New coach looks to lift UNF athletes to success


There is a new attitude in the weight room found on the bottom floor of Hodges Stadium.

That attitude is manifested in the new strength and conditioning coach Tommy Barnes. Barnes officially took over the program July 1 and is looking to change the way UNF athletes prepare and train.

Before Barnes, 29, took over as head strength and conditioning coach, there was not a lot of structure to the program, he said. Barnes believes it is important to have a strong and structured strength and conditioning program if a school expects to compete at a high level in Division I.

“Before I got here, there really wasn’t any kind of structure as far as the strength and conditioning program,” Barnes said. “There was a poor job of motivating athletes.”

He said there was also a lack of supervision that he looks to change. He said some players didn’t come in at all on a scheduled regular basis, and if they did come in to work, there was no structure. Some athletes would just do what they wanted and then leave.

Barnes and UNF Athletics Director Lee Moon plan to make training a priority for the athletes.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s just me but Coach Moon is basically trying to raise the bar across the board in athletics,” Barnes said. “You are going to do what it takes in the classroom, but you’re going to do what it takes on and off the field. You’re going to go to workouts. If you don’t go to workouts then your scholarship will not be renewed. That’s just how he does things.”

Barnes said there are no excuses. With his strength and conditioning staff, which includes himself, assistants and interns, and the facilities Hodges Stadium has to offer, the athletes should want to come in and work hard.

“The program is definitely headed in the right direction,” said assistant strength and conditioning coach Wesley Brasseal. “We’re getting a lot of good responses from coaches. Kids are getting stronger, they’re doing things that they’re supposed to be doing and they’re getting worked hard. That’s what being Division I is all about.”

The strength and conditioning facility is littered with state-of-the-art equipment that gives trainers and athletes a wide range of training options. The equipment includes six hammer strength power racks, six Olympic platforms, a hurricane, two treadmills, Jacob’s Ladder and a VertiMax. It also includes over 11,500 pounds of plate weight and medicine balls that range from five to 100 pounds.

With the tracks outside, Hodges Stadium provides a great place for the athletes to train, Barnes said.

“The resources are here,” he said. “Within this small limited space, we have a lot of equipment.”

Barnes said the strength and conditioning program is the back bone of any good Division I athletics program. His main focus is to prevent injuries for the athletes. He said an athlete can be big and fast, but if they get hurt, it doesn’t matter.

He said effort goes a long way. He said his time spent in the military and in the Middle East after 9/11, along with his football history of playing linebacker at Jacksonville State University, instilled a belief that working hard is the key to success.

Barnes also said he looks to build not just good athletes but to also build good people. He said while some of the athletes that come to UNF will go on to play professional sports, the majority of them will not, and they need to be prepared to be good and productive people in society.

“He’s working the kids extremely hard,” Moon said. “He’s teaching them how to lift in certain areas and to do things that are specific to their sport. Our kids are excited. Every time I see our kids, they know they’re being worked hard, but they feel good about what they’re seeing in their strength and development.”

Barnes said he is blessed to be where he is at this point in his career. He said he is doing the job that usually 40-year-olds get to do, and he feels lucky to get the opportunity to try and make athletes better on and off the field.

“This is my way of life,” Barnes said. “This is something I would do for free. I’m one of the lucky few. I actually get to come to work every day and get paid doing something I love to do.”