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Athletes say goodbye to much-loved strength coach

 It would be difficult to find a Carleton athlete who didn’t admire Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Robert Barrett, whose persistent enthusiasm was infectious to anyone who set foot in the weight room at Laird Stadium over the past three years. 

Coach Barrett pictured in the Stadium weight room in 2017.
Photo: Kayla Rudess

Early last week, Coach Barrett informed Carleton athletes that Friday would be his last day at Carleton. “I will be relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan,” he announced, “where I will take on the role of Head Strength Coach at Davenport University.” 

Carleton athletes reacted somberly to the news and reflected on the positive energy Barrett consistently provided in the weightroom. During his three years as a strength and conditioning coach at Carleton, Barrett served countless student-athletes across a variety of sports, including football, soccer, baseball, track and field, volleyball and basketball. 

Athletes always looked forward to Barrett’s thoroughly planned and organized weightlifting sessions. Unlike many traditional strength coaches, Barrett made a point to bring everyone together at the beginning of each lifting session to explain the day’s exercises along with their functionalities and how they would translate directly to athletic competition. 

Time is precious for student-athletes at Carleton, who oftentimes find themselves desperately balancing the strenuous demands of intercollegiate sports with a rigorous liberal arts course load. Barrett understood this, and deliberately ensured every minute counted in the weightroom. 

“I really enjoyed how prepared he was. Being responsible for that many programs, you have to be extremely organized and efficient. Whether it was with his tablet, our personal lifting cards, or the physical location of the weights, it seemed like he was always forward-thinking,” said Junior Beau Nelson, a wide-receiver on the Knights football team. 

Barrett applied his forward-thinking attitude to reorganize the weightroom this fall in order to follow COVID-19 guidelines and provide athletes with an opportunity to continue a somewhat normal weight training regimen. Ultimately, this involved creating circuit-based lifting plans to maximize efficiency during shortened lifting periods. 

“I really appreciate what Coach Barrett did to get us back in the weight room despite a lot of restrictions. By separating our lifts into intensive minute-long circuits, he ensured that we were still being pushed physically and mentally in the weight room, even if our lifts only lasted 30 minutes” said Will Irons, another member of the football team’s wide-receiver corps. 

“I was always amazed at how much Barrett had on his plate. Sometimes it appeared like he was doing the job of multiple strength coaches at once,” Irons added. In addition to planning and leading separate lifts for each athletic team, Barrett was responsible for navigating the academic schedule of each athlete on a term-by-term basis to accommodate them with lifting times that wouldn’t interfere with classes. 

This fall, that amounted to a particularly difficult task considering certain limits placed on the number of athletes who could access the varsity weight room at any given time. As a result, Barrett was tasked with forming numerous lifting pods within each team while being considerate of individual class schedules. Nevertheless, Barrett handled it like a pro and made sure every athlete was accounted for. At a larger Division II school like Davenport, Barrett can expect to receive more assistance with such basic administrative tasks. 

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of his job at Carleton, Barrett did not hesitate to emphasize the personal relationships he built with Carleton student-athletes. “For me, the most rewarding part was to see everyone grow into well-rounded and confident adults who are ready to take on greater challenges,” he said. 

“I think Coach Barrett was able to connect with Carleton athletes like few coaches have been able to. He really fit the culture by balancing seriousness with fun, and through that approach he built common ground for respect and appreciation,” explained Nelson. 

Members of the Carleton football team met with Coach Barrett one last time as he cleared his office on Friday afternoon. On his way down to the stadium, Nelson realized something: 

“I remembered all the early mornings I spent with Coach Barrett in the weightroom. He was always a pillar of consistency: showing up for those early morning lifts, carrying forth a positive attitude, and always providing us with challenging workouts. I’m really going to miss that consistency, and I’m going to miss how easy he made it to go to 7 a.m. February lifts in negative 4 degree weather. Okay, maybe not that easy, but he will nonetheless be severely missed.” 

The Athletic Department will begin its search for a new Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, but replacing Coach Barrett will be a tall order. In the meantime, varsity coaches will direct and supervise team lifts for their respective teams.

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