RE Head of Strength and Conditioning Coach Victoria Druehl Talks About Sports Performance Program at RE

Sol Cuello Robert

With 84 athletic communities offered throughout three sports seasons, RE not only provides an abundance of teams, but also a sports performance program that allows athletes to improve their capabilities and potential. An instrumental and founding member of this team is Ms. Victoria Druehl, the Head of Strength and Conditioning and the Upper School PE Coordinator. 

Having graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree and from the University of Miami with a master’s degree in Exercise Science, Ms. Druehl, or Coach V as many of the students call her, has been a part of this profession for over six years. She first started at Harvard Westlake High School, an independent college preparatory school much like Ransom Everglades. Following that, she spent three years at IMG Academy, a top-tier sports training boarding school where she headed the strength and conditioning for three girls’ basketball teams, five girls’ soccer teams, the baseball team, the boys’ basketball team, and the golf programs. She also participated in a talent identification program for the Chinese government. As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, she takes her former education and experiences to her work here at RE.  

I was fortunate enough to speak with Coach V about her outlook on physical education in the classroom as well as on the field. 

What are your responsibilities concerning sports teams at RE? 

I basically provide the tools and the space, meaning the weight room facilities, and guidance for all our athletes who are interested in engaging in a sports performance program. So, I put together all their programs which are responsible for their athletic development and their injury mitigation. Some teams choose to engage in a sports performance program more than others, but every athlete has the option to. Every team looks slightly different depending on the needs of the program and the demands of the program and what the coach expects from their athletes. 

Why do you think it is important for RE to have this program? 

Nowadays, sports performance is part of your training regimen. It used to be kind of an option. Some people did it and some people did not. Now, if you want to be a competitive athlete at any level, this is pretty much a non-negotiable part. There is so much literature out there, so much research and science. Every program, from a recreational level to a professional one, has some form of strength and conditioning aspect in it. The fact that we have this type of program for our athletes is amazing. I am providing a science-based approach. That is really important to me. You can go to places where they do not use one. Coach [Jake] Caron and I use a science-based approach to develop all our programs and to develop all our athletes. 

I think it is really important for our athletes to understand that there is always a reason behind what we are doing. We try to take the time to explain each aspect to give them that educational piece, not just the training component. Every sport goes through what we call a needs analysis, which essentially dictates how we are going to program. A needs analysis will give us information like: What type of movement is prevalent in the sport? How often are they moving? How often are they resting? What types of injuries are most prevalent? We take all of that into consideration when we go and detail a program to either emphasize certain things or minimize others. I would like to believe that we do play a role in keeping the athletes healthy and lowering the number of injuries as well as giving our teams a competitive advantage with strength and conditioning. 

How do you impact athletic individuals? 

It goes beyond the notion that I helped them get stronger or less injury-prone or more agile or more conditioned. The impact I have is a little greater than just the sports performance piece. I think for some individuals I serve as more of a role model. It is not just that I provide them the tools to get better as an athlete; there are some people who walk in here and are unable to do quite a few things or they feel uncomfortable, and I would like to believe that I provide them a safe and comfortable place where they enjoy coming, and where they can take these tools even outside of their time at Ransom Everglades. It is not just in sports but in their personal lives. I want to give them the chance to do something that they never thought they could do. That is really where my impact on individuals comes into play. 

What is your favorite part about working here? 

My favorite part is that I can be a part of two departments. I play an influential role in the Physical Education department as well as the Athletic Department. I think that I bridge the gap between the two. Physical education should be correlated and connected to athletics. There should be an athletic performance aspect to physical education. I enjoy being a part of both departments. I not only get to see more of a population here at RE but also get to mingle with other departments, colleagues, and faculty. I enjoy collaborating with other parts of the school. I see people more often throughout the day and get to know my students and my colleagues better. 

What area of exercise/nutrition do you focus on? 

I am not a registered dietician, so I do not really prescribe nutrition plans or supplements. I do spend a lot of time preaching about proper hydration. A lot of students do not carry water bottles at school. I preach carrying your water bottle, filling up your water bottle, drinking several water bottles. It is so humid here in Florida, and we are sweating all the time. We need to replenish our hydration. The other thing I preach about is consuming an adequate amount of calories. Our students are so busy during the day, and most are so physically active. We need to get those calories throughout the day, but it is challenging for some kids. I try to help them find ways to fit in snacks and to make sure they are getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner and getting snacks before practice and before lunch. I spend a lot of time making sure we are talking about getting enough water and calories. 

You are now teaching a Fitness elective. How is that currently going? 

I have always taught a PE elective since being at Ransom Everglades. It is a unique opportunity for me to connect with and to teach students who may not participate in a sport. It allows me a chance to reach a greater part of our community that may not participate in athletics. I like the courses because they dive deeper into the concepts and techniques. While we do touch upon some of that stuff during first-year PE, we get to dive deeper in the elective courses. It is going great. It is a mixture of athletes and non-athletes, so it can be a really fun environment.  

Is there a legacy you would like to leave at RE?  

I would like students to look back at their RE experience and say, “Wow. Coach V really created this inclusive environment where it did not matter what sport you played or what level. She always provided an equal opportunity for athletes to get better, if they wanted to, at their sport.” I want every athlete to feel that they were important. Everyone should feel like they can come and work on themselves and work on their sport. Same thing goes for PE. I want kids to look back and say, “Wow. Coach V really made me consider getting more physically active or trying new things.” I want this space and this room to be remembered as an inclusive environment where everyone was welcomed and had an opportunity to get better.