By Sarah Turner, Sports editor
With the summer departure of Montevallo’s first-ever strength and conditioning coach, Brad Bowen, the University’s athletic department had to work fast. Who would replace someone who had made an impact on so many UM athletes’ lives? It turned out they didn’t have to look very far.
Blake Klotz was just 34 miles up the road, working as the Assistant Director of Athletic Performance for the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s women’s basketball team. He had spent 12 years at UAB strengthening various Blazer athletic programs, but Klotz’s undergraduate degree had little to do with athletic performance.
“I went to school to be a zookeeper,” he said. Klotz attended Murray State University in Murray, Ky. just 45 minutes away from his hometown in Illinois.
His passion for animals drove him to pursue a job as a zookeeper out of high school, earning a degree from Murray State in 2008. But, jobs were difficult to find, and he wasn’t interested in moving to a major city.
So, it was back to the drawing board. Purely out of coincidence, shortly after graduation, Klotz met Murray State’s strength coach and started volunteering in the mornings in the weight room.
He was also in a personal fitness journey of his own at that point in his life, and said those goals coincided with one another.
Klotz loved the community that helping out in the weight room gave him. “I was never a part of athletics when I was at Murray State, so then I was, and it was just really cool,” he said.
His volunteering eventually led to an internship where Klotz found a new sense of purpose.
“I love being the center of attention, in a humble servant way.” Coaching allowed him to be the life of the party, while getting eyes on him and helping athletes to gain a competitive edge.
There’s a spectrum of interest in weightlifting in collegiate athletics. Some athletes love it significantly more than others, but “I always thought it was fun to think, ‘Man, what if I can get 100% of buy-in and just have an awesome workout,’” said Klotz.
Once the internship was up, Klotz knew for sure that strength coaching was something he wanted to continue doing. Klotz spent that spring emailing every Division I school in the country looking for a job opportunity. He sent “probably close to four hundred emails, and UAB called.”
In the fall of 2011, he started a new role as a graduate assistant with the UAB strength and conditioning staff. At first, he was worried he had made the wrong decision.
“When I got to UAB, it was trying to find its way in a big landscape,” said Klotz, “Everything was kind of old and run-down, and things just weren’t like it was [at Murray State].”
But, he stuck it out and graduated with his master’s degree in 2013, which turned out to be a pivotal year for him in his career.
UAB softball had gone to the super regional in the NCAA Softball Women’s World Series, and Klotz had been coaching the team that year. “I was fortunate to be a part of that in kind of a small role,” he explained.
“It springboarded my career,” said Klotz, “after that, that summer UAB administration hired me on full-time.”
He spent the next 10 years coaching various Blazer athletic teams, but in his last couple of years, he was looking for something more.
One thing he really appreciated about his job was helping young interns and strength coaches learn the craft and try to get their first job after spending time with him. He was also tired of the politics that come with being involved in athletics at a Division I institution.
So, when the UM position opened up over the summer, Klotz was contacted about an interview. He was hesitant at first.
“You do something for so long and you have a system, you kind of get nervous, but I was willing to take a leap of faith.”
The interview immediately sealed it for him.
“I knew Montevallo was a place for me to go and grow as a person and as a strength coach.”
He also felt that the Falcon athletic community was extremely special, and hadn’t seen that anywhere else. “This one actually felt like other sports wanted to help other sports be successful,” he said.
While the jump from Division I to Division II coaching isn’t very common, Klotz has made an immediate impact on the program from Old Gym with his years of experience in the field.
“Regardless of the division, everybody wants to win,” he said, “there’s no difference there. There’s championships here, there’s championships there, and last time I checked, we’re all trying to do that.”