Aug. 17, 2001
They’re lifting more than weights in Georgia Tech’s strength and conditioning program these days. Under Ed Ellis, the new director of player development, effort is being made to lift the spirit of every Jacket athlete who comes through the door.
“We push the athletes hard to make sure they get better at what they do,” Ellis says. “But in our philosophy, we take steps to make sure the athletes also enjoy themselves. Having fun is a top priority.
“The Georgia Tech athletes certainly have bought into our plan. They realize that their work in development will make them better athletes. The athletes are participating on a year-round basis, not just when their particular sport is in season.”
Ellis came to Tech five and a half months ago from a similar position at Wake Forest. He brought with him a resume that reads like a Who’s Who of the weightlifting world. Believe me, this guy can lift anything that is not nailed down.
He currently holds the drug-free power-lifting world record in the bench press with a lift of 620 pounds. He also holds the American record when three scores are totaled for the squat, bench press and dead lift.
“When I first interviewed him for this position, his resume said that he bench-pressed 620,” said Tech Head Football Coach George O’Leary. “I told him I’d be more impressed if our players do that.”
Ellis’ success story extends to his work as a development instructor. In the year 2000, he was selected the College Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year for the Atlantic Coast Conference by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
In his Tech assignment, Ellis spends a lion’s share of his time working with the football team. He oversees the development of all teams. The strength and conditioning work with the various other teams is divided between his assistants.
Scott Sinclair, who came with Ellis from Wake Forest, and former Tech footballer Jeff Mathis assist Ellis with football development. Other assistants are Scott McDonald, Steve Tamborra and Eddie Lee Ivery.
Ellis has been extremely pleased with the attitude of the Tech football players under his direction. “In the five and a half months I’ve been here, the football players have proved to be very hard workers and quite serious about what they do here,” Ellis said. “They have pushed themselves really hard and I think it is going to pay off on the football field.”
“Coach Ellis has done an outstanding job with the players, both in the weight room and in the conditioning program and it has been evident this preseason,” said O’Leary. “He has a great work ethic, and there’s a sincere commitment with him and the players to get better. The players understand when they go into the weight room, it’s time to work and they need to do it right, or he will make them do it over again. He’s be a great coach on the field with those characteristics.”
Ellis says college development programs have changed somewhat in the 14 years he has been involved in the field. “The major difference is that we have more specialty work now, dealing with players on an individual basis,” he said. “Our main focus is on Olympic lifts. Much of the equipment has remained the same and some of the old techniques, like the use of medicine balls, are making a comeback.”
Nutrition, in recent years, has become a bigger part of the program. Georgia Tech has been a leader in that field with Rob Skinner working as director of sports nutrition.
The highlight of Ellis’ program is diversity. “In the time I’ve been here, no two workouts have been exactly the same,” he says. “We are working to strengthen the total body and thus, we do different things each workout.”
A native of Patchogue, N.Y., on Long Island, Ellis was a track and field star in high school at Patchogue-Medford. He still holds the New York State high school shot put record with a heave of 67 feet, eight inches. He also excelled in the discus.
Ellis went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of Alabama and added a master’s degree in education at the University of Arkansas in 1989.
At Alabama, he was an all-Southeastern Conference track performer numerous times in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
He began his career in development as a graduate student at Arkansas from 1987 through 1989. After two years as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Mississippi, he became the strength coordinator at Illinois State from 1991-1994.
When Ron Wellman, formerly the director of athletics at Illinois State, left to take the same position at Wake Forest in 1994, one of his first moves was to hire Ellis as strength and conditioning coach of the Demon Deacons.
Ellis is a family man, deluxe. He is married to the former Dyann Edmondston , who went to the same New York high school as Ellis. They have four children, Jessica, 9, Nicole, 7, Eric, 5, and Brian, 2.
So far, weightlifting has not become a family project.
“Dyann does some exercising with barbells and enjoys swimming and so forth,” he said. “But mostly right now, she is lifting kids.”
Ellis says he will let his children decide if they want to pursue weightlifting as a hobby. “Lifting is a healthy lifestyle, and I will encourage it,” he said. “But the decision will be theirs. They will take part only if they find it fun.”
That sounds familiar-like the philosophy Ellis has introduced in the Georgia Tech strength and conditioning program.