June 10, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – It’s a big sandy, super … workout.
As part of Marshall’s summer strength and conditioning program, the football team is spending part of one day a week in a place no Herd football team has been for the past three years.
New head strength Coach Joe Miday has brought back workouts in the Herd’s sand pit to the regimen. The Marshall pit – a lot of major schools don’t have one and Miday says the Herd’s pit “has to be as big as anybody’s in the country” – measures 42 by 11 yards and is tucked among the Dunfee Weight Room, Sam Hood Field and the east stands of Edwards Stadium.
Herd senior star wide receiver Aaron Dobson had done just about every weight workout imaginable, since he played for Coach John Messinger – a former powerlifting champion and strong weight room advocate – before coming to Marshall. Dobson had even had a Black Eagle hand in pulling a pickup truck during SCHS summers.
“It’s different,” Dobson said. “It’s another way to get stronger, and we’re all out here together, so it’s about teamwork, too.”
Marshall has had its sand pit since the spring of 2004. Mark Gale, the Herd’s assistant athletic director for football operations, saw that Tennessee had a sand pit when the Herd traveled to Knoxville and lost to the No. 11 Vols at Neyland Stadium in September 2003.
He came back and mentioned it to Rick Meckstroth, former Young Thundering Herd starting linebacker (1971-73 letterman) and co-founder of Master Mechanical Insulation in Huntington. Gale said Meckstroth was on the project “immediately.”
“Rick donated the time, money, equipment to do it,” Gale said. “He asked about the size and length, and he said we’re going to build it bigger and better than any of ‘em.”
Miday said the Herd will go outdoors into the granules for at least 20 minutes on Fridays through the rest of the summer session, which lasts until July 31 (with a week off starting June 28). The sand is wetted and dragged for the start of workouts. By the time the Herd was finished Friday morning, there were mounds that would have been a good start toward a sand castle at Myrtle Beach.
And while Miday said the most important thing a strength coach can do is train players to protect their neck and shoulders by getting stronger, it’s the legs that get the workout in the sand.
“There are a couple of things that are the reason we go to the sand,” said Miday, who is starting his sixth season on the MU strength staff but first in charge. “First, it’s different for our guys, and our guys do well with ‘different.’ No .2, it’s low-impact.
“Think about a 300-pound lineman on the field, running outside on the pavement, the pounding. First, I have to take care of their body. As strength coach, the No. 1 thing is making sure they can get on the field.
“There is a third thing about it, too. It’s hard, it’s hard. The sand is going to give. It’s going to take more muscle explosion, more muscle fiber to come out of your cuts, your breaks, so when they do go to transfer it onto the field and the turf, they feel faster.”
Dobson agreed with that assessment, as did classmate and linebacker Devin Arrington.
“The sand pit, the difference between here and there (the weight room) is I think more guys are psyched to do it,” Arrington said. “There is an advantage to it, because the sand gives more, and allows you to use more muscle than a flat surface. It makes you use more … it’s more strenuous.
“It’s easier on your knees than on the turf, too. When you then get on hard surface, you feel that much lighter.”
The players do sprints, laterals and broad jumps in the sand … in multiples, and timed. It’s no day at the beach, especially when it’s at the end of what has been a strenuous, keep-moving, disciplined 75-minute session.
Miday believes in sand sessions and sells it.
“Not everyone in the strength world is going to use the sand pit,” he said. “I have no idea how many schools have them, but ours has to be as big as anybody’s in the country. We did more straight-ahead stuff (Friday). I like doing agilities in the sand pit, and these drills they did today, it was the first time they ever did that. They picked it up fast.”
And out there, in bare feet, sprinting with the players while Miday called off seconds was assistant strength coach Scott Wilks, who was in then-Coach Bob Pruett’s program when the pit – about 3 feet deep -- was installed.
“I think the sand is the greatest thing I’ve ever found as a strength coach,” Miday said. “I try to use my body as an example, and my staff and I go out and use the sand pit, so we know what it feels like.
“It feels a lot better on my knees and ankles, and I want the guys to know when they walk away that they got better every day. So, if they do like it, some will continue to use it. Now, they don’t have a choice.”
Arrington was asked his immediate thought when was first told he was going to do Herd agility work in the sand.
“You laugh,” said the senior linebacker who is from Virginia’s Tidewater region and been at Virginia Beach plenty of times. “You’ve been on the beach before, but this is tougher.
“There’s no water, and it’s West Virginia sand.”
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The next few days will continue to bring campers in large numbers to Edwards Stadium.
“It’s another indication of the growing interest in the program and just some of the things we’re trying to do here,” Herd Coach Doc Holliday said.
The Herd’s camp for high school seniors was scheduled Saturday, with about 150 athletes attending. On Sunday, a camp for those from kindergarten through grade 12 had 123 pre-registrants, with another 50-60 walkups expected.
For that camp, Holliday and the athletic department have made attendance free of charge for children of Marshall University employees.
Next week, Marshall holds 7-on-7 passing camps Tuesday and Wednesday, with 22 high school teams – about 450-500 players -- registered over the two days. Then on Thursday, the Herd holds its annual fantasy camp for the older set.