Raising the Bar: Coach Inspires, Pushes Student-Athletes

By Ben Shaffer ’22
Spring Summer 2022 Issue

Susquehanna’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach David Kitchen ’14 chose his profession because of the valuable life lessons the weight room taught him as a Susquehanna football player — lessons he hopes to pass down to the student-athletes he coaches today.

David Kitchen '14, head strength and conditioning coach David Kitchen '14, head strength and conditioning coachThe strength coaches, led by Coach Kitchen, typically arrive in the Chris Vialonga Sports Performance Center at 5:30 a.m. each day for the first team lift at 6 a.m. They spend the remainder of the day coaching, programming and running reports until the last team lift concludes at 7 p.m.

“They’re long days but every day is different, and you get to spend time with the student-athletes,” Kitchen says. “The majority of your day is spent coaching kids and that’s the fun part.”

An essential function of a strength coach is programming workout plans for teams.

“Every team has an annual plan that’s broken up into different structures, then we reverse engineer the process. If we want strength and power to be our strongest qualities at a certain date, then we need to break down what qualities go into making those strength and power gains most evident at the end,” Kitchen says.

Last year’s Landmark Conference Field Hockey Defensive Player of the Year Annalee Smith ’22 has made the transition from athlete to coach, interning as an assistant strength coach. Going from an athlete to a coach has shown Smith all the work that typically is unseen.

“We meet weekly to discuss different aspects of this job and what it entails, which is more than I ever thought. It is challenging to learn all the very important details and planning behind what needs to happen for this program to function,” she says.

Smith admits one of her favorite parts about her internship is working with athletes from Susquehanna’s women’s teams.

“I enjoy working with all student-athletes, but many times, female athletes are overlooked and are put on the back burner when it comes to strength and weight training, but I think Coach Kitchen does a great job pushing his women’s teams to become stronger every day,” she says.

One example of a Susquehanna woman succeeding in the weight room is Olivia Brandt ’22, a 2022 All-Landmark Second Team women’s basketball player who was named a National Strength and Conditioning Association All-American in early April for her dedication to effort and excellence in off-the-court workouts.

Nominated by Coach Kitchen, Brandt says she was not aware of the award prior to receiving it, but claimed it was an honor to be recognized. “I contribute a lot
of my success on the court to the work I put in in the weight room and the mentors I had that pushed me in strength and conditioning,” she says.

According to Brandt, Coach Kitchen and strength coaches pushed her to work as hard as possible each day she stepped into the weight room. “Coach Kitchen’s best quality is that he will never let someone take a day off. If the weight on the bar or in your hand looks too easy, he calls you out,” she says.

“The student-athletes here on campus are really unique. They are so coachable and smart, and that’s a testament to the academic standards here. They want to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. I can talk about the ins and outs of the program, I can also talk about leadership and accountability, and they just soak it up,” Kitchen claims.

Coach Kitchen and his staff have contributed greatly to the success of so many teams and, at the same time, implemented important life values through the strength and conditioning program.

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