Clarksville, Ark.-University of the Ozarks named Suzanna Gardner as the Strength and Conditioning Coach, a new position added to the department, Athletics Director Jimmy Clark released Wednesday (July 17).
Gardner has served as a part time Strength and Conditioning Coach for the competitive cheer, women's soccer and wrestling teams at Ozarks since 2016. She has a vast range of experience consulting and training professional, Olympic, collegiate and high school athletes. Her decades of combined coaching, competing, education, and commitment to excellence have helped successfully improve performance at every level throughout her career.
"We are incredibly fortunate to hire someone like Suzanna to build our strength and conditioning program from the ground up," said Clark. "She has a diverse background and extensive experience working with high performance athletes. We believe Coach Gardner will take us to another level in terms of injury prevention, long term health and maximizing our athletes' potential in their respective sports. She is a master motivator and a dynamic person. We are thankful to have her on staff."
As a strength and conditioning specialist, her training is based in bodyweight movements, basic barbell strength and kettlebells.
"I am humbled and honored to be part of something new," said Gardner. "I am super excited to get started. I understand the work it will take, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I appreciate the trust from everyone. And, I want to establish a connection with our student-athletes because in addition to teaching them how to do things correctly in the athletic realm, they need to see me as someone they can trust."
Gardner will emphasize consistency with her student-athletes.
"I want consistent attendance from our student-athletes," she said. "My number one rule is being there. We will co-train with teams. I believe this will develop unity among our programs and student-athletes. I want to train athleticism through various means including body weight movements, basic gymnastics, unilateral training using kettlebells and dumbbells, weight lifting and power lifting. I want to utilize them all. These are platforms that can be used in all sports."
Prior to Ozarks, Gardner was the Director of Training and Sports Performance at Soul Ruckus Athletics in Katy, Texas, for five years.
"I want to maximize our student-athletes' abilities at whatever sport they compete in," she said. "I can elevate the intensity based on when they are in season and their current activity. We want their bodies to be sustainable as a student-athletes as well as after their playing careers. I have found that nutrition is one of the most difficult things to change. I want to pick up the worst nutrition habit and start from there. It will be a step-by-step process. It is my job to find the one issue that is affecting their performance negatively and replace it with something that is actually useful. Then, it is up to the athletes to show how much are they are willing to give up to complete a goal."
A native of Uzbekistan, Gardner was a consultant for the Kazakhstan women's national wrestling team, where she served as the strength and conditioning coach for wrestlers competing in the world championships. Additionally, she trained wrestlers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and South Korea at the KAZ Olympic Training Center.
A World-Class Judoka, Gardner achieved the rank of 3rd Dan (3rd Degree Black Belt) and represented Uzbekistan as a World Team member in the 57kg weight category. She won bronze in the Judo Asian Championships. She is a certified Sports Performance Coach and has a certification from USA Weightlifting as a Level II Weightlifting Coach. She also holds certifications in Movement Pro Mobility and Hardstyle Kettlebell Instruction.
The multilingual Gardner earned her bachelor's degree in Physical Education and Coaching from Chiu University. Gardner and her husband, LeRoy, the head men's wrestling coach, are the parents of one son.