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Strength coach Brown gives Dartmouth football a big lift

  • Director of strength and conditioning Spencer Brown, left, works with wide receiver Masaki Aerts at Floren Varsity House in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america photographs — alex Driehaus

  • Director of strength and conditioning Spencer Brown, right, talks to head football coach Buddy Teevens at Floren Varsity House in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Director of strength and conditioning Spencer Brown, right, works with quarterback Devon Lingle at Floren Varsity House in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / report for america — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2021 9:55:42 PM
Modified: 9/17/2021 9:55:49 PM

HANOVER — As Dartmouth College football gets set to take on Valparaiso on Saturday and the stress of a new season ramps up for some of the coaching staff, that pressure lessens for Spencer Brown.

As Dartmouth’s director of strength and conditioning, in-season is Brown’s least hectic time of year. He’s busy, sure, doing various tasks during practice like yelling out down and distance. But the start of practice puts his work with the players throughout the offseason on display for his colleagues.

“It’s the other three-fourths of the year that you’re the one driving everything in terms of culture, what the coaches want to see and want to have from their players, and working on overall player development,” Brown said. “Whereas in-season, we’re already here. There’s nothing more you can do at that point. The coaches are going to take it from there.”

Saturday’s game at Valparaiso kicks off at 2 p.m. It’s Big Green football’s first game day in nearly two years.

Much has changed for the Dartmouth since the end of the 2019 season, when it won a share of the Ivy League title, its record 19th crown. The Big Green will employ many players with little to no previous collegiate game experience.

Missing a full season can significantly alter a program but, in some ways, things have stayed the same. The coaching staff is mostly the same group from 2019 — only one position group, nickel backs, has a new coach (Ahmaad Smith).

Brown was an important link in maintaining continuity between the evolving roster and the coaches during the long span apart. Head coach Buddy Teevens said that given how much time Brown spends with the players in the offseason, he has more interaction with the roster than anyone else on the coaching staff.

Teevens described Brown as an invaluable member of the team.

“Our philosophies and our beliefs in terms of developing players are identical. He’s inspiring; he’s motivational. He’s a high-energy, high-intensity guy who relates well to the players. And they trust him. They believe in him,” Teevens said. “I really believe we develop our players as well or better than anybody else in our league, and it’s all due to Spence.”

Brown has been with Dartmouth since 2014 and was promoted to his current position in 2016. He works with football during fall, men’s and women’s Nordic skiing in winter, and men’s and women’s tennis in spring.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and missing the 2020 season, threw a wrench in Brown’s operation. During the early stages of lockdown, he worked with athletes on bodyweight training programs that would be beneficial regardless of sport. He later adapted workouts player by player based on the equipment each athlete could access, whether it was continuing regular workouts in a home gym, doing pull-ups on a tree or using a heavy backpack as a weight.

He didn’t find it challenging to keep the student-athletes engaged while separated from their teams and virtual. Brown and his staff took an optimistic approach, focusing on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t. He said that type of proactive attitude is just part of being a strength coach and something he takes pride in.

And with all the time Brown spends with the players between offseason training, in-season weight room sessions and attending every practice, he builds relationships with them. That, too, was made tougher by the pandemic.

Brown couldn’t start meeting players and parents during the recruiting process, as he typically does. And for underclassmen already in the program, he’d worked with them for a long time before he could even see their full face in person.

But Brown still relishes that part of the job. He said the ability to read people is part of being a strength coach, and taking time to get to know people when he gets the chance — like during a rest between sets — goes a long way.

“When you’re trying to build a relationship from however many feet apart, it is very difficult. But when they know that you have their best interests (in mind), I think it’s easy to build that relationship,” Brown said. “When you’re teaching them about proper technique, you’re showing them that you care. You’re showing them that you’re there to help them.”

The players equally value Brown. Fifth-year safety Niko Mermigas said Brown is like a father figure to some on the team.

“For a lot of guys, we’re away from home,” Mermigas said. “He’s somebody older that gives us a lot of advice on school and other things that are occurring in our life. So he’s definitely one of the more important people in a lot of our lives.”

At the beginning of preseason camp in August, Teevens was pleasantly surprised by the team’s conditioning. He had high expectations and knows his players are committed, but he said there was no way to know how much work they put in on their own. He said the players’ fitness levels exceeded those high expectations.

Brown’s work paid particular dividends with the freshmen. Teevens and his staff don’t get to see those players much, if at all, outside of the recruiting process before they arrive in Hanover. He said they didn’t know what some of the freshmen looked like, physically, at all. But he said Brown more than adequately prepared the newcomers for camp.

“You can’t appreciate it, unless you’re into it, how difficult it is to articulate and define and clarify (terms) from a Zoom call, and trying to develop somebody’s physical strength and characteristics and the value that it has across health, size and competitiveness,” Teevens said. “He was the guy that was controlling it all.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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