Kelly Clay has held the title of strength and conditioning coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College for a few months. And her energy and drive to get athletes in 13 sports at the school performing better has gone throughout the athletic department.
"I started in January, I was hired on as track and cross country assistant coach," Clay said. "When I got here, no one was doing the strength and conditioning. I talked to the AD (athletic director Jim Askins) and the volleyball coach. I said I'd love to do the strength and conditioning. If anybodywas interested I would be more than happy to help. The (then assistant) volleyball coach said ‘yes we would love to get the girls stronger so they would be more competitive.' I said sweet.
"It kind of spread that I was doing strength and conditioning. Then I started working with the baseball team, and I started working with the tennis team, the golf team, and the soccer team, and it kind of grew into its own thing, which was really awesome."
The women's basketball team came to Owensboro earlier this summer to work some camps at KWC, and they went to Clay together to ask for a week of workouts. The freshmen coming in got a thorough start to weight training.
"I said absolutely," Clay said. "The freshmen were talking about they'd never been this sore before. I told them that's a good thing. You want to be sore now, this is the time to build. It's going to translate into pure strength, endurance and power when you're playing."
Clay, 24, has worked with volleyball the longest, and she wrote up summer programs for that team to get in top condition before coming back for preseason practice. She doesn't work directly with men's basketball or football.
"Because it's the preseason, that's your time to focus on the power and strength," Clay said of the volleyball workouts.
She got numerous text messages from volleyball players at home for the summer. "I love this," read one about the workout program. "I have muscle that I haven't had before," read another.
"They're all getting so much stronger," Clay said. "It gives them the motivation to want to do well, and they know the strength and conditioning is what's going to do it for them."
Erica Gallois can attest to what Clay has done with the volleyball team and others. Galois is a senior volleyball player from Evansville, Illinois, who has had individual and team sessions with Clay.
"Coach Kelly is very intense and passionate about what she's doing," Gallois said. "When you think you can't do any more, she gets you to do more. I was doing squats and was done, I couldn't do any more, and she said ‘let's throw another 20 (pounds) on there.' I thought this was crazy, but I did it.
"I haven't been in this good a shape since I was in high school."
Clay did training plans for the soccer teams, track and cross country, and others as well. Runners don't typically weight train much until they go to college. Clay was a sprinter at Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She has recently taken up triathlons to give her a new competitive outlet.
Clay was working as a fitness manager in the Denver, Colorado area, but she wanted to find a job at a college working with athletes.
"I like the college age, they're pretty motivated," Clay said. "I wanted some people I could inspire and motivate, and that had a pretty good amount of motivation for themselves."
A friend working at an NCAA Division II school in Ohio got Clay in contact with KWC when it was looking for an assistant track and cross country coach. She didn't really care where she went, as long as she could coach and train college athletes. Clay is an assistant now with Tony Rowe, long-time former Daviess County track and cross country coach.
She has found most of the athletes she works with to be very receptive to training.
"The baseball guys were great," Clay said. "I could tell them to do any workout and it was no questions asked, which is awesome. Some of the stuff I do is pretty challenging, and they were like let's go. They're really fun to train. Initially (overall) they're like you can't do this, and I'm like dead serious, let's go, we're going to get after this right now."
And Clay's impact has been felt across quite a few athletics teams at KWC.
"It's nice to have somebody here at school to train," Gallios said. "It's very different and good. She has changed a lot of things in athletics (conditioning) here."