Jay DeMayo is in his 20th year as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Richmond and his 18th year working with the men’s basketball team. DeMayo is directly responsible for the strength training, conditioning, and flexibility development of the men’s basketball and tennis teams. He also educates the student-athletes on the proper nutrition to make sure their bodies are performing to their full potential. As a top expert in the field of strength and nutrition, DeMayo has presented at dozens of seminars and clinics across the country.
Freelap USA: Frequent movement from job to job can be a common track in the performance field, contributing to attrition and longevity issues in the profession. With nearly two decades at the University of Richmond, what are some of the factors that have led to you maintaining a stable position there, and what do you see as the primary challenges for current coaches who want to build long careers on the performance side?
Jay DeMayo: The primary factor is pretty easy—it starts with Chris Mooney, my head basketball coach. Then there’s Darren Thomas, Brandon Horrigan, Chris Stewart, and now Scott Brinks. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great, supportive head coach and director of strength and conditioning the whole time I’ve been here. They have put up with me and allowed me to fall on my face and make mistakes, grow and mature, and then learn from my mistakes—which is the biggest thing.
Everybody doesn’t always agree with everything, but when you’re able to be in a situation where you’ve made a mistake, and someone has your back because you came clean about it and fixed it, or you did the best you could to fix it, then it makes it a much better environment. Without those people I mentioned having my back and, in all seriousness, putting up with me being a knucklehead as a young strength coach, I wouldn’t still be here, and that’s the big thing.
There are pros and cons to staying over time, right? The pros are that you have, I don’t know if security is the word, but you have roots in a sense. You can buy a home; you can look at what you want to do outside of work. I’ve been lucky to hold the Nova job as well, working with young swimmers for 14–15 years and being able to do some great things.
But with that being said, the pros of moving are you’re able to negotiate contracts better and get more money and all of those things. It just depends on where you want to be and how you want things to go. Those five people I mentioned—Darren, Brandon, Stew, Scott, and obviously Coach Mooney—have been the backbone allowing me to grow and develop and become the coach I am.
Freelap USA: A freshman basketball player now arrives on campus with a significant volume of game mileage from travel, AAU, and high school seasons—over time, how have you adapted your programming to accommodate incoming players who’ve accumulated heavier and heavier game loads, and what are the biggest movement/strength/athletic gaps you generally need to address with incoming freshmen?
Jay DeMayo: That’s kind of a loaded question because I don’t think it’s just the freshmen—with the new rules in college basketball, these young men and women are practicing basically all year. We don’t have any actual time where they aren’t doing at least individual instruction or small group workouts on the court. So really, the biggest thing for me is they are always doing their skill work; they’re always in sporting situations.
Our guys play a lot of 4 v 4, they play a lot of 2 v 2 in these workouts, and they do a lot of 1 on 1 stuff…so what we do is really try to fill the general buckets. We try to build a robust aerobic system, starting with what people would call cardiac output work and some threshold intervals, and the guys seem to think that helps.
Anyone who sees my name, the first thing they think is “1×20 Guy,” and, yup, we do that too. The reason we build off of that is we don’t want to take away from their ability to perform as best as possible on the court. So, we’re really trying to maximize the dosage of training that we’re prescribing without annihilating these young men and women. We want them to continue to be able to evolve and adapt to the stimuli we’re providing so that they continue to IMPROVE the outputs we want in the game, which is what’s the most important.
People love to talk about how much players jump in basketball, but I would argue that they don’t jump that much—especially watching my guys. Yeah, they might take 100 jump shots in a day, but none of those are maximal. And it’s not like it’s catch-jump-shoot-catch-jump-shoot…there’s time between it, it’s rhythmic, and it’s what they’re doing in their sport. People should look more into not just the exercises you’re prescribing, but how you are reverse-engineering those exercises you’re prescribing.People should look more into not just the exercises you’re prescribing but how you are reverse-engineering those exercises you’re prescribing, says @CVASPS. Click To Tweet
We look at it, and there are certain things based on influences that I have, whether it be Dr. Yessis, Jeff Moyer, Yosef Johnson, Natalia Verkhoshansky, or Henk Kraaijenhof. We look at how we move, and we deem WHAT has the best carryover to the athletes executing their sporting skills at a higher level. We work our way back over four to five progressions and build out that way.
But with all of them, the big thing is teaching them to handle the positions we want them to get into and teaching them to be more efficient with how they move. And the biggest to me is teaching them how to be elastic—you look at a lot of these kids, and all too often they look like they’re bouncy, but they don’t know how to bounce.
The buckets we need to fill, we’re obviously lifting in the 1×20 and trying to build general strength. Still, when we’re talking about actual carryover, can they get into the positions we need them to get into, and can they learn to be elastic (or what some people like to call reactive)? And how can we progress those to the exercises we deem to have the most transfer to our system, with the least cost, so we don’t annihilate them for practice?
Freelap USA: With the CVASPS seminar, podcast, manual, and social media platforms, you’ve built a resilient and durable business platform. What elements of the athletic development model have informed your entrepreneurial model, and what are some suggestions you would offer performance coaches looking to build a business with a solid foundation?
