Will Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald be the first college football coach to sleep his team's way to a national bowl game?
Maybe. Already, the team is 3-0 heading into this weekend and averaging 43 points a game. And Fitzgerald's nap-and-slumber strategy may be ensuring his players are at their peak every time they step onto the field.
This year for the the first time, the football coach had his team undergo a scientific sleep assessment, reports the New York Times, and he's adjusting schedules and mandating nap times to get the optimum amount of sleep time for his players.
Reports the Times:
Emma Adam, a Northwestern professor and an expert on sleep in adolescents and young adults, said she had seen individuals log and study their own sleep patterns, but she has never seen an assessment done on this big a group of athletes.
“What they’re doing is taking existing sleep research and translating it into a program designed for their athletes that they hope will improve not only athletic performance, but also a whole bunch of other things,” Adam said. “Sleep has effects on cognition, your attention, your memory, your mood, your metabolism, your appetite — it affects so many different things.”
Fitzgerald, a 1993 graduate of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, took the helm of the football program in 2006 at 31 years of age, making him the youngest Division I head coach in history. He's since been inducted into the College Sports Hall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
His tweaking of players' sleep schedules started last year, and prompted jokes among some. But Fitzgerald has more wins than any other Northwestern football coach in history — and that's opening some eyes.
“Through all the things that you have to do as a coach to try to help your guys perform at a high level and peak at the right time, we’re always trying to find ways to improve what we’re doing and what we’re teaching,” Fitzgerald told the New York Times, “and this is kind of the new frontier.”
If Fitzgerald's sleep strategy puts Northwestern at the top of the Big 10 standings, a spot in the Sweet Dreams Hall of Fame may be in order.