Joey Tepper

Editor’s note: Joey Tepper, who is a senior mass communication major from Fort Mill, S.C., is a member of the Winthrop University baseball team.

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – Developing muscle and getting stronger and faster is something that can be challenging for many Winthrop University athletes who are trying to compete at the Division I level.

Winthrop head strength coach Ben Abbott says he understands the challenges athletes face and takes it upon himself to give them the best chance to develop and compete at a high level.

“You have to look at the time of the year, the sport and any type of movement patterns you want to focus on,” said Abbott, who was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast.

“Normally when you’re out of season or preseason type of training, that is when strength and conditioning is probably the biggest factor within the training, because you’re trying to build that base, that strength, that speed, that power,” he said. “It’s a more general type of training and physical preparation, where their sport isn’t their main focus.”

Abbott, who is in his fifth year leading the Winthrop strength program, said strength training becomes less important during the season.

“That’s when strength and conditioning kind of, doesn’t take a backseat, but pulls away, because you can’t cause so much fatigue (during the season) that they can’t do their sport. So, you’re starting to become more specific with their training and that specific training is practice,” said Abbott, who holds an undergraduate degree in athletic training and exercise science and a master’s in sports science.

He said the strength and conditioning programs are similar for most athletes, regardless of the sport.

“I think with sports specific training, the specificity of the sport comes with practice. I think just about all sports, besides Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, the weight room is general preparation, so you don’t really get too specific, in my opinion,” he said.

However, he said some exercises, such as speed training, my translate better to some sports over others where power may be required.

Winthrop senior Matt Levenson, who is interning with the strength and conditioning department, said it has been beneficial to work with Abbott and see the process behind creating a workout program.

“I’ve learned how to work with different athletes, with different teams and it has been a fun experience to learn from the strength coaches and get a better understanding of what they do day in and day out,” said Levenson.

“Getting the opportunity to see how much work (Abbott) and his staff put in to develop and progress athletes from all sports is incredible. The detail and variety they put into their programs is one of the reasons I believe they are so successful at getting our athletes faster and stronger.”

A number of Winthrop athletes said they’ve had a positive experience with the strength and conditioning team.

“Getting the chance to work with (Abbott) and his staff during the year is something I appreciate. They put a lot of thought and effort into developing me and my teammates on the field, as well as off of it,” said Maddy Mills, a sophomore member of the women’s lacrosse team.

Sophomore Lexi Johnson, another member of the women’s lacrosse team, said it’s important for athletes to take the work in the weight room seriously.

“I think lifting weights at Winthrop has improved my strength, which has made me become a better athlete on the field,” said Johnson.

Jonathan Strauss, a junior outfielder on the baseball team, said he has appreciated the variety of workouts planned by the strength and conditioning team.

“I think working with (Abbott) has been great for the past couple years and I think he does a really good job of mixing up the workouts for us, especially in the spring because it allows us to target different muscle groups, as well as it keeps it from getting too repetitive for the team,” said Strauss.

Abbott works with multiple teams and sports during the year, as the strength and conditioning staff is small, with only one full-time assistant coach, one graduate assistant and a couple student interns.

“In a leadership role, I believe my job is to continue to develop my staff and to keep pushing them and setting them up for success and to keep pushing them down the road in their career,” said Abbott.