Strong Dreams

Posted by Paula Paine on May 23, 2011 in Alumni, Athletics, NFL, "School of Arts and Sciences", "The College" As the strength and conditioning coach for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Clark ’77  is living a dream. But it’s a dream that he didn’t allow himself to think about for the longest time. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, Clark grew up in the Kansas City area and was a Chiefs’ fan, with NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier being his favorite player. After playing football and graduating from Ottawa University, Clark began a lengthy collegiate coaching career. However, he dreamed of getting into the NFL and thought how great it would be to coach in Kansas City. “And as time went on, that dream kind of faded. I didn’t really think about it much anymore,” said Clark. "Then when I did get a chance to go to the NFL, I went to the Seahawks (in 2004), but I didn’t even allow myself to think about coming back to Kansas City.” But the repressed dream finally came true in February of 2010 when Clark was named as the Chiefs’ strength and conditioning coach. It had been more than three decades since Clark had lived in Kansas City and there was a bit of giddiness. “I must admit the first home game we played and we took the field out there in those red jerseys, it was a little bit of a surreal moment,” said Clark. “But you get over that quickly because you’ve got a job to do and you don’t really allow yourself time to think about those things.” A lot has changed since Clark got his first job as strength and conditioning coach at the University of Wyoming in 1981. At the time, strength and conditioning coaches didn’t travel with the team and they didn’t work with all sports. However, the strength and conditioning coaches of today work with a wide array of teams and athletes and travel constantly. “It’s a very prominent role because, when you’re with the athletes almost year round, and if you don’t do things to develop them, their chances for success go way down,” said Clark. Make no mistake, Clark has quite a workout regimen for his athletes and it starts in the off-season when the players begin planning for the intense training. After that, it is on to “adaptation,” which Clark calls the most painful type of training with high-volume workouts, strenuous weight lifting and multi-joint movements. Next comes “max strength” and “max power,” which is followed by “pre-competition” during the early to midsummer months. “Competition” begins in July and is actually divided into three phases – Competition I, II and III. Competition I comprises training camp and the pre-season. Competition II is the regular season, while Competition III is the playoffs if the team makes it, which the Chiefs did in 2010. After a short off-season and vacation, the whole process starts all over again. Clark says what makes the process run a whole lot smoother is that the Kansas City Chiefs’ players have a strong work ethic and are not ego-driven athletes. “They come to work ready to go, they really want to push and get better, and they’re truly a great group of guys to coach here,” said Clark. “The persona you see on TV and what I deal with on a day-to-day basis is different.” Although Clark says he has not returned to Ottawa University in quite some time, he still has high praise for his alma mater. “The experience at Ottawa was fantastic,” said Clark. “I really feel like it was one of the platforms that pushed me to this point.”