At 5:30 a.m. every weekday, strength and conditioning coach Willie Danzer and his student assistant, Brian Sklenar, train Youngstown State University student-athletes so they can compete with students from top-tier universities throughout the nation.
Danzer came to YSU in 2009 after receiving his undergraduate degree in exercise science at the University of Northern Iowa in 2004 and his master’s degree at Northwestern State University in 2007.
As a Penguin, he gets to put his exercise science education to the test. If students are wondering what to do with this degree, Danzer is a perfect example.
Danzer promoted his field of work, but admitted it is not an easy path.
“Exercise physiology is great if you’re willing to put in a ton of time into internship hours,” he said. “The secret to becoming a successful coach is that you really have to love what you do.”
Now in his third year as YSU’s strength and conditioning coach, Danzer takes responsibility for all of the weight and speed training. He also designs individual diet plans for his athletes. Danzer and his staff oversee most of the weight room training for Penguin athletics.
As Danzer’s intern and right-hand man, Sklenar said he has learned a lot throughout his internship and that it’s been a great experience. Both Danzer and Sklenar encourage undergraduate or graduate students to shadow them and get involved.
“Willie allows me a lot of freedom in my programming to run with some of the ideas I have had, which is huge,” Sklenar said. “When we sit down and program, we bounce a lot of ideas off of each other, and the end result is something that I believe is pretty progressive.”
Sklenar said he assists Danzer in the preparation of history questionnaires, and he also helps athletes take the necessary preventative measures for potential injuries. Instead of working on technique and form, staff members help student-athletes reach their full athletic potential.
“If we do our jobs correctly, we’re giving a better product back to the coach,” Danzer said. “We’re producing more athletic kids than we’ve ever produced here.”
Senior baseball player Kevin McCulloh spoke on the importance of the coaches.
“Strength and conditioning is an ideal factor to improve, and it’s not taken as seriously as it should be. But these guys have an undying passion for the profession that I really feel helps us out in the long run. It helps us become better athletes,” he said.
In addition, this past offseason, Brandian Ross, cornerback for the Green Bay Packers and a former Penguin, approached Danzer to help him with his offseason training.
Danzer and his staff managed to increase Ross’ speed and drop his 40-yard dash time from 4.79 to 4.44 seconds. Ross also gained 10 pounds of muscle.
“I love working with anyone that wants to be better than when they walked into the room. It’s exciting,” Danzer said. “I don’t care how unrealistic a student’s goal is, as long as there is a goal. That’s the most fun part of our jobs.”