Georgia Tech: More on strength coach John Sisk

Greetings-

Hopefully you read the feature on Georgia Tech’s new director of player development (read: strength and conditioning coach) John Sisk. There were a few notes and thoughts that I couldn’t fit into the story that I thought you might be interested in.

1. His background: played at Western Carolina (Paul Johnson’s alma mater), three years as a high school coach, at Furman for two years as an assistant, then Western Carolina to become the head strength coach, then five years as an assistant at Clemson, then Vanderbilt for nine years, the first eight under Bobby Johnson.

He interviewed with James Franklin when he was hired at Vanderbilt, but was not retained. He went back to Furman as the head strength coach for a year and then was hired at Tech.

The fact that he was hired back at Furman suggests that a) he got results; b) people liked working with him. From what I gather about him, I’d say they’re both true.

2. Sisk didn’t have a connection with Johnson prior to the job. Bobby Johnson put in a word with Paul Johnson on his behalf. The two coaches know each other from their days coaching against each other in the Southern Conference, Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern and Bobby Johnson at Furman.

Said Bobby Johnson, “We used to go to those (league) meetings together. I’ve got a lot of respect for Paul. He does a great job of coaching his team. I’m glad those two hooked up.

His recommendation regarding Sisk:

“I said (to Paul Johnson), ‘You can get as involved as you want with your strength program, but you don’t have to worry about it once John Sisk takes over,” Bobby Johnson said. “He’s going to do a great job over it and he’s going to tell you everything that’s happening.”

3. Sisk wants players operating at a high tempo in the weight room.

“We’ve got two rules: You don’t sit down and you don’t bend over,” he said. “You try to keep music up, try to create an atmosphere you want to train in, a high tempo. That’s the way you play. You try to create a football environment as best you can.”

What I think he’s after is intensity and a lively atmosphere. To Bobby Johnson, high tempo meant explosive lifts.

“He’s not going to put a bunch of weight on a guy’s back and have him go slowly up and down,” he said. “He’s going to design exercises where they’re explosive moves and they’re moves that replicate things that you do in football.”

Synjyn Days said that between sets, players are jumping up and down to the music, pumping themselves and each other to lift.

4. As mentioned in the story, he has in the past organized players into teams in the winter and organizes competitions between the teams. Typically, the teams are divided up evenly, with each having linemen, skill-position guys, linebackers and kickers. Sometimes the strength coaches picked the teams, sometimes the football coaches and sometimes the players themselves.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit more fun when the players do it,” Sisk said.

When he was at Furman last year, he got the players together for a draft party and tweeted out the first-round draft picks.

The way he explained it, there were 14 players on a team and, for whatever competition he held (bench press one week, vertical jump the next), they used the 10 best scores from each team, with points awarded for how each team finished. There was a competition for teams and then also position groups.

“Your teammates know how hard you’re working,” Bobby Johnson said. “You can’t just hide. You’re going to be in the spotlight just like the way you are on the field.”

5. I asked Sisk about what makes a superior strength coach. He said communication.

Said Sisk, “I think our staff has to come together and help motivate them, teach them, make them understand what they’re doing and understand what we’re trying  to do is help them be the best they can be.”

6. Sisk is a huge proponent of eating properly. “We can train three times a day. If you’re not eating properly, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You can’t outwork, you can’t out-train, you can’t outplay a bad diet.”

He has been directing players to work with Leah Thomas, who directs Total Person Support Services in the department. Taylor has been taking players to the grocery store to help them understand what to buy and what to avoid.

7. I asked him about cornerback Jemea Thomas, one of the strongest and most dedicated lifters on the team.

“He’s a guy that, down the road, how much more (strength) is he going to need?” Sisk said. “We can’t get him too big. As we see how he does here and (as) he goes into July, we may change some things he’s doing and adjust some things.”

It was something he mentioned a few times over the course of the interview, which made a lot of sense to me. At a certain point, the law of diminishing returns takes over and it doesn’t seem to do much good (and may even risk injury ) to add 10 more pounds to someone’s squat when he already squats plenty.

8. Chris Williams might be Sisk’s greatest success story. Williams came to Vanderbilt a 245-pound offensive lineman and, he said, “I felt I was strong for my size, but I was 245 pounds trying to play offensive tackle.”

Williams said Sisk stayed on him about gaining strength and weight. “Not only gaining weight but gaining good weight,” he said.

Williams, as noted in the story, became a first-round pick.

“He’s got these circuits that he’ll come up with that are pretty close to impossible,” Williams said. “He uses his imagination quite well. He’s a guy that, if you’re willing to buy in, he’ll make you better.”

