Over the course of a 19-year-career, Florida State director of strength and conditioning Josh Storms has seen his fair share of challenges.
From his own athletic career, one he once described as “very short, unremarkable [and] injury-plagued,” to his varied and lengthy coaching journey, the bearded-mountain of a man has always found new ways to expand his expertise, all with the goal of bettering his ability to educate.
“Over time, if you’re a good coach, you’re a really good thief,” Storms joked. “You steal everything you think is valuable, and then you start putting those pieces together, and it starts to become your own unique philosophy.”
When he first began at UNLV, and while at Arizona State, he was the strength coach for additional sports. The responsibility was born out of necessity — schools having football-specific trainers is relatively new — but it was one he embraced.
Seeing how high-level track and field athletes, or wrestlers, carried themselves in training and prep, he says, helped him develop and determine a sport-specific regimen for his players.
“I’d view it as coaching reps,” he said. “I always valued the time I had with those sports, and the time I spent with those kids and coaches…and I was able to work with some sports that, over time, really helped me with football.”
It was while in Tempe he first linked up with Mike Norvell, then an offensive coordinator, and identified a common desire to culture-build.
“I think both our moral compasses of how things should be in a program and how young men should be led have been very, very parallel. We both have our own way of how we go about it, and there’s a lot of trust in how our decisions are made, and how they’re made together, as well.”
A mantra Storms has repeated and embodied is the idea that his responsibility extends far beyond strength. Bigger, faster, stronger — he calls that the bare minimum. The goal, he says, is equipping players to deal with adversity and immediate situations, the basis of football success and life capability.
“Anybody can ‘make a culture’ or respond the ‘right way’ when everything is easy,” he said. “But when you’re being coached hard and you’re fatigued, that’s when you learn how to respond. That’s when you learn how to lead.
“If I’m only doing ‘bigger, faster, stronger,’ then I’m a bad coach. It’s about preparing guys mentally, and preparing guys in their heart.”
He’s facing a unique challenge, as not just students, but coaches and their families struggle to adjust to the new normal. Storms himself is working at home, assisting in the growth and meal-planning of not just student-athletes, but his own six-year-old son.
“I’m set up on the patio with my makeshift office, and we’ve got off-site kindergarten going on inside,” he laughed. “We’ve got snack time, and recess, and all the important things for a kindergartner.”
It’s a situation that reflects not just Storms’ situation, or the Florida State staff’s, but one across the country. While they figure out how to transition to building a program virtually, they’re also looking for ways to keep check on players who are suddenly removed from their home away from home.
“Those guys, when they’re on campus, they have a very full plate. And that’s just the things they have that are on the clock — we’re not counting relationships outside of football, or the social life of being a college student.
Now, you’re pulled away from all of that. Thankfully, because of FaceTime and Zoom and social media, I can see a guy’s face, see him smile, crack a joke or two and have some interactions. But it is difficult, and the biggest thing with not just the players, but the coaches and everyone else at home right now is: how are you going to re-establish your day? If you can get some structure in your day, from a mental health standpoint, that’s a huge hurdle to cross.
At the end of the day, staying in communication with those guys, just calling to check in and see how they’re doing, see how their mom’s doing, their little brother. See if there’s some way to give them some normalcy in conversation. I think it’s good to reach out to those guys, and give them a chance to talk about something other than football.”