Alabama's new strength coaches share initial impressions of Nick Saban
By now, Alabama fans — and the rest of the SEC — know that the Tide have new strength and conditioning coaches for 2020. Scott Cochran left for an on-field coaching position this off-season at Georgia, and Nick Saban made fresh hires at the position in Dr. Matt Rhea (Director of Performance Science) and David Ballou (Director of Sports Performance).
Alabama has been running features on its Facebook page recently, and during the latest feature Thursday of “Meet the Strength Staff,” the duo was asked their initial impressions of their new boss.
“Our first conversation, I saw someone there listening and trying to get better, which was really unbelievable to me considering all that he’s done,” Ballou said. “He was genuinely, genuinely interested in the process in which we were explaining to him and understanding it and (had) great questions. It was just how engaged he was, and I could tell how interested he was in what we were talking about. He was trying to process it and learn it. It’s that not being complacent and trying to always get better.
“I could see it the second I walked in there and we started having a conversation. That’s what pulls you to somewhere and to work with someone like Coach: there’s no complacency, and that’s what we’ve always been about. We challenge each other every day in what we can do better and how we can evolve our system, and that’s what I saw in him the second we walked in the door, someone trying to get better.”
Following Ballou’s comments, Dr. Rhea chimed in and said he knows Coach Saban isn’t ready to be done coaching anytime soon.
“I saw a guy … I like working in high-performance environments and high-performance organizations, and they all have differences and some similar qualities,” Rhea said. “But I learned very quickly that, in his mind, there’s greatness and there’s unacceptable, and there’s nothing in between. And I love that because it forces you, it pushes you to greatness. Whether it’s a player, whether it’s a staff member. No matter who it is, you know going into the situation that there’s greatness and there’s unacceptable. That’s the way Coach Ballou and I have been operating in the past, and I think that really caught us. Just seeing his energy and his excitement.
“I’ll be honest, we were in a situation where, I think, we probably had lifetime contracts, and coming here, one of the things that we wanted to gauge was what was the energy like? Is he close to being done? Is he about ready to call it quits? And you learn really quick that that’s far from reality because just the energy that he’s got and the excitement that he has for the game of football and for new challenges. I think he told me within the first hour how angry he was that he hasn’t won the last 14 national championships. Again, I love that type of mentality.”