As the Stetson University softball players made their way into the team fieldhouse Tuesday afternoon to prepare for practice, many commented on how sore they were from Monday's strength training workout.
"That's nothing unusual because we push ourselves in the weight room every week," senior Meredith Owen said. "Soreness is something we will face in-season, so the more we can work through it now the better prepared we will be in the spring."
During the fall semester, the Hatters hit the weight room at the Athletic Training Center before dawn three times a week under the instruction of strength and conditioning coach Brad Lokey. Owen says the addition of a strength program to the athletic department last year has really made a tremendous impact on all of the Hatter teams, including softball.
"Coach Lokey knows the type of key words to say to us to help us get the right form," Owen said. "He pays attention to the specific little details that keep us all safe in the weight room. It's helped me tremendously."
"He keeps us all accountable, too," junior Allison Sutherin said about Lokey. "Especially us older girls who were here last year. When we don't have the right form, or if we notice our partner who might be younger doesn't have the right form, he really gets onto us for not correcting them. Working on our accountability (in the weight room) helps us on the field, too."
Sutherlin's work ethic in the weight room helped her garner National Strength and Conditioning Association All-American Athlete honors last year. The strength program also benefited the team from an offensive production standpoint - the Hatters hit a school-record 45 home runs last spring. Owen said she has seen improved results in the circle as well.
"Just from last year to this year the speed on my fastball has increased dramatically, there is no other explanation other than the fact that we are getting so much stronger," Owen said. "Our team percentage went up crazy amounts on our lifting, and it just continues to go up. It's not because we go in (to the weight room) and just go through the motions; we go in there and we work hard. It shows on the field because the balls are jumping off the bat and we are throwing the ball hard."
In addition to the tangible results of strength training, the team's time in the weight room fosters another valuable side-effect, team bonding.
"We all have to rely on each other," Sutherlin said. "I feel a lot of togetherness in there. When I hear other people yelling at me, it really motivates me to keep going, even when I feel like I can't. Just doing it all together really builds chemistry."
"The fact that we are lifting together as a team really pushes us," Owen said. "You see what the girl next to you is doing, and you think, 'Man, she is doing that, I can do that.' So it is a constant competition but in a good way. It's a fun environment.
"It also helps with team morale," Owen added. "When you are attempting a heavy lift and your teammate jumps in your ear and says, 'I know you can do it, you got this, you got this,' that helps us know they have our back and we have their back. On the field, that means they are not giving up on you and you are not giving up on them."
The Hatters will return to the field this Friday and Saturday with their final two scrimmages of the fall. Stetson will host Lake-Sumter State College at 4 p.m. Friday and St. Petersburg College at Noon on Saturday. Next week's contest vs. Daytona State has been canceled.