Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com
This season Lizzie Bellinger, the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Washington D.C. Current has been a vital piece of the D.C. Current coaching staff. Without Lizzie and her conditioning program, D.C. Current athletes would be unable to excel at their craft because they would not have the stamina or the flexibility to perform on ultimate frisbee’s highest stage.
With Major League Ultimate making the safety and well-being of its players a top priority, Bellinger was a natural fit for her strength and conditioning role. Per D.C. Current head coach, Will Smolinski, he and Bellinger had been communicating since January of this year about getting guys in shape, injury prevention/treatment, getting players physically ready after traveling all day, warming up and cooling down.
Coach Smolinski noted how she stepped up in this role and worked closely with the trainers, addressing any concerns she had with the players and coaching staff. Smolinski emphasized Bellinger’s increased responsibility with the following point: “what she says and does is just as important as any of the strategy that the rest of the coaching staff is responsible for.”
Continuing along that same vein, Matt Dewhurst, the D.C. Current’ General Manager said, “Having a licensed physical therapist on staff just makes us that much better and healthy as a team. I think the fact we haven’t had much injury worries thus far is a tribute to her and her program.”
To keep the D.C. Current roster healthy, Bellinger has a specific, laid out warm-up and cool down routine the team follows on game day. This workout starts with a warm-up jog followed by plyometrics, sprint, and disc drills and concludes with a 10 minute cool down and extensive flexibility training.
Since the team travels fairly long distances for its away games, it is especially important to keep the players loose and flexible before and after travel. For these particular games, Bellinger likes to spend extra time on the warm-up and cool down. She also keys in on nutrition and hydration which is especially important on the road since many of us tend to minimize those things with the hustle and bustle of travel.
Bellinger’s path to her current position with the D.C. Current was an interesting road. Always the athlete, she studied flying trapeze and acrobatics at her local circus school in Minnesota. Her athletic endeavors didn’t stop there though. While attending the University of Pittsburgh, she played on the women’s ultimate team. In 2007, Bellinger moved to Baltimore where she taught flying trapeze for several years before enrolling in graduate school at the University of Maryland, getting her degree in physical therapy.
Some may wonder how Bellinger achieved her coaching status with the D.C. Current. Well, the simple answer is she is married to one of the players, Brent Bellinger, a four year veteran of the team. But the correct answer is her previous ultimate experience coupled with her extensive knowledge in the fields of orthopedics and sports medicine made her the right person for the job.
Bellinger had nothing but the highest praise of his wife’s tutelage. He said, “Having her as a resource (for the D.C. Current) to create personalized workouts based on the individual goals and physical needs of players has taken much of the guesswork out of training for the season.”
He also mentioned how it is invaluable she is available to diagnose and treat game injuries and develop training regiments to get injured players back on the field.
Previously, when he played with Truck Stop and she was completing her degree as a physical therapist, Bellinger and his teammates frequently sought her advice for injury treatment and prevention.
Not many of us have the opportunity to work with our spouses so closely but the Bellingers have been balancing their relationship and respective activities for years.
When asked the question about this personal and professional balance, Lizzie said, “It started when we were acrobatic balancing partners performing in the Baltimore and D.C. area and teaching together at the Trapeze School New York in Washington D.C.”
Interestingly enough, though she is a D.C. Current coach, their time spent together in this arena is not as personal. Bellinger noted this when she said, “…you work less closely together on the team than we did standing on each other’s shoulders in front of a live audience.”
Even though Bellinger works hard to keep the players healthy, she also works with sports medicine patients at her physical therapy practice in Timonium and still finds time to connect with her circus roots by teaching circus classes part time in Baltimore.
Lizzie Bellinger has broken into a field where there is not a large female presence and when asked what advice she would give for a young woman or girl who is looking to follow in a career path like hers, she said “dream big, and then work your tail off.”