NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
By Bethany Bradsher
Golden ready to hone the blade
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(Photo: ECU SID)
About a month ago, I was interviewing a senior East Carolina football player
for a different story when I asked him about the summer strength and
conditioning program with head taskmaster Mike Golden. I joked, “Has Coach
Golden been inventing new forms of torture for you guys?”
The player grinned at me and shot back, “Oh, you know Coach Golden!”
Those are the kind of remarks that are commonplace around the ECU athletic
facilities in these dripping-hot months, when Coach Golden and his staff
rule the roost and players are subjected to daily tests of endurance and
It’s the soil-preparation stage of the gardening process, when the fruit is
still invisible but each step is vital to a successful harvest down the
Golden, in his fifth summer of running Pirates through his grueling paces,
has observed steady progress in the young men in every area he values:
Strength, speed, endurance and agility.
He always uses spring camp as a measuring stick for the season to come; he
watches the team to assess their strengths and weaknesses and to craft a
summer workout plan accordingly. This group, while not yet ready for game
speed, proved in the spring that it had all the elements, but only needed to
improve on each of them.
“Every year is a new team, and you have to find out what they need,” Golden
said. “This year we’re able to just work on everything, because we don’t
have a glaring weakness that we need to work out.”
With a large and experienced group of seniors setting the tone, Golden has
been gratified by the players’ self-discipline and by their understanding
that it is the tedium of June and July that gives a team the tools it needs
to prevail in a loud, exhilarating stadium in the fall.
These upperclassmen were particularly affected by the dramatic highs and
lows of last season — from victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia to
open the year to losing three of the next four games in Conference USA play.
“I think they have a grasp on the big picture, but I think they’re grounded
enough to realize that it’s got to be day by day,” Golden said. “The summer
is a lot more demanding, and on top of that they’re putting a lot more in.
This is a very serious group. They don’t want distractions. They just want
to get it done.”
The regular season has the potential for a lengthy highlight reel, but
summer strength and conditioning has one lone high point: The annual
Strongman Competition. Held last Thursday on what senior C.J. Wilson
asserted was the hottest day of the summer, the annual contest features the
Pirate players competing against each other in events like the Weight Staff
Challenge, the Draft Horse Pull and the Sled Push.
The winning team in this year’s Strongman, and the owner of supreme bragging
rights for the next 12 months, was Queen Anne’s Revenge, captained by
Wilson. Leading into the final event, a taxing obstacle course called
Blackbeard’s Challenge, Wilson’s team was clinging to a two-point lead, but
sophomore Brandon Jackson, a sophomore transfer from Kentucky, excelled
under pressure and crossed the finish line first.
“B-Jack won it,” Wilson said. “He brought it home for us. We were depending
One of the keys to hoisting the Strongman trophy is deciding which player is
best suited for each event, Wilson said. Before the competition, his team
met and put their heads together to assign roles. Wilson, who won the Sled
Push for the third year in a row, said the key to his team’s triumph was
each athlete’s willingness to put self-interest aside and enter the event
that his teammates chose for him.
Golden has the players for three more weeks, until July 28, and the workouts
won’t flag in intensity but will change somewhat in emphasis as the season
opener looms closer. The early summer was focused on building strength and
fundamentals, but things will rev up considerably in mid- to late July.
“We’ll just be sharpening up the sword now,” he said. “Everything now is a
lot quicker. We’re really keying up on speed, trying to get their legs back
and get them in football shape.”
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07/08/2009 02:04:41 AM