Clay Lavigne, a 2019 exercise science graduate from Southern Arkansas University, has been hired as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach at Troy University in Troy, AL.
It was his third position in Division I schools in the past year. He spent the summer of 2018 interning for the University of Wyoming and spring and summer of 2019 interning at Mississippi State University.
“I’ve been blessed to intern with two fantastic football and strength and conditioning programs starting with the University of Wyoming in 2018,” Lavigne, a native of Star City, said.
“Going into my senior year at SAU, I decided to go travel 16.5 hours to Laramie, Wyoming to start my career in the field under newly-hired Coach Ben Lannacchione. In the months I was there, I learned how to think critically and figure out problems with a sense of urgency.”
Lavigne said he learned the mindset and intensity, as well as the attention to detail, necessary to work in strength and conditioning.
“I went back to SAU for the fall semester to finish up a few classes and then it was to Mississippi State for the spring and summer semesters,” Lavigne said. At Mississippi State, he was able to apply and grow what he learned in Wyoming. “I grew in more ways than I could count,” he said of his experience in Mississippi.
The experience taught him sport science and “the why behind everything we do.” He learned to command a group of athletes “to get them to do things they didn’t even know were possible.”
Lavigne was a three-year varsity starter for the Star City football program. “I had some of the best coaches in that program that influenced me greatly,” he said. “I came to SAU on a late visit in June and it really did feel like home. I visited a lot of other schools in the GAC, but none was as friendly, helpful or welcoming as SAU.”
His education experience at SAU was a period of growth. “All the professors I had were patient, helpful and understanding,” he said. As a resident assistant for SAU Housing, Lavigne worked with Resident Director Haley Burrow for three years.
“She has been one of the most inspirational and helpful people in my life and served as a great mentor for me and countless others,” he said. “She taught me more than I could ever imagine.”
Burrow is assistant director of student activities for Greek Life.
As with most careers, Lavigne said, coaching “is all about connections and building your network.” While with the staff at Mississippi State, he was fortunate to attend a Hammer Strength Clinic in Atlanta, GA. There he met Head Strength & Conditioning Coach SaJason Finley.
“We talked for a while, and then a couple of months later, I found out he had an opening for a graduate assistant.” Finley spoke with Corey Bichey, head strength and conditioning coach at Mississippi State, and “three days later I was in Troy, Alabama, looking for an apartment,” Lavigne said of his move to Troy University.
He is pursuing his masters in exercise science at Troy. “Along with training the healthy guys assigned to me, I program all training modifications for those with injuries and work closely with the training staff to successfully rehabilitate athletes and get them back on the field,” he said.
He also heads hydration testing and assists with nutrition to ensure that athletes “are fueling themselves properly so they are ready to go on game day.”
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