Aug. 15, 2010
By Jon Cooper
When it comes to caring for Georgia Tech athletics, it’s difficult to find a family that’s done more than the McDonalds.
Bill McDonald was head athletic trainer on The Flats for 14 years. Scott is proving to be very much his father’s son, as he is in his 14th season caring for Yellow Jackets athletes. This year McDonald, an assistant director of player development (or strength and conditioning coach) is taking on responsibility for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams.
“I’ve always been around sports because my dad was an athletic trainer,” said Scott. “I grew up at Georgia Tech. I grew up hanging out down here all the time, going to all the games, so I’ve always been around it.”
Considering his original destination coming out of school, there’s no doubt that Scott’s career path leading him back to Tech has been the right one.
“My original plan was more of corporate fitness management. At that time, that was going to be the new thing, up and coming thing,” recalled the 40-year-old native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. “Your Home Depots and Coca Colas, IBM, having their own fitness places for their employees. I did that for a hospital for a year and absolutely hated it and went back and volunteered at Alabama. It kind of went from there.”
There was some luck involved, as the seeds to his being hired by Tech were sown years earlier, when Scott was introduced to then-Virginia Tech Athletic Director Dave Braine, by Bill. Shortly thereafter, Braine took the same position at Georgia Tech and brought the young McDonald aboard. The rest, as they say, is history.
McDonald began training the men’s basketball, men’s and women’s track, men’s and women’s cross country programs, which he did for two years, then took over volleyball. A couple of years ago, his responsibilities were halved, to his current load of men’s and women’s hoops and volleyball.
An important change came last year with the opening of the state-of-the-art Zelnak Center, the Yellow Jackets’ basketball practice facility, which took weight training for Tech’s athletes out of the dark ages, an important change to McDonald.
“I never worked in a weight room that had a window. So that was one of the first things that I asked for. Can we have windows, so we can have some sunlight?” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things now. We actually have windows. Most places that don’t have windows are going to be in a basement or underneath the stadium. When you don’t have those windows, unless you have great lighting, it’s just so dark down there.”
Then there is the convenience of having all the facilities in one place.
“The locker rooms are right here, they have access right to the court,” he said. “Before, we used the weight room over [in Alexander Memorial Coliseum], so we would have to do running or whatever the case may be on the turf or on the grass. Now, we can do all that stuff right on the court. So it makes things a lot easier. The athletes seem to like the fact that it’s here.”
It’s a good thing, considering how training has become a year-round pursuit.
“There was a time when your basketball guys, maybe they would come in second summer session,” he said. “Now everybody’s year-round. The men are here all summer, the women are here all summer, we had half the volleyball team here the first half and all of them here the second half of summer school. So you’re constantly training with them.
“It’s great for development and it gives us a chance to get a lot more work in,” he added. “Some schools only have them the second summer session. That’s another six-, seven-week jump we get on people and that’s big.”
It’s led to big things for the athletes who have bought in.
“I’ve been fortunate to have several guys who have gone on to the NBA,” said McDonald, who pointed to Matt Harpring, Anthony Morrow and Mario West as examples of hard-working success stories. “Right now, Iman Shumpert, since he walked through the door, has done nothing but work his butt off. For his position he’s a very strong guy.
“We’ve had a lot of guys, Isma’il Muhammed, B.J. Elder, that whole group, Tony McHenry, Jarrett Jack,” he continued. “The weight room is something Coach (Paul) Hewitt has pushed. For the most part they’ve all done a very good job in taking advantage of it. Those guys took advantage of the weight room, they get in here and they get after it. They’re all playing somewhere right now, whether it’s in Europe or the NBA and and they’ve all been very successful.”
In the end, the success of the sports and the athletes is the most important thing, for McDonald, who works with Coaches Hewitt, [MaChelle] Joseph and [Tonya] Johnson to balance all three teams’ schedules. He enjoys seeing the progress made, even by those who at first resisted.
“Some take longer than others to buy in, but once they buy in it’s nice to just to sit here and see their development,” he said. “Glen Rice [Jr.] absolutely did not like the weight room when he got here last summer, couldn’t stand the weight room because he just wasn’t very strong. Now you sit here and watch him and he’s posing in the mirror, looking at himself, flexing. He’s a totally different person this summer from last summer.
“It happens with both males and females,” he continued. “They start seeing changes in their body. Hopefully they’re good changes.”
Over the last 13 years McDonald has helped make a lot of good changes. His role in the process of helping boys and girls mature into men and women is a reward that never changes.
“The best part of my job is the same as probably the worst part, the kids, working with the athletes,” he said, with a laugh. “I love when you meet new people and get a chance to know them. The fact that I’m the one person who can be around them year round, you get the opportunity to know them, not just on a weight-room basis, but you get to know them personally, get to know about their life, their history. That’s the best part, just getting to meet a new group of athletes every time they come in.”