In mid-April, the Surge announced a suspension to its 2020 season. Despite the uncertainty, the Surge players haven’t stopped working. A big reason why is Carl Givens and his gym, Given100. This summer, Givens was announced as the Head Strength & Conditioning coach of the St. Louis Surge, where he has been tasked with not only keeping the Surge players on their feet during the pandemic but preparing for the 2021 season.
Throughout the last month, the Surge players have traveled to Given100 multiple times a week to train with Givens individually and as a team. Givens, who is a former college football player and the current Strength and Conditioning coach at Priory High School, brings a wealth of experience, having trained a variety of athletes in basketball, gymnastics, track, football, soccer and hockey.
In our newest Workout Wednesday Q&A, Givens discusses his own background, what his average day looks like, and the Surge summer workout schedule.
How did you start Given100?
I started Given100 about seven years ago at Heman Park on a park bench. I would have my clients meet there and we just went out there and made it happen. I carried around all of my weights in my car and adjusted accordingly.
Wow. How did Given100 develop from that park bench to the space you have now?
Treating people the right way. Being a blessing as much as I can. Investing in them as they invest in me….From there it got to my buddy’s garage. I was there for about two years. It kept growing from there.
What kind of players do you normally work with?
Oh, all types of athletes. I’m also the full-time Strength & Conditioning coach at Priory High School. So I’m doing that, working with the Surge and I have a couple of youth soccer teams I’m working with as well.
How would you describe your day-to-day job to someone?
I would say I get here around 6:30-7 everyday…. Surge players come in two days a week, on Monday and Wednesday. And from there, they’re able to come in throughout the week to individually work on things that they want to work on specifically…. It’s probably Monday through Saturday.
How did you get linked up with the Surge?
I met [Surge owner and General Manager] Khalia [Collier] last year. I came to a few games and I saw what they were doing. Our expansion came right before quarantine. I let Khalia know that I would have the space and room. Khalia started training with me and she liked how I went about getting in shape but also me as a person and we made a connection from there.
Where did you meet Khalia?
I met Khalia actually outside of my gym. She was on a run and then she passed a couple times and asked me about it. And from there I guess it was destiny.
Did you know about the Surge beforehand?
I did not know about the Surge, but she invited me to a couple games and saw that they were some ballers. And so I wanted to be a part of that ship.
What stood out to you when you went to the games?
The intensity of the team. They are professionals. They take it very seriously. As a trainer, it gets you motivated to see people take it just as seriously as you do.
They all come in, we have about a 40-45 minute warmup. That warm-up consists of working on flexibility, mobility, core stabilizations, and their athleticism as well. So they come in everyday, they know they have that. And then from there, we go into a team workout where we work a lot of plyometrics and then we go into weights. Now that’s on Monday or Wednesday. If they come in on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, it’s more individualized, where we’re working on the things that they’re trying to accomplish.
How did you choose these things to work on?
Just watching their movements, just watching their games. Throughout the workout, you’ll be able to see what people can and cannot do…. The type of lifts that they do let me know what their flexibility and range of motion is. I also ask them questions about what they are trying to work on and get better at. Each one of them lets me know what they’re trying to accomplish. So I’m able to then create a general workout for everybody off of similarities that they’re looking for and then things that I want to make sure they’re having as athletes. Then, when they come in individually, we’ll sit down and talk about how they’re feeling…. From there, I ask what they feel like they could do better at. Are they feeling lighter on their toes? Are they feeling more explosive? So we just push from there.
How do you plan out the workouts?
I’ve been doing this so long that I know the things they have to accomplish through our workouts. So once they accomplish that then I can start going to the individual needs of each player.
Was it hard to get them out of the quarantine mindset?
No, they came ready to go. They all came into the gym ready to fire off and ready to make it happen as if they had a season that was coming up tomorrow.
In what ways do you see that?
They all get here on time. They all work extremely hard. They’re always asking if there’s more to do. And they’re always ready to go. It’s not like I need to come in here and be a motivational speaker with them. They already come correct and ready to perform. Sometimes I feel like I might not be doing enough. So I always ask: is there more? Do you want more? How are you feeling?
What have your biggest preaching points been?
My biggest preaching point has been flexibility. Flexibility and mobility. We’re going to actually start incorporating yoga into their workouts to make sure they can have a long muscle and strong muscle. We want to have injury prevention. That’s our first thing. Because as athletes, they need to be able to perform.
What does an average day look like for you?
Up early in the morning. Get in here to the gym. And then as [fellow trainer] Courtney Brame is training clients, I’ll jump in and do some of the ab workouts. I’ll do some cardio early in the morning with Khalia. She likes to do a bunch of running. So her and I will get some running in. And then from there, I’ll train some athletes. And whenever we finish, I usually go play nine holes or 18 or get some cardio in.
You play golf everyday?
I try to.
How’d you get into golf?
My father in-law, he’s really good at it.
But you played college football, right?
Yeah college football, yes I did.
Do you still ever play football? I know it’s kind of hard to play football for fun.
No, not at all. Not at all.
Are you coaching at Priory?
Yes, I coach football and also track.
Is it hard to switch through sports and provide different workout plans for different types of sports, different ages, different body types? Is that challenging?
It’s a lot of information, not going to lie. But I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s like breathing. At first, it was very hard. Football players were totally different from basketball players compared to soccer players. So you have to make sure you understand the athlete, what they’re trying to accomplish in the sport, then you have to make sure the individual and where they are. Because you can’t give everyone the same workouts, it doesn’t work like that. Everybody wants to come and accomplish their own goals.
How did you learn to train all of these different kinds of athletes?
I learned a lot of this, basically trial and error, working with different athletes. I’ve been a gymnast coach, a basketball coach, a football coach, a running coach. So you name it. I’ve covered a majority of the sports. Hockey.
So I’m just going to finish out with some rapid fire questions. What’s your favorite post-workout snack or meal these days?
Definitely steak and whatever you want to put with it.
What’s the last song you played?
Right now, I’m doing Ariana Grande, “thank u, next.”
What’s your favorite sports-related TV show or movie of all time?
It’s either “He Got Game” or “Love and Basketball.” One of those two.
If you could work out with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Probably Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi. Or Paul Pogba, make sure you put Pogba in there because he’s one of my favorites. I’m a diehard soccer fan.