Jefferson High School hopes it’s getting ahead of the strength and conditioning curve with its latest move.
The school has hired a full-time staffer to oversee its strength and conditioning program exclusively. The new hire, Mike Morgan, has no other coaching duties. He has been on the job since Jan. 2 after four and a half years of NCAA Division-I level experience at The Citadel.
The 29-year-old said being employed in this specialized position at a high school is “a tremendous opportunity.”
“Obviously, I’m biased as a strength and conditioning coach thinking that the strength and conditioning is important,” Morgan said, “but especially at that high school age, you really have an ability to positively affect the kids both mentally and physically and really set them up for success.”
High school athletic departments usually add strength and conditioning duties to that of a head coach or assistant coach of a sport, but Jefferson will now operate under a different structure than most.
“His (Morgan’s) focus is only going to be the development of our athletes,” Jefferson athletic director Bill Navas said.
Navas said he believed the school was already “ahead of the curve” with coaches in-house with advanced knowledge of strength and conditioning.
“But they also coach another sport,” he said.
With the science of strength training constantly changing, Jefferson decided to put a specialist in place with the hire of Morgan. It also sought to mirror the strength programs at major college athletic departments in doing so, consulting both the University of Georgia and Clemson University during the process.
Navas said he feels Jefferson is on the forefront with this move.
“I think 20 years from now everybody is going to have a CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) on their staff,” Navas said.
Morgan’s hiring was the result of a national search.
The 29-year-old’s workload was extensive as the associate director of strength and conditioning coordinator at The Citadel. He oversaw strength and conditioning for the men’s basketball, wrestling, women’s soccer, cross country and men’s tennis program and assisted with football. Morgan also headed up The Citadel’s nutrition program.
“Mike was the best fit for us because he was going to jell with our coaches,” Navas said.
Navas said bringing in a highly-qualified strength coach was essential in getting the rest of Jefferson strength coaches on board in supporting this change.
At Jefferson, Morgan will guide staff of four existing strength coaches, similar to a college program. According to Navas, Morgan’s program will grow Jefferson in three areas: strength training, movement (agility, speed) and injury prevention/rehabilitation.
Navas pointed to competitive reasons for making this move. He said Jefferson’s future athletic classification under the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) designation is uncertain and felt improvements in strength training for its athletes were imperative. Navas said “we’re not thinking like” other schools in the county in terms of strength training.
He said that’s not meant as a slight to Jefferson’s neighbors.
“I just don’t want to think like they are because we’re going to be treated differently in terms of the Georgia high school league and our enrollment,” he said. “For better or for worse, the chances of us being elevated every time there’s a reclassification is pretty high. So, we want to make sure there’s a premium on coaching.”
NEW STRENGTH COACH
Jefferson’s new strength coach is originally from Albany, New York and holds degrees from Rhode Island (undergraduate) and Springfield College (graduate). Morgan’s athletic background is in taekwondo, in which he holds a fourth-degree black belt. He competed at nationals three times and the U.S. Open once. Morgan began teaching classes when he was 15.
Morgan became interested in the Jefferson job after one of his mentors, a coach at a South Carolina high school, notified him of the opening. Morgan said he was sold on Jefferson during his interview.
“It’s a great place to be at,” he said. “I felt it on my interview, the sense of community that everybody had, and working there, I feel the same thing.”
Similar to Navas’ statements, Morgan said working as a full-time strength coach when most high schools don’t employ one gives Jefferson an advantage over its opponents.
Morgan also said Jefferson will turn over athletes to colleges with experience in a college-level strength and conditioning program.
He summed up his philosophy to strength and conditioning as one of consistent work, even on game days. Morgan noted that both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams lifted the day they won their respective region titles, “and no body complained a word about it.”
“We train every day,” he said. “We’re never in there making the kids so sore that they can’t go out to practice. We’re smart in managing the volume and managing the intensity, but I think that there’s a mindset that comes along with it of, ‘Hey, we’re going to lift and get after it.’”