Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Tim Kontos hated every second of working in the grocery store while he was in high school. He wanted to work in something he was passionate about. The grocery store was not it.
“I was like ‘I don’t know how people can do this,’” Kontos said.
Fast forward years, and Kontos graduated college with a degree in physical education, but the field was in its infancy — strength and conditioning wasn’t a career path shown to college graduates. His resume got to the right people, and a job opportunity opened up in Richmond, so he jumped on it.
Kontos oversees the sports performance department at VCU, and he says the discipline has evolved at the university and as a whole since he graduated from Radford.
When he arrived on campus in 1998, the athletics weight room was in the basement of Franklin Street Gym. No windows, no air conditioning and only 1,000 square feet. Kontos was the only strength coach, and he was part-time.
He moved up in the department over the years, and has most recently named associate athletics director of sports Performance and student-athlete wellness last year.
Now, Kontos’ office is adjacent to the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot weight room in the student-athlete wing of the Siegel Center.
“The amount of support this department has gotten has taken off, gone through the roof,” Kontos said. “Now, we’ve got five full-time strength and conditioning coaches plus graduate assistants and interns. …We’ve come a long way.”
During his first six years at VCU, he worked with every team. Now he focuses on just two: volleyball and baseball. This lets Kontos get more familiar with the student-athletes he works with at practices and games.
“For volleyball, I’ll warm them up before their games, I’ll travel to some of their away matches, help with recovery after the games, help them get ready for the next game,” Kontos said. “You’re able to expand what you’re able to do within that team, it gets interesting.”
When working with teams, Kontos said the goal for him and his staff is to “design a plan to prevent injuries, increase performance, and help student-athletes run faster and jump higher.”
Since volleyball and baseball are in opposite seasons, Kontos has variety of tasks each day he works with both teams because when one team is in season, the other is in offseason training.
“Making them ready for game day … that’s pretty crucial both mentally and physically,” volleyball coach Jody Rogers said. “I think that’s a skill that Tim Kontos has that is undeniably why we’ve had the success that we have had at VCU since I’ve been here.”
When a student-athlete first walks into the weight room, their eyes scan the room and sometimes they get nervous, Kontos said. After a couple of weeks, they start to build confidence as they get stronger.
That confidence transfers to everything they do in life, Kontos said, especially out on the field.
“[My favorite part is] when they come back and they tell me what we did in here that’s made a long-term investment on them,” Kontos said. “Whether it’s [that] they’re paying it forward to athletes they’re working with as a coach or they’re paying it forward to their kids.”