Hiegel Carries Weight of 49er Athletics on His ShouldersPublished: September 15, 2010
If Jamie Hiegel wasn’t a morning person before, he certainly is now.
Most days, the head strength and conditioning coach for CSULB athletics gets to work at 5:15 — that’s a.m. Not because he necessarily wants to, but because he needs to.
“Our first team starts at 6 a.m. and this fall our last team trains at 5 p.m. three days and 6 p.m. the other two,” said Hiegel. “I’ve turned into a morning guy. I like getting up and being here early and getting things done. It’s really not even my choice because what we’re really doing is working around our student athletes’ class schedules and competitions.”
Hiegel arrived in Long Beach a year ago from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he had spent the last four years as the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports. While there, he was also responsible for designing and implementing strength and conditioning, speed/agility and testing programs for all 22 of the Owls’ men’s and women’s Olympic sports teams.
Before that, he spent two seasons at his alma mater, San Jose State, working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach where he held similar responsibilities for eight men’s and women’s Olympic sports teams. He also assisted with the strength and conditioning development for the Spartan football team.
In addition to his work at the collegiate level, Hiegel spent time at the professional level, specifically in the National Hockey League with the San Jose Sharks and in the National Football League with the Oakland Raiders. Also, he had a stint as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Wichita Wranglers, Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals’ AA team.
“When you are young and you want find out what you want to do, you have to move around,” said Hiegel. “For me, it was more of a figuring out what level I wanted to be at. I did some things at the professional level and wanted to find out what that was about. It’s really what I wanted to get out of the profession and how best I can contribute.”
The well-traveled strength and conditioning coach, a former baseball player in college, feels the collegiate level is the best fit for him.
“In my experience, the professional level is great in the sense that you work with well-trained, highly-skilled athletes,” said Hiegel. “It’s a different approach at that level because athletes are huge investments. Working at that level, though, steered me back to college athletics. I love everything about college athletics. I’m really drawn to this. There are a lot of cool things that go on in the development of a college athlete. College athletes are at an age when they have a lot of things going on in their lives and you get to be a part of that. Right now, this is my family.”
A single training room of 5,500-square feet, that features 18 weightlifting platforms and 6,000 kilograms of free weight can be somewhat confining when you consider Hiegel and his assistant, Chris Whittle, have to schedule 14 Forty-Niner athletic teams and 300-plus athletes accordingly. But, he says cooperation of the respective coaching staffs makes it workable.
“What we try to do is give a fair opportunity for everybody to put in what days and times they would like to be trained,” said Hiegel. “From there, priority is given to the sports that are in season because they not only have to deal with practice, but they also have competitions with schedules they have to adhere to. So we want to try and give them an opportunity to plan a schedule that alleviates some of the stress that comes along with being in season. Outside of that, we try to look at the numbers, so for the teams that have a lot of athletes we try to get them scheduled as soon as possible because they are then easier to work around. That’s just the approach we take.”
Hiegel likes working with the diversity of athletes he gets at the university level, taking it all as a welcomed challenge.
“With the different sports, it’s a constant challenge throughout the day,” said Hiegel. “I like that. I think it keeps me sharp, having to deal with the different dynamics. We think all 14 of our sports can compete at a national level and that’s the approach we take with every team that we work with. Do we treat athletes different? Yes, because they are different people. We love all of our athletes the same, but they all have different personalities. Our priority is our 300-plus athletes. We’re looking to push our sport programs and our athletes onto the national level and keep them there.”
“Jamie has been a terrific addition to the staff,” said 49er Athletics Director Vic Cegles. “His background in collegiate strength and conditioning is a great asset to our teams, and most importantly he has the skills to motivate young people to help them get bigger, stronger and faster.”