Feb. 11, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Winning on the football field doesn’t begin on game day. Winning begins in the offseason, and enjoying success is something Jeff Dillman knows plenty about. Dillman was recently named Director of Football Strength and Conditioning at South Carolina by head coach Will Muschamp, and the 39-year-old is already at work instilling that winning attitude into the Gamecock student-athletes.
“The key is to win today,” Dillman said. “What are we doing to win the ball game today? I’m not talking about stepping on the field on Saturday and winning. The mindset of our staff, the coaches and of the players is that you don’t want to let a single day go by that you lose. You want to win the day, every day.”
Dillman’s positive enthusiasm is evident as soon as you walk into the room with him. His keys to winning each day revolve around three elements.
“We always talk about effort, toughness and discipline,” Dillman said. “If we have those three elements, and we’re good at them, then we’re going to be a very good football team. I’m like the second head coach on staff in some ways. Coach Muschamp tells me what his priorities are, and we implement that. The program is coach Muschamp’s plan, and we have the ‘Fourth Quarter Program’ that we go through in getting these guys in shape and making sure they are ready come competition time - not only physically ready, but mentally ready as well.”
Even when the team is not practicing, Dillman is in a position to work with the student-athletes year-round to get them ready, and he has jumped in with both feet.
“They’re spending a lot of time in here with us,” Dillman said. “We have a lot of guys that come in on their own time and do extra work because it’s important to them. It’s an investment, and they understand that it’s a commitment to be successful.
“When our coaches are out recruiting, we’re managing day to day stuff. We’re helping build them into men, and teach them the difference between right and wrong and doing the little things right so they can be successful in the real world.”
The team is lifting weights three days per week while and participating in conditioning four days per week.
“This is a good group of guys,” Dillman said. “They’re working extremely hard. They’ve been very, very coachable. They just want to get better. Right now we’re in the preparation phase getting them prepared for spring ball.”
We always talk about effort, toughness and discipline. If we have those three elements, and we’re good at them, then we’re going to be a very good football team.
One of Dillman’s primary goals early on is to establish trust.
“I came in and told the guys that I wasn’t going to just ask you to trust me,” Dillman said. “I’m going to earn your trust. Once I learn and get to know you, then I can trust you. Once you get to know me, you will trust me. Trust is earned. We’re going to earn that by being consistent every day in how we coach and how we teach and the message that we deliver to them every day.
“We’re just trying to make a difference in these guys’ lives. We’re trying to make them better football players, but we’re also trying to make them better men. A strength coach is kind of like a coordinator now because of the amount of time that we spend developing the guys into good football players and into good men.”
Dillman’s passion and energy comes naturally, and fits well with his role as a coach and a teacher.
“Everybody needs motivation,” Dillman said. “They’re going to resemble and react to how they are being coached and how they are being taught. That’s what we do in here. We bring a lot of passion, a lot of energy, and we’re teaching these kids how to do things right. They’re going to react off of you. So if you’re low energy, and you don’t ‘bring it’ every day, they’re going to react the same way. Actions trigger feelings, and feelings trigger actions.”
Dillman came to South Carolina after spending one season as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Alabama. Before that, he worked on Muschamp's staff at Florida for three years. He also spent time on LSU’s staff when the Tigers won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2003, and he led the strength and conditioning staff at his alma mater, Appalachian State when the Mountaineers won NCAA Division 1-AA national championships in 2006 and 2007, including the historic upset of No. 5 ranked Michigan. In addition to college football programs, Dillman worked at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversaw the strength and conditioning programs for all youth, adult, collegiate and professional athletes who trained at the Academy, including NBA and NFL offseason workouts, NFL Combine training and the Madden Football Academy.
“I’ve been very successful in my career, and I’ve been very blessed to be around some great coaches and some great athletes,” Dillman said. “If you’re in the right system, and everybody believes in the process and doing things the right way, like Coach Muschamp does, you’re going to have success.
“The biggest thing is that you just have to stay humble. You don’t really get to enjoy (success) because your competitive spirit moves you on to the next one. I can enjoy that stuff when I retire, but I’m probably never going to retire because I love what I do. It’s been fun.”
Born in Georgetown, South Carolina, Dillman is thrilled to be a Gamecock and loves the energy of the fans in the Palmetto State.
“They are awesome,” Dillman said. “Every time we’ve played here, the energy has just been unbelievable. Knowing what (Athletics Director) Coach (Ray) Tanner did with the baseball program, and now the basketball programs have taken off, it’s just incredible. I always wanted to have the opportunity to be the head strength and conditioning coach in the SEC. I did that at Florida, and then to go from being the assistant at Alabama to being the head guy here, it’s awesome.”
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