By Anneke Banda
Head strength and conditioning coach, Angela Dendas-Pleasant, has been with the Pioneers since 2013. Not only is she the first strength and conditioning coach LC has ever had, but she is also the only full-time female strength coach in the Northwest Conference.
This past June, Dendas-Pleasant, commonly known as Coach Ange, graduated from the 2018 NCAA Women Coaches Academy. Later in September, she was announced as a member of the WeCOACH Coaches Council, where she is the first strength and conditioning coach on the council. Dendas-Pleasant was hired at LC in July 2013 and since then the athletic programs and campus facilities have seen substantial improvements. She works with a wide range of students and faculty, all who have varying levels of ability.
Dendas-Pleasant commented on her training goal of the year-round development of the sports teams.
“We lift for performance and injury prevention,” Dendas-Pleasant said. “That’s my main goal, to increase performance. Then, injury prevention becomes that secondary piece because it’s vital to your performance. You can’t perform at a high level injured.”
The support that Dendas-Pleasant gives to many student athletes does not go unnoticed. Volleyball player Kayla Valdez ’21 reflected on her growth in strength and conditioning since her first day on campus.
“I was nervous coming into college with minimal understanding about lifting, knowing that it plays a significant role in playing a sport at the next level. I remember feeling lost and confused during our first lift,” Valdez said. “But then Coach Ange stepped in and told me that it was okay to feel lost and that it will take time to get the techniques down. After she said that it gave me a sense of relief. Every lift since then coach Ange has worked with me to learn how to do the different workouts. I have learned so much from her last year and continue to today.”
Valdez also noticed how her training in the gym translated to her experiences on the court.
“[Dendas-Pleasant] has helped me improve my agility on the court and my health overall. I can honestly say there has been a great improvement on how I move on the court from last year to this year,” Valdez said. “Coach Ange is always asking me about my health and as a strength and conditioning coach, it is her job to make sure that we are healthy, however, I know she just genuinely cares for us athletes. Coach Ange is someone that will push you because of the potential she sees in you.”
An important thing to note about Dendas-Pleasant is that her job does not only apply to student-athletes. Rather, she is also an instructor in the physical education department, coaching weight training classes any student can take. Dendas-Pleasant has taught both Weight Training for Women and Weight Training 101.
“For those classes, the goal is to introduce kids to the benefits of resistance training and how to resistance train,” Dendas-Pleasant said. “I follow what I tell our sports teams, we are all about the T.E.A.M. which stands for Technique, Effort, Attitude, and Mental toughness. That goes for the athlete to the non-athlete.”
One of her goals is to ensure that every student who wants to utilize the weight room feels comfortable in doing so, but she also acknowledges that this does not come easy for everyone. In order to make this a more of a reality, during Weight Training for Women the weight room is shut down to make it less intimidating.
“If you go to a 24 Hour Fitness or a Planet Fitness, you’re not going to find, on average, a lot of women resistance training, and it’s a huge benefit health wise,” Dendas-Pleasant said. “So to be able to offer a class like that and expand it has allowed students to gain confidence, get familiar, and understand how to do things makes it impactful for their lives long term.”
Dendas-Pleasant’s presence is also felt in other ways. She goes beyond simply coaching students through strength training and also focuses on training student interns who have an interest in a potential athletic training future. Matt Odell ’19 is one of those students.
“Even though, I was a previous student-athlete, playing football for three years, I regrettably didn’t try to get to know Coach Ange on a deeper level,” Odell said. “I just wanted to follow the scripted lifts and play football, but now working with her I have developed a deep appreciation for Coach Ange and her work with Lewis & Clark strength and conditioning program.” “This relationship is constantly growing because we feed off of each other, I will ask her about specific lifts that I have not seen before and try to understand the techniques to achieve her envisioned goal. I am always learning new and different approaches to hit major muscle groups that facilitate the student-athletes needs to perform to their best ability on the field. I feel like when we go over my questions about the lifts she enjoys breaking it down not just for me but to understand how to teach these lifts to others.”
In regards to some of the biggest changes Dendas-Pleasant has seen occur during her time here, she pointed out the upgrades the athletic facilities have received along with the college’s commitment to providing the best experience for their students.
“What’s been great about my position is that I have been able to advocate for those changes along with our administration within the athletic department,” Dendas-Pleasant said. “I think when you have people working together to increase the overall experience for the student-athlete, everybody is going to benefit eventually.”
After hearing the praise many students have given Dendas-Pleasant and considering her overall commitment to bettering the LC community, it’s easy to see why she was named Coach of the Year at the 2018 Excellence in Lewis & Clark’s Year of Sports awards banquet. Her dedication to her students has not gone unnoticed and will continue to be appreciated in the years to come.