The Ready State Virtual Mobility Coach is like having a virtual Kelly Starrett in your pocket.
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Juliet: [00:00:16] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you LMNT.
Kelly: [00:00:20] Look, let me be straight up. We’re going into summer. It’s like hot, sweaty, dying in your garage gym hot. Plus, all the athletes in the summer programs getting ready for fall. One of the things that’s happening, everyone’s sweating balls. No one is replacing electrolytes.
Juliet: [00:00:35] Like no one.
Kelly: [00:00:35] Protein, that’s good. But if you’re not putting the salts back in, I guarantee you you’re missing out on hydration, on focus, the whole thing. You cannot take this seriously enough. It makes such a difference.
Juliet: [00:00:46] And even if you are drinking a lot of water, you may not actually be-
P: [00:00:50] Especially.
Juliet: [00:00:50] Absorbing all the water you’re drinking. You may just be peeing it all out.
Kelly: [00:00:54] Yeah, we see that a lot.
Juliet: [00:00:55] And that’s one of the reasons why you want to add some salts to your water.
Kelly: [00:00:56] Yeah, the hyponatremia thing, we’re seeing a lot of kids right now, a lot of young kids, walk around like a gallon. And I’m not talking about a borg. A blackout rage gallon. I’m just talking about a gallon of water. They’re thinking I’ve got to drink this. But they are not thinking about replacing the salt. And you are a bioelectrical system. The whole thing runs on a gradient that’s driven by salt. Let me just say that again. If you are sweating hard, make sure you’re adding some salts back. And the best way to do that is to be entertained in your mouth. Let me introduce you to the power of LMNT.
Juliet: [00:01:28] Right now, if you order through our link you get a free sample pack through all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to drinklmnt.com/trs.
Kelly: [00:01:38] Do it.
Juliet: [00:01:39] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast, we are very excited to welcome Tom Morris. Tom is in his 16th year within the Indiana Strength and Conditioning Department of Indiana University, serving as the senior assistant athletic director for athletic performance for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. He is responsible for the development and implementation of sport specific strength, conditioning, flexibility, speed, and agility programs for Indiana’s 24 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I programs, including the eight time National Champion men’s soccer program.
Kelly: [00:02:14] This conversation is great. I had a chance to become friends with Tom a long time ago when I swung by Indiana to work with the football team and the performance staff. And immediately I was like this is a person, we’re going to be friends forever. And I’m so thrilled to talk about him on this conversation with him.
Juliet: [00:02:30] Yeah, I had the exact same experience when I took Georgia on a college tour at IU and we had the opportunity to also meet Tom and some of the other strength and conditioning staff there. And I came home and I was like oh my God, this guy Tom Morris is amazing.
Kelly: [00:02:42] Now, spoiler alert, we’re going to talk about some of the challenges for young collegiate athletes. I think if you have a school aged child, you’re thinking, hey, my kid’s probably a unicorn that’s going to play D I in sports. We talk about that little bit. But also, we talk about Tom’s incredible, incredible story. I don’t want to give it away here. I don’t think we want to spoil it. But understand that Tom is a total badass and has become an even more remarkable person dealing with this thing that happened in his life.
Juliet: [00:03:13] Yeah, I mean he really is such an example of humility and resilience and the power of positive thinking. I’m so inspired by him.
Kelly: [00:03:22] And the power of sport as an organizing feature to overcome difficult obstacles.
Juliet: [00:03:28] Agreed. I think you guys are really going to enjoy this conversation with Tom. I know Kelly and I had a great time talking with him. Tom, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. We are just really excited to talk with you today. And I’ll let Kelly kick it off with how we even know you in the first place.
Kelly: [00:03:44] Yeah, let’s start with where are you talking to us because we know, but will you explain your location to our listeners?
Tom Morris: [00:03:53] Absolutely. So I’m at Indiana University and I’m in the varsity weight room and that’s all of this behind me. Twenty-five thousand square feet, millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. I mean it is like a little gym just sitting in the middle of Indiana and this is where we train primarily all of our athletes out here. So 750 student athletes, 24 sports, all training out of this one facility under this one roof.
Kelly: [00:04:21] And will you explain where that facility is specifically in relationship to like say a football field?
Tom Morris: [00:04:27] Yes. So if you could see, it is right back… I’ve got windows behind me and the windows beyond that, we are on the ground level of the football stadium in the north end zone. So we basically have filled in that north end zone and put ourself on that ground level. Yeah, you walk out those doors, you’re right in the end zone, walking right out there onto the field.
Juliet: [00:04:50] I just want to say, I think Kelly and I both have had the opportunity to be in that gym and I was there with our daughter Georgia when we were doing a campus tour; you guys were kind enough to let us in. And what I loved about her reaction is she is a water polo player and she’d already decided she didn’t want to go the college athlete route, didn’t want to play D I water polo, wasn’t pursuing that, but we were still lucky enough to get to see that gym. And the only time she’s ever-
Kelly: [00:05:18] She balked.
Juliet: [00:05:18] Had a moment of regret about not wanting to pursue D I athletics was when she was in that gym. I mean she stood there and she was like, “Wait, so only the athletes get to work out in here?” And then we went over to the normal kid gym, and she was like, “Man, this is the first time I’m sort of regretting not trying to pursue this athlete thing because that gym is beyond.”
Tom Morris: [00:05:40] We have that effect. We’ve had that happen so many times. We’ll have donors come in here with their kids and maybe they’re students on campus here. And the second they get in here, they are doing everything they can to figure out how they can become an athlete, volunteer, whatever it may be just so they can get in here and lift. Because I’m telling you, I mean I’m biased obviously, but this is one of the nicest facilities in the entire country.
Kelly: [00:06:04] It is bananas. That whole university is incredible. And just for everyone’s framework, I’m pretty sure that makes you a Hoosier, is that correct?
Tom Morris: [00:06:14] That is true. But do not ask me to define what a Hoosier is.
Kelly: [00:06:17] Does Gene Hackman just walk around campus all the time?
Tom Morris: [00:06:19] Exactly right. You may catch him walk right behind me. You just never know. That’s right.
Kelly: [00:06:25] So what is your role in the department because we have so many questions about collegiate athletics right now. But tell us about what your role is at the department.
Tom Morris: [00:06:33] So mine is director of athletic performance. And what I do is I give oversight to all of our strength coaches. So athletic performance here is our strength and conditioning coaches that are working hands on with all of our student athletes. And so for me, I work with our men’s soccer team. I still have a team that I get to get my hands dirty and get out on the floor with them. And I spend a lot of time doing that. But the majority of my time is just making sure that we’re using the creative process to continually keep building our brand and building up our brand as far as how we’re training our student athletes, how we’re promoting them to be put in the most technological, the newest ways of training. And we’re doing that in a way of collaboration with 15 strength coaches. And that’s the unique part about this facility, is that we’re all under one roof, 15 strength coaches. If you go to a lot of universities, there’s six, seven different weight rooms all over the place and everybody is spread out. And that has its plusses. But the idea of being able to all be under one roof with 15 people, that when I get up, I can go down to somebody else’s office and just ask them something in the world of strength and conditioning and be able to sit there and collaborate that close, I mean that’s the unique part of what we’re doing. But to go back to your original question, that’s what it’s all about, is being able to keep everybody talking, keep everybody collaborating, and building the best programs.
Juliet: [00:07:56] That reminds me of what Kelly’s talked a lot about with our early gym when we were still running San Francisco CrossFit. Kelly had his physical therapy table six feet away from the coaching floor and then we had all these amazing coaches who were out there day in, day out working with athletes. So they could listen to what Kelly was doing with his clients and athletes and he could listen to them. And there was so much growth and learning and collaboration. I mean I think that happened in our gym throughout. But man, in those early days, that closeness and collaboration is so important. And I’d never really thought about it in the college context, right, because where I went to college at Cal, there were like 10 different weight rooms and we certainly weren’t always connected to the other athletes. So I think it probably is also advantageous for the athletes to be able to witness other athletes training and see what other sports are doing from a strength and conditioning standpoint.