He praised Sisk for molding workout plans to the individual and for his ability to build relationships with players.

“He’s kind of like an older brother,” Williams said. “We hung out a lot and he was a great guy to be around.”

Something I found telling. Typically when a player is going into the draft, he’ll go work out with a coach who specializes in getting players ready for the draft combine and pro days. This past draft, for instance, Stephen Hill went to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. I don’t intent to knock guys who do it. One very valid reason is that college strength guys are already busy with the current players, and also, places like IMG Academy teach guys how to run the 40, not necessarily help them become better football players, which is what they need prior to the draft.

However, Williams chose to stay with Sisk prior to the draft. Among recent first-round picks, I’d say this puts him in the distinct minority. I’m not sure if it says more about Sisk or Williams, but it does show what sort of faith Williams had in Sisk.

“I just felt like I was with this guy who’d been with me,” Williams said. “I’d been training with him a long time.”

9. Players at Tech, it sounds like, have bought in. I talked to Days and T.J. Barnes for the story, and both raved about him. They were careful to not be critical of either Neal Peduzzi or (in Barnes’ case) Eric Ciano – Tech’s past two head strength coaches – but were both really happy about Sisk. Barnes noted how Sisk has been altering workouts for different players and how he has tried to get players motivated.

“We feel like we’ve already won the ACC title in 2009,” Barnes said. “So we’re trying to go for the national (title). He has us thinking on another plateau. There’s a really great vibe out there.”

10. Williams and Johnson both had mentioned how the Vanderbilt weight room became a de facto players lounge because players liked Sisk so much. Days mentioned that the other day he did exactly that, went to the Tech weight room to strength and hang out with Sisk.

“I love him,” Days said. “He’s a great man.”

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

54 comments Add your comment

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
9:31 am

If you like the coach and enjoy what he is doing that is a plus. Barnes really is looking good these days.

chas_jacket

July 2nd, 2012
9:33 am

Great story ken, thanks for the good work. Strength coach is a critical, under appreciated position.

yeller bug

July 2nd, 2012
9:34 am

Techster

July 2nd, 2012
9:41 am

I like what I hear. Let’s go Tech!

Teddy Roosevelt

July 2nd, 2012
9:42 am

Put some meat on those bodies in the trenches

Jim 70

July 2nd, 2012
9:55 am

Ken, I like your behind the scene stories.

Rocket City Jacket

July 2nd, 2012
10:21 am

Ken, this was a great article. It is not like you are going to hear anything critical about a new coach, but I really like what I am hearing about Sisk.

I’m excited to see if ST and the physicality of the team improve this year with the addition of CDW and Sisk.

Old Gold Britches

July 2nd, 2012
10:40 am

Thanks Ken! Bring on the season!

juvenal

July 2nd, 2012
10:55 am

work harder AND smarter! hope we see it pay off at NT….

ontheflats

July 2nd, 2012
11:13 am

That’s a great article Ken. Thanks for all the hard work!

michael

July 2nd, 2012
11:25 am

now let’s kick those kickers’ legs ready. TOE MEETS LEATHER!

The Bamboo Shaft

July 2nd, 2012
11:57 am

Great article as always, Ken. S&C doesn’t get much recognition or appreciation, but IMO is one of the most important positions on the staff.

George Stein

July 2nd, 2012
12:06 pm

This was an interesting blog, Ken. The article you wrote last week was good, too. I like this stuff around this time of year as means of keeping us engaged and also providing some insight into what’s going on with the program now.

Did Sisk mention where he got ideas or how he intends to stay ahead of the curve on a topic that seems to change so rapidly? How do he and the nutrition folks work together to find an optimal solution for each player?

GIVE ME A BREAK

July 2nd, 2012
12:08 pm

Ken, I always look forward to reading your articles. Sure would like to know more about their diet. It might help me lose a few pounds. Good news from the Jackets. Let’s play some football. Thanks.

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
12:36 pm

We don’t need no S&C coach……just but the PX90 DVD’s LOL

cewbee

July 2nd, 2012
12:48 pm

Is he any relation to Ben Logan Sisk?

HighTech

July 2nd, 2012
1:01 pm

Once again, Ken writes another great article! I have a good feeling about the Yellow Jackets this year. I am looking forward to seeing the S&C improvement against VPISU on Labor Day!

