By ASHLEY SCOBY
Participants of this year’s women’s football clinic at UK were treated to their own “Sports Science” episode Saturday, courtesy of Erik Korem.
Korem is the director of the new “high performance” program at Kentucky, which is using cutting-edge technology to help athletes reach their highest potential.
The motto Korem has instilled into the football team is: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” So to make sure that fall isn’t a long way down, the goal of the high performance program is to create practice plans best suited for each individual player.
Each player was tracked during this year’s spring game to determine how much “work” he did and how Korem could use that number to create an optimal training plan. One receiver, for instance, ran 3.2 total miles during the game. A defensive tackle, though, covered about half that.
“We’re tailoring the training to the athlete’s needs … Those defensive tackles have got to be big and strong and extremely physical so we train them differently from a wide receiver,” Korem said. “That sounds so common sense but nobody really does this because they don’t take the time to measure.”
Others are taking notice. According to Korem, NFL coaches have been in contact with UK over the summer because they want to learn more about what is happening within the high performance program.
The players are taking notice as well – perhaps more so than anyone. In total, the team has lost about 560 pounds of fat during the spring semester, while gaining back 260 pounds of muscle.
“It wasn’t a hard sell,” Korem said. “These guys were walking around the facility looking at themselves and they’ve got six-packs now. They’re like, ‘okay, there’s something to this.’”
Nutrition is another core component of the high performance program. Korem has long known the importance of good nutrition, as his mother was a caterer and his sister has “one of the largest organic food blogs on the Internet.” With the inception of the high performance program, the entire nutrition program was overhauled.
In addition to the physical and tactical aspects of the program, two other components are recovery and sports psychology.
For recovery, masseuses are brought in on Wednesdays to give the players massages. That will increase to twice a week during training camp and once the season starts.
Athletes’ mentalities are also evaluated on a micro basis by the high performance staff. They measure brain wave frequencies, heart rhythms and respiration rates. Once those measurements are calculated, the staff can better train the athletes to control their emotions.
“Sports psychology is not like Dr. Drew or those movies where you’re laying on the couch and talking about how you feel,” Korem said. “We’re doing some really cool stuff, developing more intelligent football players … At the most critical points in a game, you have to be able to control your emotions. We’ve got to have guys that can pull the trigger when they need to pull that trigger and catch that ball or throw that touchdown. We’re training them for those situations.”
Once all of those aspects of the program – mental, physical, recovery and schematic – come together, Korem offers the “high performance guarantee,” which he says will make the football program “win at a very high level.”
“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make them the best athlete,” he said. “What’s the difference between us and everybody else? We’re the only American football team to do this. This is not happening anywhere else … We’re going to recruit the best football players in the country, and you guys are seeing that now. Then we’re going to develop them better than anybody in America.”