"They give us a maximum allowance of eight hours a week for mandatory training," said Marotti of the N.C.A.A. regulations on winter lifting. "Currently our schedule is we are strength training four times a week. We have two days of linear speed training and explosive training and two days of lateral speed and agility training."
Eight hours a week doesn't seem like a lot. We asked Marotti if they players trained some on their own. "If you are really intense about what you are doing, eight hours is plenty. It's not so much how much time you put it, it's quality of what you are doing. The kids do train some by themselves. The kickers will kick--the quarterbacks and wide receivers will throw. They will have some seven-on-seven but that is set up completely on their own."
The Irish didn't have the kind of season many had hoped for on 2003. We asked Marotti if he's seen some extra motivation from the Irish players in the weight room. "It's like anything in life, when you have a rough go at what you're doing, you pick yourself up, regroup and go at it harder. Those guys worked hard last year. For whatever reason, it didn't work out like we all wanted it to last year. I think everyone is mentally driven to be better this year."
Strength training has advanced so much in recent years. Marotti says he evaluates each player before they begin lifting and builds a program for each player to help them advance in areas they need to work on. "At the end of the season we look back at each individual. We look at where they are at physically--with training mental goes with it as well. We look at all the tangible measurements with physical training. We look at where we are at, where our goals are going to be, and how we are going to get there."
The Irish coaches also have input into where an Irish player needs to improve. "I sit down with coaches and we talk about everybody. We discuss where the player needs to improve and then come up with a plan."
"I then sit down with each player," Marotti continued. "We go over each intangible—weight, speed, body composition, etc. We also go over the objective things like work ethic, demeanor and attitude. We try to give them all the right tools and the proper motivation. It's important to have the right attitude when training. It is kind of a psychologist's job at some times."
Marotti has been at his position for a while and has worked under both Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham. We asked if there is any difference between the way Davie wanted to train his players versus the way Willingham would like to train his players. "I'd rather not compare the staffs. I've worked with a lot of coaches over the years. Every coach want the fastest, quickest, most flexible, strongest, most powerful, most explosive athletes they can have. That's really all there is to it."
The Irish and Marotti will be getting some much needed help very soon. The Guglielmino Family Athletics Center will be completed soon giving the Irish state of the art equipment and space to train with. "The facility is going to make all the difference in the world. It will be the top—and I'm just speaking from the strength and conditioning side—the top facility in the country. It's going to have everything that we need, everything the athletes need, we can't be more excited about it."
Some Irish fans have suggested the Notre Dame was falling behind other schools because Irish players do not eat at a training table with food intended just for football players. We asked Marotti if this would have any impact on the field. "I'm not sure an actual training table is the difference in anything. It's the actual education in knowing how and what to eat. An athlete still has to make the same choices our players have to make. It all comes down to commitment, dedication and discipline of what you need to need as an athlete."
"We are very fortunate because we recently hired a fulltime sports nutritionist," Marotti continued. Her name is Mandy Clark. She has already made an immediate impact on our athletes. She works with me and is part of my staff."
Since we had Marotti on the phone, we thought we'd ask which players have been making big strides in the weight room. "They've all been doing a good job and that is what we need. The biggest change is always the freshmen making the biggest impact. That's just because they have the most room to improve. You do see a change in them. I don't want to single anyone out because it's unfair if I might forget somebody. If they weren't working hard, I'd kick them right out and they'd have to go train somewhere else."
Speaking of the freshmen, many believe this is the most athletic class they've signed in a while. Who better to ask than Marotti? "I don't know if I can compare classes, but they are very talented. It all depends on how they pan out I guess. I do know they have a very good attitude and they are learning what and how they need to do things. Once they do that, they have the chance to be a very good class."