The Sacramento Report: High Performance Is More Than A Building

You all may recall that less than two months ago PlayClassyBears wrote a series of spectacular fanposts detailing the Student Athlete High Performance Center.  In addition to touring the nearly completed facility, the crowd heard from Sandy Barbour and Keith Power, High Performance Director.  With the SAHPC set to open in early October, the Grid Club was lucky to have Mr. Power as a guest to talk about the High Performance initiative and what it means for Cal athletics.  Mr. Power has an impressive resume through all levels of sports, and it's clear he's brought everything he's learned with him to help Cal sports.

Now, this isn't exactly a new topic around these parts, but this particular presentation really articulated High Performance as an initiative and a philosophy beyond the building itself.  It's impressive to see what kind of planning and vision went in to the High Performance Initiative, and even more exciting to see how it helps Cal athletes maximize their abilities.

It wasn't all SAHPC stuff - there's a pretty important football game to talk about up in Seattle tomorrow!  In addition to Keith Power's presentation the Grid Club heard from new-but-familiar wide receiver coach Eric Kiesau and Seattle Times beat writer Bob Condotta, who runs one of the best and most active team blogs amongst Pac-12 writers.

Thanks to the wonderful CalBear81 for her excellent notes, allowing me to better paraphrase our speakers!

Coach Kiesau


What is your role on gamedays?

I’m up in the booth, acting as the eyes in the sky

Coming back as the WR coach, what did you focus on in the off-season?

For our three seniors we worked on sharpening and fine-tuning everything, and particularly for Calvin and Edmond, just inspiring confidence.  With Keenan Allen you’ve got the total package – a great player, smart in the classroom – I’ve fallen in love with him!

Was Keenan Allen supposed to be so close to Marvin Jones on the touchdown against Presbyterian, or was the ball intended for Keenan?

It was a mistake by Keenan.  He slowed up when Jones was catching the ball.  It was funny, the coaches were all freaking out, and meanwhile Marvin was scoring a touchdown.  Keenan was supposed to run as fast as he could to pull the safety away.  He knew he made the mistake and as soon as he came off the field acknowledged that he was supposed to go harder on the play.

Any particular worries going in to the Washington game?

We feel like if we have any worries it means we didn’t prepare.  So if we focus on preparation and what we can control we’ll be ready.  We’ve got to put points on the board in a loud stadium.

Beyond Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, who are you excited about?

I’m most excited about Kaelin Clay.  We’d love to get him back on the field, hopefully soon.  He has great potential.  After him it’s Edmond and Calvin that we’re trying to get more production from.

When is Clay likely to return?

We’re not sure, it’s up to the guys on campus.  We just want to keep him positive and ready for when he comes back.

In all our years of watching football we’ve very rarely seen offensive facemask called, and now Cal’s been penalized for it three times in a week.  Any explanation?

The coaches are wondering the same thing – we’ve never seen it either.  One was a receiver who got caught with lazy feet on his block.  Another I think the lineman was trying to push with his hands against the defender’s chest and his hand slipped up into the facemask.

What do you try to do as a coach to prevent drops?

We try not to harp too much because that can backfire – like a golfer with a bad swing, it can get into your head if you hear about it too much.  We try to make it a teaching moment, about focusing on the ball and not taking the actual catch for granted.

Keith Power

Why the High Performance Initiative?  Six or seven years ago Sandy Barbour brought in experts on high performance sports, knowing that cal doesn't have a ton of resources like a USC or an SEC school.  But Cal does have plenty of talented people.  How can we maximize their talent?  Cal isn't awash in cash and likely never will be.  That means maximizing those resources.  How can we do things in a different way for competitive advantages?

Our philosophy: Talent, hard work and resources are all necessary, but they are not enough.  I visited a series of SEC schools, looking at their facilities and resources.  They all have a ton of cash and talent, but they are all the same.  How do you differentiate yourself to recruits if every program offers the same thing?

When I was the national coach of the British Bobseld team for 5 years we didn't have a lot of resources.  But we punched above our weight, winning a bronze medal.  And to give you a sense of how competitive the bobsled can be - the top few teams in the last Olympics each took four runs down a mile course.  So over four miles the teams were only separated by two seconds or less.  So an extreme attention to detail is critical.