Tom Morris: [00:08:52] Yeah, absolutely. And one of the biggest things we always say is we’re prideful that we’re good coaches. We try to be the best coaches that we possibly can. But we are nothing compared to what those peers… So when the baseball team is lined up getting ready to hit a big squat and that football team looks over at that baseball team and says no way in hell am I allowing those baseball guys to go and do something that I know I could do. All of a sudden, the promotion of that intensity, let’s get after it, I mean it’s incredible. And it’s across the board as far as just motivating and pushing our athletes. We’re allowed to be in this setting. Seven hundred athletes are coming in and out of here. And all this is, is we give them the blueprint and they give the intensity and they bring all the energy. And all of a sudden, I mean the athlete that never thought they could do this but because this athlete is doing it, all of a sudden, they’re doing it. And it just allows continual growth.
Juliet: [00:09:48] So we have a thousand questions about strength and conditioning and college athletics, but we cannot talk to you on this podcast without hearing your unique story. You had a really bad crash and accident. And I just would love it if you could share that with our listeners.
Kelly: [00:10:02] Just because it brings in such visions of inclusivity. You just think differently about the world. We’d love to hear about how you became an athletic director and your unique position that you occupy in this sort of world.
Tom Morris: [00:10:18] Yeah. So let me give you a little context. I was always an athlete. So grew up as a football player. Football player, when it was all said and done, I decided I needed competition. I was already working as a strength and conditioning coach because the weightroom and being an athlete put me there and I loved it. I mean just loved what that weightroom could do for a human as far as helping them grow and continually get better. But there was this feeling that I was still missing and that was the competition. I loved the idea of training hard and working and I needed to compete, so I got back into biking. A childhood deal. I used to race bikes when I was 10, 11 years old. And then when football was done, I decided I’m going back into this. So I went from a 230 pound football player dropping down to 180 pounds and just racing bikes all over.
And so this became quite an addiction. It was almost bit by this endurance bug. But I got addicted to that pain and suffering of what endurance brought. And I spent a lot of time in that world. So much so that it actually gave me an identity. I was racing CAT 1 in mountain biking at that point and even getting pretty high up in road biking. And on May 17 of 2012, couple days after that it was going to be a huge mountain bike race, huge national mountain bike race. So I go out that morning, on a Wednesday morning, and I’m just doing this training ride, fine tuning myself, almost like a walk through, just make sure the gear is right, the body’s feeling good. And I’m on the fourth lap, the final lap of this ride, and I go around this sharp 90 degree turn and all of a sudden, I plow into this rock. I nail it with the front tire. And I’m finding myself flying through the air, this head over heel action. And it was crazy because it was almost like a scene from Matrix where I’m going head over heels and I could see the vivid nature of the ground, I could see all the grains of dirt and I could see myself getting closer and closer, leaves falling to my left and right. And there was just nothing I can do. So I just grabbed ahold of the handle bars as tight as I could. And all of a sudden, wham, nailed the ground with the front part of my head. And so it jars my head back and then kind of straight down. It drove my eyes through that I see kind of like my knees then the bike and then the entire sky is on top of it.
And I always refer to that impact, it completely ignited me. My whole body felt like it caught on fire. Hands felt like lightning bolts blazed out of them. And so I somersault all the way around. I land on the ground. And the whole thought of hitting the ground, I just layed there motionless not knowing what just happened. So I’m laying there eyes closed, scared to death to open them, finally open my eyes and I’m staring back up at that same sky again. And try and get off the ground, trying to push, trying to move, trying to do everything I can. And it was the feeling of almost you’re suction cupped to the ground. You just can’t get off. You cannot budge no matter what happens. Start patting myself, just trying to figure out some assembly of what just happened, what is going on right now. And the weirdest sensation of touching my chest. When my hands got to my chest, it was like they felt my chest, my hands did, but my chest, it wasn’t feeling my hands. It was like I was almost touching something that wasn’t there. It was like this crazy idea if I reached out and touched the desk I could feel it, but obviously, nothing’s coming back.
And so I go through this whole series of trying to figure out how I’m going to get out of this thing, how I’m going to get up off the ground. I’m laying there staring at the sky. I realize I have my phone on me. But I try to reach in my pocket to grab my phone because I have one of those cycling jerseys on because it’s in my kind of back right pocket. I reach in there and then at that point, I realize it’s not even just your legs that aren’t working, you’re not only just stuck, my hands aren’t working either. They could pinch, they could feel the phone, but they weren’t strong enough to actually pull the phone out of my back pocket. And so at that moment, I’m in this world of, oh shit, I’m stuck to the ground on some secluded trail in Indiana completely by myself without any kind of way of getting out of it, completely gone. You’re just stuck to the ground. And so I layed there for three and a half hours on the ground.
Kelly: [00:15:00] Oh my God.
Juliet: [00:15:00] Oh my God.
Tom Morris: [00:15:01] Three and a half hours of just not knowing and all the millions of thoughts going through your head. And three-hour mark into this, my body’s in such an intense burn. Everything’s on fire. My breath is getting labored. And I’m just kind of in the place of is this the last place I’m ever going to be? Will I ever see my wife again? Am I ever going home? But luckily into that mark, three and a half hours into it, these two riders came by and then called for help. And the journey began.
Kelly: [00:15:31] That’s bananas.
Juliet: [00:15:33] Yeah, and so tell us in medical terms what actually… That was, by the way, such an amazing description. It’s crazy to me that you are able to remember and see all that detail.
Kelly: [00:15:44] The norepinephrine set that. Yeah.
Juliet: [00:15:46] But tell us from a medical standpoint what actually happened to you after the fact and what is your life like now?
Tom Morris: [00:15:54] Yeah. So I get to the hospital and I go in and I know at this point something’s obviously wrong. But I didn’t know the severity of it until I went in and I go the initial scan. And when I came out of the scan, the doctor, who actually ended up being a biker—I knew her from doing some different rides—and she looked at me and she said, “Tom, you broke your neck. You have a C6, C7 vertebra break.” And when she told me that, she started crying. And she started crying, and when she did that, I just knew this is a big deal, this is not going to be real good. But the C6, C7 break, hours later I go into surgery, they fix the spinal column, spinal cord is already damaged at that point. So the initial diagnosis at that point, the doctor came in and said, “You are a quadriplegic, you will have no function of your hands, you will have no function of your body, you’re going to need… It’s not even that you can’t walk. You’re going to need a caregiver for the rest of your life.”
Kelly: [00:16:51] Holy shit.
Juliet: [00:16:54] How do you even process that?
Tom Morris: [00:16:56] Yeah. Right? And that story is so crazy because I remember that point where he came in. It’s actually a quick story I’ll have to tell you because I’m in there with the speech therapist who came in to just make sure I could swallow because of the trach; they do that little swallow test. And so she says she has three different pieces of food, first water, then Jell-O, then a cracker. And she said, “You just need to swallow them to make sure your throat is fine.” So she feeds me a little water, it goes down. It actually felt pretty good. Then she feeds me this cherry Jell-O. And I’m telling you, the second the cherry Jell-O and the sugar hit my mouth, it felt like life coming back in me. But I swallow it down and I’m like, ah, nailed that. And so the third one though is this cracker and she’s holding it in her hand. And so what I didn’t know was happening at that point was right outside my door, the doctor, the surgeon at that point, he’s talking to my wife and he’s telling her the diagnosis. And he said to her, “Tom’s a quadriplegic. He’ll never walk again. He’s going to need a caregiver. This is going to change his life and your life forever.” And her only concern was how are we going to tell him this, how are we going to tell Tom what just happened. And so in the meantime, I’m in the room and all I’m focused on is cracker. This cracker is staring at me and I’m-
Kelly: [00:18:20] Crushed. I crushed the Jell-O. Bring it on.
