How Thompson strengthened Rattlers’ playoff push

After San Marcos’ playoff-clinching win over Austin Akins last week, head coach John Walsh made a peculiar statement. 

“Coach T (Carl Thompson), who runs our offseason, he’s the head coach from as soon as we get done until I wanna say something,” Walsh said. “He did a great job, and you know the great thing is, the kids are here and their mentality changed in just one offseason. So I can’t wait to stack some offseasons on top of each other. But yeah, that weight room’s critical. I call it the magic room and we’ve made some magic in there.”

Normally head coaches don’t call their strength and conditioning coordinator their own title at any point, but John Walsh did just that last Friday. Obviously, Carl Thompson isn’t handling the PR duties of the program or taking phone calls in the head coach’s office in the summer, but he is leaving his own impact on the program — and the program is seeing the results.

Thompson starts his job working with trainers daily to make sure athletes are either getting healthy or staying healthy. He incorporates yoga for athletes twice a week to increase mobility and flexibility. He makes personalized workouts. He coordinates strength training and prefers lifting efficiently and heavy over just heavy. But most of all, Thompson wants to see his athletes’ hard work rewarded on the field.

“You see the offensive line, they hold onto their blocks, they’re working people 15 yards (down the) field. But the ones that I really noticed is when you look at those (defensive backs) and linebackers,” Thompson said. “They’re coming downhill and making contact — solid contact — every play and that ties into the weight room. But the part I really want to talk about is the summer, the speed training inside. Now they’re confident and making their feet work, they’re making those steps without taking false steps. So we’re getting to the ball faster. And we done got strong in the weight room, so now we’re getting to the ball faster and now we’re hitting people.”

Carl Thompson isn’t the only Rattler who’s feeling the improvements from this summer’s speed training. Starting quarterback Isaiah DeLeon’s development on the ground has paid dividends producing five 100-plus yard rushing performances throughout the regular season. 

“A lot of it is just doing a lot (of) running, breaking down, change of direction,” DeLeon said. “And then the weight room for breaking through tackles and all that kind of stuff, Coach Thompson’s been huge, all those guys have been huge for that.”

The way the Rattlers have been making gains in the gym isn’t by just throwing weight around. It’s a methodical approach based more on efficiency and form than getting the biggest number. Thompson wants the purple and white to lift smart and have the right mindset first and foremost. He even has an analogy for how athletes should conduct themselves in the weight room. 

“We talk about NASCAR all the time, because when you see a NASCAR pit crew, how fast is that change? It’s the most pivotal part of the race and people don’t even realize it,” Thompson said. “Yeah, driving the car is important. But when that change happens, that’s what nobody sees and they’re like, ‘How is this car so ahead with that pit crew?’ Well, when we change weight in the weight room it’s the same way. We’re changing weight fast, just like in the play. We got about six seconds and that’s the whole football play. So I want everything we do in kind of increments of six. So say we’re working with the sleds, we’re gonna go six second pushes because we play for six seconds, we’re gonna go hard for six seconds, (then) take the time off (and) get our full recovery, so everything we do is tailored back to football.”

One of the cornerstones of John Walsh’s athletic program is building relationships between coaches and players, because if players are just an X or an O to their coaches, what’s the point of playing hard for them? That cornerstone seems to be Thompson’s greatest strength as strength and conditioning coordinator. Being just 24 years old, Thompson’s full of energy and brings it for his athletes. It’s something that’s connected with not only the football team, but the whole program. 

“They make it easy. Like, I know every coach says that, but these kids literally make it so easy,” Thompson said. “Even the days I come in here and I might be tired and they’re like, ‘Where’s Coach T?’ They start hyping me up, they shake me, they jump around, and the next thing you know, I’m hyped back up. So they bring that energy that I bring 98% of the days. But the days I don’t have it, they come with it. They wake me up, they’re playing music while they’re doing their thing. I can really start the lift and not even be in there and they’ll run that thing by themselves. Now it’s a well-oiled machine but it comes from their dedication — how early they get in here, how much work they put in. I’m just a big dude yelling. That’s all I do.”

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