Nov. 19, 2003
The mission statement of the Florida State Athletics Department clearly states that the decisions and priorities of the department should always focus on the student-athletes first, as individuals; second, as students; and third, as athletes. With the 2003-04 women’s basketball season-opener just a few days away, it is important to recognize some of the people behind the scenes who are a big part of getting the student-athletes in a position to succeed on and off the court.
Kylie Amato is in her first season as the academic advisor for women’s basketball. After assisting Associate Director of Academic Support Kevin White at the beginning of the semester, Amato was given the opportunity to take sole responsibility of women’s basketball in early October. With this position, Amato monitors the academic progress of the women’s basketball players. She also handles the scheduling of classes and tutors and study hall in which the student-athletes must sign in and sign out through her.
The freshmen are required to attend eight hours of study hall per week while the rest of the members of the team are required to attend based on their own personal progress. Amato, who has been with the FSU Athletic Academic Support Program since May, has her hands full with 15 players on this year’s roster, but she’s enjoying every minute of it.
“They’ve been amazing,” Amato said. “They’ve welcomed me into the family without any hesitation at all. We all work really well together and they’ve opened up to me a lot quicker and sooner than I thought they would. The freshmen are really close. I’ve been with them since they’ve been here. The upperclassmen are also beginning to open up and see that I am not just their academic advisor, but also a friend and female that they can talk to.”
Since attaining a degree is the number one goal for Florida State athletes, Amato’s job is perhaps one of the most important and it’s a responsibility that she takes very seriously.
“It’s a lot of pressure because now everything falls on me,” Amato said. “I still have Kevin to go to, but it’s more on my shoulders now and it is more of a personal thing than it was working under someone else. It is definitely challenging with learning all of the rules, eligibility, NCAA and Clearinghouse, and making sure that I have everything checked off especially since some of these girls will be graduating in five or six months.”
Amato also realizes that no matter how hard she works to help these players, whether they succeed in the classroom is ultimately up to them and she has been pleased with how the Seminoles are able to balance academics and athletics.
“From what I have seen, their personalities on the court, match what they do off of the court,” Amato said. “I see their anticipation and work ethic with grades and just their dedication in study hall. They have the same determination of wanting to get things perfect like they do on the court. From everything I have heard and all of the emails from teachers that I have gotten, everything is positive when it comes to academics and the women’s basketball program. As far as how they act in the classroom and conduct themselves, teachers have said that the kids are role models. They come to class on time and are prepared and ready to go and they are the last students to leave.”
While Amato is very busy with her job, you can be sure she will be in the stands every home game cheering on the Seminoles.
“It’s important for the players to see me supporting them on the court as much as I do off the court,” Amato said. “And besides, I’m a fan and I want to be there. I want to see these ladies succeed in all areas of their lives. The women’s basketball program is very family-oriented. I am very big on family and very strong in my faith and those things are priorities in the women’s basketball program.”
Women’s basketball athletic trainer Bob Hammons joined the program in September and has been busy adjusting to a university setting after working as the head athletic trainer at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
“Overall, it has been great,” Hammons said. “I’ve enjoyed myself. The job I was doing before, I didn’t have a specific sport I was working with. I had different groups coming in, so I didn’t have that camaraderie that you get with just working with one sport. I really missed that and I am now enjoying that once again, having 15 athletes to work with, to get to know their personalities and be able to joke around with them and get to know each and every one of them.”
Luckily, the Seminoles have been pretty healthy this preseason, so Hammons and his graduate assistant Nina Holley, were present at workouts just in case someone went down with an injury and to make the players kept hydrated. Hammons also works closely with strength coach Dave Plettl.
“Actually, Dave and I work pretty close,” Hammons said. “We talk each day about what’s going on with certain athletes or if something happens, we make sure we communicate so he can modify that athlete’s workout to avoid any problems.”
Hammons has been pleased with how responsible the women’s basketball players have been and how committed they are to taking care of themselves.
“So far, so good,” Hammons said. “I have been pleasantly surprised. I am quite honest with them. I tell them when they need to be where and so far, they’ve shown up and done what they need to do. It has been an interesting transition because some of them are used to going home and icing and stretching, but I want to see them in the training room. I want to make sure that’s getting done. That, in the past, hasn’t always been their routine and we are slowly getting that changed.”
Aside from the coaching staff, Hammons is probably the person the players see most often, so building a trust is essential. The athletic training staff not only deals with injuries, but the nutritional, psychological and emotional health of the athletes.
“My job with this team is to keep our athletes able to be out there and able to be competitive,” Hammons said. “Building trust with the athlete is very important when it comes to the athletic trainers’ world. How I do it with the women’s basketball program is that I try to make the training room a fun and comfortable place to go to, a place to hang out so they get to know me. I try to be more of a “big brother” figure to the girls and little by little, they are starting to open up to me which is very good. We deal with so many different variables with the athletes so it’s very important for them to be able to open up and trust me.”
Dave Plettl is in his fourth season as the strength and conditioning coach for the women’s basketball program. Physical development is critical in order to excel at the collegiate level and Plettl individually customizes programs for each of the athletes beginning with preconditioning before the season gets underway.
“This preseason, what we mainly focused on was conditioning,” Plettl said. “Because we didn’t condition enough during the summer, rather than going for strength in the preseason, we had to go for run conditioning and lean them up a bit.”
According to Plettl, during the season, the team is in the weight room around three times a week, depending on its game and travel schedule, but overall, the Seminoles try to get in a weight workout 11 times a month. Plettl feels as if he has gained a solid working relationship with the Seminoles which he hopes will result in success on the court.
“First you are dealing with basketball, then you are dealing with women, then you are dealing with weights and they don’t always mix very well,” Plettl said. “So, I think a lot of the work is done because of the trusting relationship we have developed and I think they do enjoy coming in. When I have to really get on them, since it is not all the time, they really listen.
“They have a great attitude,” Plettl continued. “We’ve got great leadership. In the preseason, the older girls stepped up and really led by example and the younger ones came along. So we had great effort and improvements came.”
It is important to Plettl that the weight room is more of a place for the athletes to get away, a place where they like to go, yet can still achieve their goals.
“I can’t dictate playing time, so I try to set an atmosphere where they like to come in, but at the same time, get that hard work done,” he said. “It’s a balancing act. I like the game of basketball, but when it is all said and done, I really enjoy the relationships that I have the opportunity to build with athletes more than even watching the games or practices.”
The success of the 2003-04 FSU women’s basketball team is ultimately in the hands of the athletes themselves, but for Florida State head coach Sue Semrau and her staff, it’s just nice knowing there’s a group of people ready and willing to help and support them along the way.
“I can’t even put into words how important Dave, Kylie and Bob in their roles are to me,” Semrau said. “I don’t even think twice about the strength and conditioning aspect, the academic aspect or the training aspect of our program because these three are so excellent at what they do. They provide a dimension to this program that is not only excellence in their particular area, but they speak the same language that we speak on the court to the players. They are an extension of us. They are a friend. They are an ear. They are really comrades in the whole thing to not only our players, but the coaching staff as well.”