Former UF soccer player Daniela Sanchez faced a scary dilemma when she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee at the end of her high school career at Coral Gables High.
Sanchez had already signed with UF at the time of her injury and arrived on campus uncertain if her past success could ever be duplicated. The first knee surgery didn’t seem to work. The second left her equally frustrated as she battled to remain in shape.
“You’ve heard of the freshman 15, it was more like the freshman 25 for me,’’ Sanchez said.
That’s when Sanchez remembers UF assistant strength and conditioning coach Karin Werth pulling her aside one day and asking if she really wanted to get healthy and maximize her potential. Sanchez said yes, and Werth outlined a detailed plan. More than that, Werth spent countless hours in the weight room, in the swimming pool, and on the field pushing Sanchez.
Sanchez also had to cut out those chocolate chip cookies she liked so much.
“I had never had an injury like that before,’’ Sanchez said. “She got my body right. She turned me from a club soccer player into a Division I soccer player.’’
Sanchez redshirted her freshman year and finally made her UF debut the next season, starting 60 games from 2004-07 for the Gators. She remains active in the game today as a coach in the Gainesville Soccer Alliance and credits Werth with helping her overcome the most serious hurdle of her athletic career.
A former UF swimmer who graduated in 1988, Werth’s work at UF since returning to Gainesville in 1997 will be recognized on Thursday night in Kansas City when she is awarded the highest honor in her profession: title of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa).
“This is an incredible honor for Karin,’’ CSCCa executive director Chuck Stiggins said. “She is truly a model of an outstanding strength and conditioning professional.’’
Werth works primarily with the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams. After the Gators knocked off No. 2-ranked Northwestern last month for the biggest win in program history, UF lacrosse coach Amanda O’Leary, unprompted, plugged Werth’s work with the team.
“You can’t ask for someone that’s better,’’ O’Leary said. “She makes us go. I credit her with having our team in the best physical condition.’’
“It’s just neat how that team has come along,’’ Werth said of the second-year program. “My approach was to just make sure they understand every detail of every part of the training. I made them understand the basics of discipline and commitment and teamwork. They all had to understand that when they train as a team, they all count. You just can’t take a day off.’’
UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh voices the same sentiments toward Werth’s impact on her program.
“We are so fortunate to have one of nation's elite strength coaches working with our team,’’ Burleigh said. “The fitness program Karin has put together prepares our team physically and also builds their mental toughness. She is always finding new ways to challenge our team in both body and mind, which prepares the Gators for the challenges of a game.’’
After her swimming career at UF was over, Werth worked as a firefighter and paramedic for the City of Miami. She later developed an interest in returning to athletics and returned to UF as an assistant women’s swim coach for a year before moving full-time to the strength and conditioning program.
She will be honored on Thursday night at a ceremony at the Downtown Kansas City Marriott. Several of her UF colleagues will be on hand at the CSCCa National Convention, including Mickey Marotti, head strength and conditioning coach for the UF football team.
Werth is appreciative of the honor, one that the CSCCa has bestowed on less than 100 strength and conditioning coaches from around the country.
“I just really love what I do,’’ Werth said. “I’m just so lucky to get to work at such a great place. If I can help these young athletes who come in and get the most out of their college career, that’s an awesome feeling.’’