When it comes to athletics, John Carroll University boasts some of the most successful and competitive teams in all of the Ohio Athletic Conference. While you may notice the impressive performances that take place on the field or court, you probably didn’t notice the man behind the scenes who helps keep all Blue Streaks athletes in tip-top shape.
That man is Tim Robertson, John Carroll’s strength and conditioning coach. Robertson works with hundreds of Blue Streaks athletes, ranging from the men’s and women’s basketball teams to the wrestling, football, baseball and softball teams. In the near future, Robertson will also be working with the track and field, cross country and lacrosse teams here at JCU as well.
When he’s not working with athletes here at JCU, Robertson spends much of his time at his own business, Speed Strength Systems. Through his business, he has worked at the NFL Combine and trained hundreds of professional athletes, including LeBron James, Donte Whitner, Nenê and John Carroll alumnus London Fletcher.
Robertson was hired in November of 2011 to work with athletes here on campus; and that’s a good thing, to say the least, for the athletes. Because when it comes to strength and conditioning, not many coaches have quite as impressive of a resumé as Robertson.
The Carroll News had the opportunity to talk to the new strength and conditioning coach at JCU and discussed his career and plans for the school’s program.
The Carroll News: How did you originally become interested in the profession of being a strength and conditioning coach?
Tim Robertson: Well, I was always involved in athletics. I actually played for [JCU men’s basketball] coach [Mike] Moran at St. Joseph’s High School here in Cleveland and was always involved in sports. I got involved in the exercise physiology and exercise science curriculum, and it was a no-brainer for me. As an undergraduate I started working with the strength coach at Dayton as a student assistant for him, and then I worked in sports medicine and strength and conditioning performance arena for about five years. Then I went to graduate school, got my master’s degree and was a graduate assistant strength coach at Ohio University.
CN: Besides the classes you took and the curriculum, did you do any extracurricular work outside of the classroom to get jumpstarted in this field of work?
TR: Not really, no. I didn’t play any college sports, which I regret, not playing football at Dayton. I just was proactive and was a sponge to the strength coach at Dayton at the time. He helped me out a lot, got me involved and really sparked my interest.
CN: Before you came to John Carroll, what kind of experience did you have as a strength and conditioning coach besides your work at the University of Dayton and Ohio University?
TR: In 2000, I founded my own business, Speed Strength Systems, and have been the owner and head strength coach for my business since 2000. We have trained over 11,000 youth, high school, collegiate and pro athletes in those 12 years since. We’re the longest- standing performance training program in Northeast Ohio, so that’s really been keeping me busy. In addition to that, I am also a consultant to Under Armour. Under Armour runs football combines, and I’m a speed consultant with them.
CN: How exactly did you end up at John Carroll? You mentioned playing basketball for coach Moran back in high school. Was that a connection you had?
TR: On a consultant basis, I’ve trained coach Moran’s team for several years. So when the [strength and conditioning coaching] job opened up, [Moran] called me and said, ‘Hey, would you be interested?’ And I have the utmost respect for coach Moran, so I applied; and I’m truly honored to be part of the staff at John Carroll for all the sports.
CN: You’ve even done work with professional athletes at the NFL combine. What kind of work have you done there exactly?
TR: That’s primarily through my business. In the last 12 years, we’ve trained over 50 NFL players, and we’ve trained probably 150 players for the NFL combine each year. That’s a big part of my business, I train guys who are preparing for the NFL draft. I’ve [also] trained LeBron James, David Lighty, Ted Ginn and Troy Smith, so it’s been great.
CN: Obviously, you enjoy what you do for a living, but what’s the most rewarding part of your job as a strength and conditioning coach?
TR: I thoroughly enjoy seeing athletes, any sports, male or female, get better and work towards getting better. When you see the end product, and that’s often done through our testing, but when you see them get stronger and faster, that’s very rewarding. What it does is it really teaches them to be accountable and responsible for the training and also striving for a goal. That’s a big part of being an athlete, let alone life. And this is the same for my business as well as John Carroll, but being an athlete is a gift. It’s an opportunity that not everybody gets. I just try to instill in the athlete to take advantage of the opportunity to get better.
CN: Is there a particular motto or key piece of advice that you always give your athletes?
TR: Not really. I stress nutrition a lot, and I’m always telling them to take care of their bodies and eat healthy. Once again, it’s not just short-term, but we’re looking for long-term health benefits. If I can influence somebody to stay healthy and stay in shape not just when they are an athlete, but indefinitely, then I’ve done my job. Everybody comes from a different background, and you just try to do your best to get them going. I don’t have a cliché or anything like that; I just want everybody to get better.
CN: When it comes to strength and conditioning, I think the common misconception is that it’s just lifting. How important is a good diet in addition to working out?
TR: Well, I think for anybody, an athlete or just an individual, nutrition is probably half of the battle. If you don’t have a good grasp on nutrition, you’re not going to accomplish what you’re hoping to accomplish. So I put huge emphasis on nutrition, and it’s very similar to training. You try to talk to the athletes about eating healthy. The one difference between a non-athlete and an athlete is there’s a lot of strategies for performance with nutrition. You try to just educate the student-athletes with proper eating and hydration as well as having a good body composition, which will ultimately help you with your performance.
CN: What has your overall experience at John Carroll been like in the last year?
TR: It’s been phenomenal, it really has. The administration, starting from [athletic director] Laurie Massa and down has been very supportive. All of the coaches have welcomed me with open arms. They’ve made the transition from not having a strength and conditioning coach to having their first [coach] a very easy process. The coaches are fully supportive of what I do and what I want to do to help their athletes, and the students have been just phenomenal. You’re not dealing with egos, you’re dealing with student-athletes who play because they love the sports. Coming from a Division I school, there’s a significant difference there. I’m truly honored and blessed to be in the position I’m in at John Carroll. The funny thing is that my dad went to John Carroll and taught at John Carroll part-time for 25 years. My dad passed away a year and a half ago, but I know he’s looking down and smiling because I’m at his alma mater, so it’s pretty cool.
CN: I’m sure you never quite envisioned that you would end up working at your dad’s alma mater one day, did you?
TR: No, not really. It’s unique that a Division III school has a strength coach, so I really never thought that it would come to being in this position.
CN: Coming from a Division I school, what types of differences do you see between DI athletes and DIII athletics?
TR: I don’t think this is any secret, but in Division I, you’re a little bit bigger, a little bit faster and a little bit more athletic. But sports is not just the physical parameters; sports is a lot of mental intelligence as well as work ethic and drive. I would probably say that the physical difference is the biggest thing. When I was at Miami, there’s probably 10 guys on that Miami team like Reggie Wayne, Ed Reed, Bryant McKinnie, Santana Moss, etc., who are phenomenal, high-level athletes, so that’s probably the biggest thing is the size and the physical differences.