Country Day student-athletes have benefited this year from the presence of two new faces in the program: Taylor Smith and Stefan Montanez have joined the Bucs’ Strength & Conditioning staff as part of a Coaching Fellows pilot program and have helped elevate already strong training programs to new levels.
The goal of the fellowship program is to provide qualified young strength and conditioning coaches with an opportunity to learn in and gain experience with an established high school strength and conditioning program. And by having additional qualified coaches on staff, the program has expanded its reach with an increased number of contact points with an increased number of teams. The program is an extension of the Bucs’ summer internships and graduate assistantships, which have been in place since 2004.
“The impact of the coaching fellowship has exceeded my expectations,” said Director of Strength & Conditioning, Darnell Clark. “Our sport coaches, athletics staff, and most importantly our student-athletes have repeatedly commented on how much they like our coaching fellows and the job that they are doing.”
Smith is a former hall of fame athlete at AC Flora High School in Rock Hill, SC, and went on to earn a degree in exercise science from Winthrop University. She spent the summer of 2018 at Country Day in an intern role and then interned at the National Strength & Conditioning Association headquarters in Colorado this past spring. She returned as a graduate assistant this past summer before transitioning into the Coaching Fellows program this fall. She has also returned to Winthrop as a first-year graduate student, studying sports and fitness administration.
“Taylor is a force of nature when she coaches,” said Clark. “Her superpower is her ability to communicate and connect with our student-athletes. She can get them to buy in and therefore perform quicker than anyone I have ever witnessed.”
Montanez is a Butler High School and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate and is in the final stages of completing a master’s degree in physical education and health through UNC-Wilmington. While in Chapel Hill, he interned with the Tar Heels’ strength and conditioning program, working specifically with the football and cheerleading teams. Since then, he has held a series of coaching positions at Elon University, Belmont Abbey College, and with the U.S. Army Special Operations Human Performance Program at Fort Bragg.
According to Clark, “Stefan is wise beyond his years. His attention to detail is phenomenal, and you see that in his technical approach to teaching, demonstrating, and correcting form. Our athletes are better lifters because of his instruction.”
Outside of their daily coaching sessions with teams, Smith and Montanez have taken the lead on a number of projects to enhance the scope of the Strength & Conditioning program, including:
- Administering the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to 9th grade student-athletes. FMS helps coaches evaluate athletes’ specific training needs and develop appropriate programming.
- Administering the “Buc Zero” program to 9th grade student-athletes. The program is an introduction to fundamental movements, exercises, and principles of training.
- Developing video content for all exercise demonstrations for TeamBuildr, the program’s athlete management software.
- Creating a warm-up curriculum, in both written and video form, for basketball teams at every level, 7th grade through varsity.
- Creating and delivering a technical warm-up curriculum for athletes learning the fundamentals of Olympic lifts.
Smith and Montanez may end their time at Country Day as early as next month if they are pulled away by permanent employment opportunities, but could stay on staff through May, when a new set of summer graduate assistants and interns come on board. Clark says he has no doubt the Bucs’ first two coaching fellows will be successful wherever they go next.
“I have mentored young coaches for the last 15 years and Stefan and Taylor are two of the best I have had the pleasure of working with,” said Clark. “Their potential is limitless and I am excited to see where their hard work and talents will take them.”