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Sports Conditioning: Four Keys to Becoming a Div 1 Athlete

Game On Camps sat down with NCAA DIV 1 Sports Performance Coach Stephen Reich to find out what it takes from a sports conditioning standpoint to become a Division 1 athlete. Reich, who served as a sports performance coach at The Citadel, Northwestern and Georgia Tech before becoming the Assistant Director of Sports Performance at Grand Canyon University, says it comes down to these four elements:

· Coachability

· Quality of Movement

· Mastery of the Basics

· Faith


“Coachability is the key to everything,” says Reich. “It doesn’t matter if your strength coach is giving you an Olympic level program: How coachable are you? Are you allowing the coach to push you outside your comfort zone? Are you receptive to things you may not want to hear? How good are you at listening and following instructions? Are you willing to stick to a plan and see it through?”

If the willingness and discipline is there, Reich says that the next most important thing to remember is that quality of movement is always more important than the quantity of the load.


“I’m always surprised at how many incoming freshmen are not proficient at basic movement, and it sets them up to be at a higher risk for injury. My training philosophy when it comes to athletes is, Quality of Movement is more important than Quantity of Load. Athletes don’t train to see how much weight they can lift (unless their sport is weightlifting); they train to be able to perform at a high level playing their sport.”

Reich advises that if you want to make it to Division 1, instead of focusing on how much weight you can lift, instead train your body to perform these five basic movement patterns:

1. Squatting

2. Pulling-off-the ground

3. Hip Hinging

4. Lunging

5. Upper Body Pushing/Pulling

Reich says that these five movements will not only set an athlete up for success at the next level but will also protect them from injuries that can steal their success as soon as it is achieved.


Reich also warns young athletes to beware of novel workouts. “A lot of times, personal trainers and even sometimes strength coaches will post unique and novel workouts just to get ‘Likes’ or to showcase the athletes they’re training,” explains Reich. “Just because Lebron James is doing curls on a Bosu Ball doesn’t mean that’s the secret to his success on the court OR that you need to be doing the same exercise in order to get to his level of performance.”

Reich advises athletes not to fall for the “sport specific” or “latest and greatest” exercises on social media. “Younger athletes or athletes at different skill levels will see the workouts and not understand the context or the ‘why’ behind it.”

Instead, Reich says young athletes should focus on mastering the basics, like proper posture, push-up position, and squat technique.


As important as sports conditioning is to the success of an athlete, Reich says there is one intangible factor that has made all the difference not only in his own success, but the success of many of his athletes—faith in God.

“I am a Christian--I have an incredibly personal relationship with God—and I believe God is the one aligning my stars,” says Reich. “Too many opportunities have come at the strangest times.” For example, Reich says he was originally only listed as an alternate for the graduate assistant position at The Citadel but due to an incredible turn of events, he was the one offered the job. And then there is the story behind his current position at GCU which just happened to open up at the perfect time. “The list goes on and on,” confesses Reich.

“With great power and many blessings comes a great responsibility to use and make the most of them. I think that responsibility is where my energy comes from to help and develop the athletes,” says Reich.


“I just can’t stress enough the importance of being coachable and getting good at those foundational movements I listed of before:

· Squat below parallel

· Pick something up off the ground with a flat back and using your hips

· Being able to hinge at the hip without arching or rounding your back

· Being able to lunge forward/backward with great core control and stability

· Doing a perfect push-up/pull-up

Reich ensures that if young athletes focus on these foundational elements, they will continue to get faster, stronger, and more agile and will have what it takes to compete at higher and higher levels.

Stephen Reich grew up playing high school football and soccer, but loved training for sports as much as playing them. As an undergrad, he interned with Georgia Tech’s Strength and Conditioning staff and went on to become a Graduate Assistant Coach at The Citadel before becoming the Assistant Director of Sports Performance at Northwestern. Currently, he is the Assistant Director of Sports Performance at GCU where he trains the Women’s Basketball and Track/Field teams. Reich holds a master’s degree in Health, Exercise, and Sports Science; a Strength & Conditioning Coach Certification (SCCC) from the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA); and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist Certification (CSCS) from the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA).


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