NU’s Strength and Conditioning Coach.
Pacing back and forth on the black, rubber flooring in the Plumley Armory weight room, Jeff Kruger delivers a well-rehearsed monologue. His steady voice can be heard clearly amid the cacophony of clanking metal, rock music, and air-filtration fans. Surrounding him, Norwich varsity athletes, working in pairs, spot each other as they complete three sets of ten in squats and bench presses, using increasing amounts of weight. After completing the series they move to stations, employing medicine balls, kettle bells, dumbbells, and pull-up bars. Quiet and focused, the athletes work up a sweat in an almost robotic fashion. Five weeks into the routine, they know the drill by heart.
Now in his ninth year as Norwich University’s head strength and conditioning coach, Kruger oversees the training of all 20 NU varsity athletic programs. He says his goals are twofold: “First, to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength, power, and flexibility based on the sport. The second is to mitigate athletic injuries by strengthening the body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport.”
Unlike Division I and II athletic programs, which are mandated by the NCAA to have full-time certified strength and conditioning coaching staffs, only about half of Division III athletic programs offer them. And, Kruger doesn’t only serve Norwich athletes; he is also available to work one-on-one with non-athletes, faculty, and staff through the fitness and wellness center in Plumley Armory.
With hundreds of athletes spread out over 20 sport-specific training programs, Kruger is in continuous demand year round. Before each team’s season, he meets with the coaches and staff to discuss their players’ strengths and weaknesses before creating customized workout routines. He then structures the program to help every athlete reach his or her maximum potential.
Senior women’s basketball player Leah Turcotte ’16 says Kruger does a great job at getting the team in shape during pre-season—while keeping workouts from getting dull. “And even though the workouts are tough, he tries to find a way to make it fun for us, and pushes us to become better,” Turcotte says.
Although Norwich had a strength and conditioning coach prior to Kruger’s arrival in 2007, the married father of two has revamped the Norwich program from the ground up. “I implemented preseason screenings to gauge each athlete’s individual baseline of flexibility, among other things, so that we aren’t asking them to do something they can’t do.”
Kruger has also introduced an education component to the program. Norwich sports medicine students whose goals are to become professionals in the field of strength and conditioning assist Kruger in the weight room, getting critical hands-on experience and expert mentoring in the process.
Head Wrestling Coach Alex Whitney ’08 says the program has undergone a real transformation from when he first came to Norwich as a student in 2004. “When I was a wrestler here, we had a weight-lifting regimen, and most of us knew the system of working out,” Whitney says, “but we didn’t have access to the technology and the methods that Kruger implements today. As a coach, I’ve witnessed how my own wrestlers are taking advantage of the opportunity to really understand their bodies and know the proper techniques. It makes a huge difference in their performance and results in far fewer injuries.”
After 40 minutes of nonstop exercise, the athletes pick up their water bottles and head out for a team run up Paine Mountain. In less than a minute, another team takes it place, and Kruger starts in again. – J.D. and D.L.W.