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Taking Charge

Exercise physiology students earn West Coast internships thanks to their own determined efforts

It’s 5 a.m., and a group of sleepy-eyed athletes drag themselves into the locker room one by one. They’re met by their coach’s loud entrance as he blows his whistle and commands, “Let’s hustle!” His enthusiasm is just what they need to get their juices flowing. He’s the kind of coach who lives to see his athletes grow and thrive. He’s a steady source of support, but he also knows how to constructively put on the pressure. It’s not an easy job, but to him, nothing could be more rewarding.

Any successful coach will tell you that knowing how to motivate others is essential to their line of work. It’s about pushing people to their limits, demanding from them their very best, in a way that doesn’t crush their spirit. Coaching takes a lot of drive, determination, patience, positivity and energy. Senior exercise physiology majors and longtime friends Corey Briggs and William Rankin have long possessed these qualities, which have helped them succeed at more than just coaching.

Briggs and Rankin share the same dream – to coach NCAA Division I college football players in strength and conditioning, the practice of improving one’s athletic performance through fitness training. Thanks to the same strengths that have made them successful coaches, the two earned the opportunity to do just that as strength and conditioning interns for the University of Oregon football team over summer 2018.

Their journey from the Midwest to the West Coast was a whirlwind. From the very beginning of their internship search, they weren’t afraid to do whatever it took to get noticed. Over Christmas break, they made every possible effort to network – monitoring coaching staff turnover, tracking down contact information, sending hundreds of emails and even using social media. It was labor-intensive, but that was their strategy – to cast the net as wide as possible to make their interest known far and wide.

Both Briggs and Rankin kept a particularly close eye on coaching staff turnover through online sources and social media. That’s why it really stood out to them when they learned that the Oregon Ducks’ entire strength and conditioning coaching staff was changing out, starting over with a fresh new staff of young, enthusiastic coaches. Briggs and Rankin knew this was their chance to get noticed.

For Briggs, that big break came with a tweet.

I literally have a Twitter for following coaches only. I’ve talked to about 50 coaches now in the Division I programs just to get my name out there, so I network a lot,” says Briggs. “With Oregon, I sent the head strength coach a direct message on Twitter, and he got back initially with me five minutes later.

As for Rankin, he’d just finished sending interest emails to coaches at nearly every NCAA Division I college or university, including schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC conferences. When Briggs told him about his luck with Oregon, Rankin decided to follow suit.

Both Briggs and Rankin next conducted multiple FaceTime interviews with the coaching staff, who appeared to be impressed with their enthusiasm and initiative. Around two weeks after that first tweet, they were extended official offers to intern alongside the football team’s strength and conditioning coaching staff.

In fact, Oregon wasn’t the only offer either of them received. Shortly before he got the wheels turning with Oregon, Briggs had been accepted to intern with Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio, and just one day after accepting the Oregon position, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., offered Rankin an intern spot. Even though Briggs and Rankin ended up passing on these offers, the fact they received them proved an important point – their strategy had worked.

Why these schools were interested in us was just because we were so on top of it,” Rankin says. “When we were sending out application materials for summer interns, they were looking for spring interns. We were super enthusiastic and just got on it quick. They saw that we were ahead of the process.

Their fluency in social media also put them at a huge advantage. While it’s often seen as a personal outlet, social media is more important than ever for professional networking, especially in the world of college sports. That said, Briggs was pretty glad he had chosen to take a social media course for an elective as an underclassman.

Corey Briggs, left, and William Rankin in the weight room where they work as strength and conditioning interns for the Oregon Ducks football team.“I had an interest in social media, so I wanted to see how it was used in other ways,” he says, “and it helped me start to network with other coaches in my field to land an internship opportunity and, hopefully, a future job opportunity.”

Although Briggs and Rankin secured this opportunity on their own, it was thanks to the excellent preparation of ONU’s exercise physiology program that they went into their search with confidence in their skills and abilities. With an intensely hands-on curriculum, the program has taught them everything from the chemical and anatomical aspects of fitness to guiding a weight room novice step by step in lifting weights to reacting in emergency situations.

“As far as whether I’m confident enough to walk into a weight room and actually teach an athlete something, absolutely, I’m confident just based off what we’ve learned here,” Rankin says. “We can run any test on any athlete pretty much right now. I feel completely prepared.”

Still, both are always eager to learn and grow even more. In Oregon, they are helping train premier athletes of a respected, nationally acclaimed team and working with top-of-the-line fitness equipment suited for some of the best athletes in the country. It’s the kind of experience that can shape careers and pave the way for future success, particularly when the drive to succeed is as great as the opportunity.