The start of this year brought about many personnel changes throughout the Vassar Athletics community. However, there has been one new face that’s made an impact on every Brewer student-athlete this year. With the departure of former Vassar strength and conditioning Coach Andrew Sweets, this year student-athletes and coaches welcomed Coach Cameron Williams in his place. Williams made his way to Poughkeepsie after working at Georgetown primarily with women’s Soccer as well as the Track team and working part time at the Potomac School in McLean, VA.
Williams was a successful Division III student-athlete himself. He was an NCAA DIII Indoor Track and Field All-American in the high jump. He earned All-University Athletic Association honors in both indoor and outdoor track at Washington University, played as a member of the men’s Basketball team, and was named the Washington University Junior Class Male Athlete of the Year in 2007. Williams cited his experiences as a former DIII athlete as one of the more attractive aspects in his move to Vassar.
In an emailed statement Wiliams explained, “It was a great opportunity for me to move forward in my career (I was an assistant at Georgetown and I am the Head Coach here), I wanted to be closer to home (I’m originally from Connecticut), and I was a Division III athlete myself, so I was excited to help [and] work with athletes who don’t always have access to a strength and conditioning program.”
Coach Williams works with all 23 Vassar’s Varsity teams to help improve overall strength, conditioning, speed and running technique. The coach hopes to help enhance the abilities of all his student-athletes by developing these skills individually. “Quite simply, I want to make everyone stronger and more explosive. If I can do that then hopefully that improved athleticism will lead to improvements on the field, or court,” he noted.
Strength and Conditioning usually takes place in the Kenyon Hall Varsity weight room. Athletes usually attend one to two open sessions each week while in season starting at 9:00 a.m., and out of season athletes usually attend three. There are sport- and individual-specific workouts created by Williams in order to help athletes reach their potential. Teams also usually have one early morning lift together each week. With so many athletes, teams and sessions to manage, Williams has a busy day starting before most of the student body is even awake, yet he has no complaints. He said, “I really like what I do, so I don’t mind putting in a little extra time to get work done.”
Student-athletes at Vassar have responded positively to the addition of Cam’s workouts to their weekly schedule. Sophomore men’s Soccer player Ben Glasner had only positive words about the new Coach.
“He has brought a great deal of energy into the workouts,” Glasner explained. “If it is a lift at 8:00 a.m. or p.m. he is jumping around correcting form, or telling stories of encouragement and making lifting an enjoyable and rewarding experience.”
Lifting, according to Williams, is an often overlooked and under-utilized part of athletics and general health. “Success in athletics is made possible by developing two distinct qualities in an athlete; sport specific skills, and an overall level of athleticism. Sport specific skill is developed by going to practice, or practicing technique independently. Beginning a strength training program is an integral part of developing an individuals overall level of athleticism,” Williams explained.
He continued, “Despite the variety of physical demands different sports place on the body, some combination of power, speed and the ability to quickly change direction are integral to almost every sport. Strength, or the ability to generate force, is at the root of all three of these characteristics. If you can’t generate force you can’t push off the ground to run, jump, or change direction, and you can’t push on an object to throw or swing it. So, increasing strength, and performing exercises that improve the rate at which force can be applied is one of the first steps towards improving an athlete’s general level of athleticism.”
Williams works to raise the level of athleticism of Vassar student-athletes in order to create stronger, healthier bodies that can work and play harder.
Coach Williams feels strongly about the importance of lifting for the general public as well as for the athlete. “A properly designed strength training program has a number of health benefits. First, high intensity strength training is a great way to burn calories to aid in weight loss or maintenance. Plus muscle is a very metabolically expensive tissue, so building muscle means that an individual burns more calories just existing. Second, lifting weights has been shown to help maintain (possibly increase if the intensity is high enough) bone density,” he explained.
He further stated, “Third, as people age they tend to lose muscle mass. This loss in muscle mass puts people at risk of gaining unwanted weight due to decreases in metabolism, and the loss of strength makes chores of daily life harder and puts people at greater risk of injury from falls. And finally being strong is just plain fun and enjoyable! Why would anyone want to make three trips to the car to carry in groceries when they could pick them all up at once? And there is something inherently satisfying about lifting something really heavy!”
The move to Vassar has been an adjustment for Williams but he has found a place pretty quickly. “It’s actually been pretty easy. Everyone here has been incredibly friendly and helpful,” he noted. According to Williams, the people have been one of his favorite parts of the transition. He said, “The school brings in a very high caliber of student, which makes my job easier and more fun…overall [they’re] a good group. Intelligent and, most, importantly coachable.”