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  • Writer's pictureRon McKeefery

IGCT Episode #218: Matt Johnson - "Not Going To Wow You With Big Words"


Matt Johnson is the Director of Strength and Conditioning at George Washington in Washington DC.

One of the three foundations of Coach Matt Johnson's strength and conditioning philosophy is sport specificity - maximizing athletes' movement and capabilities within their individual sport. Fittingly, Coach Johnson has been able to hit the ground running in his new role as GW Athletics' Director of Strength and Conditioning.

Coach Johnson's three-pronged philosophy - a "melting pot" formed from wide-ranging, high-level experiences in the strength and conditioning, sports performance and fitness realms - boils down into one simple goal - to make "technically proficient athletes."

"If an athlete can move efficiently in the weight room under load, then they're going to move efficiently on the basketball court, soccer field or lacrosse field," said Coach Johnson.

To achieve that goal, Coach Johnson stresses three things:

Assessment, both performance-based and functional capacity - "If you're not assessing, you're guessing," which is the basis for GW Athletics' partnership with the university's exercise science department to compile data for student-athlete evaluation.

Training, with emphasis on injury reduction - "Try to build an athlete brick by brick, from the ground up, with quality movement and not quantity of weight lifted in mind," by maximizing an athletes' mobility and stability through corrective exercise and movement evaluation. "I want to develop athletes, but the cornerstone of developing athletes is keeping them healthy and pain free."

Nutrition - "If you're not fueling the car with the right gas, you'll go somewhere, but eventually you'll break down." GW Athletics provides pre- and post-workout supplementation and has started an athlete training table to provide athletes with the optimal fuel they need to perform at a high level.

He'll oversee a GW Strength and Conditioning Department that will not only work to maximize the performance of student-athletes from all 23 varsity athletics programs, but also serve as a trendsetter in the industry. "We want to place GW on the forefront, be highly regarded and thought of as forward-thinking in utilizing new-age methodology and technology," said Coach Johnson, who recently served as a keynote presenter at the Stronger Team Huddle basketball strength and conditioning educational summit at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

While possessing a varied background, Coach Johnson has carved his niche in basketball, a sport he played as an undergraduate at NCAA Division III Marywood University where he earned his bachelor's degree in exercise science in 2007. He went on to complete his master's degree in kinesiology at Bridgewater (Mass.) State College in 2009 before working with the basketball, hockey and lacrosse programs at Division I Boston College and Bryant University. Johnson holds numerous gold standard strength and conditioning certifications such as the NSCA CSCS, NSCA CPT, USA Weightlifting Club Coach, USA Track and Field Level 1 and NASM PES.

Most recently the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Montrose Christian School's nationally prominent basketball program, Coach Johnson trained former Mustang and current GW men's basketball student-athlete Kevin Larsen, and is also familiar with Patricio Garino and Miguel Cartagena from Montverde (Fla.) Academy, regular opponents of Montrose.

"I knew I had to hit the ground running, so knowing some of these guys helped me, but I also think it's helped them," said Coach Johnson. "My first day wasn't the traditional first session with a group, it probably looked like I had been training them for the last six months. It has made the transition that much easier and beneficial, I can say that we've hit our stride and the guys are looking good."

While his and his staff's primary goal is to maximize performance enhancement in GW's student-athletes, Coach Johnson maintains perspective when it comes to his goal as an educator. "I'm building bodies, but also building minds. I want to be a positive mentor, to teach and lead our student-athletes to be successful inside and outside the lines. I am invested in every athlete I train - seeing them accomplish their goals means the world to me because I know how much it meant to me when I was in their position."


In This Episode We Discuss:

  • What experience in his journey impacted him the most, and Why.

  • Biggest mistake he has made and how he learned from it.

  • The 3 things he stresses to make a "Technically Proficient" athlete.

  • Why building minds and being a mentor is important.

  • Tactics he uses to develop his athletes character.

  • Best piece of coaching advice he has ever received.

  • His favorite quote, Book/App/Website recommendation.

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