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MEN: Q&A With Strength Coach Matt Young

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The Pepperdine men's basketball team credits a great deal of their success to strength and conditioning coach Matt Young. We asked him about what he did to help get the team ready for the season.

Q: When did you begin working with the men's basketball team?

A: The first time I worked with the men's basketball program was in March of 2013.  They had a different strength and conditioning coach prior to that, but I have been at Pepperdine as the Director of Strength and Conditioning since the fall of 2009.

Q: Prior to summer conditioning, what were some of the goals you wanted to set for the team?

A: The culture was already set with Coach Wilson and his staff and my job was to carry that culture over from the court to the strength and conditioning program. Coach Wilson wanted the players to get physically stronger. He also, more importantly, wanted to players to become mentally tougher. He wanted them to have the willingness to grind. Coach Wilson saw strength and conditioning as a great avenue to build on that weakness.

Q: What was your plan of action for summer training? 

A: I wanted the team to be challenged, not just in the weights that were lifted and the times that were run, but also in creating an atmosphere for development. We grinded out sets in the weight room and ran 400s on the track, but within each of those developmental opportunities we challenged them for energy, communication and discipline. Each one of these played an important role in the culture of the strength and conditioning program. The team put energy into each session for constant encouragement, communicated well so the entire team knew what was expected in that moment, and were disciplined enough to tolerate discomfort throughout the training.

In the beginning of the summer we taught a lot of new movements and how we wanted them to be completed in the weight room. We slowly built up our volume and training load so by the time summer ended, the team would be able to be pushed farther and be able to overcome more challenges. It wasn't just the x's and o's of their program that benefited their development, but also the team's change in mindset as well as their culture.

Q: Have you seen improvement in the team since you began working with them?

A: Yes, and the good thing is that the list is too long to cover in this interview. I have been extremely happy with how the team has responded to the training over the past eight months, though it hasn't been easy. The early 5:30 a.m. morning lifts and conditioning sessions, fast times on the track and heavy weight lifting weren't pretty, but challenged the team both mentally and physically. It definitely took a toll on them, but in a good way. There were mornings where the opportunity for development on the track was so challenging, and the walk to the weight room afterwards was painstakingly difficult; but in the end they came out seeing the effectiveness in the program. Strength numbers skyrocketed. Court movement, footwork, and jumping numbers were visibly better, and the conditioning level was higher than ever.

More importantly, the team aspect took hold of them. They communicated, had energy, and were disciplined. I am proud of what they accomplished over the offseason, and their overall response has been great. They are seeing the benefits of their hard work through the first month of the season. The team chemistry is strong, and their overall mentality has improved. In addition to being physically stronger, the team is now mentally tougher as well. I am looking forward to seeing the team progress each week as the season continues.

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