Strength and Conditioning Coach
Vanderbilt finished 19th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21, 2015. (Photos by Jerome Boettcher)
Emil Iankov, who joined the Commodore strength program as the associate strength and conditioning coach in 2014, has made an immediate impact on each of the programs he has trained.
In 2014-15 alone, Iankov helped usher the women’s tennis program to its first SEC and NCAA tournament titles, the women’s cross-country team to a regional championship, track and field’s Simone Charley to a bronze medal in the triple jump, and women’s golf to another NCAA Regional.
But it is not the hardware in the trophy case that drives Emil to push his student-athletes everyday in the weight room.
Like most who work in Vanderbilt University’s athletic department, he does it for the betterment of the student-athletes, and the relationships that are formed every day when they walk through his door.
“The student-athletes at Vanderbilt are highly intelligent,” said Iankov. “They have book smarts, and are all driven to succeed. When you have self-motivated students and self-motivated athletes the sky is the limit.”
Emil has always had a competitive drive of his own, one that was harnessed in his home country of Bulgaria in the military, as well as a national champion weight lifter in 1977, 1981 and 1982.
“The Military gave me discipline and organization, also it taught me to have a realistic view of the present and clear vision for the future. So when you’re realistic of the present you can set realistic visions for the training process and a realistic vision of the end result. The Olympic lifting in Bulgaria is done pretty much the same as in America, but I learned discipline and how to organize everything by day or hour, and how to prioritize training. I also learned how to visualize my goals and how to manage and achieve them without injury.”
When one watches the track, tennis, or cross-country teams work out with Iankov, it isn’t 15 athletes at the squat rack doing militaristic drills. Emil tries to examine each of his student-athletes individually or in groups of three to four, and puts them through exercises designed specifically for their sport.
“You really can maximize the effort of each individual versus when they are in a group. It’s easy for athletes to fall into the cracks when they work out in large groups. In my individual workouts there are no places to hide and there are clear lines between a request or assignment.
“The sport specific exercises are always tailored to mimic the motions in their sport and mimic the dynamic characteristics of the sport… whether it’s speed and quickness or slow and steady. But there are not many secrets left in strength and conditioning and fitness development so everybody knows what to do. Everybody is doing the common workouts, but how you’re doing it makes the difference. Different sports require different methods.”
Iankov came to Vanderbilt after spending over 20 year in Austin, Texas, working in a variety of roles around the city, with his last stop coming at the Austin Tennis Academy.
Before his arrival in Austin in 1993, Iankov served as an Olympic weightlifting coach for the Junior National Team at the Bulgarian Olympic Training Center.