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On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Tommy Moffitt, the Director of Strength & Conditioning and Assistant Athletic Director at LSU. Coach Moffitt has spent 20 years helping strength train and condition the LSU football team, who won 187 games during Coach Moffitt’s tenure, easily the best stretch in school history. On this episode of Bring It In season two, Coach Moffitt and Sam discussed what it takes to become a truly successful coach, what it takes to run a major football program, what got Coach Moffitt into the coaching profession, what success looks like at a premiere Division 1 Football team, and the idea of ‘failure.’
Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Below are some of the insights Tommy Moffit shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.
Sam: Can you tell everybody a little bit about you and what got you to where you are?
Moffitt: As a kid growing up, I had older brothers that were high school athletes and we just had a set of barbells in the garage. My dad was a mechanical engineer so he fabricated all the equipment that we needed. Growing up in a small farming community in middle Tennessee, there wasn’t a local gym that we could go to. So working out with my brothers was just something that I was good at as a kid, it helped with a lot of things. It gave me self-esteem and confidence and ability to play better on the football field. I was a wrestler growing up also. As far back as I can remember, this was all that I cared about. The author Harvey Mackay in one of his books said “do what you love, love what you do, and always deliver more than you can promise.”
So when I went to college my first major was electrical engineering. That didn’t last long at all. I thought it would be cool to be an FBI agent or work in the secret service or the CIA. I became a criminal justice major and I would sit through class and all I could think about was when I would get to go to the gym and what was going to be going on at practice that afternoon. After struggling through two years of college in two different majors I decided to change my major to health and physical education. There’s a lot of different names for it now but then it was an HP major. I did that and I never went to college another day of my life. My life changed and you know, this is something that I think about all the time. Vince Lombardi, one of his most famous cliches is winning is that “it’s not a sometimes thing, it’s an all the time thing.” Growing up in this industry, a lot of my mentors exhibited that type of behavior in their everyday life. I can remember being a young strength coach at the University of Tennessee and watching my boss and thinking to myself he walks that walk and everything about him was winning, from the house, from how he carried himself from the first moment that he walked into our gym. Just by having great mentors and a lot of life experiences, it led me down this path and I don’t think I’ve really worked a day in my life. I spend a lot of hours here each day, but it’s not like I’m going to work. I work with incredible people. I work with young people between the ages of 18-22, occasionally we’ll have someone that’s 23 years old. I work with males and females in the prime of their life, they’re enthusiastic about everything that we do. I can’t think of a greater profession than this here for me. I can’t imagine doing anything but being a collegiate strength and conditioning coach.
Sam: I try to explain to people the world that you’re in as being a strength coach and a performance coach. Every day you come in and you think about how you make an athlete, just 1% better, take a pair off the 40, and then it goes on and on about performance. What do you think about what success looks like every day? You live in a world where there’s a lot of numbers that you can measure by, but how do you think about success?
Moffitt: One of our basic fundamental goals each day is to make sure that our worst day is better than everyone else’s and the reason I say that is because we learn by failure in athletics. We recruit the best athletes in America to come here, we’ve probably finished in the top three or four every year in recruiting statistics and rankings. We get the best of the best. When those guys come here, they go from being a big fish in a little pond to being a very small fish in a gigantic pond because everybody on our roster is good. It doesn’t matter what position you play. They are immediately faced with adversity from the first time that they step foot on our campus.
We pushed the envelope here in training so we’d learned by failure. We have bad days. We have some bad days here, the only way to get stronger is to lift heavier weights. The only way to get faster is to sprint and run fast. We push the envelope and work at a very high level with a lot of intensity and because of that, there’s a lot of failure. We have to constantly motivate these young men that you learn through failure and you peel yourself up off the ground and you keep pushing yourself. Through that process, that daily process of building them up and then failing and building them up and then failing you build a set of armor, so to speak that you take into the arena on Saturday night or Saturday afternoon. They compete against another team because that other team they recruit well, especially in the Southeastern conference, they recruit just like we do, they train just like we do and. I tell our players that the brain is the strongest muscle in the body and because of that, you get to a point where it’s no longer physical, it’s mental. It’s an emotional experience that you have out there in the stadium.
Sam: You’ve coached a heck of a lot of players over the years. What have you seen shift over the years in an athlete’s mindset and how have you had to change to connect with them better?
