No Pain, No Gain

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the fall 2017 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Strength and conditioning coach Jami Clinton works with a volleyball team member Alyssa Porter during a training session.

Two years ago, the UT Dallas athletics program added its first full-time strength and conditioning coach along with a first-class workout facility.

Since that time, the program has had two of its most successful seasons, adding seven conference championship awards to its trophy case.

Coincidence? Probably not.

“I believe that what I do and how I work with the student-athletes makes a difference,” said Jami Clinton, whose more than 15 years of professional experience proved useful as she designed the UTD strength and conditioning program. “But I also give credit to just how hard the kids want to work. This is a highly motivated group. They don’t want to be average in anything they do.”

“Having this program has made a huge difference,” said Polly Thomason, the Comets head women’s basketball coach. “[Per NCAA Division III restrictions], we coaches are only able to be around our athletes for a short amount of time each year. But Jami is able to be around them 365 days a year — instructing them, motivating them and inspiring them. It’s huge.

“When our athletes work out with a group and have a [strength and conditioning] coach right there with them, they are pushed to another level,” said Thomason, whose team ran away with a third conference title in 2017.

“This is a highly motivated group. They don’t want to be average in anything they do.”

The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics created a facility that now includes more than $100,000 worth of weights and cardio equipment. The new space is not only an ideal spot for teams to stay fit but also a place where University faculty and staff can work out. During certain set times, the facility is in use by Clinton and the athletes. She works one-on-one with the players, tailoring sport-specific workouts that continue throughout the year.

“I teach athletes what it’s like to actually train for a specific sport year-round,” Clinton explained. “For example, an average college student might just want to work on general lifting. But a baseball pitcher needs to spend more time on pulling-type exercises, building strength in the upper back and shoulder muscles to decelerate the force of throwing a ball. Someone who’s just been doing bench presses might be more susceptible to injury if they don’t train correctly.”

“I think the players have really been challenged,” said head men’s soccer coach Jason Hirsch, whose teams have won back-to-back conference championships the last two seasons. “They get in there and have a goal in mind in terms of their body — not just fitness-wise but in terms of adding the strength and explosiveness they need for their sport.”

“I tell them all the time, you’re not training to be on a beach or look in the mirror. You’re training to win conference championships,” Clinton said. “The athletes we really rely on — the starters, the key players — they are all in. And it’s obvious. They expect perfection in everything they do.

“There’s nothing better than seeing an athlete you’ve worked with grow, excel and succeed.”