McInnes breaks new ground

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

It's an area where, mostly due to money and partially due to perceived priorities, no Canadian Football League team has ever gone before.

But this year the Edmonton Eskimos have turned an athletic therapist into a strength and conditioning coach.

The area has been a big part of many National Football League programs for years.

"The NFL had the budget not only to have strength and conditioning coaches but to send the guys all over the place where the players are living in the off-season," said Ryan McInnes.

"I think this is an extension of the Eskimos continuing with their flagship status of trying to make the league better. It's an opportunity for players to make themselves better. Hopefully, it'll show enough results that other teams will start to see the benefits of adding this aspect as well."

The position evolved for McInnes as something of a sideline to his job working with head athletic therapist T.D. Forss.

"Last year I was kinda melded into it from the athletic therapy side," he said of his first six years with the Eskimos.

"Over the years, the players always knew I was into strength and conditioning. And we had coaches who knew that this is an area the CFL really needs to get into, especially in the off-season.

"After the season was over, it became the first year we developed a real off-season program. When the season ended, I wrote up a big manual and sent it out to all the players. I also gathered together the players living in Edmonton and worked with them in the gym, six or eight at a time.

"When the season ends, players have a month and a half off to recover and rest. In January you want to get them back into the gym and train right up until training camp.

"I developed three-week periodization phases, the first two to work on strength and muscle size then into strength and power and then into power and speed. Everything is geared to football and their positions.

The Eskimos sent McInnes to a conference in Louisville and he came back this year to a new job.

McInnes has an interesting history in getting to this position. He was born on Vancouver Island and spent a considerable part of his youth in New Zealand.

"I was 13 when we returned and moved to Prince George, B.C. I'd played mostly cricket and rugby in New Zealand. I didn't learn to skate until I came back and I played mostly rugby in Prince George.

"I started off in college in Prince George working with the B.C. junior league team. Then I came to the University of Alberta and, amazingly, hooked up rather quickly with the Eskimos.

"Part of the curriculum on the athletic therapy side of things was to spend time as a student trainer. The Golden Bears were looking for people to help out during a camp and the Eskimos were looking for people to help out at a high school camp. Then the Eskimos asked if I'd be interested in helping out that their main training camp.

"When I finished my degree in exercise physiology and athletic therapy, there was a job open with the Eskimos and they hired me. Now I'm really doing what I want to do.

"I'm definitely stronger into this than athletic therapy."

McInnes says he hopes to prove that having somebody doing what he's now doing will save the team money in injury-related costs and improve performances.

"Anything the players can do in the off-season to prepare well will dramatically decrease injuries.

"I think the Eskimos realized how many players are starting to buy houses and stay in town and hopefully something like this will add to that number.

"With more guys staying it means more guys will be here with a better chance to train properly in the off-season. This stuff is a huge benefit to their performance on the field."

It's also great for the football team to have more players in the community to relate with the fans.


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