Feb. 21, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON -- Scott Sinclair became a Master nine months ago through the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association. There are only 115 of those nationally. Eight months later, he landed a new job, for the first time as the man in charge.
You’d have to be a dumbbell to not notice he’s thrilled.
Sinclair is Marshall’s new head strength and conditioning coach, in a role that’s been a revolving door in the Dunfee Weight Room of the Pruett Training Center.
“We hit a home run with this guy,” Holliday said recently. “Scott’s a really good hire for us.”
For 13 years, Sinclair worked as an assistant to respected veteran strength coach Ed Ellis, first at Wake Forest, then Georgia Tech, and for the last nine years at decade-long Marshall rival UCF.
Obviously, a lot of Ellis has rubbed off on Sinclair, 36, whose attention to detail includes vacuuming the Herd weight room, as he was doing Wednesday afternoon before sitting down for an interview. You can call him a strength coach, but Sinclair sees his role as something a bit more weighty, too.
“I try to be more than a strength coach,” Sinclair said. “I’d like to be a ‘life coach,’ for lack of a better term. I guess one thing I feel strongly about is I always wanted to be somebody who could mold young men, give them somebody they can talk to or be there to love ‘em, show ‘em you care.
“I told these guys here the first night I met them, I’ll treat you like to do my own son, and I’ll love ‘em the same way, but in same aspect, I expect respect, expect you to work hard and expect you to do right thing.”
Sinclair was familiar with the Herd program, obviously, as an outsider whose school played Marshall every season since he moved with Ellis to UCF. In succeeding Joe Miday, who moved to Western Kentucky this offseason, Sinclair knows what he wants, but knows that he can only mold players if they allow it.
“The opportunity to come here was about being the head man after an assistant the whole time, but also to work with a program that’s right there on verge of busting open,” Sinclair said. “I want to challenge these guys, get them strong, faster, hopefully put championship team on the field this year. That was something I saw we could do thought would be good opportunity.”
What Miday and his Herd predecessors wanted may not be what Sinclair wants. That’s how the strength and conditioning business works. Sinclair’s philosophy will bring the Herd to its feet, it seems.
“What we’re going to implement here is a ground-based, multi-joint program, athletic movement exercises,” Sinclair said. “I believe in what we call the Olympic lifts, power cleans, hang cleans, snatches, presses things like that. I believe in squat. I believe in training on your feet.
The game of football is movement. It’s played on your feet, and played fast, and I believe … my philosophy is you’ve got to train that way. I’m not a big machine guy, don’t believe in sitting down when you train. There’s a time and place for that and we’ll use some, but I want them on their feet, want them moving, want them explosive.
“I told Coach Holliday I want to give him an explosive, fast athlete. The Xs and Os are on the field, but if we give those coaches someone fast, strong and explosive, if we can produce that product in here, you’re going to give them a good football player.”
Sinclair said that while he has learned from his career-long mentor, he’s also taken from others, like Louie Simmons of the Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio.
“They’re not football players, but they’re power lifters and they’re strong, and I visited Louie and I liked some things he’s done,” Sinclair said. “He’s got explosive strong men there who can jump and lift heavy weights. So, if we put the speed aspect to it, we’ll have an explosive athlete.
“It’s like baking a cake. There are a lot of ingredients in baking a cake, so if I pick and choose here and there things I like, can incorporate into program, I think it’s going to make it all that much better.”
Sinclair, a native of Rockingham, N.C., was an All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference defensive lineman in Guilford (N.C.) College’s 50 scheme as “what you’d call a rush end now,” he said. He ranks second in tackles for loss (40) and third in sack yardage (12-135) in Quakers’ history.
Some of what Sinclair “sells” in the weight room is rooted in his Division III life as a student-athlete, which also included four Guilford baseball seasons.
“I think being at the Division III level allowed me to tell these guys right now how good they have it,” Sinclair said. “In Division III, you play for love of the game. You don’t take planes to games, you take a bus and may leave the day of game. You don’t get three pair of cleats. These guys don’t know how good they have it.
“We didn’t have a strength coach in college. You went in there and lifted yourself and I think that’s how I fell in love with it, trying to come up with things to do on my own. You didn’t have 2-3 sets of uniforms. So I’m able to give them that outlook, you don’t know how good you’ve got it, so let’s take advantage of it.