1 4 GT

July 2nd, 2012
1:07 pm

I am really glad to see CPJ making these hires & offering scholarships to guys like kickers. It proves (or should) to folks (gollum) that he is not so stubborn that he can’t change & adapt to make his team better. Thanks for the info Ken. It’s slow on the football side for good news. I can hardly wait for the next 2 months to pass. THWGeorgie GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Jackets

1 4 GT

July 2nd, 2012
1:16 pm

S & C is very important. Well conditioned players get injured less and play better. From the info MC (must give the devil his due) & Ken has given us, if we can beat VaT, it could be the 1st building block in a special year. I am guardedly optimistic in my hopes for for a great year for the Jackets. If our commits hold & the team develops as we (most of us anyway) all hope for, things look real good for the next few years for GT. Could it be time for some payback? GOOOOOOOOOO Jackets THWGeorgie & every other opponent!!!!

1 4 GT

July 2nd, 2012
1:18 pm

Day long “Lonesome Dove” marathon on Reelz on DirecTV

TVFan

July 2nd, 2012
1:26 pm

Another great Ken Sugiura article. Is Sisk allowed to recruit?

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
1:33 pm

1 4 GT Ig Dawg48 isn’t at work he will be watching Lonesome Dove for sure.

headley lamar

July 2nd, 2012
3:14 pm

How much strength does it take to flop on the ground like Tech’s line does?

GT Lee

July 2nd, 2012
3:18 pm

@Heady Lamar,

why don’t you strap on a pair of pads and go find out, chickensh*t Troll……

FL Jacket

July 2nd, 2012
3:34 pm

headley…

If a man cannot stand, he cannot fight. Those Shao-lin monks were up to something.

PEACH TREE

July 2nd, 2012
4:06 pm

…… beat the hokies

PEACH TREE

July 2nd, 2012
4:13 pm

GT ’s Ground Attack = 316.5 yards per game,

Number 3 in the NATION !

George Stein

July 2nd, 2012
4:16 pm

Why doesn’t Headley go against our line for a play (or two, if he can hack it). I mean, since all they do is flop…

Ken Sugiura

July 2nd, 2012
4:17 pm

thanks for the kind words, everyone. a couple attempts at answers..
1) i’m going to try to find out about their diet. i don’t think it’s a specific diet or regimen. i think a lot of it is just teaching players how to shop, what to look for on the label. sisk made the point that, a lot of players, they grew up eating what their parents prepared and then have eaten whatever’s in the cafeteria. i imagine for some of them, the answer is to grab whatever looks easy or familiar, which may work for most college kids but not someone in their shoes
2) george, i didn’t ask where he got his ideas or how he stays on top. next time i get time with him i’ll ask
3) TVfan, i believe the extent of his recruiting is talking to players who come to campus or talking with prospects who call him. but i’d think that he (or him and the weight room) are part of the tour given to prospects on visits.

ColaJacket

July 2nd, 2012
5:03 pm

Ken, what have you heard about the injury to the freshman PG at GT?

G.P. Burdell

July 2nd, 2012
6:00 pm

Thanks for the article Ken, very interesting. I find it a little odd that we don’t have an “athletic diet regimen” as part of on-campus dining. I know that other D-1 programs do, some of which are smaller than Tech’s. In fact, most major programs have an athletic dining hall for all athletes and there are all sorts of options for every type of athlete. Am I off on this one or does anyone elses agree?

G.P. Burdell

July 2nd, 2012
6:00 pm

1 4 GT

July 2nd, 2012
6:49 pm

G.P. Burdell—-I too have read such as what you posted. The athletes have their own mess hall with foods on hand for specific sports/positions on the teams. I know the NFL mess halls in training camp are stocked with foods loaded with protein, carbs, and high nutritional food stuffs. I kinda thought that was pretty standard practice these days. I think it would be good for the athletic department to thusly make sure the athletes are getting a good, healthy diet.

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
7:06 pm

Guys when I was at the Edge Center I saw the players(All Sports) getting their lunch all I can say is they are not eating the same stuff being served at Britton Sh…on Dinning Hall for damn sure.

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
7:09 pm

I was at the EDGE CENTER. I saw what the PLAYERS EAT and it is not the same CRAP being Served at Britton Sh….on Dinning Hall. They are getting the GOOD STUFF for sure. Athlete Meal Plan GREAT…Student Meal Plan makes the Girls fat and the boys slow.

Marine Jacket

July 2nd, 2012
7:41 pm

There is a nutrition plan for the players and they do get specified assistance on how to gain/lose weight, mussel, etc.

When Izaan Cross enrolled he weighed around 240-250 lbs. by the end of his first year he was up to 270lbs and accredited it to the nutritional plan he was placed on. Also, if we remember back when B.J. Elder was here, he suffered for cramps for one season. I recall that Coach Hewitt and the nutritional staff took heat for not being able to find a diet that would help alleviate them.

