Generous contributions from several alumni and parent donors are enhancing the offerings of the Kalamazoo College Athletic Department’s strength and conditioning program, which is providing student-athletes with confidence and improved performance in the weight room and in competition.
Co-Interim Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jamie Zorbo said the College in years past had one part-time coach covering strength and conditioning for all of its 18 sports. Now, however, a three-year pilot collaboration with the Richland-based company Athletic Mentors provides each team access to multiple certified coaches, along with nutrition advice, sports psychology services and enhanced technology to improve preparation and game-day experiences.
“We’ve gone from a Division III caliber strength and conditioning program to a Division I by most standards,” Zorbo said. “We’re providing a high level of strength conditioning, coaching, expertise and technology to our teams and athletes.”
That matters to prospective student-athletes, he said, because most of them are used to having a strength coach by the time they reach high school, and the additional guidance is imperative for long-term success.
“It’s a focal point when prospective student-athletes visit,” Zorbo said. “Recruits want us to describe the culture in the weight room and what an offseason program looks like. We’re able to answer that question very positively now.”
Recruits then can benefit firsthand as they matriculate at K. The strength experts work with coaches to establish a team’s custom-fit plan of action while also connecting with athletes through two apps—one to record workouts and communicate any issues, and the other to share educational content about nutrition, sleep recovery, the negative effects of drug-and-alcohol use and more.
“The strength and conditioning coach and a head coach talk about where a team might be deficient,” Zorbo said. “They will ask, ‘How do we need to plan things out,’ ‘What do we need to do to set the team up for success once we hit the season’ and ‘How should we approach strength and conditioning during the season?’ because that changes. They’re very organized and take a year-round approach. That used to be a big challenge for us. It’s not a hurdle anymore, because there are multiple trained coaches that we have access to who handle all the programming and planning for each team. Our athletes are probably in the weight room more than they ever have been before.”
While reflecting on such benefits, Zorbo also declared a big “thank you” to the donors while recognizing that the gifts will help K recruits, coaches and student-athletes for years to come.
“I’m a big believer that the development of our student-athletes is where we really need to be a cut above, and these very generous gifts are a game changer,” Zorbo said. “If you’re a stronger and better-conditioned athlete, that enhances your confidence, safety and your ability to do your job on the field. I believe these changes will lead to more success on the field, so this is transformational.”
From the Student-Athletes
“This past winter, I studied abroad in Costa Rica and I was still able to do all the workouts that all the girls were doing here in the gym because I could just pull up the app on my phone, look at the assigned workout and do it.”
— Emma Stickley ’24, volleyball student-athlete
“I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, and I would like to say I’m the fastest I’ve ever been.”
— Jonah Spates ’25, football student-athlete
“From an injury-prevention standpoint, we need our student-athletes firing on all cylinders 100% of the time. The injury-prevention aspect of this program and maximizing our performance is huge for us.”
— Cross Country Head Coach Kyle Morrison
“I think one of the most important things we can invest in is a program like this; something that will benefit every single one of our teams.”
— Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach Jess Smith
“It helps me as a coaching professional by taking something off my plate so that I can focus fully on competition readiness. It helps me do all of the other parts of my job more successfully.”
— Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach Vince Redko