Jay DeMayo: That’s tricky, right? Because my competitiveness is really what got the CVASPS stuff going. I’ve talked about that ad nauseam.
Probably the biggest thing is that it’s taught me—along with the 75 Hard program, which gets some good and bad publicity from people—it’s taught me that we’re bad with time and we’re not that busy. Now, I work with some people who have five or six teams—so yeah, they are really busy and don’t have much free time during the day. This isn’t about everyone—for people in college basketball, we have more time than we think. So, it is vital to find ways to do things and connect and build and grow, and other ways to protect yourself in case something happens.
I’ve talked about this a million times: having multiple income streams makes me a better coach because I’m not as afraid to speak on what I see. People need to think about that—I would never go into a meeting and start cussing people out and losing my mind; it’s not like that. But if there’s a time when I have to stand up for something that’s what’s best for the kids, I can do that. I don’t have to sit there and say yes, I’m going to do this, just because. And I think that works outside of the “performance” entrepreneurial things.
Two of my favorite strength coaches to follow, Mike Tucker and Kaiti Jones, do awesome work in real estate. Find ways to do that; find ways to invest so that your money is working for you as a coach. I get it—everyone doesn’t make a ton of money. I don’t make a ton of money. You just find ways to start, and it will help you be a better coach.There are simple ways that coaches can do better for themselves to put themselves in better situations. Find ways to start, and it will help you be a better coach, says @CVASPS. Click To Tweet
There are thousands of great resources out there for free. If you’re thinking about real estate or whatever, “The Weekly Juice” podcast is awesome. “Afford Anything” with Paula Pant is awesome. “Stacking Benjamins” with Joe Saul-Sehy is awesome. “Bigger Pockets Money” is awesome. If you listen to these people talk about their voyages and the things they’ve learned, listen to others discuss with them what they’re doing, and learn how you can implement it…there are simple ways that coaches can do better for themselves to put themselves in better situations.
Freelap USA: Having been an early adopter of a number of technologies and with the ability to see trends come and go on the product side, what are some of the performance technologies that have stood the test of time in your eyes, and what types of performance data most impact your decision-making on the performance side?
Jay DeMayo: I think the biggest one is weighing athletes in and out for practice. It’s the most overlooked one, and I know some people get concerned with it, but I think that if we want something actionable right away that allows us to help the athletes we work with get into a better position for recovery right away, it’s to make sure they rehydrate. That’s number one. We don’t need to get into all the research about how hydration affects everything, but that’s number one for me. Weighing them in and out and making sure we rehydrate them—or at least provide them with as much as possible for them to be ready the next day.We don’t need to get into all the research about how hydration affects everything, but the practice has stood the test of time, and it’s the number one thing for me, says @CVASPS. Click To Tweet
The second one that allows us to make better decisions with what we’re doing right now is using heart rate data in practice. Looking at:
- Was the load higher than usual?
- Was it higher, way higher, normal, or not as much?
If the load isn’t up but the distance covered is up, and the time over 90% heart rate isn’t up, then we just wasted a lot of time running with these kids, not doing much. We “know” hypoxic situations are what lead to issues later on down the road, so if time over 90% heart rate is way out of the norm, then we can make some decisions. At the present moment, none of these decisions are driving decisions in practice. They are driving decisions on the recovery aspects we may provide after practice and the alterations we may make to the training the next day.
We look at those things, and depending on their outputs, load, distance covered, and time over 90%, we will do work after practice, change the work we’re doing after practice, or change the workout for the next morning. It’s really that simple.
Lastly, looking at force plates is a good way to help the student-athlete see that you’re trying to make them better. That’s where we’re identifying asymmetries in certain aspects, whether it be take-off loading, the amortization phase—we’re looking at do you load, why you don’t load, what are the issues. Then we can add into their “daily vitamins,” as basketball people like to call it, where here’s some stuff to do before you warm up to help you move better and feel better, and the kids really seem to buy into that.
Those are the big three right now.
Freelap USA: Being a lifelong learner is a core quality of successful coaches—if you could have ANY four guests give presentations at the 2023 CVASPS seminar, whom would those guests be, and what would you hope to learn from them?
Jay DeMayo: What if I tell you I already have them? I have them lined up, and people need to follow my Instagram to ensure they keep up with everything CVASPS-related because we will start announcing those in the coming weeks. We’re one or two steps away from revealing the date, the location, and who our awesome presenters will be.
But I will tell you this. People who aren’t on the list that I would love to have—the biggest ones are people I missed the opportunity with. I would have liked to have had Vladimir Issurin on-site before his passing. I would have loved to have been able to have Louie (Simmons) before his passing. I love Natalia; she’s one of my favorite people in the world. Obviously, having her father or Carmelo Bosco or both. The giants whose shoulders we stand on but who are no longer with us would be the biggest ones. But we’re very fortunate in our world where the six degrees of separation are not very big, and we’re able to have, at the very least, different people who have been their mentees and can carry on their legacy.
The people that I can’t have, it’d be them. But the people that I have lined up right now, I’m pretty stoked for. This will be a great day and a half, and we’re going to have a lot of fun. They’re absolutely going to melt faces like the great people we bring in always do. It’ll be a great weekend of continuing education and fellowship within the vocation we all love to be part of.
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