TIFTON -- After only two years at the University of Georgia, strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger can measure the progress of Bulldog players. Larger bench presses, higher jumps and faster 40-yard-dash times are all byproducts of the training system Van Halanger heads.

But the veteran coach, Thursday's guest speaker at the Sports Medicine Seminar 2003 held at the University of Georgia's Tifton Campus Conference Center, said the early-morning drills and tougher workouts have helped Georgia's mental makeup as much as their physical progress.

"I think it's important, the mental aspect is so important," Van Halanger said. "Everyone lifts weights but you really need a picture of where you want to go."

Van Halanger, who followed Bulldog head coach Mark Richt to Athens from Florida State in earlyh 2001, said his team also uses the sessions to talk about unity and togetherness. He added that when the mat drills, which take place at 5:30 a.m., were introduced, the team lost some members.

They almost lost more than that. After receiving a bad grade in his first mat drill workout, All-American tackle Jon Stinchcomb challenged his fellow linemen to stand out in the drill, run past their designated finishing point all the way to the wall at the side of the gym. The linemen did just that before someone pleaded for them not to repeat it. When the linemen, most near or over 300 pounds hit the wall, they moved it about an inch, the coach said.

For years, Van Halanger has been regarded as one of the best in his class. He played for Florida State coach Bobby Bowden at West Virginia and was a co-captain of the Peach Bowl team. As a coach, he started his alma mater's first organized weight training program before his 18-year stint at FSU, where his reputation was cemented.

In June 2001, he was awarded the title of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach, the highest honor presented by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.

Van Halanger said the team's attitude continues to feed off last year's SEC Championship performance.

"This year, we have a small group of seniors," he said. "But there's a great atmosphere in the weightroom. We've got over 100 kids coming in and now that they've tasted that victory, they want it again."

Van Halanger also said that the team's success in the weightroom could be seen on the field last year with big fourth-quarter performances against Alabama, South Carolina and Auburn.

The seminar, in its 19th year, draws physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, PTAs, occupational therapists, OTAs, coaches, athletic trainers, health educators and others from around the area to hear more than 40 speakers lined up over a three-day period ending Saturday.

The seminar also features concurrent sessions on orthopedics, rehabilitation and athletic training.

The event is sponsored by Georgia Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation Services of Tifton and The Orthopedics Center of Tift Regional Medical Center.

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