Moffitt: The internet has changed more for us than anything.The exposure that a lot of these young men and young women get at an early age drives the recruiting process. Sometimes you fly over a lot of really good football players to probably get to someone that’s not as good a player, but could have had more exposure because of the area that he lives in. A lot of this is media driven and a lot of these young men and women are ranked higher than a lot of other people that are probably better players. You really have to sift through a lot of information to really find out if this person is as good as they say he is number one. Number two, the technology that we have available today to track our athletes and to test them is unbelievable. The way we train our players now and the way we track everything, every time they wiggle, they have some kind of sensor tracking. We use two very important pieces of technology. We have a system called perch and it’s a barbell velocity tracking system. Every time the barbell moves from the time you pick it up until you set it down, it tracks a set of values which is distance time and then the load on the bar. We get meters per second, we get mean and peak velocities. In addition to that, we have a force plate that we jump on twice a week. Every time the players come in to train, we train four days a week. Two of those days, they’re going to jump on the force platform again so we distanced time velocities. We also do isometric testing with them to mid thigh isometric pool once a week, so that we know everything about these guys in the weight room. Every time we go into the indoor facility or outside to run or to practice, they have a GPS device on them that tracks everything, but power, distance, time, velocity. They still haven’t come out with an algorithm yet to measure power, but we get everything else. You’ll recruit someone or you feel like that player is better than another player. When you compare the data, sometimes it’s not the best player that’s the guy that’s on the field. Many times it will tell you that this guy, a highly ranked player, possesses a neuromuscular system that is three times greater than everyone else in his group. We’re able to track these guys down to the most minute detail and then we’re able to compare that player. We have force velocity profiles on these guys that you’re able to compare against some of the best players that we’ve ever had here, whether it be in velocities or power or whatever the variable may be. That is the biggest thing that we have now that we didn’t have before and we use it in evaluating each player, but we also use it to educate the player on where his weaknesses are, the things that we need to focus on. For instance, just with lower body asymmetries. If you jump a player on the force platform, let’s say for instance, his right leg has an asymmetry in five or six different variables we will take him over to the purge barbell velocity system. Then we can have him do single leg squats to focus on his right leg, where there’s an asymmetry. After X number of days, weeks, or months, bring him back on the force platform. Test him again to see if we’re actually making improvements where he has weaknesses.
Sam: What’s the process like to educate a player in the value of all that technology?
Moffitt: When we talk to them on a daily basis, we talk to them about the different things that we see in each of them. It’s all about education and coaching is teaching and teaching is motivating people to learn. We use the different data sets that we have in our conversations with them before and after every workout. If we squatted yesterday, which we did and when I got my report, if I look at the velocities and the weight, which I get a report after every training session. The next time we’re squatting, i’m going to talk to them about the data set from the previous squat training day and say here’s where we were lacking and this is what we have to work on today to improve upon. If I have a position group that’s underperforming, during football school, which is something that we do now, we’re not allowed to practice, but we’re allowed to still go out and do some ongoing skill development. We call that football school. If I look at a group that’s underperforming and not practicing certain velocities that they should be able to do, then we’ll call that group in and talk to them. Whether it’s the wide receivers or the defensive backs. And just say, guys, you know, we should be averaging 18.2 miles per hour. Today, today we came in at 17.5. We play at 18.3 miles per hour. It’s important that we are training specific to the demands that you’re going to be faced with in the game and you got to pick it up. Our details and how we explain things are much more precise than in the old days when you would tell the kids shut up and practice harder
Sam: I remember playing high school football in South Florida. When I thought back to when I just came out of playing, you always thought you did everything wrong. We were just around a good program where you were always on edge. As I got farther away and I kept coming back to having that annual breakfast with the coach. You start to hear him talk about how players have changed and it started going away. Maybe we’re a little tougher 20, 30 years ago.How has that changed from your seat? You’re still connecting with kids and you know, I talked to just as a reference, I talked to CEOs and leaders who say things like our kids change. They don’t listen, they’re lazy, etc. What do you say to that?
