Perch sat down with Noel Durfey and Aaron Getz of Duke University Football Sports Performance Staff. Noel has been in the Head Sports Performance position for Duke football for 13 years, and Aaron has been an assistant on staff for right around 8 years.
The two have helped build the current culture amongst Duke football players and spoke with Perch about being teachers first, giving athletes what they need, and incorporating technology into the weight room for greater precision in training. Most interestingly, the two touched on how they plan to use that technology to meet athletes where they are upon their eventual return to campus following the Coronavirus crisis.
Duke Football also purchased 18 Perch units in October of 2019 and have been incorporating them into their training ever since. Big thanks to Noel and Aaron for their time, enjoy!
PERCH: TELL US YOUR RESPECTIVE STORIES, HOW DID YOU END UP AT DUKE?
I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania and attended Plymouth State university, played football there. Right when I got done there I did an internship at Dartmouth and met Coach Miller and Coach O’Neill and had a great experience. Then I applied to grad school two days before the deadline and luckily got in over at East Stroudsburg University, so I went from Dartmouth to a year at school and cut that short because I actually met Coach Durfey at Duke and was able to finish grad school from afar during the summer of 2012 while I interned there.
I was lucky enough to get hired on at Duke and have been here around 8 years. I had a short high school stint as well about a year and a half ago for around 6 months in Northeast, PA where my wife and I are originally from. But Coach Durfey called me back and I’ve been at Duke ever since! It’s been football the whole way and being an ex player it was an easy transition for me to go from player to coach. For a bit I did some other sports to broaden my horizons at Duke a little bit, but it’s been mostly 100 percent football, which I’ve really loved.
I grew up in southeast Michigan and graduated in 1986 out of high school, at that time we did not have strength & conditioning really, but my high school was more progressive. So we lifted weights in our PE program in high school. I played baseball in high school and wanted to in college and one of our coaches told me if I started lifting weights I may have a better chance. So I started lifting weights in our house with my brothers in the basement. I walked onto the team in a small school in Tennessee called Lincoln Memorial. We did not have a strength coach, so I was lifting weights on my own and after my sophomore year of playing, I was realizing that I was enjoying lifting weights much more than I was enjoying playing baseball! So I quit playing baseball so I could spend more time lifting weights and absolutely just found a passion in doing that.
I was realizing that I was enjoying lifting weights much more than I was enjoying playing baseball! So I quit playing baseball so I could spend more time lifting weights and absolutely just found a passion in doing that.
Out of college I was not exactly motivated. I moved down to Knoxville, and I was working at the post office and changing oil in a Firestone gas station for about a year and a half. I had graduated college with a degree in physical education and wanted to put it to use, so I started working part time at a health club as a personal trainer and then come 1995, I got a thing in the mail from the NSCA saying the University of Tennessee wanted some volunteers.
So I went over there and met with Tommy Moffitt who was an assistant at the time and John Stuckey who was the head strength coach. I volunteered for a year and worked my way back into grad school at University of Tennessee and became a paid graduate student. I worked with swimming and diving and helped out with track and field and Aaron Ausmus was on the team at the time so I got to work with him then too. Eventually we would cross paths in Mississippi and work together down there too.
After I graduated in 1998, I had gotten married to my wife, Kelly, and took a job at BYU with Chuck Stiggins. From there we went to James Madison University with Greg Warner for about 15 months, and went down to Ole Miss and was there for a little over 7 years, that was where my daughters were born. And then came to Duke and this is my 13th year at Duke. And I ended up here at Duke because – this business is such a relationship business – when I was at the University of Tennessee as a GA, I ran the morning agility station with Coach Cutcliffe, and I worked with him again in Mississippi, and he was the head of Duke and he called and wondered if I’d be interested in the job. Been here ever since.
PERCH: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLECTIVE COACHING PHILOSOPHY AND PROGRAMMING FOR DUKE FOOTBALL?
From a lifting standpoint, we’re going to do a little bit of everything. Working with Coach Moffitt and Coach Stuckey at Tennessee, we were all Olympics based. So at Duke we do variations of cleans, we jerk, we snatch, we pull from the floor. Obviously we’re going to squat. I’m also a big believer in single leg movements, we do a lot of rear leg elevated. Big believe in a lot of upper and lower back, glutes and hamstrings. From a philosophical standpoint, we’re going to do a bit of everything.
What we pride ourselves in most is being teachers. Teaching people how to lift weights and how to move. I was told years ago “don’t do too many things, you won’t get good at them” alright, so we do the things that we do, we’re going to do often, and we’re going to do them really really well. We have a great staff, they’re all young and they love to lift and they love to coach. So it’s up to us every day to show up and coach and teach.
What we pride ourselves in most is being teachers. Teaching people how to lift weights and how to move.
Now, with the virus, I think when kids come back, everything is going to go to hell in a handbasket. Who knows when they’re coming back on campus, but whenever that date is, we’re going to start football practice. So from a programming standpoint, what they’re doing at home is huge, figuring out how to re-introduce them to that will be huge.
