How I Arrived Here

By: Matt Van Dyke

Even as a kid, I was into fitness and exercise. This became apparent to my parents when I asked for a weight bench for Christmas when I was twelve. This passion continued to grow as I went into high school and had access to a full weight room. I began creating my own programs for myself when I decided to try out for a hockey team in the surrounding area, realizing the lift I was completing for football was not as specific as I would need for success in hockey. After seeing how my body adapted differently to the different programming, I was hooked. I continued programming and reading different methods of training through the remainder of high school. This passion for exercise and pushing myself led me to earn a spot on the Iowa State Hockey team. When the season ended I decided to hang up my skates, but I was not prepared to give up sports altogether. This is the point that my training abilities were really put to the test as I made the decision to walk-on to the Iowa State Football team after not playing football my junior or senior year in high school.

I trained vigorously over the next few months, making big gains and learning what it truly means to take care of my body. The morning of the try-out was the first time I had ever seen a strength and conditioning coach in action. It happened to be Coach Yancy McKnight and, within the first few months of being a member of the team, I knew my goal was to become a coach eventually. I was careful to observe the training methods and coaching style of Coach McKnight and how each day was treated as the most important. At Iowa State, I learned a modified tier system, but I had no idea what method I was learning at the time. I was also introduced to running technique in the forms of acceleration, change of direction, and max velocity from Clayton Oyster, who I view as one of the best teaching coaches I have ever witnessed. At this point in time I had also begun writing programs for my youngest brother, who is a hockey goalie, using a modified tier system. This added opportunity to program for him has assisted me in learning many of the ins and outs of training through multiple mistakes I made.

I completed my internship for graduation with the Iowa State Olympic Strength Staff, working specifically with men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and softball. This was my first opportunity to coach athletes in a team setting, so I learned quickly about giving cues loudly and precisely. After graduation, I stayed on as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach with the Iowa State Football Team. This was the first exposure I had to how different coaching was than playing, what each “tier” of the tier system was used for in our training sessions, and the reasoning behind teaching running technique the way we did. I am very young in the coaching world, so learning first-hand from some of the top strength coaches helped me to grow tremendously. At the end of the semester, I decided to go visit other schools and eventually ended up volunteering at the University of Minnesota under Cal Dietz.

Cal has created a revolutionary style of training, which he calls “Triphasic Training.” In its most basic forms, this style of training improves the rate of force development and pieces of the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) through eccentric, isometric, and concentric training, which leads to an overall improved SSC. This was the first of this style of system I have ever seen and has made a major impact in my philosophy.

All of these learning experiences have helped shape the ideas and philosophies I use as a strength and conditioning coach with the individual professional athletes I work with, as well as my teams at St. Cloud State. I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches around and will continue to seek their advice, as well as other strength coaches I wish to emulate.