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Monday, June 24, 2024

Lifting more than weights: DeLancey brings passion to UF workouts

<p>Matt DeLancey paid $150 to have this fire hydrant shipped to his home. “It’s not even heavy,” DeLancey said. “This is nothing.”</p>

Matt DeLancey paid $150 to have this fire hydrant shipped to his home. “It’s not even heavy,” DeLancey said. “This is nothing.”

When it comes to the realm of weight training, where clinking metal echoes and beads of sweat stain the floor, Matt DeLancey jumped in early.

After tackling a paper route with his best friend, Troy Zang, at the tender age of 10 among the driveways of Pennsylvania’s rural New Bloomfield, DeLancey said the two decided to grab a heavy bag and some weights to beef up and hit the workout grind.

“We benched and hit this bag every day of the week,” DeLancey said shaking his head with a laugh. “It was pretty much how it started. From there, it was reading bodybuilding magazines and trying to do the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] workout.”

Flash forward to the underbelly of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — DeLancey’s current stomping ground. It’s here, in Florida’s Griffin-Oakley Strength and Conditioning Complex, that DeLancey has close to 25,000 square feet of workout space at his fingertips to mold UF athletes as the assistant director of strength and conditioning for Olympic sports, dipping into track and field, swimming and diving and volleyball. DeLancey, with his deep, raspy voice that bellows from behind his auburn-tinted beard, has built more than muscles for the Gators — he has developed relationships with his athletes that have made a mark on more than any field, swimming pool or court.

This is especially true for Tangerine Wiggs, a junior right-side hitter for the Gators’ volleyball team. The 6-foot-2 transfer from Washington State met DeLancey, or as she and some of her teammates call him, “Matty D,” on one of her campus visits. When she first began training with him during her sophomore year, Wiggs admits that her body was different from the muscular build she has now.

“I was probably a string bean — stick and bones,” Wiggs recalled. “I easily got hurt. I had so many joint problems, problems with my back, my shoulder, my knees. And he really sat me down and helped me understand that the cure to all my problems was increasing my muscle mass.”

Wiggs said DeLancey took her under his wing, communicating about proteins to help strengthen her body. And she gushes that it was his patience through that year, the year DeLancey spent building her up, that she’s grateful for. She even said she and her teammates view DeLancey as a big brother.

“If I had a problem with anything — weights, nutrition, just anything — I definitely feel comfortable coming to Matt to talk about it,” she said. “He cares about us (not only) so much as athletes, but so much as people, which is something that I think is what makes him so special and what makes our team love him so much.”

Wiggs’ teammate, senior defensive specialist Elissa Hausmann, added that DeLancey’s care extends through his workouts, which are individually designed for each of his athletes and caters to their varying positions and needs.

“For me, everything I’m doing is for defense,” Hausmann said, squatting and placing her palms on her thighs. “I’m always low, so it’s always in my quads, and everything is just low to the ground.”

However, while Hausmann spoke highly of DeLancey’s training knowledge and attention to detail during workouts, she also joked about his brotherly role with the team.

“Sometimes I’ll not ask what the exercise is because I feel like I already know what it is,” she said. “And if I get it wrong, he’ll be like, ‘Oh! You’re gonna make up your own workout today?”

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DeLancey, a self-described “Family Guy” fan, said that he jokes around with all his athletes.

“I find out which ones respond better to the bips,” he said. “You know what I mean? The bips — the little zingers.”

But he explained that it’s also about knowing what the athletes respond to and building those relationships in order to gauge their drive to sweat it out. He said that motivators can range from the intrinsic to the extrinsic, or from glory to a desired time goal, but it varies from individual to individual.

“You always gotta keep people motivated and everybody’s different,” he said. “Some people need the honey rather than the vinegar. Some people only respond to vinegar — it just depends on the person.”

Senior swimmer Teresa Crippen agreed, saying DeLancey knows just how to read her when she steps foot in the weight room.

“He knows more when I’m in the mood to work, and when I’m dead exhausted and wanting to go home,” she said. “He gets to know all of his athletes.”

Crippen added that DeLancey knew almost all of the 20 freshman male swimmers within a month of working with them.

“That speaks a lot to his personality and willingness to be a great weight coach and try to include everybody in his workout,” she said.

Though Crippen is in the midst of her fourth year working with DeLancey — a former Division II football player and strongman competitor — she remembers being intimidated by him at first because of his personality. And according to DeLancey’s athletes, the weight room is anything but quiet when he’s in its confines.

“His energy level is out of control,” Hausmann said. “He’s always screaming, encouraging us.”

When Wiggs tries to find one word to describe DeLancey, it comes to mind easily.

“Matt is just amped,” Wiggs said with a smile. “Some days we come in, and he seems quiet, but within five minutes he’s back to Matt. He’s high-energy. He’s outgoing — he’s just a big personality.”

Wiggs explained that “Matty D’s” vivacious aura is especially present when he’s cheering on the bench during their matches. DeLancey goes to home competitions, but he’s not there with the primary intention of training.

“I’m there just to cheer ‘em on,” he says. “I’m a glorified cheerleader at that point.”

Wiggs, laughing, agreed strongly. She admitted that he’s just as amped — if not more amped — than the team is during high-intensity games. She also said he’s not only high-fiving the team, but he’s pointing out the specific things the players did well.

“He’ll be like ‘That was a great pass! That was a great swing!’” Wiggs said. “On the road, not having him, at times when we don’t have him for games, you do notice that little bit of silence. Like, where’s Matt?”

But it’s at those games, meets or matches that DeLancey said he sees first-hand what his job is all about: watching his athletes get better. He remembers how proud he was when he watched swimmer Ryan Lochte, who he is currently training for the 2012 Olympics, set his first world record in 2006 or watching Wiggs excel on the court. He said “Tange” put on 12 to 15 pounds of muscle since she came to UF, and she has tacked on 5.5 inches to her approach jump.

“She’s a different athlete than she was when she got here,” he said. “Those are the things that motivate me — daily.”

DeLancey said that the biggest reason behind his love for Florida is that the passion and expectations of the athletes and coaches match his. Those around him are pumping as much into their work as he is, which is something he brings full circle in his relationships with his athletes.

“Treat them with respect,” he said. “Respect’s a two-way street. You can’t just demand it. You gotta give it to get it.”

Contact Allison Banko at abanko@alligator.org.

Matt DeLancey paid $150 to have this fire hydrant shipped to his home. “It’s not even heavy,” DeLancey said. “This is nothing.”

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