Moffitt: We’re the ones who have changed. There are some young men and women who have a little heightened sense of entitlement. But generally speaking, that changes immediately upon coming to campus, when they realize how far they are behind the person that’s in front of them. Some of that can be parent driven. We all know the helicopter parent, you know, at a little league baseball game. Well, that doesn’t change. From the time you go from little league baseball to college baseball, the mom and dad seldom change. We’re the ones that have changed. Not the kids. They’re no different today than they were when I was a high school coach in 1987, they want to be coached. When we do our goal setting activities, one of the things that we always ask them, in addition to what their goals are, we have individual and team goals. We ask them as a coach, what do you want us to do for you to help you to achieve these goals? Every one of them says, coach me harder, hold me more accountable, make me do the right thing. It doesn’t matter if that happened in 1991 or 2001 or 2021. They want to be pushed. Now how you push them has changed some, like, you know, in the old days, they’d say, coach, why are we doing this? And you can just say, because I told you to, but now they want to know. The reason why, and that’s okay. The more we educate our players on the why, the better they are when we ask them to do something. That’s just the way it is with technology and all the exposure that you have to the internet. Now people that have egos aren’t going to be successful in this day and age. There’s nothing wrong with a player or a coach asking questions on the why. That is really one of the only things that have changed that more players today will ask you, why am I doing this? And we owe it to them because it improves the output. We’re in a result driven industry here, you either win or you lose, you have a 50, 50 chance every day when you go out there you’re either going to win or lose. That’s the way training is, it’s result driven. If you’re not getting stronger and faster than you’re not getting any better. Coach Saban, is famous for you either getting better or are you getting worse? You never say the same. And that’s kind of the way it is in athletics because it’s result oriented and everybody trains. Everybody runs, everybody recruits. If you’re not getting better than you’re going to get passed up. You just have to keep coaching them and keep coaching them and we’re very positive about how we do it. I tell our staff every day and this is one of the most important aspects of coaching. You have to calculate an attitude that you want your team to have, and you have to have that attitude first. If I’m a leader, if I’m a manager, if I’m a position coach or the strength coach and i’m not motivated and unenthusiastic, that’s how the people that are under me are going to be, if I’m positive, if I’m enthusiastic, if I’m working hard, if our players see me work hard, They’re going to work hard. If they see my staff working hard, they’re going to work hard. The more people that we have that have buy-in to what we’re trying to get them to do the better our success is going to be.
Sam: That’s great. I was going to ask you, why did you bring up coaching coaches? You’ve had so many people that have gone on to coach elsewhere. You’ve got a pretty big coaching tree yourself. If you hired me tomorrow — let’s say I decided to scrap the whole business and I want to get back into strength conditioning and I come down to campus and I follow you. What qualities would you look for in me as a coach on your staff?
Moffitt: Skill set is not one of them. It would be your work ethic and how well you communicate. If you can’t communicate in this industry, again, you’re not going to be successful because you’re trying to get someone to do something that a lot of times they might not think they can do because you’re pushing that envelope. You have to be able to communicate. You have to be able to motivate guys and you have to have a tremendous work ethic. We can teach you to teach others how to squat and to bench into power, clean and deadlift. We can teach them. The thing that is tough is their work ethic and how well they get along with others. That would be the thing that I am most interested in finding out about you. We have a system of recruiting training and developing young strength coaches, just like we do football players.I feel confident that we’ve got it down to a rough science. We look for young men and women that were former athletes, collegiate athletes.We look for them to come from division two division three schools, instead of division one. I feel this is just my personal feelings that I would rather hire a coach that paid to play his sport versus one who looked at it as a means to an end. A lot of people play collegiate football today because they have a goal of going to the NFL and becoming a millionaire and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I have found that the best coaches are guys that come from division two and division three schools where they played sports because they loved it. Many of them paid their own way to play. If you weren’t wearing extra workout gear, you had to pay for it. If you lost your shorts, you had to pay for them. Those people just seem to make better coaches. Then we look for young men and young women that were strength and conditioning award winners for their collegiate sport.
We look for young men and women who are all conference, all academic, all americans. They don’t have to be professional athletes, but we’re looking for overachievers. One of the best strength coaches that I ever hired, he was a walk-on. He was at three times strength and conditioning award winner for his football team.He was all conference. He was an academic all conference player as well. I knew that he was going to be an overachiever and he was going to have the same attitude as a coach that I wanted our athletes to have, instead of somebody that had been given every opportunity they ever wanted in life. When it most counted making it to the NFL, they failed and when they came back, they’re just clocking in every day. They’re not passionate about what we do, and you have to have a tremendous amount of passion to do this on a daily basis.
Sam: I’d love to give you just the last word on any piece of advice that you would have for any leaders out there going into 2021, 2020 was tough for a lot of folks. What do they need to do? Any piece of advice you have for them, put them in the weight room with you.
Moffitt: I would like to finish how I started, there are two things I’d like to share. One is to make sure that your worst day is better than everyone else’s, you’re going to fail. There’s going to be tough days and there’s going to be losses but you have to peel yourself up off the ground and keep trying, keep working, keep striving, keep studying, keep learning. You’re going to have success just through the process of elimination. You’re going to have success if you keep trying the moment that you give up, you fail and you, and you fail forever. Then the other one, and I will never forget this is. Do what you love, love what you do, and always deliver more than you promise.
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