James Steel

Associate Director of Sports Performance
Penn Athletics

James Steel

How long have you been at Penn?
Steel has been at Penn since February of 1999. He started out as a part-time strength coach and worked his way up to full-time assistant before becoming strength and conditioning coordinator in 2003.

What are some of your job responsibilities?
“We’re in charge of training all of the athletes in the weight room to get them stronger and more explosive. We have 33 sports so we work with around 900 kids. Our No. 1 goal is to prevent injury. We also do their speed and agility work. We train everybody from football to fencing.”

Are there different exercises for men and women student-athletes?
“No, not really. It’s more sports than gender. Everybody does the basic development lifts, which are squats, pressing, and one-legged exercises. We use the Spartan system, which tests strengths and weaknesses, to individualize workouts according to their scores on Sparta.”

Is bench-pressing a good measure of strength?
“It’s one of the measures. I would rather have an athlete have a stronger lower body because everything comes from pushing, force creation through the ground, creating force through the ground. Everything except maybe water polo. With everything else, your feet are planted or you’re pushing through the ground to go left, right, to jump, so your legs and hips, lower back have to be strong.”

Is training for athletes pretty much year-round these days?
“Year round. Everybody trains year-round. It’s not mandatory in the Ivy League, but teams train. They want to get an edge on their opponent. Everybody else is training year-round so coaches want to be as competitive as they can with the teams that they play against.”

How often do you work out?
“Everyday I do something. I never go a day without doing something, even if it’s just shadowboxing in my yard with my kids while they’re playing.”

—G.J.