Tom Morris: [00:18:23] Bring it on. I was confident at this point. Nervous but ready. And so the speech therapist is holding this cracker about two to three feet away. And so she started to bring it close to my mouth. And right at that point, I see the door, it flings open and the doctor comes barging in and without even any kind of hello, nothing, he just yells out, “He’s a quadriplegic, he can’t feed himself, you’ve got to feed him, you’ve got to put it in his mouth.” And I remember sitting there just thinking, fuck, what, what. And my only thought at that point is I wonder if he’s telling the… is this real?
Juliet: [00:19:02] Yeah, you’re like am I being punked right now?
Kelly: [00:19:04] I’m Tom Morris, super jock.
Tom Morris: [00:19:07] Right. You’re telling me I can’t pick up this cracker. And I remember I reached out with everything I had and I grabbed ahold of the cracker. When I pinched it, it felt like I was lifting 1,000 pounds to squeeze and just be able to hold onto it as hard as I can and still couldn’t crack that cracker. And I pulled it in my mouth and start chewing it, kind of just chewing it, turned it into a little ball of cracker mush and swallowed it down. And I remember just going, ah, to hell with this dude.
Juliet: [00:19:38] You’re like take that, doctor.
Kelly: [00:19:41] Suck it.
Tom Morris: [00:19:42] Suck it, doctor.
Juliet: [00:19:43] What I have to just quickly interject for anyone who is not watching and is just listening to this, this story is extra amazing because the entire time you’re telling it, you’re doing all this very animated gesturing with your entire upper body. So I mean that makes it even better. You’re obviously using your entire upper body.
Kelly: [00:20:03] So when I met you, I think it was 2016 or 2017, I had come to see Coach Keith who is a former head strength and conditioning coach for football, and I was invited there. I didn’t realize how relatively recent, within like five years of your injury it was. We talked about adaptive athletics. You were an athletic director at the time. I want to know, you had a blueprint for injury, had you ever been injured before in your life, had you ever had a knee surgery, a shoulder, where you lost this identity of physicality? Had you ever gone through something like that before?
Tom Morris: [00:20:38] Never. Basic broken fingers. Go to catch a football, have a finger get dislocated. But nothing that a little tape and a little PT didn’t help.
Kelly: [00:20:48] And I know it’s a big jump to say, hey, I’ve torn my ACL, I may lose my scholarship and my identity to hey, I have a spinal cord injury that changes everything. But the core principle there is the same, that we lose, especially… I mean Juliet and I are just like you. One of the reasons all three of us talk about mountain biking together, but one of the reasons is we just so clearly identify our recreation, the things we like to do, train, and if that was taken away, it’s a little bit shocking. Can you talk about that experience or was it just, hey, I already have a model for this, I’ve been around injured athletes making rehab gains, I know what the work looks like. Did you have a framework or did you just say, oh my God, my life is over, or I just have to get back to work?
Tom Morris: [00:21:32] Yeah, it’s 100 percent just what can we do, how can I move on. I’ve seen athletes, again, I’ve never been injured before but I’ve seen athletes, we’ve helped rehabbed ACLs. And the ones that go on to have the best outcomes, they just put the work in. They put it in. They live in the moment; they live in the present moment and they try to control the controllables. And I think that’s such a foundational principle that we could all live by is control the controllables. And in our control, there’s not that many things besides effort, besides the way we’re going to approach whatever’s in front of us. And that’s all I had was the idea of I didn’t know what any given day was going to bring, I didn’t know what the outcomes were going to be, I just knew I had energy and I could put my focus into that moment. And that’s how I decided to tackle this thing.
I remember a whole bunch of people in the beginning saying there’s Paralympics and there’s all these different things. In the meantime, I’m sitting there in this huge neck brace barely able to breathe and move and they’re talking about Paralympics. I was like, yeah, let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s just hold on a second. And so for me, that’s what I did, is I tried to listen to the PTs. I had incredible PTs that I was so fortunate to work with and they not only helped me with some of the physical parts but they painted the picture of what a spinal cord injury is because I think so often including myself before this injury, I just thought, oh, spinal cord injury, anybody that’s in a wheelchair just can’t walk. That sucks. But it was like universal, didn’t matter what was going on. And then you realize with a spinal cord injury, let alone a cervical spinal cord injury, man, walking is the least of your worries. I mean everything is gone. Everything is wiped out. And so I put the energy into whatever they told me each day. Start off with trying to pinch your finger. Start off with trying to comb hair. It was just the littlest things building into hopefully the bigger picture.
Juliet: [00:23:28] One of the things that I admire so much about you from afar, having met you of course, but also watching you on Instagram, I know you go around and do speaking engagements and stuff. And you didn’t mention this but obviously a huge part of how amazing you are and how effective your recovery was is your mindset. And I’m sure people would love to figure out how they could tap into your mind and make a drug out of whatever it is that you have going for you.
Kelly: [00:23:57] Did you have formal mindset training? Did you see a high-performance psychologist? I mean really, I’m wondering did you have a framework for this or did your training as an athlete prepare you for I think I understand how to cope with this?
Juliet: [00:24:12] Yeah, because I mean just quick context, you are a stoked, positive, human out there in the world who is functioning at a very high level in all things you’re doing, including athletics, which we can get to. But how did you approach that from a mindset standpoint?
Tom Morris: [00:25:27] Well, I appreciate the kind words on there. I definitely am humbled by it. I never had a high-performance psychologist, nothing. I think sport creates so many positive parts of life. And I think for me, when I started off Little League. I always hit with stories, but I think they speak to where maybe it started. And so when I was nine years old, I’m Little League All Stars, Beaver Banks Little League All Stars. It was the greatest thing because it was the start of my MLB career. This is where I was headed. And so-
Kelly: [00:25:00] You’re not wrong. I totally get it.
Tom Morris: [00:25:01] We all had these. Even your listeners, you know that time when-
Kelly: [00:25:06] I played for FC Byron. It’s totally fine.
Tom Morris: [00:25:08] See? Exactly right. And so I get out there and I’m trying out for Little League, me and three of my closest friends. You would go through the standard Little League tryouts, run and jump, to hit the ball. We get brought back into the locker, into the dugout, the coach says, “Hey, I go the list of the team. If you’re on the list, you can come out in center field. If you’re not on the list, try again next year.” He puts the little note up on the wall. We go out there and just ripping through that, trying to find your name. Man, I still remember the feeling of going through. Ah, I don’t see it. Going through again. And going through and I don’t see it. And at this time, all my friends are like, “Yeah,” they’re making it. I go through that list about five or six times and I realize I’m not on the list. I didn’t make it and even not worse but kind of worse, all my friends did.
I remember just dropping my head and walking out to my dad. He’s in the parking lot by his truck. And I didn’t even make it five feet from him and I unload. “It’s the coaches’’ kids, this is unfair.” I had every excuse in the book just how unfair it is besides anything that was about me. I still remember my dad saying, he’s like, “Yeah. Maybe. That’s a possible. I’m not saying you’re wrong.” But he’s like, “What is it going to change? If you’re this mad and you’re this upset, what is it going to change? Life sometimes just isn’t fair, so control the things you can. Become so good that the coach cannot not keep you on this team.” And I remember I went home that day and we played catch and then the full year after that, I mean just literally, I threw the ball with every neighborhood person, I threw the ball to the dog. I literally played baseball all the time. And I literally went back the next year and I was able to make that roster.
