Iowa volleyball's new strength coach brings change


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Strength and conditioning coach Dan Hammes joined the Iowa volleyball team in early October, and the Hawkeyes believe they've already benefited from his weight-room strategies.

The Hawkeyes (11-12, 1-9 Big Ten) will travel east to start the second half of their Big Ten season this weekend, challenging No. 8 Penn State (15-5, 8-2) today and No. 23 Ohio State (15-8, 8-2) on Oct. 30. Iowa hopes Hammes' training can help the team maintain its health and improve its mental game.

Former strength coach J.C. Moreau left the Athletics Department in September, and the Hawkeyes worked with assistant strength coach Bill Maxwell for about a month before Hammes was hired.

Hammes is the second coach Iowa has had to adjust to this year, but he now spends every day in the weight room with the team, and head coach Sharon Dingman said she's "absolutely thrilled" to have him back; Hammes previously interned at Iowa and worked with the volleyball team for 18 months starting in 2009.

"We don't care if it's beginning of season, midseason, or end of season. We were going to hire him whenever we could," Dingman said. "The girls who have worked with him before — everyone but the freshmen — have so much respect for Dan and the way he's going to train them."

Iowa has a five-game, 15-set losing streak as it head into the weekend. The team's struggle to find wins on the court amplifies Hammes' new responsibilities — he doesn't necessarily have to physically train the Hawkeyes, but he does have to help keep them mentally tough.

"As much effort and time as they put into it without seeing the results they want is tough on them," Hammes said. "I credit them with what they do to get prepared every day, to come into the weight room with the attitude that they need to continue to develop … I give them credit, because they've done a great job keeping their focus in the weight room even when things [on the court] aren't going the way they want them to go."

Hammes said his role in the middle of Iowa's season isn't to build bulk or strength but instead to maintain the "strength, power, and explosiveness" the Hawkeye players already have.

He said injury prevention and maintaining a stable level of fitness are the most important functions of strength and conditioning right now. Hammes has adapted well to these jobs and Iowa's mid-season fatigue.

"My job is to see where the athletes are currently at — what are the needs of each individual athlete and what are the needs of the team — and help them work toward their goals without drastically changing anything," Hammes said. "You need to get used to the athletes as people, too — to their personalities and their demeanor — so you can move forward as a group."

Hammes' strategy is different from that of the Hawkeyes' previous coaches. He watches every athlete's last and heaviest set, checking for correct technique and good effort as he keeps a record of the players' lifting routines on weight cards.

Sophomore defensive specialist Grace Burns said she has seen a change in her performance because of Hammes' coaching over the past month — for one thing, he is stricter in the weight room.

"Obviously, we're not winning, so we need to change something," Burns said. "When we do play well, it's because we do all the little things right. That comes down to discipline, and that's where I think we're going see a difference stemming from Coach Hammes. It's not physically hard to get those little things right, but it's more of the mental execution of being able to focus and be disciplined — just as we are in the weight room."

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