Go Jackets!!!

GT GRAD

July 2nd, 2012
8:35 pm

I am very impressed.

Long Beach Jacket

July 3rd, 2012
1:20 am

John Sisk is a remarkably good hire for Paul Johnson and the Tech program. Very quietly Coach Johnson has assembled a pretty formidable staff. Sisk’s development of Chris Williams at Vandy is a real good indicator of what this guy can do with players motivated to “buy in” to his S&C program.
I’m very optimistic, not only about this season, but the next several. I sense that GT is about to go on a pretty impressive run the likes of which we haven’t seen on The Flats for quiet some time.

Last year was real close to being real good. Of the games Tech won, none were really in doubt.
Of the loses, 3 really could (and perhaps should) have gone the other way (UVa, VT, Utah).

Tech, as usual, won’t get much pre-season run. All the better. Look for a win in Blacksburg on Sept 3 and see what happens from there forward.

Not Disappointed!

July 3rd, 2012
8:21 am

Great Read! Things are looking on the Flats.
Ramblin Wreck!

HighTech

July 3rd, 2012
8:40 am

5150 UOAD

July 2nd, 2012
7:06 pm
Guys when I was at the Edge Center I saw the players(All Sports) getting their lunch all I can say is they are not eating the same stuff being served at Britton Sh…on Dinning Hall for damn sure.
—————————————-
Brittain Dining Hall aka Ptomaine

Tom

July 3rd, 2012
8:51 am

Ken, it’s good to know we can comment on your blogs.

Freddie Blassie

July 3rd, 2012
9:47 am

Dave Pasanella is the gold standard for GT strength coaches. It is hard to believe that Pasanella died over twenty years ago! While he did not live to see it, Dave’s team manhandled, bullied and pushed around a Nebraska team in Orlando to clinch a national championship.

World-Wide Jackets

July 3rd, 2012
10:30 am

According to NCAA rule 16.5.2(c) only one meal a day can be provided during the academic year (although nuts, fruits and bagels may be provided at any time [16.5.2(h)]) That leaves a lot of eating on their own, hence the need for some nutritional guidance.

George Stein

July 3rd, 2012
1:11 pm

Thanks, Ken.

So, what is up with the ACC controlling the rights to the Orange Bowl (reported by Dennis Dodd)? Does it mean the conference can take the game to the market and keep the revenue? He seemed to indicate that it was an extremely good deal for the conference and even used the term “game changer” in his tweet.

Al Bundy

July 3rd, 2012
3:02 pm

Thanks, Ken.

I may have to stop being so critical of CPJ. He seems to have humbled himself slightly and recognized he couldn’t do it all by himself. He seems to be actually hiring some good coaches and landing some good recruits. Go Jackets!

gt4ever

July 3rd, 2012
6:35 pm

We can only hope Al……. I will believe it when I see Coach opens this offense up….. Right now it’s pathetically ONE dimensional…. There I said it, and I am sure I will be lambasted for being honest about this system… Humble would be good for a coach who really needs to prove he is worth all that money… IMHO, or course… :)

1 4 GT

July 3rd, 2012
10:13 pm

gt4ever—-I believe the vast majority of the blogger’s will agree that the option offense has been 1 dimensional, mainly because the passing game was basically totally inept. If (bigggg word that) the QB can pass enough & be effective and complete enough passes to take some pressure off the running game, things will open up and we can spread the ball around. I have high hopes that CPJ & staff are cooking up some things to surprise our opponents this year. And that’s all I have to say about that. I doubt you will get lambasted too badly by the faithful. There, I said it.

GT Lee

July 3rd, 2012
11:02 pm

the only thing pathetic is gt4ever calling himself a Tech fan. gt4ever all you do is whine. b*tch and moan. You are worse than a woman on PMS. Maybe you should become an Alabama fan. If not, you and Gollum (aka WnE) should get together and cry about the state of affairs on The Flats.

HighTech

July 4th, 2012
9:19 am

Recently I watched a rerun of a CPJ coached 2006 Navy team beat the snot out of Army. Navy ran the option pass more than I have seen it run at Tech. This added a different wrinkle to the offense in that the defensive backs didn’t know if the WR was going to block them or run an out pattern (or an out and go). Pitch it, keep it, or throw it? They were keeping the LB’s and CB’s sitting back on their heels.

HighTech

July 4th, 2012
9:20 am

Happy 4th of July to all!