For Great Britain to compete against teams with million dollar budgets we had to utilize resources other teams might ignore - sports science, sports medicine, etc.  We used the 'Kaizen' philosophy of continuous improvement and change for the good.  Some coaches will have the attitude that they've always done things a certain way.  But if you're going to compete with the best you need to constantly evaluate how you're doing things and finding ways to get better.  I've worked with top soccer coaches in the UK and I've seen that kind of attitude lots.  But Coach Tedford has been very open minded - never questioning if I had anything to offer to his program, and has been willing to consider and embrace my ideas.

Now, with the recent budget environment and proposed elimination of sports it hasn't been the right time to launch the High Performance Initiative.  But with the sports saved and the SAHPC set to open the time is right. 

Any performance in sport is made up of five key factors: fitness, skill, tactics, mental toughness and culture.  We need to be a 9 out of 10 in each category.  Recruiting focuses on fitness and skill (i.e. talent) but most important can be mental toughness and culture.  We're trying to help coaches identify and develop mental toughness.

We think we've taken steps to improve mental toughness.  Coach Mike Blasquez hasn't just made the players stronger and fitter - he's made them more disciplined.  And as an example, I don't think the Colorado game is the type of game Cal would have won last year.

In the process of improving the five components of performance there are three things we're trying to improve on as a department: Communication, information and integration.

Communication - For coaches, communication is what they spend 95% of their time on.  How can we get better at communicating as a program and a department?

Information - how do we measure success?  We've done a performance profile with every player on the football team, asking them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are.  That helps the coaches understand what their players are thinking and helps the coaches focus their teaching.  The players all fill out performance logs - how much sleep they get, how hard they're working, how tired they feel, etc., allowing us to better monitor the pulse of the team.

Integration - We've got lots of staff and departments.  Improving integration makes sure that coaches and different support services are acting together.

At this point we were shown an excellent video with a number of Cal coaches and players describing what high performance means to them.  Mr. Power went on to describe a variety of details about the SAHPC itself, but there's no way I can paraphrase what he said and present it better than PlayClassyBears did in the fanposts linked at the top of this post.  Check those out for the details and pictures!  We do want to mention that, when asked when the football team would move in, Mr. Power said, without a hint of bravado, that it would happen after the bowl game to avoid unnecessarily disrupting the 2011 season.

Bob Condotta


What is Keith Price’s health status?

It’s OK, but not 100%, and he hasn’t been 100% all year.  He sprained one knee against Eastern Washington and then the other against Nebraska and was visible limited at the end of that game.

What is Washington trying to do to shore up things on defense?

They’re trying lots of things and hoping something works.  They thought the line would be good but it hasn’t been as good as expected.  The secondary is young and has had trouble covering people.  Not much pass rush yet.  It’s not one thing, there have been lots of problems.

Cal fans are nervous about our special teams.  Can Washington exploit our special teams problems?

Boy, has Cal really been worse than Washington over the last few years on special teams?  Actually, UW special teams have been OK.  The kicker and punter are both good.  But they’ve had trouble on kick returns.  The return units are better this year but coverage is at the bottom of the nation on kickoffs.  Nebraska had success on returns last week.

Is the game sold out?

No, the days of constant sell outs at Washington have been over for some time now.  They expect a crowd of around 60,000 on hand, maybe a little more since the weather will be nice.

What are Washington’s strengths?

The passing game.  Keith Price is a different player than Jake Locker, but he’s completing 65% of his passes and he leads the nation in touchdowns.  And they have a deep WR core, perhaps the team’s #1 strength.

The best overall player is running back Chris Polk, but the line is young and better at pass blocking than run blocking.

What intriguing matchups will you be watching?

Cal’s WRs vs. Washington’s secondary.  Cal should be able to exploit Washington’s defense with their top two WRs.  Nebraska isn’t a great passing team but even they were able to exploit Washington.

Also, how Washington’s offensive line matches up against Cal’s defensive line.  Washington did better than expected against Nebraska’s line, but Cal has impressive depth.

With Price hurt, talk about Washington’s back-up QB

Nick Montana – yes, Joe’s son – is the back-up.  He’s a red-shirt freshman who hasn’t yet played.  He was in a close battle with Price during camp, but since he hasn’t played yet nobody really knows what he’s capable of.

What's your prediction?

I’m going to pick Washington solely because of home field advantage.  Cal hasn’t done well on the road in the last few years and they’ve played horrible in Washington recently.  But it’s hard to get a read on either of these teams.



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