And ever since then, it taught me life isn’t always fair and life is going to throw you a curve ball. But control the controllables. Whatever you still have, do it to the best of your capability. And I think that that foundational principle at nine years old was something that was replayed over and over because I have failed so many times in life. I have failed so many, so many times. But every time I failed, I just tried to learn something from it and take it as control the controllables. Figure out how and what the effort is that you can put in there to be able to keep moving on. And I think when this accident happened, the same deal was, okay, I can’t walk or pinch a finger, what can I do. And that idea allowed me to keep moving forward. And I do think it’s a really important part because life is still not easy or life has still gotten a lot harder. But I spend my time where my energy can actually make a positive change and I’m very, very fortunate to be able to do that.
Kelly: [00:27:55] You’re a coach and I think as a coach, especially a strength coach, it’s all about regression and progression. Athletes change during the season, they get injured, they get banged up, you’re always working to find out what we can do. I mean I don’t think people understand that that part of strength and conditioning is really miraculous, that no matter, we’re coming in, we’re going to work today, no matter what. That may be really different than what the other kids are doing but we’re still working. What I think I’d love to explore is how did this impact your coaching? You’ve already been a D 1 athlete, you love to train, you’re already a strength and conditioning coach. Suddenly, this thing happens, you’re now a hyper user. You’re training harder and more in touch with all the systems than any of your other 18-year-old mutants. But does this change how you’re interacting as a coach?
Tom Morris: [00:28:47] Yeah, it does. It does. It’s interesting being in a profession where we’re all out here, we’re teaching movement. I mean our whole field is based off of human movement and then the thing that’s taken away because of this accident is human movement. So I sat there trying to figure out just the basic logistics of how do I teach a clean again? What am I going to do to fundamentally get through this? Because before, that was it, I demonstrated everything. If it was a clean, I would demonstrate it, and then I could fill in the gaps with certain coaching cues. And what I realized very early was, okay, that’s not going to work, obviously, but what is the technology, what is the team that’s around me as far as I mean incredible coaches that I’m so fortunate to work with. How do I utilize them and their movement to be able to get out here and really demonstrate to get the point across? And that was a major point on for me to move forward, I had to utilize the team, I had to utilize technology, I had to become a lot better at talking that I could fill in the gaps. I now try and fill in the gaps with these hand gestures that are thrown all over the place. And I try to use the words as best as I can. That’s how, fortunately, I was able to logistically get together.
But I think my approach to training itself, and especially people that are dealing with injuries, but especially the youngsters, the freshmen, I just have a lot more empathy to where they’re at right now. I think that’s one of the fundamental parts that has been a really great thing that this injury has done for me is when you’re an athlete and you’ve been doing it for so long, you’re 25 and 26 years old and you’ve gone through the maturation process, you sometimes forget about the 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds, how hard that is when you come into the intensity of college athletics. And so at the ripe old age of 32 I got to be humbled again and almost zeroed out and have to build up again from the ground up. And it taught me a deep empathy. It taught me to really sit with these athletes that are struggling. And they’re not struggling because they just, they’re weak and they’re mentally shot. They haven’t been exposed to that. So I learned a lot as far as that approach of humanizing the whole process and really finding out who they are and building that bond up. And that’s incredible because that bond, even though I felt good about it before, now… I mean the last 11 years has created such a tightknit feeling with a lot of our soccer players. And things that I don’t know if I would have felt before.
Juliet: [00:31:22] Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.
Juliet: [00:31:29] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by Momentous. And what we wanted to talk about today is what I’ll call the Starrett Travel Trifecta. And that’s the three things we always take with us when we travel. We just got back from a trip to Colorado and we brought all of these things with us.
Kelly: [00:31:47] Yeah, we were at Outside Magazine and a tradeshow and we brought single serving protein because it seems sometimes that I’m under protein when I travel.
Juliet: [00:31:55] You don’t say.
Kelly: [00:31:57] Weird. We bring our sleep pack because we know we’re going to be getting crappy sleep in a strange hotel, super hot, all those things. That really makes a difference from sleep support. And then something that has made a difference in my life as I have gotten older, and it’s called collagen. I’m never going to eat enough bone broth or chicken skin. I’m just not going to do it.
Juliet: [00:32:17] So we bring collagen shots, which is a super easy, transportable way to make sure we get a collagen shot, a dose of collagen every day when we travel.
Kelly: [00:32:24] Especially before we go for a walk, before we train in the hotel gym, it’s really easy. And it allows me to be consistent. I think that’s what I really like about these things, that I’m able to carry some consistency through some of the chaos that is traveling. And I think that’s really… I’m not a big planner of these things. Hey, shut up. I tried to be vulnerable right then and you just crushed me. And what I’ll tell you though is that this makes it easier for me to do the right thing without having to plan ahead. I just throw them all into a bag and good to go.
Juliet: [00:32:56] Yeah. And summer’s upon us. I know a lot of you are going to be taking trips and are already taking trips this summer. So if you want to keep your habits consistent, those are the three things, the Starrett Trifecta. You can check them all out at livemomentous.com/trs. And you can use the code TRS for 20 percent off your first purchase.
Kelly: [00:33:17] Do it.
Juliet: [00:33:19] We have a lot more questions, especially about those young athletes coming into your program, because it’s something that Kelly and I are really interested in. But before we get to that, tell us a little bit about what your own individual physical practice is now. And again, I do have some idea because I follow you and I know what you’re doing. And also, isn’t it interesting that the first thing the three of us talk about on this podcast and the preroll is when are we going to get together and mountain bike. And you told the story, which I’m hoping you can tell again, about your recent escapades on a mountain bike. But yeah, if you could just tell the listener what you are doing, what you’re able to do, and maybe a little insight into how it is that you actually got the courage to get back on a bike of all things. I mean that’s one of the things that I’m so amazed by you, right? I know there’s a thousand ways you could choose to use your body and you still love biking. So tell us a little bit about-
Kelly: [00:34:10] Hucking.
Tom Morris: [00:34:10] Yeah, and not just biking, hucking.
Kelly: [00:34:13] I work on my baby table tops but bro, I’m old.
Juliet: [00:34:14] There were like six questions in there, but I’m sure you can take it and run with it.
Tom Morris: [00:34:19] Yeah. I’ll start with what the day to day looks like as far as shoulders. I spend the time… Obviously these little suckers, they say these aren’t like hips but I’m putting them through the same rigors of what the hips are. I got to be honest, in 11 years, they have some major wear and tear on them already. So day to day is I wake up in the morning very early. And my practice starts with literally going through an entire stretching routine, getting out of bed, getting onto my stomach, trying to get my hips to flatten out because at night I get real tight and my knees just want to be in my chest all the time. So the whole morning is spent trying to get those legs to lay flat and get the hips to unwind. From there, I go through a ton of just flexibility, mobility for the shoulders, trying to keep that in there because everything just keeps wanting to round and getting tight on me. So I spend a ton of time with just the mobility aspect. And then seven days a week, it’s making sure I’m working on just functional range of motion, making sure I still have strength all the way around. But I’ve got to be honest with you, they’ve gotten a little achy and I decided I’m going to go and find out what they look like from an MRI.
Kelly: [00:035:28] That’s brave.
Tom Morris: [00:35:29] And I almost wish I didn’t because they revealed-
Kelly: [00:35:33] Stop right there. They revealed that you have beautiful balls of light that are a little bit dimmer than when you were 18. That’s all. I try to tell people this all the time, I’m like unless you really need to see a picture of your body, I don’t need to see what a battle warhorse looks like on the inside because it doesn’t reflect or your function, but it definitely can stick in your head.
Tom Morris: [00:35:53] Why do we not speak more often because I wish I would’ve talked to you before. I’m sitting there going should I do it, should I not do it. And I did it. And all of a sudden, the doc picks it up and he’s like, “Well, it’s not horrible but it’s not great.” And I’m like dang it. So I’m not even going to give you the whole outcome of that. But I’ve got to emphasize those shoulders a lot. And so I’m just very, very proactive with that.
