Mendoza Interview: Part II

The second of a two-part interview with Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach Ruben Mendoza. In Part Two, Mendoza talks about the importance of a training table and the prospects of Notre Dame getting one. Also, Mendoza discusses his speed training program.

Part One focused on the strength numbers of some of the team's most important players and the improvements of the program since Mendoza took over.

Notre Dame Director of Strength and Conditioning Ruben Mendoza makes changes to his program every year to try to get his athletes better and to keep everything fresh. But some changes are above his pay grade.

Unlike a lot of college athletic programs, Notre Dame does not have a training table that would help staffs monitor the food that their athletes are putting in their bodies.

"I think a training table would be ideal to make us better in any sport," Mendoza said. "Maybe in the future we might be able to get something like that."

For now, athletes at Notre Dame eat at the same dining halls as the rest of the student body and while the food at Notre Dame may be superior to other colleges, Mendoza said that it can be hard for athletes not to take the easy way out.

"Nutrition is the missing link to what we do in here in the sense of athletic performance," said Mendoza, who added that the school does employ a full-time nutritionist who gives recommendations to both the athletes and the dining hall staff. "We're always dispensing advice."

The Irish have a deal with Gatorade that provides a liquid supplement for the athletes' diets, but Mendoza does not want his guys to rely on that.

"We don't want that to become a crutch for these guys where they come in here and supplement their meals and have a liquid diet instead of a solid diet," he said.

Mendoza believes that a training table would be ideal.

"No question I think it would improve overall athletic performance for all sports," he said. "Their demands are a lot different than the average student in what they need to be consuming."

Mendoza is optimistic that Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick will look into it.

"It's in the works. We've put it on the table and I think Jack is definitely open to a lot of things," he said. "He's definitely going to implement a performance team that involves the strength staff, the training staff, academics, nutrition, any aspect that makes the experience for student athletes at Notre Dame great."

But Mendoza also acknowledges that nothing has been confirmed yet as far as the training table.

"It's just talk right now, but from my aspect and from my standpoint, that's something that I'm definitely going to try to push," he said.

Mendoza has also pushed for a sandpit and a three-percent grade hill somewhere on campus to help his players develop their speed.

"Those are in the works," he said. "When they reconfigured these fields out here, those are two of the things that I asked for and I think they're going to be put in next year sometime."

Running in sand provides resistance that will develop leg strength while running hills helps to lengthen strides.

"Speed does kill. Speed causes chaos and confusion," said Mendoza. "If you have a fast team, there's no question that you're definitely going to be a good football team."

Mendoza has the Irish skill players working on speed training three days a week.

"Speed work is done all of the time," he said. "You can always improve mechanics. I think if you improve mechanics, you can definitely become an efficient runner."

Mendoza's staff uses all types of different techniques to improve the players' speed. The athletes tow bungee cords from behind them to coaches in front of them, they run with parachutes falling behind them and they train against the resistance of tires with medicine balls in them.

Mendoza makes sure that the players are getting their work done when they are with him.

"I want quality work," said Mendoza. "It's not about how much work you do and being out there for two hours and working on speed, but the quality of work that you're actually doing."

He works with about 15 skill position players every Wednesday who are considered ‘elite' on a pair of machines in the Gug.

The Irish players use a force production machine that is basically a treadmill that runs on the force of the individual using it. The athletes also use an overstride machine that goes up to 25 miles per hour and goes fast enough to require a harness to keep them safe.

"The thing that I like about those two machines is that you're right there coaching the mechanics," said Mendoza. "Whereas on the field, I'm standing in one certain area and they're running away from me and I can't correct."

The fastest player on this year's team, according to previous bests, is running back Armando Allen, who clocked a 4.42 hand held 40-yard dash and was timed at 4.39 electronically. Cornerback Terrail Lambert, who exhausted his eligibility last season, ran a 4.36 and a 4.37 at his Pro Day last month.

But Mendoza does not concentrate on 40-yard dashes, Notre Dame pays closer attention to shorter distances and uses other combine drills to gauge speed.

"Everything is achieved in the first eight to 10 strides in your 40," he said. "We're talking about burst of speed and acceleration."


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