University of Georgia football strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair has no offseason.
For the many non-football staffers in his inner circle, the year-round commitment is sometimes hard to understand during the sizzling summer months. “I might be at church or somebody you see at the restaurant and they’re like, ‘Man, you guys getting ready to start up in a couple months?’ And I’m like, ‘No, we’ve been working.’”
His efforts have clearly been paying off in Athens these days.
As the Bulldogs begin their 2023 season on Saturday against UT-Martin, Sinclair, now in his eighth season working for Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart, has transformed the Dawgs’ strength program through the years into a perennial powerhouse. The Dawgs appeared in three National Championships, winning the last two, and are now working toward a three-peat in 2023.
Hence the “zero offseason” for Sinclair, his strength staff, and a bunch of well-conditioned Bulldogs.
“We started in June and we will train all through July,” he says. “June, we’re training four days a week. We’re lifting Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. We are running speed work on Monday. We’re running on Wednesday as a team, and on Friday after our workouts. We work on agility and change of direction, acceleration, deceleration on Thursdays. So it’s a busy, busy time in June.”
FOR GEORGIA FOOTBALL, SMALL DETAILS EQUAL BIG BULLDOG GAINS
Measurements and data paint a detailed picture for every single Georgia football player in the program.
It all starts with a blank canvas for each athlete.
Before all of the heavy lifting and running begins, Sinclair runs a baseline status check on his Dawgs.
“I’ve got four other outstanding strength coaches,” Sinclair says. “I think it’s the best staff in the country. We’ll all sit down and we’ll figure out what these guys need,” Sinclair said.
“As [a] team, what did we need to work on last year that maybe we don’t need to work on this year? Maybe it’s more flexibility. Maybe we had more groin injuries last year. We need to work on our groin strength. Maybe we got some hamstring imbalances when we tested their hamstring strength. Overall, from a conditioning standpoint, were we good last year? Were we in shape? Did we need to do more change of direction, acceleration work? Was our conditioning level in the fourth quarter what it needed to be?”
Once Sinclair and company have the team’s baseline squared away, it’s off and running in preseason and in the regular season.
GEORGIA FOOTBALL IS RAISING THE BAR FASTER FOR GAINS
Sinclair recently implemented a velocity-focused strength approach in lifts and workouts for the Bulldogs. Instead of focusing solely on the load—in other words, one-rep maxes aren’t necessarily the goal—it’s all about power and explosiveness, or what he refers to as “chasing bar speed.”
“We’re not necessarily concerned with the percentage or the weight but how fast the bar is moving, Sinclair explains. “If two players come in and one’s working at 80%, 80% to you because you have not recovered well enough feels like 102%. And 80% to me feels like 65%. Then if we just stay at that 80%, I’m overtraining you and I’m undertraining me.”
In other words, the bar speed of each athlete’s work determines whether Sinclair has that player push forward or scale back. “If you can’t move the speed we need you to do at 80%, then we know to drop your weight. If I’m at 80%, but I’m moving it really, really fast, then I know we can add some weight.”
That tailor-made outlook on strength and conditioning helps each player in each position group compete in the grueling Southeastern Conference.
RUNNING WITH PURPOSE
As the team’s conditioning program shifts from summer to the season, the requirements of hulking, 300-pound linemen diverge from the skill players. Sinclair learned enough in his 23-year career to understand those important nuances.
“The one thing that does change is our conditioning. If you look at our GPS numbers, just as an example, if our wide receivers and defensive backs are getting 7,000 to 8,000 yards in a practice, but our linemen are getting 3,500 yards in a practice, maybe 4,000 at the most, then why should I run them the same? Why should they be getting the same yardages in our summer training program? When I first started, everybody just went out and ran. And everybody ran the same distance, the same time. So a lot of our training is specific to our players and to what they’re going to get in a practice.”
Even with some degree of specialization, Sinclair explains that every football player—regardless of position—has to be strong as a Georgia oak.
“As a football player, you’ve got to be in shape,” Sinclair says. “You’ve got to be strong, powerful, able to bend, and you have to be fast. Even our punters and kickers have to be explosive. The punt, or the leg swing through a field goal is not a slow movement. It’s an explosive movement. Your core’s gotta be strong.”
Sinclair’s program hems in all the fine details. GPS monitors measure players’ speed on the field just like the force plates measure their power in the weight room.
But there’s always room for improvisation.
“We’re not married to our program,” he says. “Just because we’re supposed to do something on Wednesday or a Sunday, sometimes I may make an adjustment. And I think that’s just the wisdom of ‘been doing it.’ We can look at our numbers, find some trends, and if we see something not going in the direction we need it to go, we can make a change.”
LEARNING TO ADAPT
There may be no better example of that in-program flexibility than Georgia’s response to its only loss in the last two seasons.
Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and Alabama upset Georgia, 41-24, in the 2021 SEC Championship. The Dawgs learned the hard way that physically, they were not in shape to defeat elite competition. So Sinclair made some adjustments, getting the team back to the basics and re-implementing that grueling summer conditioning approach into their December plans.
The result? A 34-11 Orange Bowl semifinal win over Michigan, then a 33-18 victory in its National Championship rematch against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide—the program’s first title since 1980.
The following season, Georgia once again found itself in a hole, this time 14-point fourth-quarter deficit against Ohio State during the CFP Semifinal in Atlanta.
Unlike its previous stumble against ‘Bama, Georgia dug deeper. These Dawgs didn’t tap out.
They pulled off a thrilling comeback, won 42-41, then punished TCU 65-7 to claim back-to-back National Championships.
The data doesn’t lie.
Experience doesn’t, either.
“A lot of things that we’ve incorporated in our program, I think it’s good and we definitely use it, Sinclair said. “But there’s times we just need to work hard. The wisdom of doing it long enough, I know, hey, ‘We gotta do an extra couple reps here,’ or ‘Hey, I gotta cut back today. I know our numbers say this, but we can’t do this today. We just need to drop a little bit.’ So I think it’s definitely enhanced the way we train.”