Motivating Factors

The weight room at the Puskar Center is a place full of motivation. New WVU Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Joseph hopes to continue that trend while adding his own stamp on the program.

Joseph has only been on the job a few weeks, but already is feeling right at home in Morgantown. Perhaps that's because the Fairmont native and former Fairmont State football star has returned to his roots with the most recent career move. A former graduate assistant in the strength program at WVU, Joseph has had stops at Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame on his roundabout route home.

When former colleague Mike Barwis decided to follow Rich Rodriguez to Michigan, Joseph knew that the opportunity of returning home was too much for him to pass up.

"As soon as I heard (the job) was open, I contacted some friends who I knew could help me, got my resume in, and kind of just let it go from there," he explained in a recent interview. "I knew I could get the job by selling myself, and how I run my program. It's efficient, safe, and training athletes the way they should be."

Joseph has spent the past five years at the University of Notre Dame, working mainly with football but also designing strength and conditioning programs for baseball, softball and volleyball. During his time in South Bend, Joseph says he developed an appreciation and understanding of working in an elite but efficient athletic department from top to bottom, something he hopes will continue with the move to Morgantown.

"Working at Notre Dame, I think I developed a good understanding of how a good athletic program should work from the top with the athletic director all the way down," he explained. "I learned how teams should be treated, how to work with people, and working on a national level football program.

"With that caliber of athlete, you need to know how they should be trained every day, how they should on the field playing, and injury prevention," he continued. "Our area of strength and conditioning kind of encompasses all of that."

By the time Joseph arrived at WVU in January, winter conditioning for football had already started. Thus, the new coach is spending his initial weeks on the job trying to change as little as possible, though he hopes to eventually put his own stamp on the program.

Part of that stamp involves a unique way of motivating players to do their best in the weight room, but not to the point of verbally humiliating or degrading them in front of teammates.

The ability to push different buttons and motivate players in different ways is one of the many things that Joseph enjoys about his line of work. He also feels that this innate ability something that separates him from other strength and conditioning coaches, for better or worse. It's not that he's lax; far from it, truth be told. Rather, Joseph says, one can be intensely competitive without crossing the line.

"During my athletic career, I was probably the most competitive person on the field," he recalled. "When I'm in the weight room training, I'm competitive. I'm not a rah-rah, cheerleading guy. But if a guy is doing it wrong, or a guy needs to get going, I'll get in his face with intensity. I'll yell at him in a positive way. I'm never, never negative with a kid. These kids trust you as a coach, and trust you as a mentor. You can't degrade a kid. Everything I do is positive, but I can be intense too.

"Everybody has their own personality," he continued. "Everybody in our profession is trained with an understanding of physiology and a good understanding of science and how it should be done. I think what separates great strength coaches from average is how they express things to kids, how they motivate kids, and how they get kids to do things that they don't want to."

Which is, essentially, Joseph's first major challenge in Morgantown. Through the winter, spring and summer, he will work to earn the trust and respect of Mountaineer players and his fellow coaches. It's a challenge he's looking forward to, particularly given his Mountain State roots which have led him back to the area he calls home.

"I was in a good situation at Notre Dame, but this was a great opportunity for me," Joseph said. "It's a great situation with me being from here, and also getting to be a director. It's one of the greatest opportunities I could ever ask for."

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