A lot of Michigan fans are wondering why everyone is talking about new Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Barwis. There was never much discussion about the old guy, Mike Gittleson (except of the “ARGHHHHH GITTLESON I HATE YOU” nature), so why is Barwis on everyone’s mind all the time? Obviously he is a great S&C guy, but what makes him this way, and even still, what is so different about Barwis that it makes him a pseudo-celebrity, when I have never heard the name of a single other S&C coach in the country?
First, Barwis is a very good Strength Coach. He has unique workouts that focus on the core of the body, and are designed to help football players. While other gurus might train in ways that make guys bigger simply for the sake of having more size, or faster just to be able to run a better 40-yard dash time, Barwis designs his drills after football-specific movements, to make his guys better football players, rather than better weightlifters (or sprinters). Barwis takes a very scientific approach to everything he does, and won’t do a workout if he can’t explain the reason for it scientifically.
Another aspect of Barwis’s coaching that is noteworthy (at least to Michigan fans) is the fact that he holds every player accountable for their workouts, both in and out of season. If a player is too injured to work out, he is on the bike, or seeing the trainer, or doing something else to help him become a better football player. Under the old S&C staff, if a guy was hurt, he simply didn’t show up at Schembechler Hall for his scheduled workout. The offseason workouts are still nominally voluntary, but as Coach Rodriguez says, “so is their playing time.”
The results speak to Barwis’s prowess as a Strength Coach. West Virginia has been one of the most successful teams in the country over the past four years, despite not reeling in top recruiting classes. Thanks to a great conditioning program, the Mountaineers have been able to run other teams ragged, and outwork them over the course of four quarters to get a victory. For Michigan fans who say that the results for the Wolverines wouldn’t have been different with better conditioning (and that in-game coaching is instead more important), I point to the 2006 Rose Bowl, when the O-line was clearly out of shape, and the first two and last one game(s) of 2007, where the team was clearly not in game shape. They would have beaten App State, and at least not embarrassed themselves against Oregon and Ohio State. As further evidence, look at Ryan Mundy. He was forced out at Michigan because he wasn’t any good, and in the course of one year, Barwis turned him into an NFL draft pick.
The main reason Barwis has garnered so much fame, becoming a celebrity more than any other S&C Coach, is his personality. The guy is engaging and intense, as many interviews with him display. His players love coming to his workouts despite the difficulty, visiting recruits consistently say that he made them want to start working out then and there, and reporters are taken aback by his gravelly voice and intense demeanor. The famous video of Barwis giving a pregame speech to the Mountaineers before this year’s Fiesta Bowl (Thanks to commenter Max for furnishing a link and clarifying that it was actually the previous year’s bowl game) speaks volumes. Not only is the strength coach giving a pregame speech, it pumps the team up in a way that nothing else could, and is a perfect capsule of his motivational power.
When Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor, many were excited for his unconventional offense and recent track record of success. Many were unaware that he would also be bringing along one of the best Strength Coaches in the country, and perhaps the man that is one of the biggest keys to his success. Barwis and Rodriguez seem to be linked for the long-term:
I was coming to work for Coach Rodriguez. He is a good friend and a tremendous coach. He is the one guy in the country that I really want to work for. Regardless of the situation, I want to work for Coach Rodriguez as long as he’ll have me. He’s my head coach. I have the utmost respect for him.
Michigan fans hope that the tandem can combine to bring the success they had in Morgantown to Ann Arbor.
Posted under Coaching