“I know I appreciate it more, for sure. I come here every day to work, look at this great room and see all things we have and I appreciate it big-time, but I want those guys to appreciate it, too. I tell them they’ve got an opportunity here, so take advantage of it. Use me to get better; that’s my job.
“The pride aspect is important to me; keep this place clean. I don’t want it to be dirty or nasty. This place is an expression of me and it needs to be clean, neat, ready to go because when somebody comes in, I want them to have the ‘Wow!’ factor. I want them to say, ‘Man, this place is great.’”
Sinclair said the hiring process is underway for the department’s assistant coach, a position that was formerly held by Scott Wilks, who went to Western Kentucky with Miday. Former Herd linebacker George Carpenter remains on staff as a GA, and Sinclair wants to add one more grad assistant – a route he didn’t have to go because he “was very lucky,” he said.
“I did an internship my junior year in college at Guilford, over at Wake Forest, and I got to know Coach Ellis,” he said. “I worked hard, busted my butt, learned a whole lot from him, showed him I wanted to be there. Every time I got a chance to go over there on a weekend, I’d show up see what he’s doing, pick his brain.
“And knock on wood, when I graduated from Guilford, I was going to UNC-Chapel Hill as a GA in strength and conditioning, and it just so happened one of the assistants left Wake Forest and Coach Ellis hired me on full-time.”
Some of the Herd football veterans are on their fifth strength and conditioning coach, and Sinclair knows he has to push through that lack of continuity in his part of the program. He’s “been pleased by what I’ve seen so far,” he said.
“I can see them buying into what I’m asking,” Sinclair said. “I told them, ‘Just trust the process. I’m here to help make you a great football player.’ So, trust the process, make it work. For lack of a better term, they’ve been welcoming. They’ve done what I’ve asked, no talk backs, they treat me with respect, as I do them.
“I’m not a big cusser, screamer, yeller. I was when I was younger. Now, I get excited and get energized and I’ll yell a little bit, but I’ve learned you can get more flies with honey sometimes, know what I mean? There’s a way to talk to kids nowadays. When I was growing up, when a coach told a kid to do something, you did it.
“I think we’ve got a different mindset on kids now, and I think you have to approach them different ways. I think that’s what makes a good coach. I think if you scream and yell at everybody, some of them are going to turn you off. But if you talk to them in a good way, some will listen. Others may need you to scream and yell, and you’ve got to identify who needs what and then attack that area you reach them with.
“The ‘life coach’ thing … ‘You’re a gifted athlete don’t waste it.’ We talk about choices. Every Friday we talk and I tell them, ‘You make choices this weekend that are going to help you be a great football player. I can’t walk with you hand-in-hand where you go, so you take it upon yourself to make good choices.’ It’s about more than putting them through a strength program.”
Sinclair’s wife of nine-plus years, Farrah, is the insurance coordinator for the UCF Athletic Association. The new Herd coach said she will be looking for a similar job in Huntington. Their children are son Creed, 8, and daughter Asher, 5.
Sinclair, in addition to his assistant strength coach duties, was UCF unofficial team chaplain for the past four years. He’s offered his help in that regard to Holliday – “I’m here if he needs me,” Sinclair said -- but the Herd has a longtime team chaplain in Ironton, Ohio, minister Steve Harvey – known to the players as “The Rev.”
“I led the (UCF) team in an 8-10-minute devotion on game days,” Sinclair said. “I’m not ashamed of my faith. I think the cool thing I try to do with these guys is relate it to things that they go through. I was in college, and I know the temptations, the struggles they’re going through.
“If I can make ‘em relate to it a little bit, sometimes I think they understand it a little better. I tell you what, I enjoy it, but it may be the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s hard to come up with a new devotion every week, try to change it up. I have great respect for pastors in that regard, for sure.”
Sinclair said he is settling into his job, even as he lives temporarily in an apartment with his family still in Florida. And he is impressed by more than what he has seen in the Dunfee Weight Room.
“The awesome-est thing I’ve seen so far is everywhere I go I see a green shirt with Marshall on it and that just makes me so prideful,” Sinclair said. “At UCF, we had to share that with Florida, Florida State, USF, Miami.
“My wife came up here last weekend and I said, ‘Just watch how many Marshall shirts you see, how much green stuff you see. I’m real excited about the energy and love in the fan base for Marshall. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed so far, and can’t wait to see on Saturday afternoon in the stadium, even in spring ball.”