Kelly: [00:36:15] I’ve got to stop and just say I know it sounds crazy because you’re an adaptive athlete and you’re training so hard and you use your shoulders, but it’s not any different than an athlete who throws a ball and has to do one thing over and over again. We really see that we have these specialists who do specific things, we really just have to think how do we protect this essential mechanism. And once again, sport gives you this platform, gives you this tool, gives you a team. It gives you a place to explore. The weightroom is so important.
Tom Morris: [00:36:45] It’s so important. The weightroom is just, I mean that’s a rabbit hole I go down in so many different areas. I won’t for right now. But as far as the actual strength, the mental strength, the mental everything, the weightroom… And I tell you what, I’ve been very, very fortunate to find this as a profession and be in this position and to be going through life and still have this in the background because it’s helped out tremendously.
Kelly: [00:37:07] Let me ask you-
Juliet: [00:37:09] Wait I still want to hear about his-
Kelly: [00:37:10] Oh, okay, sorry. Go ahead. Carry on.
Juliet: [00:37:12] I can’t move on until you tell us about your biking escapades as an adaptive athlete.
Tom Morris: [00:37:17] Yeah. It’s funny when you talk about… So the earliest days, it was only about a month and a half after the accident, and they were like, hey, there is this thing called hand cycling. And so they took me down to the gym and that was one of those… The Armor, you know, standard. And I remember trying to crank that darn thing and literally to try and keep it moving was this incredible, daunting task.
Kelly: [00:37:39] Amazing.
Tom Morris: [00:37:40] It was just like how the heck do people do hundreds of miles on these things. And so I started with it in the gym and then gradually built up. But then I got on the first adaptive bike outside and when you’re in a wheelchair, you find that the world gets… To go around the block, the first chore for me was to go around the rehab center. It couldn’t have been more than 800 yards. It felt like running a marathon. I mean it was just crazy how hard it was to go far. And then I got into that bike and with the gears, it allowed me to go around multiple times, no problem at all. So it wasn’t even the fact it was back biking, it was straight up freedom.
Juliet: [00:38:17] Yeah, just access.
Tom Morris: [00:38:19] Access, yes. It was oh my God, being able to have these tools, this mechanical advantage, it allowed me to see the world more. So I wouldn’t say that I looked at biking as I’m back biking, I looked at it as freedom and I could see what I was used to being able to see before. And so I started that with just road biking. But trying to figure out the mountain part. I love mountain biking. I mean there’s something about just being able to rub your hand through the dirt and have a mosquito on your hand. There’s just something really natural about that.
And so it took a while but about four years ago now I guess it is, a company called Bowhead, which is an incredible company. Former professional snowboarder/engineer decides he’s going to invent this bike to get him back on the mound. This bike, he puts an electric motor on it and it has this whole articulating frame. The long story short of this, it allows a narrow wheel base on three wheels to be able to get back doing all that single track stuff with about a 4,000 watt motor on it. So what that has allowed me to do is, I was telling you all earlier, I go ripping down this trail on Saturday. And one of my good buddies of mine, we were flying down this trail, and all of a sudden, this kicker comes up that I knew was going to throw me but I didn’t know how it was going to throw me. And all of a sudden, right off of that ramp. And you’ve got to understand when you’re locked into those bikes… When you jump on a regular bike, you can manipulate it a little bit. You can pull that wheel up, you have a lot more control. When you throw on these bikes, you’re at the mercy of being locked into that bike. Before you know it, I’m hurling through the air a good 15 to 20 feet and when I hit and landed, I’m telling you, I kind of gave a quick little prayer. But the idea of the fact that I made it, it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Kelly: [00:40:11] I love how stinking hard you are. Your brain, you’re like, well, what’s the worst thing going to happen.
Juliet: [00:40:19] Well, the worst thing already happened.
Kelly: [00:40:20] Come on. Let’s huck. It’s really amazing.
Tom Morris: [00:40:22] I mean honestly, I look at the same thing, I’m like it could get worse, but you know what, why not push this hard. Unlikely, right?
Kelly: [00:40:30] Unlikely. How well did Indiana… because Indiana’s a pretty extraordinary legacy of athleticism, incredible coaches there. How prepared for having an adaptive coach was IU and how did that change the culture or expand the athletic culture there at Indiana?
Juliet: [00:40:54] And were you worried that you would still have a job?
Tom Morris: [00:40:57] Yeah. So let me start with that one first. Again, I think some of the greatest things in my life is because I’m just completely oblivious to the surroundings sometimes. I fell and broke my neck, can’t move, but for whatever reason, I didn’t think twice about, oh, I’m coming back to be a coach. Of course the job is going to be there, right? Just oblivious to the reality of it. And my wife is completely opposite. My wife has a great awareness and she’s definitely the person that… She’s like, “Tom, we’ve got to think about this, what does this look like?” And so I’m in rehab and I’m only there for about two weeks, and I remember our athletic director, Fred Glass, after hours, everybody had gone home at that point and he came in and he sat at the edge of the bed and he just said, “You take as long as you need. You have a job when you come back. If it’s not coaching, we’ll figure out what it is.” And he assured me that that job, at least a job, would be there for when I came back. And the story is, Indiana’s incredible but it’s only the people that make up Indiana. And Fred is that person. Fred gave me his own personal days. So his sick days and stuff he was able to transfer onto me so that I was able to stay in rehab. I mean I stayed in rehab for a year. I stayed away for a complete year, was able to survive and get paid for a lot of that. So it is within those people that make it up, having a great team around me.
But to go back to your question on how well were they prepared, they really weren’t. We didn’t know what we were doing. I just had a lot of really, really great people that asked a lot of great questions, were very empathetic to, hey, do we need to put electric doors here, are the bathrooms all right? They just asked a ton of questions. And by those questions, it only made me explore more and more. It was almost like a great thing because I didn’t know what I was doing nor did I know what I was even looking for. I didn’t even know what was relatively hard. I thought I’d be able to scoot across the football field, no problem. Trying to get across the football field with wheels now, it’s like quicksand. So it was a process for all of us and they were just very gracious and the fact that whatever I asked for, they came through and took care of it.
Juliet: [00:42:12] That’s so cool. Okay, so let’s go back and by the way, thank you for sharing all that story. It’s amazing. And Kelly and I, every time we talk to you, we’re totally inspired. So thank you.
Tom Morris: [00:43:21] Appreciate that.
Juliet: [00:43:22] And what I want to go back to is this transition of high school athletes to becoming college athletes, which is something Kelly and I are so interested in.
Kelly: [00:43:31] And let me tee this up. Your current strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, I knew Coach Wellman when he was at Michigan and he had a couple other lives in the NFL and some other things. But a long time ago, I met him in Michigan. Maybe this is 2013 actually. And he had said, he had come to our course, and he said, “Kelly, one of the problems that I have here is that 22 out of like my 24 All Americans have knee pain just doing an air squat.” And he literally was like, “The kids are coming from high school so underprepared and so beat up and I’m left now to try to untangle that so we can actually go and now become professional athletes.” So I just want to frame that, that you all think critically about this and everyone, and we inherit a whole lot of interesting baggage of poorly prepared, poorly trained kids for the rigors of Division I sports.
Juliet: [00:44:21] And just to tee a question up to that, what do you wish as strength and conditioning coaches at this amazing institution, youth and high school athletes were doing to prepare for the rigors of college level sports that they are not doing now?
Tom Morris: [00:44:38] What I notice, especially in the world of soccer for me, is this, is when I get an athlete into this facility that has an extensive training background, many times it’s a straight up mobility impairment. I know you all speak a lot on mobility. I know that part, it’s unreal how the training of just being able to go through a good body weight range of motion correct as well as being able to get the feet to lock into the ground, being able to have certain points of contact, to just locking into the core, to being able to sit through a full range of motion. And being taught how to go through a full range of motion before they’re ever loaded up with a bunch of weight. I feel like right now a lot of the coaches, especially in football, we’re always chasing some of those numbers, like, oh, John, he was able to squat 400 pounds and he was able to do this and that.
