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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Head and shoulders: Holsopple aims to develop leaders on KU football team

Kansas strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple runs the Jayhawks through stretching exercises during practice on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013.

Kansas strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple runs the Jayhawks through stretching exercises during practice on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013.

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Kansas University strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple conducts warmups during practice on Aug. 23. Holsopple — he always wears sweat pants and a hooded sweatshirt because “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling uncomfortable. I think you should feel uncomfortable.” — is the man in charge of sharpening the Jayhawks’ bodies and attitudes.

If you only pay attention to what he does in the weight room — which he affectionately refers to as his second home — or how he interacts with the players during practices or on game days, you might think that Kansas University strength and conditioning director Scott Holsopple cares just about the physical aspect of football.

Not true.

Since Holsopple arrived on campus after being hired away from Florida by KU coach Charlie Weis, the Penn State graduate and former boxer has emphasized his belief that athletes should be trained first from the shoulders up, with the neck and the brain being two of the most important target areas.

Few things better support such thoughts than a move Holsopple made this offseason to help bond the team and bring better leadership and accountability to the roster.

The idea, senior linebacker Ben Heeney explained, was to pick one KU player from every position to form a group made only of unit leaders. They’re not captains, and they might not have the same role when the season arrives, but this summer they collectively provided the Jayhawks with a sense of push and purpose.

“I think we needed it,” senior safety Cassius Sendish said, “because guys didn’t always know who to look to in times of turmoil, and now it’s been anointed.”

Sendish said the leadership group, which was new this offseason, helped bring the already close-knit squad even closer together.

“I can see strides just in the secondary through the offseason,” said Sendish, noting he was the safety representative and Dexter McDonald was the rep for the cornerbacks. “And I’m just looking forward to the whole team bringing that product to Saturdays.”

All four seniors who represented Kansas at last week’s Big 12 media days in Dallas said the extra layer of leadership has had a positive impact on the team. It also has forced better communication.

“We talk a lot,” Heeney said. “And we talk about a lot of different things.”

That Holsopple came up with the idea gave it weight.

“Work ethic has never been a problem,” senior tight end Jimmay Mundine said. “We’ve always worked hard. Holsopple isn’t gonna cut us any slack. It’s really been about us pushing guys more. That’s been the biggest thing for us, seeing how far we can push our teammates.”

Mundine painted a picture of how that worked.

“We’ve seen guys continue to fight and try to do more and try to do better try to find ways to win,” he said. “If you continue to do the same thing, you have to expect the same result. But guys have been pushing outside of their comfort zone and doing way more than we usually would just because you’re not alone any more. We’ve got more team things that we do.

“It’s not fun when you’re doing it, but when you sit back and think, ‘If I was by myself, I might have got eight reps, but because I had a guy right next to me pushing me, I got 13,’ that’s pretty cool. We’re really enjoying working out and embracing putting ourselves through pain and doing it together.”

Mundine said Holsopple came up with new and challenging ways for this senior-heavy group to push this offseason. One such method was a running drill that turned into a four-quarter football game: offense versus defense, Mundine said, with each unit needing to beat its previous time to score. At times, each side eclipsed the old total with ease, but Mundine said there were other days when the times were topped by fractions of a second, an achievement that brought out a gameday-esque celebration.

“It’s just going back and forth, doing more team things, coming together, more fourth-quarter things and having more guys put themselves on the line,” Mundine said.

Fall camp opens Aug. 7.

“Doing all this talking, I wish we were going to camp tomorrow,” Sendish said in Dallas. “A lot of people don’t really look forward to camp, but I think our team is really looking forward to going to camp this year and doing something special.”

Comments

Brett McCabe 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Like last year, I love the article on Holsopple. This will be year three for his program, and I'll be interested to see how the team has developed.

The idea to create group leaders seems wise. A handful of captains isn't enough to lead 100+ players. Getting more guys involved in leadership roles makes a ton of sense in the off-season and should lead to better results on the field since each unit will have a "captain" to help drive the group.

Mark Lindrud 4 months, 3 weeks ago

It would be great if all the weight room leaders are not captains. This is a big year in the program.

Jim Stauffer 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't know enough to decide what way is the best. It is obvious they are trying to get better each year.

Aaron Paisley 4 months, 3 weeks ago

There's no single right way to develop leadership. Holsopple believed this was the right way for this group of players. He may decide that another approach works best next offseason. You just have to know there personality of the team to know which way will work best.

Jim Jackson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Tait, any news on Fondal? He sticking around?

Joe Ross 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Im not sharp-shooting you, but your question has been both asked and answered in Matt Tait's article "Jayhawks set as 100-1 long shots to win Big 12 football title", posted by Matt Tait July 29, 2014 at 4:06 p.m.

Jim Jackson 1 day, 3 hours ago

Tait, any news on which recruits have made it to campus and who hasn't? Any news on Fondal? Thanks!

Matt Tait 1 day, 1 hour ago

Everyone is supposed to report to campus for fall camp by Aug. 7 and practices begin Aug. 8. From what I can gather, it sounds like there are about 8-12 guys still not here yet. That's not a surprise, most of those were never supposed to arrive any earlier in the first place.

Weis didn't talk in Dallas about guys who weren't here yet --- he doesn't do that. So we'll just have to wait until his press conference on the 7th to find out what's what.

Same goes for Fondal, though I've heard rumblings that academics could be an issue with him.

We'll know more next week, but I think the following is some pretty sound advice: Expect that at least a couple of guys who aren't here yet might not be here when camp opens. Doesn't mean they won't make it, doesn't mean they will. But I doubt everything will be super smooth.

Time will tell...

Jim Jackson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I actually did not see that response from him. Second session grades came out last night, hoping Tait has some inside info.

Let me ask you a question, Joe. Yesterday you stated you thought we would, "win between 2-5 games, with 2 being probable." Deductive reasoning tells me that you think that the team will regress this year by that statement, seeing as we won 3 last year. I'm just curious as to what your thought process is regarding the aforementioned statement of yours.

Lance Meier 4 months, 2 weeks ago

KANSAS FOOTBALL... Lets git it started!!!

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