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Ron McKeefery, MA, CSCS,*D
Ron McKeefery is a nationally recognized leader in the field of sports development. He has lectured for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCCa), and numerous major universities. He also served as the State NSCA Director for Florida.
McKeefery has been published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, American Football Monthly, and Stack Magazine. McKeefery earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of South Florida in Adult Education and Bachelor’s degrees from Ottawa University in Biology and Physical Education. He has served as a strength and conditioning coach at both the professional and collegiate level; notably working with such professional organizations as the Cincinnati Bengals (NFL), Kansas City Royals (MLB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL), and the Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe). Currently he is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Connect with Ron McKeefery!
1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning? I have been coaching for over 15 years. I started as an intern with both the Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League (NFL) teams. I was promoted to a part-time assistant role with the Buccaneers, before accepting the Head Strength and Conditioning position with the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe. From there I spent 11 seasons as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of South Florida and two as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Tennessee, before landing in my current spot as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team. 2. What is your training style/methods regarding training? I always say that I am a principle–based strength coach and not a philosophy-based strength coach. I believe when you base your programs on scientific principles it allows you to pull from many different training systems to meet your athletes’ demands. My principles include: overload, progression, balanced development, perfect technique, reversibility, specificity, variety, supervision, periodization, and evaluation. 3. How has your training style evolved over the years? I have maintained my principles but consistently find new ways to train within those principles. I am a lifelong learner and constantly on a quest for ways to improve our program. 4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why? There are too many to name. Early in my career, I realized that the more I could avoid mistakes that others have made, the quicker I would rise in the profession. Therefore, I have always been on a quest for guidance from anyone and everyone in our field. I am grateful to Mark Asanovich (former Head Strength Coach-Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Tim Maxey (former Head Strength Coach-Kansas City Royals), and Chip Morton and Jeff Friday (Cincinnati Bengals) for the practical education they have provided. 5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with? It starts with a comprehensive needs assessment that includes conversations with the coaches, strength staff, and athletes to determine goals and vision. We then evaluate using several performance variables to determine strengths and weaknesses. Our program is then written to address the physical demands of the sport and includes opportunities for the athlete to address individual need areas. 6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning? From a physiological perspective it is rest and recovery. In a “more is better” society we must fight to protect this aspect. I tell our athletes we have them for two hours a day, but they have 22 hours to mess up everything we did. Therefore, we must be involved in those other 22 hours through education and communication. From a profession perspective, we need to do a better job of creating more strength and conditioning jobs and getting our coaches to retire being strength and conditioning coaches. 7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field? The NSCA National Conferences are great vehicles to get current training methodologies, as well as to connect with others to get advice and counsel on issues you may be having. Research journals and PubMed are great tools. I am an information junkie, so I love surfing the web and finding new ideas. There are numerous websites and blogs out there that are quality resources to learn from. 8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming? I believe you make a program specific based on the designing training programs that address joint actions, energy systems, and injury prevention protocols specific to that sport. I do not subscribe to doing exercises that look like a sport application as being specific. 9. What is your favorite tool in your toolbox? I use everything, I would say whatever is available to me. I am notorious for telling an athlete on their recruiting trip that we have a phenomenal weight room with all the latest equipment and gadgets, but I can take you on the turf with a 25 lb plate and have you hating life in 5 minutes. 10. What are your five favorite exercises? I don’t have five favorites, nor do I think you can choose five. We are responsible for preparing our athletes for the rigors of competition; therefore we must stress the importance of all the exercises we use to prepare the entire body for sport. I don’t like terms like “core” or “auxiliary” lifts because I think it places a mental hierarchy on our athletes. Getting off my soap box, I do enjoy personally using nontraditional pieces of equipment (e.g., kettlebells, tires, ropes, etc.). 11. What advice would you give to young coaches who are just starting their careers and want to follow in your footsteps? I could go for days on this topic; however, I recommend three main things:
1. Obtain all minimum qualifications – minimum qualifications are more than a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) certification and a degree. Aspiring strength and conditioning professionals should understand that there are numerous qualified strength coaches looking for jobs. In my hiring processes, I have seen a trend of young coaches that have graduated college and feel they have arrived. Getting your Bachelor’s degree and a certification is the first step; you must follow it up with additional education as well as practical experience. This profession is still very much like a turn of the century apprenticeship; it’s on the job training.
2. Network like crazy – take every opportunity to meet and speak with strength coaches. Set up site visits, go to clinics, and reach out on social media or any medium you can use to let strength coaches know who you are. There is so much responsibility placed on strength coaches, that very rarely will a head strength coach hire someone they don’t have a prior connection to.
3. Be humble - to make it, early on you will work for peanuts, put in long hours, and have to take jobs all around the country at all levels. I heard a coach recently equate this to the walking uphill both ways in the snow 15 miles to school story your parents used to tell you. All strength coaches want to see this part of our profession change in terms of pay, hours, and relocation. However, I believe it has also given our profession some character. Those that have made it, if you asked them none of them would tell you they have arrived with a servant leader’s heart. They are truly in it for the athlete and have been willing to do it for no money, all day, and anywhere in the world.