And I know for Aaron we have a young man who’s in there now, supposedly like a 700-pound high school squatter. And then you watch them squat and you realize that range of motions just kind of like this. The hips are forward underneath them and the kid always has knee pain. And there’s just a lot of biomechanical challenges that have been loaded up with intensity to try and chase a number that could be up here on paper to make him more of a higher recruit. And I think that’s one of the biggest detriments we’re running into, is trying to chase some of those numbers in sacrificing overall biomechanic movement to make sure that we have longevity in this field.
Kelly: [00:46:10] Do you think that the message is out? We have two high school kids and so we’re privy to a lot of high school parents eating, training, lack of training, lack of eating, lack of sleep. One of the things that we council a lot of kids on as they’re thinking about playing college, we’re like you have to get in the weightroom. And you have to learn the language of strength and conditioning because you’re going to be expected to now play at a college level. you’re playing with adults who are four, maybe five years older than you are. And you’re going to have to be in the weightroom and manage that volume and intensity and learning. And you’re going to have to be a freshman college student. It’s a lot coming down the pipe. So how do we simplify that?
Tom Morris: [00:46:50] Yeah, that’s a wonderful… For us, we’re always looking at trying to… It’s almost like energy planning in a sense. We have so many things that they’re going to have to do. So it’s coordinating that schedule, it’s making sure that we’re being proactive and not reactive to, hey, I went through a workout but I totally forgot, I’m running late, got to get to class. So what ends up happening is they leave the workout, they don’t have any food, they didn’t prepare to make that transition over there. So all of a sudden, they’re three hours post exercise, they didn’t have a single calorie in them to try and replenish them and they’ve been sitting in class the entire time. It’s the spiral effect. Because if that happens on a Monday, if they show up on a Tuesday, they’re definitely not any more recovered. Even at 18 to 20, they do bounce back pretty quick, you still are starting negative, you’re starting at a deficit. And so all that does is just compound. It’s another big point that we’re always trying to instill is the preparation part of it because you fall behind really quick.
It happens in school too. It’s like everybody starts off with 100 with their grades, but the second you get one failing grade, all of a student, if you fall behind on the readings or you fall behind on anything, it just keeps compounding on you. And then all of a sudden, you’re at a really big detriment, you’re trying to get back to it. For us, that’s what we’re always trying to do is make sure that we’re preparing them. So they meet with the dieticians, they meet with our academic people to say, hey, you’ve got this, this, and this, prepare for the next step as we go. I think Aaron does a phenomenal job with it over at football because they have such a busy schedule, making sure that they know the idea of eating the right things, eating something at least, putting it in their body, making sure that they’re getting home, play video games because they’re going to do it, but knowing if you’ve got a 5:30, 6 o’clock run, you’ve got to get a good seven hours in. And it’s a daunting task and it’s one that usually doesn’t come together until maybe a sophomore or junior year for most. But it’s as a freshman, you sit there and just keep trying to drill it into them to get into some kind of schedule.
Juliet: [00:48:54] So Kelly and I chuckled a little bit because, as you know, we just wrote this book called Built to Move, which is our way of trying to bring together all these habits that we think are connected and all of the habits that we learned by working at your level of strength and conditioning in sport and being athletes ourselves, and saying, hey, the things that athletes are supposed to be doing that are the real basics are actually the same thing that regular humans are supposed to be doing. You just translate what you just said to any weekend warrior athlete where they go smash themselves training for the triathlon in the morning and then they sit at their desk and they never eat any protein or a vegetable and then they stayed up late watching Netflix instead of playing video games and only got six hours of sleep. So you just see that it’s the same challenges that real serious athletes are having are the same challenges that everybody’s having and it turns out the response to those things is the same, which is the real basics, get some protein and food on board, sleep, do some mobilizing, take care of your range of motion and just some of this really basic stuff.
Kelly: [00:49:52] Do you think some of your kids are coming in… I mean obviously there are kids who come out of systems who are much more prepared. But there are some kids we’re finding, we were just talking with a coach friend of ours about a freshman who’s on the transfer portal, but that freshman’s from New Zealand and didn’t know how to shop, had never gone to the grocery store. And then got home and actually had to Facetime her mother to figure out how to put the groceries away. So I’m like, wow, that person has really been failed by her coaches, didn’t know how to eat, didn’t know how to train, didn’t know how to sleep. They had to teach this person everything.
Tom Morris: [00:50:26] I got a quick little story. Yes, so to your point, 100 percent. So we have a great women’s basketball… I worked with women’s basketball for years, made some really great relationships with a lot of the women. One such went through our program, played pro for a while but then was in this transition phase. So my wife and I said come and stay with us until you get life in order and you move onto the next thing. So one day I come home and she’s standing at my stove and she’s doing this and I’m like, “What are you doing?” And she says, “I’m making mac and cheese.” And I’m looking at the stove going there’s no flame, it’s not even on. And I’m like, “How long have you been doing that?” And she says, “I don’t know, like 15, 20 minutes and it will not come together, the cheese won’t come together with it.” I’m like, “Do you know that you don’t have the stove on?” And she’s like, “What do you mean?” And I’m looking, I’m like, “The stove, you don’t have the stove on. You’ve got to turn the stove on to cook it.” And I look at that, and she was already graduated and post.
My point being is that, yes, it’s crazy because as freshmen, if they don’t come in with the skills now, they come into an environment where we do a ton. They don’t really have to cook. We have an entire dining service that’s taking breakfast, lunch and dinner all together for them. They have academic stuff that is completely laid out for them as far as, hey, go to class, do your work, and it’s all laid out and perfect. Even strength and conditioning, you come in and work. You come in, work, know what you’re doing. But everything is moving so fast that it’s just more athlete participate, do well, keep moving forward, but all of the ideas of how to take care of yourself are not instilled. And so what we’re trying to do is we have a program here called leadership and life skills where we’re trying to make them more proactive, like, hey, not only just cooking 101 or any of these other things, the dieticians are doing it, we’re looking at their strength and conditioning needs. Do you know why you’re doing this? When you leave here, do you realize that if you take all this exercise—and this you think would be common sense but it’s not—but when you’re doing all this exercise and then all of a sudden stop doing it, if you keep eating these high caloric [inaudible 00:52:37]. If you keep doing this, you will grow. And that’s a big part of just trying to educate them on the 101 of what this environment that they’re fortunate enough to be in is doing for them but not-
Kelly: [00:52:51] I don’t know if I want to be a starving 17-year-old ever again. Training. We could throw anything down. The fire was so hot. Incinerated pizzas.
Juliet: [00:53:00] So one different angle on these incoming athletes is obviously in sports like soccer and basketball and football, there is this huge tradition of strength and conditioning and it seems like the challenge in those sports is exactly what you said, which is chasing those high numbers but not looking at range of motion and mobility and all those subcomponents of that. and then I feel like in my experience, there’s this whole other swath of sports and my kids are in one of them, water polo, where there’s no tradition of strength and conditioning at all. And it’s not valued-
Kelly: [00:53:34] That’s not true; you see kids do planks all the time.
Juliet: [00:53:35] Well, yeah, there’s some planks.
Kelly: [00:53:35] Just kidding.
Juliet: [00:53:36] Crappy pushups and stuff. But there’s no tradition of it. Sometimes I’ve heard some coaches say, “Hey, swimmers and water polo players don’t need to do strength and conditioning because it’s going to make them too bulky and muscular for the sport.” And that also is kind of shocking to me.
Kelly: [00:53:52] Those strong kids are such bad apples.
