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Back where he started

Posted Feb 9, 2012

Myslinski on strength-and-conditioning philosophy: 'We're not body builders. We're football players.'

Tom Myslinski’s job these days is about details, science and teaching.

As such, when the Jaguars’ new strength and conditioning coach talked Thursday morning about the task that lies ahead, he talked about “process,” and talked in technical terms about just how to get the most physically out of the modern professional football player.

But make no mistake:

While Myslinski is about process and professionalism, he is about passion, too, and he will tell you this: This whole idea of being back in Jacksonville? Back where he once played?

Where his strength-and-conditioning career essentially began?

That’s pretty cool, too.

“It’s great to be back,” Myslinksi said.

Myslinski, hired late last month by Head Coach Mike Mularkey, on Thursday morning stood in the EverBank Field weight room, proudly telling how in April of 1995 – shortly after the Jaguars selected him as an offensive guard in the expansion draft – he told then-Jaguars strength coach Jerry Palmieri he wanted to be the first one to use the weight room.

Palmieri agreed, and let Myslinski in the night before the ‘95 off-season conditioning program began.

“I was able to get a workout in,” he said. “I was the first one to lift in the weight room, Jerry Palmieri and I, and it’s really kind of cool to be back in it. It’s neat from that perspective.”

Myslinski, 43, played nine NFL seasons for seven NFL teams, and that 1995 season – the Jaguars’ first – was his only one in Jacksonville. He played the next two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he also finished his career in 2000, but said Jacksonville had lasting meaning.

It was there that he began his strength-and-conditioning career as a volunteer at the University of North Florida. He also worked with the Cleveland Browns from 2003-2004, was the Browns’ head strength and conditioning coach from 2007-2009 and worked as the strength coach at Memphis in 2010 and North Carolina in 2011.

He also was the head strength coach at Robert Morris from 2005-2006, but Myslinski said in addition to his experience as a coach and his education in the field it’s his experience as a player that has given him a “kind of unique outlook.”

“I have an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree in exercise science and I’m a registered strength coach,” Mylsinski said. “I believe that’s all very important, and then I believe that no matter what you know, it’s your ability to communicate that program to the athletes, which is huge.”

Myslinski, who also on Thursday introduced assistants Josh Hingst and Cedric Scott, discussed his approach to conditioning, saying it’s his belief that football is first a “power-endurance sport.”

“It’s the ability to repeat power up to 80 times per game and when you look at it, it involves a lot of fitness,” Myslinski said. “Number one, you have to be in shape and it’s specific shape. You have to be able to reproduce power and speed events, like I said, up to 80 times, and so it’s very important.

“Fitness is a very big component. The athletes have to have great stamina and then they have to be very strong and powerful to reproduce that. Everybody doesn’t have to look like a bodybuilder. We’re not body builders. We’re football players.

“There has to be a balance between strength, speed, fitness, flexibility and mobility.”

Myslinski said he learned the importance of fitness personally. As a player, he said he emphasized lifting and strength too much at the expense of fitness.

“I thought I could do everything in the weight room as a player and what I realized is that you have to be in shape to play the game, and so fitness is the biggest part,” he said. “Really the athletes, the most important thing that they could be doing, really any athlete, is maintaining their fitness.

“Everything is an educational process. I played for a lot of teams. I have a very extensive educational background and I think the more you learn, the more educated a consumer you can become. And the bottom line is I have to teach our guys that their body is their corporation and I have to teach them how to take care of their corporation.”

Myslinski also said while he is a firm believer in the value of free weights in football training, his approach involves each player’s individual needs.

“You have to find ways to accommodate guys that have injury histories or guys that are banged up,” he said. “We’re sitting now grading with the staff and so I’m learning more about the players. At some point I’m going to sit down with Mike Ryan and go through the injury history of the athletes.

“And so really it’s my whole job; I have to know their bodies better than they know their bodies.”

Myslinski said the process of learning injury history – as is the case with learning and working with the players, period – will be more difficult than in the past. Under the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, coaches – including strength-and-conditioning coaches – are not permitted to work with players in the off-season until the official beginning of the off-season program.

For the Jaguars, that’s April 2, which means while Myslinski and the strength staff can help a player prevent injury working out in the weight room, they may not coach them through workouts. Myslinski said the team will be sending players information and guidelines for strength and conditioning.

“It’s an action plan, but they have to put the plan into action, too,” Myslinski said. “We can’t be there with them, so all of that is important. It’s getting to know your athletes. You have to know them.”

Also on Thursday:

*Mylsinski discussed the impact a strength coach has on injuries: “The biggest thing is you have to have a very holistic program. It depends upon the requirements of the athlete and the position that they play, the training background, the injury history that they’ve had. Everything has to be accommodated towards that, but obviously the whole object of what we do is that we have to keep them healthy throughout the season and to be the strongest at the most pivotal point of the year, which is the end of the season.”

*Myslinski discussed the impact of the lockout last off-season on injuries during the season: “Everybody was assuming that coming out, that would be an issue. But the big thing is that really the athletes have less time with us and more time to themselves and so they have to become more proactive in taking care of their bodies.”

*Myslinski said while the Jaguars will purchase some new equipment for the weight room, much of the existing equipment will remain: “We’re going to use a lot of the equipment that we have here and then we’re going to additionally probably sell some and bring some new stuff in.”

*Hingst, who will run the team’s nutrition program, discussed his approach: “It’s all about balance. Everybody wants to know that perfect food, what can you eat? But every food brings different things to the body that’s unique in terms of the nutrients and things it can provide, and so our training table is going to be balanced. It’s going to be about lots of various different types of fruits and vegetables.   A lot of times you hear it said to eat different foods of different colors. It’s going to be a very colorful training table, lots of fruits and vegetables, good whole foods. We’re obviously going to try to look to buy local foods and also then lean, good sources of protein.”

*Hingst was asked about Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who has reported to camp overweight the last two seasons and who said following last season his goal is to report in better shape this season: “Every guy is an individual. And so we sit down and get to know each other and have a better feel of what areas we need to improve on. Every guy needs to be dealt with on an individual basis, especially when it comes to their eating habits and the things that they do. Obviously until we get to know each other and get a little better handle on what things we can help each other with, I’d like to help him, we’ll have to go from there.”

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