Like many kids who played sports growing up, Bryan Jackson constantly bugged his coaches with questions. It’s human nature to want to comprehend how things work, and Jackson wanted to know what their reasoning was for different activities.
After serving in the 82nd Airborne Division in the U.S. Army, Jackson decided to pursue answers for the “why,” follow his passion and get into sports science. He wanted to give athletes a reason for what they do.
Google sports science and you’ll get a simple definition: “a discipline that studies how the healthy human body works during exercise, and how sport and physical activity promote health and performance from cellular to whole body perspectives.” However, how sports teams interpret the data they receive varies, and that’s where Jackson’s interest lies.
He’s well-traveled across the United States, having earned a bachelor’s degree from California State – Sacramento and a master’s from the University of Florida. After graduating, he worked as a strength and conditioning coach at Sacramento State Aquatic Center before becoming a sports performance intern at Old Dominion in 2019. It was there he built a relationship with Dwight Galt IV, who Brent Pry hired as the Senior Director of Strength and Conditioning at Virginia Tech in December.
Neighbors in Norfolk, Va., the two became solid friends, even when Jackson took a job at William & Mary in 2021. When Pry expanded his new staff and created a Director of Sports Science position for football, Jackson jumped at the opportunity, especially with Galt already on staff.
“It seemed like a really cool challenge,” Jackson told Tech Sideline. “It was going to be an opportunity to really kind of build something from the ground up, which I have a definite interest in doing, obviously. It’s cool when you can kind of create something from … nothing and just see what it can be, and what direction you want to take it in.
“Sports science … it means something different to everybody else, every institution is going to run it slightly differently based on the things that they value. And so really, like having it be a new position here, it’s cool to discover what those values are, how we want to use it and making sure that it’s aligned for what we want to do here at Tech.”
The Hokies use GPS to monitor how fast guys can run, how much they’re running, how they change direction and the quality of the cuts they make, among many other things. They also have force plates in the weight room, which calculate how the players produce force through each limb.
The feedback is immediate and individualized, meaning coaches and trainers can identify a student-athlete’s natural deficiencies and create workouts specialized to him.
“If a guy has a really high twitch quality or a high rate of force development quality already, but maybe his raw strength is not as high, we fill that bucket as opposed to if he’s already got a lot of twitch,” Jackson said. “[Maybe] the guy’s got a high raw force output ability but the rate of force development maybe isn’t as high. We can use the metrics that we use on our force plates … to fill that bucket instead.
“We can make training more targeted and individualized without having to disrupt the flow...
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