PERCH: WITH THE CORONAVIRUS IN MIND, WHEN ATHLETES COME BACK, IS YOUR WEIGHT ROOM TECHNOLOGY GOING TO BE IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY ARE PHYSICALLY?
The technology has to be incorporated to meet people where they’re at. Aaron and I have had this conversation, there has to be some sort of evaluation when they come back on campus because you have to understand what state kids are in. We’ll understand the certain movement patterns and where certain percentages and velocities fall in together. So let’s just say 80% of a squat is .5 m/s. So we can work up to doing a double or a triple at their old 80% and see what that looks like from a velocity standpoint and then re-gauge and re-adjust training weights with that.
The technology has to be incorporated to meet people where they’re at…we’re going to use our Perch units and collaborate with them and figure out where we need to go from a training standpoint to get our guys ready for the season.
So we’re going to have to figure out when they’re coming back, what we can do and where we’re starting. We’re going to use our force decks, and we’re going to use our Perch units and collaborate with them and figure out where we need to go from a training standpoint to get our guys ready for the season. Strength, peak power, we will be able to re-gauge all of that using the tools we have when they come back to campus.
PERCH: HAVE YOU BUILT OUT FORCE/VELOCITY PROFILES AS ROADMAPS FOR YOUR ATHLETES?
We’ve been able to build FV profiles per positional group and per guy to know what it looks like zoomed out. These profiles show us theoretically what guys are going to look like when they come back from a training standpoint. Now all of this going on [with Coronavirus], obviously, is unprecedented and chaotic, but our job is: we need to meet them where they are when they come back.
Now all of this going on [with Coronavirus], obviously, is unprecedented and chaotic, but our job is: we need to meet them where they are when they come back.
We’re giving them a program and hoping they execute them as best they can. But who knows. So we are going to use the information and those profiles to match them to them when they return. So we’ll have an idea, and we’ll be able to evaluate them. And then we can push the envelope forward or dial back accordingly. But ultimately, these tools allow us as coaches to dial in exactly where we should be or could be and go from there, whenever that time comes.
These tools allow us as coaches to dial in exactly where we should be or could be and go from there, whenever that time comes.
PERCH: WITHOUT YOUR TECHNOLOGY TOOLS, WOULD THAT BE A HARDER JOB TO EXECUTE?
Without a doubt. Coach Durfey and I really dove into this in recent conversations. But it’s 2020, why would you not want to dive into the technology that’s out there to support your athletes even more? You’re taking a squat or bench or press or whatever periodization model you’re going to follow, you can live in whatever ranges you want to live in to develop the adaptations you’re trying to develop. You’re trying to develop specific adaptations to get them physically to be the best football player they can be. We know these tools help accomplish that and allow us to dial in more.
PERCH: DUKE BEING A BIG RESEARCH SCHOOL, WHAT ROLE DOES DATA PLAY IN YOUR WEIGHT ROOM?
The biggest thing that I’ve seen is that it creates a whole other layer of buy in. There’s guys who love to lift and guys who don’t, we’re fortunate in that we have a lot of guys who love to lift. We can take whatever movements we want to take, and those data points take that to another level. We can turn right back around to them, give them instant feedback during a session, post session, end of a week and end of a month, and tell them “here’s where we’re training, here’s why, and here’s where we’re going.” And I have not come across an athlete yet who can dispute the why when we can provide that data to them.
Secondly, from a programming standpoint: You know where you want to live to create adaptations, with this data there’s no guesswork. Coach Durfey and I have talked about this depending on time of year or movement, you’re able to pinpoint where you want to live, and then where you need to start. Like anything else, you’re adjusting the meter as you go depending on how your athletes are reacting. But you just have sound data points in your corner.
You know where you want to live to create adaptations, with this data there’s no guesswork.
We’re fortunate that our kids understand the why. We will put slides up before a workout and go through it with our kids as a staff what we’re seeing off of the Perch units, or the force deck. They take that and they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. They get it. It just creates more of a buy-in on their end as to why they do these things. We teach them how to use the Perch, but a big part of that is the why. We have to be consistent with the data and the loads and the kids are a big part of that because they’re the one interacting with the app. So that educational piece is huge for us.
PERCH: YOU SAID YOU GUYS ARE BIG EDUCATORS, DOES THAT OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE HELP WITH THAT PIECE?
This being a relationship type of business, if you want to talk about building trust with your athletes and have them buy into what you do as a coach and trust you 100 percent, well you’re going to get everything out of them if they trust you, and then they’ll listen to you if you tell them to pull back or to push the envelope. Having objective data to back up the “why” helps facilitate that trust and helps your athletes listen to you.
PERCH: SO WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO VBT?
About 4 or 5 years ago. I had read a little bit about it, it seemed like a great idea. And then I got into a conversation with Tommy Moffitt on the phone and at that point we had a tendo unit or two. And then I started stockpiling them until we had a full 18 units, one for every rack. For me the “aha’ moment for me came when we had three seniors: Austin Davis, Mike Ramsay, Shaun Wilson.
