season, is extremely important. That's really what I've learned a lot from my track and field background and seeking out those individuals. Really everything we do in the weight room has to support that."

(Tomorrow, Part III, Being a UNC S&C Coach)

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