Dan Riley’s Weight Training And Disco Ball

In the latest interview with head strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright for Redskins Nation, he discusses his coaching mentor Dan Riley.

Riley was the Redskins’ strength and conditioning coach during the team’s glory days, serving for 21 seasons from 1981-2001.  Before coming to Washington, Riley was a dynamic strength coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions.  During his four years at the school, the team never lost more than four games in a season, and went 3-1 in bowl games.

When Joe Gibbs was hired as the head coach in Washington, Riley interviewed for the position, and brought his “High Intensity Training” to the professional ranks.  His system for workouts targeted specific muscles and worked them out to the point of exhaustion.  It was the style behind Don Shula’s ’72 Dolphins, and it helped build the Redskins’ 1980s dynasty.

Certainly the team’s success is a direct result of the right players in the right scheme.  But it shouldn’t be ignored how much Riley and his system prepared the players’ to perform.

Coach Wright also owes Riley a debt of gratitude for giving him his start as a strength coach with the Houston Texans.  After eight seasons of working under Riley with the Texans, Wright took the top job with the Redskins.

Funny how that works.

As you can tell from Wright’s description, Riley was a high-octane, borderline eccentric guy.  Sadly, he coached in the era before the team blog, because he used to have a disco ball hanging from the ceiling of the weight room at Redskins Park:

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As much as I would love to see a disco ball hanging over the team’s bench press, Wright has a good approach to his weight room accessories:

“I’ve got a little Dan in me…but I have not gotten to that point yet.  I think when you win games and you win championships–like we plan on doing–I think we can be a little more crazy when you do that.”

Over his long tenure with the team, Riley also had the reputation as a friendly face at Redskins Park.  In addition to being Wright’s professional mentor, he also reinforced the personal touch:

“If there’s one thing I took from Dan, it’s how you treat players, and how you treat people.  Whether it’s in the organization, whether it’s someone here late at night cleaning up, he just treated people great.  I saw him doing that, and really tried to be that same type of coach.”

Riley’s system had a profound impact on developing the last great teams in Washington.  Now, through the work of his pupil, his system has a chance to shape the next generation of Redskins stars.

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