Strength, speed, balance: Q&A with new Moffat County football coach Jamie Nelson
April 24, 2018
Moffat County High School football has a new face.
Jamie Nelson, of Windsor, was hired as the new head gridiron coach earlier this month. Nelson will replace Keith Gille, who announced his resignation as a coach in February after four seasons the Bulldogs.
Nelson, who has already begun working as a science instructor at Craig Middle School, holds bachelor's degrees in kinesiology from University of Northern Colorado and biology education from Valley City State University, as well as a master's in education from North Dakota State University. He has coached at high schools in Wyoming, Arizona and Florida, as well as at the college level in California and North Dakota.
Rich Houghton, MCHS activities and athletics director, said he is excited about the new hire's "wealth of experience."
"Jamie already has a plan in place for the coming spring and summer in order to ensure our athletes are well prepared for the upcoming fall season," Houghton said.
The MCHS football program will host a meeting for players planning to join the team this fall at 3:30 p.m. May 2 in the auditorium. A parent meeting follows at 5:30 p.m.
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Craig Press met with the new coach about his plans for the program.
What kind of background do you have, personally and professionally?
I'm currently living in Windsor, but I'm originally from Beulah, North Dakota, and I've coached at quite a few places in between. Where I grew up, my hometown is a coal-mining town and has that culture, too. I've always been intrigued and wanted to work in a one-high school town where you can have some impact from the youth program all the way up to the high school. Have that full, top-to-bottom system in place. This community had that. You also have the blue-collar mentality, and you get hardworking kids. It takes me back home in some respects, plus you're in the mountains — go hiking, fishing, hunting and do all those fun things.
I originally went to college at Valley City State University in North Dakota, and then I transferred to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for their kinesiology program. I liked the strength components. I was always working out, wanted to get the academic as well as the science side of it. My professor recommended a few programs, and Colorado just happened to be the closest one.
I first saw the job posting on the CHSAA website, so I just turned in my paperwork, my application and went through the interviews. I've coached six, seven years of college ball, UC Davis in California. It's an NCAA Division I program, so we played against Stanford, San Jose State. Before that, I did my graduate work at North Dakota State, and they've won several national championships. I was a strength coach there. I also went back and coached at Valley City State as head strength coach and defensive backs coach. The sequence is North Dakota State, Valley City State, then I moved to California. I volunteered at UC Davis and within a year I got hired as strength coach, took that over, and was also linebacker coach for three seasons and D-line coach for a season.
I was also head coach for one season at a high school in Kingman, Arizona, up in the northwest corner. Then a school in Wyoming contacted me and recruited me for a new program there. I was there as a defensive coordinator at a brand-new school, Cheyenne South. There are three high schools in Cheyenne: South, East and Central. Last year, a buddy of mine got a job down in Florida, so I went down and helped him out for a season.
What's the atmosphere like with high school football in a larger city?
The high school in Cheyenne was about 1,200 students, but football was not very popular there. Kids that went out would work hard, but when you're competing against Natrona in Casper or Cheyenne East, where they have 1,500 to 2,000 students, we had some tough seasons. Kids would play hard and execute what they were supposed to do, but bigger, faster, stronger sometimes wins.
What do you feel your variety of experience lends in taking this job?
I've been exposed to everything over the last 20 years. I've been offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, head coach, strength coach, collegiate level, worked all kinds of camps. Having that well-rounded background, I feel so much more confident and knowledgeable about certain things that aren't football-related.
Is your background in science a big help to what you hope to bring to Moffat County?
On the strength and conditioning side, absolutely. I have my CSCS, which is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification, and I have it in USA Weightlifting. Having that science background knowledge, it helps apply it to the training mechanisms, all those diverse ways to train athletes at various times of year. You can have the greatest training program in the world, but if people don't show up to do it, it doesn't matter.
One of my points of emphasis is off-season training, conditioning, lifting. Speed is ultimately the most important thing. The faster you are, they can't stop you, can't catch you, and you can get to points that they can’t. Then you throw strength on top of that. To get faster, you must get stronger, so they kind of complement each other. Those are the two things I want to emphasize. You need to be balanced, have a good, solid core. Your abs connect upper body with lower body and your back so that you have the total package, essentially.
Are you hoping to work a great deal with younger athletes?
I'll be teaching science at the middle school, and I'm hoping to talk to the seventh- and eighth-grade coaches there, see what they're doing and how I can help them and how they can help us at the varsity level. I want to make sure we have one solid program from top to bottom.
Have you gotten a chance to scout the league competition on the Western Slope?
Researching MaxPreps and viewing some video they have, I can see there's some competitive teams here, like Basalt and Aspen. The conference is going to be competitive, but that's what you want, so that when you're in the playoffs, you're prepared. Does that mean you'll always make the playoffs? No, because it's tough. But you'll be saltier when you get to that level. Even in some of our non-conference games, it'll prepare us for what we'll see. If you want to be the best, you've got to play the best.
Anything else you're looking forward to later this year?
As far as the community, I'm excited to get to know people and have that small-town feel where you know everyone and have some contacts. Things get done faster because you're not dealing with five different levels of everything. Everybody's part of it, everybody's involved.