From his seasons in NFL training camps with the Colts, Jets and Chiefs, to playing in NFL Europe for the Scottish Claymores, to his years with Lifetime Fitness consulting to the Timberwolves, Steve Rosga has worked with world class athletes and coaches. So, from among Peyton Manning, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Kevin Love and scores of others, which of them provides the root inspiration that Rosga brings to his role as a strength and conditioning coach at Saint Thomas Academy?
None of them.
Instead, Rosga regales you with tales of E.J. “Doc” Kreis, his own strength and conditioning coach at the University of Colorado, where Rosga was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist as a defensive back on a top-10 team in the mid ‘90s.
“As it relates to how I operate with the boys, it’s a philosophy. Going into my senior year, the summer training program, it was our swan song, our all-or-nothing year, and Doc had these shirts printed for us for training, and they simply said – and this is something I’ve said to the boys over and over again – ‘One Way Every Day.’ That is something that I have made even more of a priority in my life since my dad passed away in December. The idea is that no matter where you were yesterday, it doesn’t matter, because you have today.”
Then, with characteristic joyous energy, Rosga tells a story. “The story that resonates most for me would be that summer, when we were in the middle of training and Doc has us do our pre-testing, a distance test, and then we had to do 16 40s (40-yard sprints) at race pace. It’s just grueling. It’s in the middle of the summer heat in Boulder. As a culmination, we all went to a water park, probably upward of 70 guys with some of the worst tan lines and big, white bellies on all our linemen, just showing up in all our beauty. We were so wide we were plugging the water slides.”
Rosga, who serves at the Academy via its partnership with Twin Cities Orthopedics, brings that same mix of intensity and fun to his work with Cadets. However, he is quick to remind, “It all goes back to that shirt. I still have that shirt. I wear it once in a while, and I’ve had a number of conversations with guys here, where I’ve adapted ‘One Way Every Day’ to include my prayer that I said before every single game in college and in the NFL. When I’d come out behind the buffalo, I’d always go to the corner of the end zone and take a knee and thank God for the opportunity to be out there. Then I would recite Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Emanating from that background and philosophy is a teaching style that starts with Rosga “being a command-the-room guy. I have a loud voice, so it’s pretty easy for me to do that, but I also have the music cranking. My environment is high energy. But I’m never going to have these kids do something that I won’t. The guys feed off of that.”
At the same time, he focuses on safety and precision of movement, keeping written on the board “Stability creates mobility.” He explained, “You need to move your body right before you worry about putting any resistance on it, before you start banging and clanging.”
Although Rosga’s background centers on football, going back to his days as an all-state player at Cretin-Derham Hall, since arriving at the Academy in September, he also has worked closely with the basketball, swimming, Nordic, and tennis programs. Rosga also provides strength and performance coaching to all Cadets via social media and Zoom during the Coronavirus crisis and is planning an elective for the fall. He even works with faculty and staff who wander into his weight room and envisions someday servicing the entire Saint Thomas Academy community, including parents.
Part of his motivation stems from how that community treated him, just three months into his role on campus, when his father passed. “Now that I’m on the inside, I get to see the true brotherhood and how much these kids mean to each other,” he said. “At my dad’s funeral, probably 40-plus Cadets showed up in their dress A’s, and a number of coaches, parents, grandparents, and siblings of Cadets, all to pay their respects to my mom and introduce themselves to my siblings.”
The community, of course, also embraced his wife, Brianna, daughters, Ciana and Louisa, and son, Vincent. So, Rosga said, “My overall goal is to take the community that has taken me in and make it healthier. I’m not just here to train the athletes. I want to serve not even just every Cadet, but the whole Saint Thomas community. Health is wealth, and what they’ve provided me from a community standpoint, I want to return.”