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By Randy York
James Dobson is a lot like the head coach who hired him. He sees the world in black-and-white with no shades of grey in between, so that means he will do what he always does at the National Conference of the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association in Orlando this week. Dobson and the rest of his staff will take a beginner’s mindset to the annual gathering, so they can learn as much as possible Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. “The sole purpose of us going down there is to learn more about strength and conditioning and find out what else is out there,” Dobson said. “If we can learn what to do and what not to do and take it back here and help out our student-athletes, that’s the only mission we have.” Dobson is like a Marine. He sees everything he does as a commitment, not an appointment. That’s why he’s headed to Orlando with one motive, even though there will be two additional sideshows that relate directly to him: 1) Nebraska’s head strength coach will be one of 15 coaches receiving the association’s highest honor this week – the presentation of certification as a “Master Strength and Conditioning Coach” from his peers; and 2) He will be a prototype “expert” for the industry’s newest technology, which will be unveiled, exhibited and perhaps become one of the conference’s biggest highlights.
So here’s an N-Sider tip of the hat for Dobson’s well-deserved professional honor, plus his leadership role in helping Nebraska Global launch EliteForm, an integrated software product that has the potential to redefine every boundary in the history of strength and conditioning training. But let’s make one thing crystal clear. “We’re not going to Orlando as representatives of EliteForm,” Dobson said. “We’re going there to be representatives of the University of Nebraska strength and conditioning staff, and we’re there to learn. That’s the bottom line.” Joining Dobson at the national conference are NU assistant strength coaches Chad Wade, Tyler Clarke and Willie Jones. Of course, someone has to stay home to manage Nebraska’s weight room, and Brandon Rigoni is more than happy to do just that. Last January, when Nebraska Global soft-launched EliteForm at the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s annual conference in San Antonio, Rigoni was there to hear major kudos about the product. Now he’s eager for his colleagues to hear even greater feedback on a vastly improved product.
EliteForm has evolved significantly because Nebraska Global and NU’s Athletic Department have collaborated well. “This is a relationship, and we have two entities here,” Dobson said. “We have a strength and conditioning program, and we have a group of guys who are really brilliant when it comes to information technology. We work together and share ideas. On our end, we share how we think things run in the real world, what we need and how we want to go about doing it. They listen, and they try to meet those needs. It’s a collaborative process. It takes time, but we feel we have a great product, and that was our goal. We figured out what ideas we could use and then we went with it. It’s been back and forth for almost a year now. We’ve given them great feedback, and they’ve given us a great product.”
We know how precise Nebraska can be in terms of overall excellence. Getting exactly what you like takes time, not to mention skills, expertise, cooperation and constant communication. “Working with these guys has been real healthy,” Dobson said. “We’ve probably worked with10 or 12 people that we intermingle with on a regular basis. We’re constantly sharing ideas, and it’s not just from Brandon or me. Willie, Tyler and Chad have all thrown out ideas and worked through things on this. As far as relationships go, it’s been smooth. I’ve had a great experience working with them – there’s no question about it. Everybody puts thought into it. It’s not one person making all the decisions. It’s all about the team.”
Knowing Dobson is too immersed in his own challenges to put on a marketing hat, I ask him the obvious: “If a fellow coach comes up and asks you for your opinion of EliteForm at the national conference, what will your response be?” Dobson answered the question just like I thought he would. “We look at a lot of products,” he said. “When we installed new turf like we saw at this same meeting last year, we asked a lot of questions,” he pointed out. “We said: ‘Hey, what do you think of this turf? Is it good? Does it hold up?’ As coaches, we all talk because we have a pretty tight network. Everyone kind of knows each other, and the best way to find information about a product is to talk to the people who use it. If someone asks me about EliteForm, I have no problem sharing my experience with it and being honest about the product. Bottom line, we think it’s great. They’ve given us everything we asked for … and then some.”
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