Juliet: [00:53:56] So do you see that in your, well, I would say revenue generating sports, in your other sports like swimming and water polo and a myriad of other ones, do you find kids have come in and have never been in a weightroom before?
Tom Morris: [00:54:08] Yeah, a thousand percent. There’s so many. And especially I do have to say in the women’s sports in particular, it’s a big deal of volleyball is a huge explosive powerful sport, and the weightroom, it transfers over so well. But we have a lot of great athletes, we have a lot of great volleyball players that’ll come in that have never really touched any kind of weight. Maybe they’ve done a little body weight stuff. But for the most part it was all about jumping and jumping and they stayed away from it. We do find that a lot of when they’re coming in. But I do gotta be honest with you. I sometimes don’t mind the person that is the blank slate, never has touched a weight because you get to look at this person that biomechanically they move this certain way, they’re this strong, and it works out because you’re just working with some of their fundamental, functional movement patterns and it’s a lot easier to teach than to go backtrack.
Juliet: [00:55:01] To unteach.
Tom Morris: [00:55:02] Yes.
Kelly: [00:55:03] We’re going to take 300 pounds off the bar and start again. That’s difficult. I appreciate that.
Tom Morris: [00:55:08] Well, especially the psychological aspect too, because obviously these kids, if they make it to this level, have a lot of confidence in themselves. What they were doing, it got them to this level. So now you’re going to sit there and go, hey, this wasn’t the best way of getting, you’re here, this is awesome, but let’s try to go backwards and stop doing what you’re doing to do something else. It’s a huge blow because they’ve been taught, yeah, put the weight on your back, you’ve got to do these certain things, you’ve got to run a certain way. And the reteaching aspect is a little bit more challenging than the teaching aspect.
Kelly: [00:55:41] Do you all have formal sports psych, high performance psychologists as part of the high-performance team there?
Tom Morris: [00:55:48] We do, yeah. We have a sprots psychologist and then we have another one, kind of like an assistant. But that has become a really huge part of our program, a huge part. Back in the day, it was the sports psychologist worked with maybe the divers, maybe they worked with some different small groups. But not many people used that resource. And now it’s become a huge, huge, huge aspect of the program. There’s a lot of people, lot of coaches here that would love to have their own sports psychologist, just for their sport itself because they believe in what it is from just visualization to actually being in there to deal with adversities and different parts of just becoming more resilient. They spend a lot of time and they’re extremely busy just working on that part of what sport is.
Kelly: [00:56:37] That made me think because I know that Cal recently quadrupled the number of high performance psychologists they have to four for 800 athletes. And oftentimes, as a parent I know a little bit too much for my daughters. And I’m sure I overwhelm them all the time.
Juliet: [00:56:55] No, you underwhelm them, that’s your problem.
Kelly: [00:56:58] I try not to be that dad. But I wonder where do we and how do we begin this formal psychology, formal mindset training because I feel like it’s really missing. And what we see is parents are terrible at dealing with it. At least you can pull kids away from their toxic parenting environment pressures and they can be in the bubble of IU. But we do see that kids don’t know how to handle losses. There’s something happening I think in sport where we are seeing at the very top of the game so many athletes have the psychology and the pressure now is 10x than maybe it was when we were in the 90s. Do you think that’s true?
Tom Morris: [00:57:39] Yeah, I think it is. I think right now, our kids that are coming in, for example, even our sports psychologist is incredibly busy, even with the fact of them towards finals; normal class stuff is going on, finals are around the corner. They will get booked nonstop because of just that anxiety of going into taking the final and then let alone if they would fail the test because then if they fail the test, it’s two or three follow-ups on there. And the reality is you fail the test, you talk to the professor, you figure out what to do, and retake the test or do something. And I’m not undermining the weight of failing a test. But a lot of these things we have, we were able to self soothe, we were able to figure it out. I just feel like we’ve come into a program now when there is a loss, when they lose in the game of sport, when they lose in academics, or when coach isn’t playing them, it’s almost 10x in the way it’s being perceived.
And I do think that those tools are really crucial in them understanding this is all part of life. This is life and this isn’t the end of it. Let’s keep the right perspective and let’s figure out how to coach up with some of those tools because I do think that there’s a million theories of maybe why athletes are the way they are now, but there is clearly a difference. And I’d say a lot of our psychologists would agree with that and what our athletes are able to take care of themselves without having that outside help. So it’s not the time to teach them that outside help of how to deal with it.
Juliet: [00:59:12] So I know college athletes spin out of programs for a variety of reasons. I mean you already mentioned one of them I think is they don’t get playing time and there’s a variety of other reasons. But do you see a common thread amongst the kids who come into a program and they just can’t make it in a D I athletic program? Is there some commonality? Is there something that they share that makes it difficult for them to succeed in that kind of program?
Tom Morris: [00:59:40] God, if we did know the answer, it would be the greatest answer.
Juliet: [00:59:44] It’d be like recruiting gold, right?
Tom Morris: [00:59:47] Oh my God, we have had kids that have come from poverty and they’ve been able to keep their grades up. they have that story and then all of a sudden, they get in our environment, and whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. They go away. Or you have the kid with the same story but they will succeed. We’ve had the kid with the silver spoon in their mouth the entire time that is just the hardest worker and grinder you’ve ever met that goes on to play 15 years in the NFL. And then the complete opposite. It just doesn’t seem like any given story line backs up the exact outcome. There are some common themes of the fact that most kids that are able to keep moving forward have this mentality of, hey, when this happens, I’ll figure this out and I’ll just keep being able to move forward, and they also have a good support system around them too. I do think in athletics we can create a good support system, but I think that that outside layer is so important as well. Because in here, we can hug them and do everything they can, but when they don’t have that outside layer from parents, from friends, from people away from us, it really does make the entire system a little bit more detrimental to them having that long-term success.
Juliet: [01:01:02] So you mentioned earlier that one of the things you’re tasked with in your role is figuring out what the cutting edge of strength and conditioning is and making sure that you guys are focusing on the best and greatest practices and you’re always learning and collaborating. So what are you seeing out there in the strength and conditioning world-
Kelly: [01:01:21] That’s getting you fired up.
Juliet: [01:01:22] Yeah, that’s got you fired up, that you’re excited about?
Tom Morris: [01:01:24] Yeah, it’s an abundance of the fact of where technology is going and how we’re able to objectively measure what is going on. There’s so much subjectivity to the world of sport and the idea of strength and conditioning. We can see different variables that are happening. But to be able to objectively measure some of the stuff and even actively going live with heartrate monitors or even having GPS and being able to create the whole picture of the athletes, that in itself is the thing that gets me fired up – the profile. If you think of it with our men’s soccer team, we have the sports science world over here in strength and conditioning and then sports med, and then you’ve got this whole level of actual soccer. Well, the idea is we are always able to gather all of this information and we’re pulling and we’re filling up these buckets of all these numbers. But everybody’s sitting there going, well, what the hell do we do with all of it? How does it talk to one another?
Kelly: [01:02:23] Do I need an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich with that? What do I do?
Tom Morris: [01:02:27] Yeah, besides some of the blatant stuff, a lot of it’s all intertwined. It’s hard to make sense of it. And so now we’re able to take all of it, dump it into a profile, and now with the help of AI… Chat GPT is unbelievable what it’s able to produce as far as looking at some different coding deals, which I’m not going to tell you that I know how to do, but some of our sports scientists that I’ve talked to are able to take some of the different codes that come from Chat GPT and basically pull all of this information, drop it in there to tell us how ready an athlete is to move on to the next level. Hey, if this is going on, it gives us some parameters of if this ankle pain… Johnny had this ankle pain back in the day of this, this, and this time, and then usually he also experienced knee pain later on. It gives us these different ideas of predictability that we’ve never had before. And it’s all about taking all of these numbers, using an AI system to just literally pull some of that stuff out. That’s extremely exciting to me because I think it’s just like the entire world right now with AI, it’s like the tip of the iceberg as what it’s going to actually reveal as far as capabilities go.
