University of the Pacific athletic director Ted Leland has had a long and storied career. In addition to Pacific, Leland has lead the Athletic departments of Stanford and Dartmouth College. Under his watch, the teams in those three departments have won 53 National Championships.
1. As a player and now a coach, how have your expectations of a training program and the coach/trainer changed throughout your professional career? Over the past 45 years I think that conditioning/training programs have impacted athletic performance more than any other area. When I first started, weight training was optional and conditioning was only done during practice. Now it’s professionalized and scientific and you can’t compete at the highest level without a year-round program.
2. What factor (certain movement, personality trait, environment, etc.) of a coach/trainer do you value the most? When I look at a coach/trainer I think of the old Aristotle quote that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” As such, I think the biggest aspect of the coach/trainer professional is the ability to set challenging day-to-day goals and present them in a fun and exciting way despite the obvious hard work - and repetitive work - that needs to be done in the weight room. Do a few things, do them very well, and do them a lot.
3. What has been the most positive experience in this area? It’s hard to identify one “most positive” but it might be the rise to prominence that Stanford men’s basketball experienced in in the mid-1990s, a success that was then sustained with many Top Ten finishes over the next 10+ years. After winning the NCAA championship in 1942, Stanford went 47 years without an NCAA Tourney appearance but then qualified for 11 consecutive tournaments from 1995 to 2005. This turnaround was precipitated by a “full commitment” by our student-athletes to weight training and physical development. We went from being “soft” on the court to being maybe the toughest team in America.
4. What factor of a coach/trainer frustrates you the most? I get frustrated by coach/trainers who have a set training program that is not adaptable to specific athletes and specific sports at specific times. Being a coach/trainer is an art form – it doesn’t come from a recipe.
5. How have you seen the field of performance and injury prevention change over the last 10 years? I think in the last 10 years people have come to realize that “injury management” is the key to success and thus prevention. Things are less reactionary these days – it’s not just about healing up and returning to the field of competition as quickly as possible. The key is being proactive about preventing injuries through programs like Sparta which offer better training techniques, superior equipment and highly trained coaches.
6. Where do you see the field of performance and injury prevention opportunities for growth? The biggest area for growth that I see is — how can we work together (coach, trainer, doctor, athletic trainer) to prevent injury. I think the biggest challenges are from “overuse” injuries that have become more prevalent because of year-round training, sports specialization, etc.