By Isabella Strimling, contributing writer
Photos by McKendree University, Isabella Strimling, and Zach Anderson
Every athlete on campus can tell you: we’ve seen our fair share of weight coaches during our time in Bearcat Athletics. Ranging from Graduate Assistants to an assortment of head coaches, we have been rotated from person to person, program to program, trying to find a happy medium that benefits us most in our field.
A sport like Water Polo can be fairly difficult with its uniquely required athleticism and specific muscle groups. These are often not targeted enough by traditional programs. Personally, the weight room at McKendree has always seemed like just another task on my to-do list for the day—something I didn’t necessarily look forward to, but rather a mandatory hour of extra work in which attendance directly affects my playing time. A chore.
That certainly changed for many athletes this semester with the introduction of the newest addition to the Bearcat family: Coach Zach Anderson (Coach Z) of Grizzly Strength Inc.
A California-native, decorated collegiate coach, and dedicated athlete, Coach Z has transformed our weight room into an intense center for strength training and focus. With personalized programs, he reaches every individual athlete and designs your experience to fit not only your sport but your body as well. He demands attentiveness and eagerness from the first second of warmups, all the way to his famous finisher: team abs. His fiery and powerful energy completely animates every lift and dares you to push your limits. The weight room is no longer a friendly place to slackers or complainers. He has given us a refreshing spurt of excitement in what has otherwise been one of the worst years in collegiate athletics, ever.
McKendree Football Defensive Back, Jhaidyn Brown was eager to tribute the new coach:
“I think he’s amazing and exactly what we needed,” Jhaidyn says. “His mindset and the way he coaches his workouts just makes so much sense…he brings a different type of swag and tone to the team that we needed for this season”.
At the beginning of the semester, all of his athletes signed a contract in which we agreed to a few rules that the new lifting regime would carry. If you are any later than ten minutes early, you will do ten “up-downs” or burpees for every minute you are not on time. There is no yawning, you must keep your hands off your hips, and you must wear McKendree team gear every time you enter the weight room.
Sophomore Water Polo Player Delaney Hall says that “he brings a winning mentality to McKendree, which we honestly all need right now.” She also notes that he is bringing a past of success into his time here with the Bearcats, as he has coached a DIII women’s Waterpolo team at Whittier University in Southern California to a national championship.
“He is super dedicated to his athletes, passionate about our improvement and so far, has been an excellent attribute to our school and especially our team,” Hall said.
Delaney is not alone in the excitement of finally having a coach who understands the individualized lifting needs of Water Polo players. Freshman goalie Jimmy Cronin is also very excited about Coach Z.
“I think he’s a tough coach—a no-nonsense type of guy, but I do think he will help our team get a lot better,” Cronin said “Personally, I feel like I am getting pushed way harder than I was last semester, and I know I am getting stronger with Coach Z’s programs”.
Most athletes that I got the chance to talk to also referenced the newfound sense of family in the performance center.
“I like how all of the teams stay together in the weight room and do our own things as a team,” Cronin said. “It keeps the atmosphere alive.”
I would agree. I think that for a long time going to weights was about fitting the measly hour somewhere into your schedule, no matter if it was with your team or not. With the new semester, it has now become the norm that each team lifts together, period. I think the adjustments have also played into the improved climate of our interpersonal relationships with each other and in the pool.
This opinion is shared by volleyball senior Alex Tinin.
“We all like him a lot,” Tinin said. “He really seems to care about each of us like family and makes us all feel valued and important. It’s clear he has a deep passion for what he does and that shows through his execution of our workouts.”
Though my team’s lift times this semester is at 6 a.m. before the sun rises in the icy, midwestern winter mornings, I have honestly looked forward to every single day of training with him. He’s bringing the exact type of energy I need to have an exciting, successful senior season with McKendree Athletics.
Coming to McKendree, Coach Z made it clear through his company motto and coaching philosophies that he doesn’t care where you’re from, what your economic or social statuses are, what color or gender you are, who you voted for, or what you believe in… you are a part of the family, and you are here to “drink the Kool-Aid” and invest in yourself and your program.
I think it’s entirely safe to say that what he’s doing for your teams is definitely working. Coach Z, welcome to the Bearcat family, we are excited to see how far you take us!