By ANA BRACCIALLI
Many times when watching sports, viewers tend to focus on an athlete’s physique and performance, but often overlook the work that goes into developing them. Though, if you are one to specialize in performance training like UT’s strength coach, Justin Thiel, the ability to seek out athlete’s conditioning levels comes as second nature. Thiel leads the athletic department as a head strength and conditioning coach and overlooks 19 varsity teams with the purpose of molding them into the best athletic shape possible.
“I was born and raised in Minnesota, [I] hated the cold weather so I moved to Florida when I graduated high school to attend The University of North Florida,” Thiel said.
After spending a year at UNF, Thiel transferred to the University of West Florida where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“At that point, my career path obviously wasn’t to do what I am doing now,” Thiel said. “Once I figured out I wasn’t ready for a career in something psychology related, I gravitated toward one of my main interests which were fitness and health. I did some personal training for a while, and eventually figured out that I had a passion for working with the athletic population.”
Thiel furthered his education by attending the California University of Pennsylvania to receive his master’s degree in exercise physiology, with an emphasis on performance enhancement.
He started working at the University of South Florida as a coaching assistant, but it didn’t take long for him to seek out other options. Thiel went to West Point, a military academy in New York. He performed his job as an assistant strength and conditioning coach where his primary responsibility was to oversee the baseball and soccer teams.
“The experience was unlike anything I will probably ever experience in the collegiate setting,” Thiel said. “The athletes I worked with were some of the most intelligent, focused, and driven people I’ve ever been around. The cadet-athletes at West Point do more in a given day than most regular college athletes do in a week or month.”
Thiel expressed how crucial it was for the athletes at West Point to maintain a high academic standard and military obligations in addition to being competitive in their respective sport.
“The commitment they all make to serve this country as an officer for five years after graduation is something I will always have the utmost respect for,” Thiel said.
Being at West Point taught Thiel many valuable lessons that he still carries with him today.
“I learned something probably every day, but maybe more than anything else was learning about sacrifice and dedication,” Thiel said. “Being able to experience and be around 18-22 year old men and women that are so dedicated to something so much greater than themselves, serving and protecting our country and our way of living, is something pretty special,”
After working three years at West Point, Thiel wanted to move back to Florida. He always considered Tampa home and a place he found comfort in, being surrounded by family and friends. When he saw the head strength and conditioning coach position at UT, Thiel didn’t hesitate to apply.
“I was lucky enough to be one of the finalists to interview for the spot and was later offered the position, which of course I accepted,” Thiel said.
According to Thiel, what he likes the most about his job is being able to play a role in helping athletes reach their goals of getting stronger, bigger and more explosive, in hopes that it will help them stay healthy and perform better in their given sports.
“Seeing young athletes excel and be successful is what drives me to do what I do,” Thiel said.
Fredinho Mompremier, a sophomore forward on the men’s soccer team, complimented Thiel and how resourceful he is.
“His training is really intense and hard. He really helps us to achieve our goals and always makes sure that you are doing the right thing,” Mompremier said.
Thiel takes pride in helping players to become better people, not just better athletes.
“Maybe that’s where my psychology degree comes into play,” Thiel said.
Ana Braccialli can be reached at email@example.com