Maintaining strength key for Rainbow Wahine volleyball's travel-heavy schedule

·4 min read

Oct. 21—Experience taught Tommy Heffernan the value of flexibility in helping Hawaii teams maintain the strength to endure a rigorous season.

In his work with the Rainbow Wahine volleyball program, UH's Director of Strength and Conditioning comes up with a weekly plan to keep the players primed to perform in the teeth of a travel-heavy stretch of the schedule. At times that means altering the regimen to find the balance to maintain strength while accommodating the demands of the season.

"You want to get the strength training in, but at the same time not doing too much and trying to figure out whether they need more rest and recovery, " Heffernan said. "Especially this time of year, they're traveling a lot, going back and forth. It's a tough part of the year but they're doing really well."

The Big West-leading Rainbow Wahine (11-5, 8-0 Big West ) departed on Wednesday on their third road trip in five weeks with two more treks to California left in the regular season. They'll face UC Santa Barbara (12-9, 8-1 ) on Friday at the Thunderdome in a showdown of the top two teams in the conference then take on Cal State Northridge (4-14, 3-5 ) on Saturday.

Taking a five-hour flight to the West Coast and back every other week is part of the deal for Hawaii teams and Heffernan works with the Wahine coaching staff and trainer Renae Shigemura to help the Wahine manage the wear and tear of the schedule.

"Early in my career it was, we just have to get through it and suck it up and pound'em, " Heffernan said. "But you learn that sometimes that's probably not the best way and you have to figure out what's best for them and make adjustments on the fly.

"It's a combination of communication with the coaches, getting a feel for the players and making adjustments based on experience."

UH coach Robyn Ah Mow said the team makes time for two weight-room sessions per week along with practices leading into back-to-back matches on each weekend.

Heffernan said the first workout of the week focuses on their "bread and butter " lifts—cleans and squats—and core work. The second is generally not as strenuous and will hit more upper-body work as the players approach game night.

Keeping their shoulders strong is a key given the amount of overhead swings the players take over the course of a season.

On road trips, Heffernan said the preparation for game day begins as soon as the Wahine arrive at their destination.

"The best thing to do once you get off the plane is to try to break a sweat, whether it be in a hotel lobby or in a hotel fitness center, " he said. "It's always good to break a sweat and get your body moving after sitting down for five or six hours."

With the Wahine in the midst of the conference schedule, the workouts are aimed at maintaining strength. Heffernan said the heavy lifting in the spring and summer usually set the foundation for the season and the pandemic shutdown last year presented challenges in training.

"We had to start from square one and get everyone back into condition first and slowly progress from there, " he said. "That was a good learning experience for me as well as far as dialing things back and learning how to be patient and plan things safely to get them back slowly."

Heffernan credited the UH seniors for leading a young roster in buying into the conditioning program and noted Brooke Van Sickle ranks among the team's top performers in the weight room as well as on the court.

"Across the board she's probably our No. 1-rated player as far as strength and conditioning and running and jumping, " he said of the Wahine kills leader. "She's a hard worker and it is a good example for the girls to follow.

"I tell the girls the best players in the weight room usually are our best volleyball players as well. So it does correlate to the court."

As with many workout programs, keeping sight of incremental targets provides motivation to stay on track toward the long-term reward.

"The coaches said every time we step in the gym, every time we step in the weight room, it really is toward our goal and right now that's just the next win, not even the Big West right now, it's just the next win, " UH middle blocker Amber Igiede said.

"Individually you really have to look within yourself. The coaches were saying we really have to hone in on how we're taking care of our bodies. Treatment, water, eating right and sleeping right and just getting our minds right, it all works in a circle. Everything you (do to ) take care of yourself individually, it's going be what you put out in the games."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting