John Shackleton, Villanova strength and conditioning coach, leaves a legacy behind

Another basketball era ends at Villanova.

John Shackleton never made a basket. It was never announced during pre-match introductions. Just add it to the list of great contributors to the ‘Nova 2016’ and ’18 NCAA titles, and everything the program has accomplished over the past decade.

Shackleton, who dropped out of school to become an individual coach, was the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s team at Villanova. Add a nutrition team. Listen to Jay Wright and his players over the years and the overall effect is clear.

Did Shackleton’s role lead to tangible victories? This week Wright answered with an emphatic yes.

The former Nova boss said he believed Shackleton’s “unique” style kept the players fit and rested late in the season – “it helped us to play the tournament to be fresh”.

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Wright was mostly referring to how Shackleton monitored the load on the cadavers.

“What it was really like, I was full time with basketball — and a lot of it was observing, watching practices, communicating with coaches,” Shackleton said by phone Thursday, explaining that the technology allowed him to monitor the stresses being put on bodies. “This is what we did today… We might do it tomorrow.”

Under his watch, a generation of Wildcats players, from Kris Jenkins to Omari Spellman to Eric Dixon, have changed their body types.

“My friend Coach Shaq,” Jenkins told me in 2016, “I’m with him every day, all day. He’s changed my life. It’s not just a temporary thing.”

Jenkins said those words several days before Jenkins put himself into NCAA game lore with the winner of the second-to-last game against North Carolina.

Shaq’s column that week made sense. Whenever a team makes a Final Four, the stories are mostly scripted, so more stories are told behind the stories.

“He’s our nutritionist,” Wright said at the Houston Final Four. “It chooses every meal we eat. It monitors our heart rates, body fat, weight, our rehab, and our flow days.”

Most strength and conditioning coaches probably don’t have as much input into practice plans. Wright related how he initially did not want Shackleton because he had never worked with basketball players. That changed when Shaq joined basketball in 2012 on an interim basis.

“Look, Villanova was my dream job,” Shackleton said Thursday. “When I was a kid, Villanova was the team I followed.”

So why is the Temple alumnus and former Central Football League player leaving Bucks West? Shackleton asked himself the same question.

“I got my dream job,” said Shackleton. “I want to pursue something else, but I’m actually in my dream.”

Get down on the side of not wanting to slack off. He already knows that there is a private individual market for his services. He is looking to base himself on the West Coast. He even thinks about the possibilities of the Internet, to take some of his ideas out into the world.

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It’s interesting to look back now at how Shackleton described some of the Villanova players in 2016. Mickal Bridges, for example: “He’s a tall, skinny guy. He’s actually quite strong for his body weight. Pound for pound, the strongest kid on the team.” .

Ryan Arcedecono: “He’s just a blue collar guy. He puts in the work. There was never an ejaculation.”

Jenkins himself: “He just knows how his body moves. So whatever we do, his technique is, like, flawless.”

When asked about the 2023 update, Shackleton mentioned a couple of new players. Eric Dixon: “He’s literally the strongest guy in the weight room.”

Cam Whitmore: “I saw him on the field. Very explosive.”

Caleb Daniels: “He was just an all-around monster.”

Former Villanova coach Jay Wright said, along with Mickal Bridges, that Shackleton’s work “helped us play in the tournament to be fresh.”.Read moreStephen M Falk/Staff Photographer

Shackleton explained in 2016 his own dietary approach: “Try to stick to all natural foods. Also, look at the source of where it came from. Some grass-fed beef rather than grain. Consider how the animal or fish was raised. Because the nutrients are much higher.” In those kinds of foods, quality foods….in our hotel, you’ll see, there’s labels there. Grass-fed beef. Wild-caught fish. Free-range chicken. And I got busted for it, but they know it’s good for it. Everyone disagrees with me, but they They eat it.”

Perhaps all of this is becoming more popular these days, as well as monitoring hydration, as Shackleton always did. Shackleton does not claim to have invented any of this. But given those two headlines — “we were probably a little ahead of the curve. Going back in 2016, we were probably ahead of the curve.”