Kelly: [01:03:39] We can move away from the subjective. What looked like a really intense lift, that’s nothing to do with is this athlete ready to play.
Juliet: [01:03:45] What about stuff like WHOOP and Kelly and I use an Oura ring? I realize there’s privacy issues there. I don’t know if you’re allowed to-
Kelly: [01:03:53] In college sports you can just measure. Those kids are yours.
Juliet: [01:03:55] But wouldn’t it be interesting if you could get a daily report of how much your athletes are sleeping.
Kelly: [01:04:01] Oh, you wouldn’t want to know that.
Juliet: [01:04:02] I mean I don’t know if you’d want to know that. That may be a bit like your shoulder MRI, you might not want to know. But is that something that you guys are looking at in terms of figuring out how you can actually use trackers in any kind of meaningful way in your program?
Tom Morris: [01:04:15] It is, yeah. And it’s actually funny because when WHOOP came out everybody got excited. They gave us a bunch of them to try. We had a lot. Volleyball was one of the teams. And you get these reports the next day and all of a sudden, you see like three hours on thee and only two and a half was actually any kind of sleep. And you’re like, you literally slept three hours. And so it is better to just not even know about it.
In the MLS it’s huge right now as far as them being able to wear trackers, them being able to use any of the monitors that will monitor sleep and being able to drop it into a profile to be able to make up what this athlete is actually experiencing objectively. And we don’t have that. We have that capability but because of privacy, because of the rules, we had to stop doing it because when they wore that, they were basically saying that they were being held accountable to those hours and we were monitoring them. A little background on the NCAA. We’re only allowed in the off season to work with them eight hours a week. And so when we’re only able to work with them eight hours a week, obviously if we’re monitoring an entire sleep cycle, we’re going to go over time a bit. And that’s the way they were seeing that same exact thing. So they made us stop doing that. But in a perfect world, if we could have that, it would be incredible. What we do now is we just ask for a basic, hey, how well did you sleep last night, a little questionnaire that will basically say do you feel rested, how many hours, when did you go to bed. And they could fill it out or they don’t have to fill it out. But that little bit at least gets thrown in there to tell us a little bit about the predictability of where they’re at.
Kelly: [01:05:50] And it’s tricky to try to run that balance of, hey, you’re an 18- to 22-year-old college student who needs to be a college student and a person, and by the way, you’re also a semi pro athlete. I mean you are a professional athlete at Indiana. It is interesting to see where you’re going to push and pull. I don’t have an answer but I’ve talked to a lot of coaches about it. How do you get the kids to recognize that they feel better, perform better, all aspects of their life better when they do the basics?
Tom Morris: [01:06:14] And they lack that perspective right then and there. I mean back when I was in grad school, five hours of sleep. I was convinced. I’m one of those guys, I know there’s not many, but I can get five hours of sleep and I can perform. And it wasn’t until later on when I realized when I started seven, eight, and nine hours of sleep, you feel like a million bucks. Yeah, you could work off of five, but you are far from that person. But you just lack that perspective at that point and so it’s tough to convince them otherwise. And from the joys of college and what life brings you, but being here to videogames, all the things that are distracting you from committing to going in and actually you getting good night’s sleep, they’re powerful. I mean they’re powerful. And you just don’t get that buy in right off the bat. What I will tell you though, if you could just get them to see it for four or five weeks, which is a long time, if you get them to see something for four or five weeks, both in running, both in recovery. Like cold baths, they hate cold baths. But get them in a cold bath a couple times a week for an extended period of time and they talk about how they feel. You can get buy in pretty quick. Even a lot quicker than our normal population. But they’ve just got to see results and they’re not very patient so you’ve got to keep instilling it.
Kelly: [01:07:27] That’s exactly right. And we see now the power of seniors, the power of senior captain, senior leadership saying, uh uh, this is what we do as this team and this is what works, and if you want to play with the big dogs, you better start-
Juliet: [01:07:41] Doing those things.
Kelly: [01:07:41] Not being a 17, 18-year-old freshman. That’s not going to hang.
Juliet: [01:07:46] So we’ve gone way over time but Kelly and I were talking as we were getting ready for this podcast about one question we wanted to ask, and that is what have you seen with this new name, image, likeness rule with athletes? Is it something that even trickles down in your experience in the weightroom? What’s that like on the coach end of the spectrum?
Tom Morris: [01:08:06] For us, it hasn’t touched us a lot. Obviously, we hear a lot about our basketball guys and some of our football guys and now our women’s basketball getting these pretty big deals. I mean heck, going from nothing to getting even $50,000… I mean not even, but-
Kelly: [01:08:22] Oh my gosh.
Juliet: [01:08:23] That’s major.
Kelly: [01:08:24] As a college student, you’re rich.
Tom Morris: [01:08:27] You’re rich. Fifty thousand dollars and the fact that they can go down to our local fine restaurant and there’s no rules that are going on. It’s such an interesting world right now and people say it’s like the wild, wild west. There’s no rules. I’d say there’s uncertainty and this little bit of like oh my, is that really happening. But on the other end, you know what, this is kind of cool to start exploring this side of things because I do think our student athletes, they give us a lot, they’ve bought these walls off of their play, they should have these rights to make money off of what they’re doing. I just think right now maybe we’ve got to dial it in a little bit with certain things because they just pulled those rules out and they threw them out the window. But yeah, it is interesting when you’ve got an athlete that’s coming in and has been offered a million dollars to stay for an extra year, which we have that within some of our basketball players. So it’s kind of an interesting world when they’re making a million bucks and they’re making more money than some of those coaches and stuff. So pretty cool but unnerving times.
Kelly: [01:09:35] Amazing. How beautiful is it in Bloomington right now because I tried to describe it to the ladies. I was like, it’s like Hogwarts. Is that about right, right now?
Tom Morris: [01:09:36] Yeah, I think you nailed it. I mean it’s just 82 to 85 degrees, the humidity’s not in here yet. Everything is green. I mean and it’s just this world, in a college town, it’s the greatest thing because it’s just crazy. Sixty, seventy thousand students, and you’re sitting here at the local and you want to pull your hair out. And just at the point where you just can’t take it anymore, they all just go away. We’re at this point right now where they’re all gone and it’s quiet and you can park anywhere you want and you can get into any restaurant. And it’s just beautiful. And at a point we’ll get bored and you’ll wait for them to come back. And come August or September they’ll come back and the energy is high and you’re up and rolling again. And so it’s pretty special.
Juliet: [01:10:29] I love that. Well, Tom, thank you so much for being with us. It was so fun. And where if anyone wants to find you, follow you, learn more about you, where can they do that?
Tom Morris: [01:10:38] Any social media. I’m on all the platforms @morrisstrength. And then Tom Morris Performance is my website. Yeah, love to interact with anybody, so by all means DM or in any way contact me because I love talking shop and definitely about performance.
Kelly: [01:10:56] Well, Tom, hopefully you have an incredible water polo coach who was a Cal graduate where Juliet went to school and she now has had this program long enough to be able to own all the recruiting. You guys are having incredible success with the max number of wins. The numbers of scholar athletes. I’m hoping that maybe Caroline can play there some day. So plan those seats. You can train a kid who can already overhead squat and snatch.
Tom Morris: [01:11:22] Right. It would be unbelievable so let’s get her here.
Kelly: [01:11:29] Thank you so much, my friend. Good to see you.
Juliet: [01:11:29] All right. Thanks again, Tom.
Tom Morris: [01:11:31] You bet. Thank you so much.
Kelly: [01:11:38] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at thereadystate.com. And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show.
Juliet: [01:11:50] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.
Kelly: [01:11:54] Until next time, cheers everyone.
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