Soccer coach educates student athletes on working out


University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Women’s soccer teams strength and conditioning coach, Sarah Wood, stand ready to train with the team. © 2019 Anna Sveiven

One coach is putting her experience to use to educate the women’s soccer team at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on the importance of working out.

“After going through college and playing soccer my whole life, I want to give back and teach people what I have learned,” said UW-Eau Claire women’s soccer team strength and conditioning coach, Sarah Wood.

Wood grew up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin where she graduated in 2010 from Stevens Point Area Senior High school. Wood participated in soccer from age four through her senior year, playing three years at the varsity level.

After high school, Wood continued her education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Earning a bachelors’ degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in strength and conditioning, as well as a certificate in coaching.

As of the 2018 soccer season, Wood was hired on as a part-time strength and conditioning coach for the women’s soccer team at UW-Eau Claire.

While being a part-time coach, Wood also works at the YMCA as a Healthy Living Coordinator where she focuses on the safe, healthy and fun environment that the YMCA provides.

Through her two positions at the YMCA and on the soccer team, Wood said she is able to combine her two passions of soccer and helping people.

Sean Yengo, the head coach of the university women’s soccer team for 23 years, said he brought Wood onto his staff because five players the previous season had extensive knee injuries. The team was also lacking discipline in their strength and conditioning.

“Wood is here to teach the team proper weightlifting form and prepare them for the fall season,” Yengo said.

Wood said her position as strength and conditioning coach consists of creating workout programs for the fall soccer season, for winter weightlifting and for summer weight training. She said she focuses on injury prevention and completing recovery workouts.

“Sarah is an important part of the team. Without her workout program there would be a lot more injuries,” said first-year student Brooke Hunwardsen.

A regular training session during the fall season consists of maintaining the players endurance and strength. In the off seasons, winter, spring and summer, the training sessions intensify and center around cardio, agility, flexibility and rehabilitation.

“The players can practice longer, lift more and play at a higher intensity under her training,” said Yengo.

For the workout program, Wood chooses a variety of different activities. Examples are the traditional weight lifting that builds muscle, cone drills that focus on agility, yoga to work on flexibility, resistance band exercises that are a part of the recovery workouts and meditation to relax the mind and body.

Yengo said that the feedback from his players has been nothing but positive. Players have seen a difference in their performance on the field. They like the workouts and they get along with Wood, which is an important factor he added.

“When completing the workouts, I knew what I was doing, and the workouts actually worked,” said team captain, Anna Larson.

Players’ accomplishment stories are part of what she enjoys about her job, said Wood. One of the stories Wood told was about second year student, Anna Kautzman.

Kautzman at the beginning of the season, during fitness testing, had five push-ups. Now, after going through the workout program, Kautzman is able to complete the fitness test with a total of 34 push-ups, said Wood.

Other examples of when Wood said she feels the most accomplished with her job are when players simply say they feel stronger. Another is during fitness testing when players get new personal bests, like Kautzman. The final reason is when she sees the team in the weight room even when there isn’t a workout for that day.

Wood said eventually the career as a student athlete ends, like it did for her. The athletes no longer have the mandatory early morning training’s, weekly weight lifting sessions, or two hours practices, said Wood. Her hope is to teach the team how to stay in shape after soccer and college are done.