David Wood: Cal Poly’s Best Kept Secret

30 May

Cal Poly Graduate David Wood serves as a coach for all 20 of Cal Poly’s Intercollegiate sports teams.

by Trent Merfeld 

You may not have heard of David Wood, but he is known across Cal Poly athletics for getting the most out of every student athlete. In a career that has involved volunteering for UCLA and working at University of Alabama, Birmingham, Wood is now in his third year at the Cal Poly and really enjoys his craft.

Wood says a typical day involves him waking up early, usually opening the facilities at 6am, and then having teams working out all the way until 5 pm at night.

“Every workday creates a different scenario, you have athletes coming in feeling different everyday. Everyday is a new day I feel, I don’t feel everyday is the same thing where it’s repetitive,” Wood said.

Wood said it is hard to describe in a nutshell what exactly he does, but he could break his craft down into two areas.

“You have the science of coaching and the art of coaching. The science of coaching is coaching, looking at a lift, looking at a moment and going ‘Okay what’s going on? Why is this happening? What can I do movement-wise to help this individual?’ What can I do in a motor learning sense to help this individual?” Wood said. “And then you also have the art side of it where [you can tell somebody] is a little flat today, you can tell he didn’t get enough sleep or he’s not into it as much, so how do I motivate him to respond?”

Wood said his job is a continuous decision-making process between the two areas.

“Do I need to address more scientific or more art, or do I need to combine both to get the best product for that athlete?” Wood said. “It’s definitely a lot to do but it’s a pleasure to do it.”

Despite the long hours of the job Wood enjoys it because of the payoff he sees in the players.

“It’s a joy to be able to see progressions and teach these athletes. I ultimately consider myself an educator and when you can provide a service and watch it be applied and then to progress that, it’s exciting,” Wood said. “I never played college sports myself so I give hats off to all of these athletes who are able to manage the classroom and [their sport].”

Wood instructing how to properly toss the medicine ball.

Wood respects the academic challenges that Mustang athletes face, but since not all athletes are the same Wood describes how he coaches each athlete.

“You have to read the individual and get to know the individual, and then based on his character and how he responds to your type of coaching you have to situational coach. In this setting I’m going to be a little bit more of a ‘pat on the back’ coach, in this setting with the same athlete I may be ‘you know what, there’s the line, get on the line, lets run.’”

Wood said the more he works with athletes, the stronger the relationship gets and then he can better understand how to get the best out of that athlete physically and emotionally.

If you don’t have those conversations I don’t think they develop a relationship with the coach,” Wood said. “They listen to you and do it just to do it as opposed to ‘hey Dave truly cares about the department, truly cares about the team, and truly cares about me because of the day in, day out conversations that we have so I’m more motivated to do his program in the summer and whatnot.”

In just his third season coaching Mustang athletes, Wood has already made a good impression on many athletes.

I interviewed Grant Goebel and Barrett Wangara of Cal Poly football, and Sean Dougherty of Cal Poly Wrestling. I asked each of them about their experiences with Wood:

0:00 – 1:11 Grant Goebel: “A lot of it is getting confidence in yourself and he definitely does that […] You know he’s [going to] get you in the best possible [shape] to be the best you can be.”

1:11 – 1:58 Sean Dougherty: “I like his workouts they’re pretty intense […] With wrestling, as far as other people I’ve worked with they’re crazy intense workouts, [so to compare to other coaches] he runs a good workout for sure.

1:59 – 2:46 Barrett Wangara: “He’s always trying to encourage us to keep pushing ourselves. All of us don’t like mediocrity out here so he’s always trying to watch and make sure we’re struggling on our last test and we’re getting a good workout in.”

Wood said his ultimate goal is to get his athletes to view themselves in a better light.

“If so and so is just completely turned off and doesn’t have a high self image here, and I get that guy or girl to have a higher self-image in here I consider that a success,” Wood said. Yeah it’s great to get strong and be able to excel in here, but ultimately the success comes from the athlete coming back to me going ‘hey you know what, I feel more explosive, I feel like I can recover better after my games, the stuff that you showed me to do I’m doing it, and its really helped me out.That’s the success is when you get that feedback from our athletes saying whatever you are shoveling out us it’s working coach, keep feeding me some new stuff.”

Wood said that he always tries to show support for his players so he can see their hard work pay off.

“I try to make it out to at least one to two sporting events for each sport throughout the year so I’m balancing myself out. So the athlete can say ‘Dave came in on a Saturday and watched me play and play the sport I love.”

Wood believes throughout it all, his attitude really can dictate how the players respond.

“I think if you have that attitude you have a confidence, and hopefully that confidence is going to be able to sell what you are selling to these customers,” Wood said. “Ultimately, I’m an employee of each team and each athlete, and the athletic department. I’m always trying to have that service for our athletes here.”


Get To Know David Wood

If you weren’t a coach you would probably be a: teacher. It goes back to having joy in providing a service for others and getting some success teaching and educating others.

Favorite Athlete: [Somebody] that can take care of the small things outside the weight room and the training facility to enable him a chance to get better at a faster rate. That’s my favorite athlete, the athlete that’s doing the small stuff at nighttime. We talk about it, true success is what you’re doing when no one is watching you.

Favorite Quote: Tiger Woods. I golf and I’d like to see him win another major in a short bit.

Favorite Food: Protein shakes.

Pick One Drink: Water.

Pick One Band: Metallica.

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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Profiles


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