Sports Extra: Dawson Getting Them Bigger, Stronger and Faster

Arthur Brown

Aug. 21, 2011

By Mark Janssen - K-State Sports Extra

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It’s all about getting bigger, stronger and faster, but in the end, Kansas State director of strength and conditioning Chris Dawson says, “You can have all the stats, bells and whistles that you want, but it boils down to the two things you have the least control over. The two most important things that any team must have are attitude and effort.”

This past summer, the bars were loaded with weights for the K-State football team to use for squats, dead lifts, power cleans and benches. Or as Dawson says, “I ask them to bring your lunch pail in here and throw some weight around. It’s all about hard work. To get better, you have to work hard.”

Dawson worked with roughly 125 Wildcats this summer to get them to the point that they were prepared to play football when two-a-days started earlier this month.

“In the old days, you used two-a-days to get into shape, but now we want them in shape so they only think about playing football when camp opens,” said Dawson. “We want to get them bigger, faster and stronger, and then we’re in the business of continued improvement.”

Each January, Dawson says team strengths and weaknesses are identified, which are then addressed during the winter program and continued into the summer when workouts become more specific to position played.

“We want to enhance our strengths, but at the same time, attack some of the weaknesses to where we hope it’s not a weakness when the fall season opens,” said Dawson, a native of Houston, Texas, and graduate of Oklahoma. “It’s fun to work on the things you’re good on, but most players don’t enjoy working on a weakness.”

Dawson says one can be a fantastic athlete, but a poor football player, or, a quality football player without being a great athlete.

“From a strength and conditioning prospective, we say that the game is played below the waist and above the neck,” said Dawson, who was named National Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2007. “You want your legs and hips in a position to make plays, and then the rest of it is between the ears and deals with your mental toughness.”

Now in his second year in the Wildcat program, Dawson says of this 2011 team, “We’re bigger, faster and stronger, but we have a ways to go. No matter how good or bad you are, no matter how young or old, the quicker you learn that you don’t know anything the better off you’ll be.”

Dawson says it’s best that a significant portion of the weight room coaching comes from “… the older guys passing the culture on to the younger guys. When young guys come into a weight room, they put out feelers on what’s allowed. There better be a message that it’s not acceptable to loaf, and it’s best that the message come from the players.”

The Wildcats worked out three to four days a week during the summer for no more than an hour.

“It can be shorter,” said Dawson, who has had a hand in sending 29 players into the National Football League. “We’ve had a session with great tempo and great intensity when we finished in 48 minutes. In part, the length of the workout is determined by the players, but we will never go over an hour.”

In his second year, Dawson said there’s a better understanding of what he expects, and a better feel for the athletes in the K-State camp.

“It’s not like there’s a 180-degree difference, but you have a better feel for what buttons to push to get them going and get the most out of them,” said Dawson.

The leadership of the strength and conditioning workouts during the summer was said to be good, with Dawson mentioning Collin Klein, Clyde Aufner and Tysyn Hartman as examples of individuals holding the rest of the team accountable.

“They don’t play the game for me or any other coach,” said Dawson. “I’d like to think that they feel accountable to the guys they’re working with shoulder to shoulder.”

Dawson started his coaching career at the University of Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, before going to Kansas to work for Mark Mangino. Both were products of the Bill Snyder coaching staff, who he now works for at K-State.

“Each is a little different, but it’s also amazing how similar they are,” said Dawson of the three coaches. “With people who work for Coach Snyder, what’s common is that attention to detail. They all have that incredible attention to detail. No stone is left unturned. They want no surprises.”

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