THE DYNAMICS OF DISCIPLINE: Head strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey is in his 10th season in the strength and training program. he oversees the daily conditioning regimen of over 100 student athletes in the athletic program, and leads the university’s strength and conditioning staff.
It’s a dare: walk into the Hecht Athletic Center Weight Room.
People might look at you strangely and you might be asked to leave, but the weight room is where you would have to venture to find Coach Andreu Swasey.
After two or three minutes of being around Swasey, you’ll realize that by embodying emotional, mental and physical health, he is setting the example for what an athlete should get out of strength and conditioning training.
As the head strength and conditioning coach, Swasey helps UM’s football players maintain speed, strength and body composition. Not only is this Miami native in charge of the daily conditioning for the student athletes in the football program, but he also manages the strength and conditioning staff of the six coaches that take care of the other 18 scholarship sports.
Swasey has been with The U for 10 seasons. Prior to that, he played as a defensive back at Baylor University and later became a defensive backs coach at Copperas Cove High School and later at the University of Houston.
From 1997 to 1998, Swasey was the assistant strength and conditioning coach at UM. He left the Hurricanes a year later only to come back in 2000 for good.
“I always wanted to do something [in Miami], whether it was working with the young guys, whether it was in high school,” he said. “I feel fortunate to be in my hometown but also to work at the University of Miami.”
In high school, Swasey played for the Carol City Chiefs, training with head coach Walt Frazier. He found conditioning to be an important part of his lifestyle, ultimately motivating him to become the coach he is today.
“I felt that it had always given me an edge growing up, you know with Coach Frazier, when I was coming out of high school,” he said. “If you’re well trained, I think it helps you physically, mentally and emotionally.”
For training, Swasey uses an Olympic approach as opposed to high intensity training (HIT), which is a more accelerated form that was used by former UM strength coach, Darryl Hewlett. HIT should be infrequent and short in time and length, but to increase muscle strength and size it must be completed with intensity.
Swasey has had experience with both, but feels that with Olympic style training, athletes develop their tendons and ligaments as well as their coordination and body awareness, ultimately allowing them to fully expand their athletic ability.
“My job responsibility is to keep the guys in tip-top shape. That requires them to [lift] weights and [develop] their core and overall body composition,” he said.
Football players, who are recruited a year prior to their first official semester, may have the athletic skill to play the game but their physical build may not be up to par. As a result, the players–under Swasey’s direction–must begin to gain muscle mass.
Senior Damien Berry came in weighing 198 pounds but after four years, he now weighs 215 pounds, primarily to the strengthening and conditioning his body has endured.
Conditioning is a yearlong commitment. When the football players are in season, they tend to see Swasey about three times a week and when they are out of season, about four times a week. He also travels with them to all of their games, in-state or not. For practice, the athletes are divided into groups and assigned a particular time of the day for when they have to lift weights and condition.
Once a week, an athlete might be prompted to do position-specific drills. Quarterbacks like Jacory Harris and AJ Highsmith might be asked to do arm strength exercises aside from the standard bench squats and abdominal workouts to stimulate their core strength.
“He tries to put everything in a game perspective,” Highsmith said. “When the running gets tough, he’ll say ‘It’s the fourth quarter you really have to focus.’ When we get in line and somebody jumps it, like a false start in the game, we got to redo the reps again.”
In his training, discipline plays an active role by developing attention to detail, which initially, no player is really equipped to handle.
“I think they signed up to play a sport, football, but I don’t think they got the memo on weight training,” Swasey said.
Swasey’s philosophy ensures that discipline transfers in the game and in the players’ lives. Running back Damien Berry can attest; he has been under Swasey’s coaching for four years.
“When you’re being disciplined, you’re being disciplined in all aspects of life not just football, but as a man,” Berry said. “If you skip reps, that’s a lack of discipline. If he catches you missing reps you’ll get punished for it.”
When athletes train with him for the first time, they tend to hit a brick wall but eventually see his softer side. Sophomore quarterback AJ Highsmith was in for a surprise when he came in last year.
“When I first got here I thought he was crazy because it was just so much stuff,” Highsmith said. “They called it an easy day but it still seemed like it was a hard day for me. I’ve gotten used to it now. It really made me a lot better. It’s been a good process.”
Berry had a similar experience. Early on, he got to know a stern and strict coach; slowly but surely, things began to turn around.
“At first it was like a dictatorship,” Berry said. “You couldn’t say anything back to him. You always had to just listen and let it go. But now, he’s coming around to where you can talk to him more and he is more receptive to what you have to say to him.”
On top of all the conditioning training, Swasey takes care of the team’s diet and nutrition. Highsmith was placed on a diet regimen where he can only eat at certain times, eating small portions spread out throughout the day. For the athletes under this specific diet, carbohydrates can only be consumed at certain times during the day and most of their protein comes from chicken, fish or meat. If you find Jacory Harris in the line at Mango Manny’s for an Original Chop, now you know why. Highsmith goes to Chicken Grill for his chicken and brown rice under Swasey’s mandate.
The players spend more time conditioning with Swasey than they do training with the other coaches. It’s no surprise that Swasey inevitably forms bonds with them. Highsmith feels that his strength coach provides more than just coaching.
“When you allow him to be, he’s more open and more fun than most people,” he said. “He likes to work and have fun at the same time.”
Berry also feels that Swasey brings excitement to the game. He pushes the players to their limits.
“He expects a lot more than what the coaches do out of us because he knows what we can do and he can see what we can do on a daily basis [working out],” Berry said. “I don’t think we’d be as good without him.”
NFL athletes who have trained with Swasey in the past have come back to condition with him because the consistency and style of his training is effective. Some think it’s because Swasey takes his work seriously and, therefore, others do too. Swasey feels it is because of the results.
“When you know that something works for you, if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it. They have that kind of mentality,” Swasey said.
With over 100 athletes that must be physically fit, Swasey has the help of two assistant coaches, Victor Ishmael and Cols Colas. Not only has he gained the respect of the athletes here at Miami, but he has also gained the admiration of the other strength coaches. Ishmael, who is in charge of the conditioning for golf and rowing said his experience with Swasey has been educational and inspiring.
“He develops them mentally and physically helping them be complete individuals, to be better athletes,” Ishmael said. “He has an ability to relate to the athletes and motivate them.”
As an asset to the football team, many worry whether or not he is here to stay. But it’s clear where Swasey’s allegiances lie.
“I’m all about The U. I always will be,” he said.
POWER, SPEED: Andrue Swasey utilizes the benefits of an Olympic-style free weight lifting regimen in training the athletes in his program. The system of controlled weights enhances players’ power and speed.