They had been in our program for three years and we started truly doing velocity based work. What I saw with them was that these kids who were going into their 4th or 5th year all the sudden were making huge gains in strength, vertical jump, and I thought there was something to all this [velocity based training]. They bought into the concept, they focused, and all three of them worked their way into playing professionally at some point. Once they saw physically what was happening to them, things started to click within the program. And as a staff we started to put more emphasis on it and coaching it up.
These kids who were going into their 4th or 5th year all the sudden were making huge gains in strength, vertical jump, and I thought there was something to all this [velocity based training].
It helped us direct the culture as far as incorporating technology. There were huge physical differences all of the sudden and improvements. It took the guesswork out, it helped them get better and they really understood why we were doing what we were doing. Not only that, but they were staying healthy while they were continuing to lift weights. I think the VBT helps.
I was on staff with Coach Durfey when he first started diving into it. For me to see it first hand and see it grow it’s been great. It does all of those things Coach Durfey talked about, but the biggest thing it does is it just gives training another layer. There’s just another element of the way they can compete when they’re training. And that’s been huge on top of all the other physical adaptations. Culture is a daily evolving thing, but for our guys to compete with each other on a daily basis and challenge each other and grow as leaders in that space is huge. The Perch is a great 2020 modality for it too because not only are we getting that immediate feedback, but we’re storing it and tracking it.
Culture is a daily evolving thing, but for our guys to compete with each other on a daily basis and challenge each other and grow as leaders in that space is huge
The level of compete and leadership that’s grown in our room is huge both with us and without us. We’re there and we’re present and coaching hard with them, but we’re not out on the field on Saturdays, so they’re going to have to lean on each other and challenge each other and compete. So I think that’s been a big thing for me to see it evolve, this is the way training is going. We’re trying to create the biggest and most dynamic motor possible. And those are the adaptations you’re getting training like that.
Let me give you an example. So in 2017 we had Catapult units on the field for every player and position. Of that data:
2017: 15% of every unit we used on the field hit 20 mph or better in a game.
2018: 18% of every unit we used was hitting 20 mph or better.
2019: 26% of all the units we used hit 20 mph or better.
So as the years are going by, this is just proving that kids are buying into how we’re training and adapting the way we want them to. Kids are getting faster!
PERCH: WHAT ARE ALL OF YOUR SPORT PERFORMANCE INDICATORS FOR IMPROVEMENT?
We’re seeing max velocities go up, vertical jumps, broad jumps, training weights, how hard they’re going in certain velocity and percentage zones. So we’re utilizing all of this together and painting a picture of improved performance.
PERCH: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE INTIMIDATION FACTOR FOR VBT? WHY AREN’T MORE COACHES BUYING IN?
Part of it might be expense. We had financial resources and backing to do these things. I’m sure part of it is educational as well. It’s different right? But, hey it’s not different. For me, it’s hard to change, some coaches are more resistant to change. What I have found is that velocity is not different from a programming standpoint. The training weights we use are now just guidelines. We tell the kids this too.
What I have found is that velocity is not different from a programming standpoint. The training weights we use are now just guidelines.
Everyday we put out the workout, we put velocity ranges out and so they have their guidelines with their training weights. If we’re within that zone we’re going to hold what we’ve got. If we’re above the zone we’re going to load the barbell. If we’re below the zone we’re going to take weights off the barbell. What we tell the kids is that “if you stay within this specific zone, you are not wrong.” It just takes the guesswork out of it.
This has allowed us to incorporate that extra detailed layer really. On a Sunday, we can pull the data and figure out how they’re going to feel based on how hard they went on the field on Saturday. And from there, that data will keep us in check as to what we need to adapt and how to help them regenerate better too.
We’re trying to use every on field and off field metric we can use to pour into them and their performances. There’s so many variables to this, it’s not just the weight room stuff. It’s everything. How are they living? How are they eating? You’re not going to be able to out train a poor lifestyle. And using all of these metrics to know that opens the door to have a conversation to build that relationship and check in with athletes to build that trust even more.
And using all of these metrics to know that opens the door to have a conversation to build that relationship and check in with athletes to build that trust even more.
PERCH: WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE SPORTS TRAINING SPACE?
I think it goes back to the level of detail that’s going to be able to live in these programs. Everyone is doing relatively the same thing. So the detail that you’re going to be able to get on a daily basis with an individual athlete is what will help you excel. And really it’s all about the student-athlete experience, you want your guys to be able to walk away knowing that we have unturned every stone you could unturn and developed them to the best of your ability.
With technology, it’s only going to continue to evolve so who are we to not evolve with it? Build it within your programs, and really it comes down to how you do things. How do you maximize and develop your guys every day and sharpen that sword? Sooner or later everyone will be doing the same thing, so it comes down to how.