Ohio State Football Strength and Conditioning Clinic: What’s Mickey Marotti’s Message?

It’s two weeks before spring training begins and the weight room at Woody Hayes Athletic Center is packed.

However, there are only a handful of football players from the state of Ohio. Those there, including Donovan Jackson, Zen Michalski, Enokk Vimahi, and others, don’t lift weights. Instead, they watch as the strength and conditioning team, led by Mickey Marotti, hosts a statewide clinic for high school coaches and other strength training professionals.

The event was held in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marotti and his staff spoke about what Ohio State is doing to prepare its athletes for the season. It was a special time, reconnecting with people he hadn’t seen in years.

“I think the value is in providing education for coaches, strength professionals and everyone involved,” Marotti said.

It’s something built to help the Buckeyes in the future.

As Marotti said during his presentation, what his staff taught Saturday can help strength coaches prepare prospects from Ohio State when they arrive on campus.

“I’ve talked about how much we rely on our high school strength coaches to help them develop when they come here. That’s the other reason you’re doing this, to help that,” Marotti said. “Nowadays you have to be ready to play. If we can help this system by promoting strength and conditioning, fitness and the whole of exercise science, I think it will help everyone.”

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As the 2022 season drew to a close, Ohio State lost some behind-the-scenes people to other programs, including Quinn Barham, who was hired as the director of strength and conditioning at Coastal Carolina. Barham was previously the associate director of strength and conditioning at Ohio State, with the task of handling much of the clinic’s scheduling. When he left, the staff was put in a bind.

“I think it takes so much to put together a clinic like this,” Marotti said.

Heather Mason, Ohio State’s Senior Director for Sports Performance, handled the logistics of the event. It started without incident.

Marotti opened the day, speaking to the crowd about Ohio State’s offseason plan and how it’s embedding culture in the program. Marotti is one of the most important people in the program. Despite not being a field coach, Marotti spends more time with the players than anyone during the offseason.

“If you can impress him, you’re on the right track,” said offensive coordinator Brian Hartline. “I’ve never seen a guy who impressed coach Mick and wasn’t on the field.”

Impressing Marotti starts with responsibility. In the weight room, one of the team’s greatest goals is for players to hold teammates accountable. When a player does a rep in the weight room, the spotter needs to be just as committed, pushing and correcting any mistakes.

Kenny Parker, Ohio State’s senior associate director of strength and conditioning, said he spends just as much time coaching the spotter during training. Marotti also spoke about the constant competition that drives players in the weight room.

But the day wasn’t just for Marotti to talk. He also wanted to learn from the likes of Tennessee Titans athletic director Frank Piraino and Detroit Lions’ Mike Clark.

“For me, I want to ask the questions of a Frank Piraino about what he saw,” Marotti said. “I want to speak to Mike Clark about this, if you get a Buckeye that goes to the Lions, where do they fit in or stand up? Are you prepared? What I think they are. Just to hear this feedback and what’s new.”

After Piraino spoke, two other Ohio State employees made pre-lunch presentations, including Parker and Kaila Olson, the senior football performance nutritionist.

It was important for Ohio State to have multiple employees speak.

“The Ohio State University athletic department strength staff is here as a resource,” Marotti said. “We will try to help as best we can.”

It was also an opportunity for Turner, Olson and others to network and discuss their career paths and work in Ohio State.

“It’s a great platform for our staff to grow as a professional and as a coach,” Marotti said. “It’s great to see.”

Parker demonstrated how the staff works out in the weight room. Olson detailed what goes into creating a nutrition plan for each athlete, including the differences in how they eat and hydrate. The challenge is to customize plans for each player and their body’s needs.

“It takes a while and it depends on the player,” Olson said. “Some get it right away and some take two years. It’s about really getting to know the player, how they grew up and what they grew up with – that helps. Then they can trust you.”

By the time Olson finished her presentation, there were several questions about how best to keep players hydrated or helping them gain weight. The additional interest in nutrition held great promise for Olson.

“It shows that it continues to grow and continue to help players get the most out of their performance,” Olson said.

Outside of the clinic, Olson and the strength and conditioning staff are busy preparing Ohio State’s newest generation of players and working alongside the freshmen of the Class of 2023 who signed up early to get their bodies into the right shape for the to bring spring football.

Describing the newcomers as “hungry and doing a good job,” Marotti said he was pleased with the team as a whole over five weeks of winter training as Ohio State football takes shape for the 2023 season.

“Every team is different. Every day is an opportunity to learn and the boys work hard,” he said. “The fun part of the off-season for us is the team is being formed and you see how it builds in over time.”

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(Photo: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)

https://theathletic.com/4232260/2023/02/20/ohio-state-football-mickey-marotti-strength/ Ohio State Football Strength and Conditioning Clinic: What’s Mickey Marotti’s Message?

Russell Falcon

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