Strength and Conditioning Bring Benefits to Athletes at

Strength and Conditioning Bring Benefits to Athletes at

Webber International University

BY JON SALM

In Babson Park, Webber Intern
ational University’s strength and conditioning program has quietly become one of the premier programs in the NAIA. Stephen Rassel, Webber’s head strength and conditioning coach, started working at Webber in 2009 and has overseen a complete overhaul of the department.

“When I first got here, I needed to get the administration and athletes to buy in to having a top S&C department,” Rassel said. “I came from the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs baseball organizations and knew that we could bring the same professionalism and training benefits to Webber’s athletes.”

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In order to do this, Rassel needed to prove the benefits of topnotch strength and conditioning to Webber’s administrators. Over 85% of the school’s 650 to 700 students participate in intercollegiate athletics, and an improved program would mean fewer injuries to the athletes and less medical costs for the school.

“My goal for Webber Strength and Conditioning is a vision in three steps,” Rassel said. “One – to get every athlete on a beneficial workout plan. Two – to tailor workout plans to be sport-specific. And three – to individualize workouts to fit each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ve done the first two and are now realizing step three.”

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While Rassel is still working to complete his final vision, Webber’s administration and athletes have already seen the benefits. Since Rassel began in 2009, Webber has seen a 35% decline in injuries and major surgeries, which has saved the school approximately $150,000 in expenses, according to Tim Desmarteau, Webber’s head athletic trainer.

Dr. Steve Warner, Webber’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement and former head men’s soccer coach, also noticed the improvements to the strength and conditioning program once Rassel came on board.

“As a former coach, you know that you’re going to prevent injuries if muscles are strong and the athletes are well-trained. But not until you find an expert like Steve Rassel, do you really understand the reduction in injuries from a cost-benefit analysis. We’ve seen a huge benefit from both the students and the administration.”

Makenzie Vance, a senior goalie on the women’s soccer team, tore her ACL during her sophomore year. Vance credited Rassel for helping her recover and getting her back on the field.

“Coach Rassel and his team were extremely dedicated to bringing me back beyond where I was before the injury,” Vance said. “I’m living a lot healthier than ever, and I’m stronger now than before I tore my ACL. I feel more explosive, can jump higher, and have become a better goalie because of the strength and conditioning program.”

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With the support of administrators like Warner and students like Vance, Rassel has been able to expand his program and grow his team. While Webber’s training facilities have improved since Rassel began in 2009, he noted that there is much to be done in the coming years.

“We’re taking it one small step at a time,” said Rassel. “We’re looking to add another full-time assistant, a part time assistant, and to expand the weight room. When you have 500 athletes in here at the same time, it’s a little small.”

The expansion of Webber’s strength and conditioning program is in full force and, with Rassel at the helm; the program shows no sign of slowing down.

“We have great administrative support,” Rassel said. “I have a great feeling about it.”

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