As the Broncos create history with their currently undefeated season I can't help but feel amazed that I get to be a part of it. This is our fourth season working with the team alongside the strength and conditioning crew to keep the players healthy and ready to be ELITE. Watching the growth of these players has been an absolute dream come true. I wanted to take some time to chat with Coach Dan Nichol, head strength coach for the team, about why they chose to include massage as a part of the conditioning for these players.
Coach Nichol is a man of large stature, and obviously must have played linebacker or defensive end during his own college career at Springfield College in Massachusetts. You can usually see him on the sidelines keeping players and coaches wrangled behind the sidelines. Before each play he gets into his ingrained athletic stance as if his body has not let go of being right in there with the players. The first time I ever spoke with Dan was over the phone regarding getting the team massages during the first preseason camp of the PJ Fleck era. I honestly could only understand half of what he said due to his thick Bostonian accent. "My wife is from twenty minutes away from me and she is sometimes like 'hey, WHAT?" Dan admits. After four years however I have gained an ear for it, or maybe our Michigan accents are melding in and creating a hybrid I can understand. Whatever the case, we sat down together after the team went 9-0 for the first time ever and we discussed our involvement in this historical achievement.
When we first came in I was told that massage was a key component that Coach Fleck wanted to have in the conditioning program. When I asked Dan why that was he explained, "I think it's really important for our guys, we want them to stay healthy and cut down on your risk of any soft tissue injuries. You see out there sometimes with athletes soft tissue issues hold them back. Which should never happen. You should always continue to improve the structure of the body. " He went on to say, "Now with post game, post game recovery [we] get that done on Sunday, get the body felling pretty elite. It's a huge part, huge part of the process in getting these guys recovered and ready for the next week."
When asked about his personal experience with the benefits of massage Coach Nichol said, "It's been outstanding, I mean huge with mobility work. I'm a pretty stiff guy, especially upper back and neck and everything. It's just tremendous, you feel like a different person when you are done with a massage."
While I see the smiling faces and get the praise directly from the players, I wanted to know what benefits Coach saw in the athletes. "It's tremendous in helping your body mentally and physically, I think more mentally than anything. You see a kid comes out after a fifteen minute massage it's amazing, they just feel like a new person. They open up different pathways in their bodies that were maybe been blocked by tissue and things like that. These guys just feel amazing. And then they love it, they love it, they really enjoy it." He elaborated, "The recovery has been more efficient. Returning to play and also mobility, mobility is huge. That's improved a lot in our hips and our backs, hamstrings, those types of things. I think it's a credit to the massage work we've done in here on a weekly basis. Now there are other ways, other opportunities to do that, but this huge, this something that somebody comes in and does this for them. You don't have [that] everywhere. We have it here. That's our way, that's our advantage."
"We maximize every opportunity to improve the body, improve the recovery, with our hydration, with our eating, with our sleeping. And [massage] is a part of it. It also helps out the emotional side. Keeps the three fires burning, physical, mental, and emotional. Keeping those on high, this is another piece...this is a piece that makes them different." says Coach. "You know, and taking advantage of it, taking advantage of these opportunities to grow and take care of the body. Huge, huge part in their recovery."
On a personal note, I asked Coach Nichol what the hardest thing about coaching was. "Everyday is a challenge, but everyday is paradise. You know, it's really not a job, it's a passion." I smiled internally at the simple yet powerful statement that it was. "The best part of the challenge is when you see guys grow, from a boy to a man. You know, a guy that takes the leadership. Leads others and influences others. We've got a tremendous group of leaders here, that have done a tremendous job. They have a love for the game, and a love for each other. They play for each other."
I can only fathom how incredible it has been for this group boys to become men and achieve something very few people have the pleasure of achieving. But as every coach will tell you, take it one day at a time, one game at a time. Now that I have come this far on my own personal journey, I know I can achieve more if I just keep rowing the boat.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT