Editor Letter From The Editor
Ultimate Athlete Magazine
Dear UA readers, With over half the season under their belts, the Tri-State area’s collegiate athletes are nearing the apex of the fall season. Teams are dealing with the fatigue and wear that began in the hottest months of summer, but that must be put out of mind as playoff berths and championship hopes hinge on their performance during the next few weeks. As we prepare for the most exciting part of the season, UA reﬂects on the drama that unfolded thus far. The Dowling volleyball team has made an unlikely run towards another conference championship despite beginning the season with a new head coach and with brand new players in positions of leadership. Down the road at Stony Brook, the lacrosse program made an enormous splash and demonstrated a commitment to improving the program by signing marquis head coach Joe Spallina from Adelphi University. His talent lured ﬁve of his star players to follow him, totally changing the face of the Seawolves—and Panthers—women’s lacrosse teams. Stony Brook will now have enormous pressure this fall and winter to prepare to excel come spring. Despite the adjustments the women’s lacrosse program must make, Adelphi athletics continue to roll. A ramped-up schedule for the highly skilled men’s soccer team proved to be challenging, but they are, again, in position to win a conference championship. Improvement against powerful teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East are a step towards national prestige for Panthers and a step in the right direction. In Brooklyn, a new men’s soccer program was founded on a collective passion for soccer and the unity of a diverse collection of players, some of which never planned on playing collegiately. A goal by one of the six female players (three of which start), was the climax of the inaugural season and the culmination the team’s diligence in the face of unparalleled adversity. Read these stories as well as many others inside our Fall Volume II edition. Again, continue to look for new editions of Ultimate Athlete as the fall season turns into the home stretch as we continue to bring you the most intriguing storylines as they develop. All the best,
PUBLISHER/CEO EXECUTIVE EDITOR SENIOR SPORTS EDITOR SENIOR PRODUCER SENIOR ART DIRECTOR SPORTS EDITOR GRAPHIC DESIGNERS
MEDIA CORRESPONDENT DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL MEDIA DISTRIBUTION MANAGER
Paul Corace N.J. Comanzo Jose Luis Covarrubias Jessica Peters Jeyathas Ponnuthurai Mike Browning Kaitie Monda Adriana Kijko Nicholas Herms Josh Rosenman Mike McInerney Mike Raimo Nadine O’Farrell Taylor Woods Richard Brooks
Mike Browning Gene Morris Dan Cappello Jerry Delpriore Wesley Sykes Dr. Jay Granat Joe Pietaro Mike Mejia, cscs Matt Sugam Ken Ryan CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Morgan Harrison Adil Borluca Matt Sugam Rutgers University Columbia Athletics Hofstra Athletics St. Joe’s Athletics
Mike Browning College Sports Editor
Morgan Harrison COVER ARTWORT
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ultimateathletemagazine.com ultimate Ultimate Athlete Magazine (ISSN 1931-5295) is published 12 times a year by Ultimate Athlete, Inc., 40 Woodbine Avenue, Northport, New York 11768. All contents copyright 2009 by Ultimate Athlete, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use in whole or part of the content without the prior written consent of Ultimate Athlete, Inc. is strictly prohibited. All logos and trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. Although the writers and the publisher have exhaustively researched all sources to ensure the accuracy and the completeness of the information contained in this publication, we assume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. The opinions expressed in all materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Ultimate Athlete, Inc or Long Island’s Ultimate Athlete Magazine.
FALL 2011 Volume II
S T CONTEN
nts Featur Features
12 Adelphi A step up
18 Hofstra The Hunted
24 St. Johns
Talk of the town
28 St. Joeâ€™s
New program takes off
42 Stony Brook
Joe Spallina and friends
46 Columbia Focused up
50 Pro Corner First Things First
54 Sports Psychology Balancing Act
58 UA Training Are you Ready..?
SHUTTER SPEED >>>
Senior wide receiver Matt Brebi slips in front of a cluster of Blue Hose defenders to haul in a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half as time expired in the Seawolves 42-24 rout of presbyterian.
Photo by Morgan Harrison
Photo by Morgan Harrison
Adelphiâ€™s Mauricio Mora advances the ball up the field during a game against Hardwick College.
HEADED TOWARD VICTORY
Adelphi University Men’s Soccer
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By : Ken Ryan | Photos By : Morgan Harrison
Defending Conference Champion Panthers Look for Three-Peat
The Adelphi University’s men’s soccer team came into the 2011 season with lofty expectations, a conﬁdence fostered by back-to-back Atlantic Conference championships and a stable of quality returning players. To prepare them for conference play, ﬁfthyear coach Carlo Acquista put together a rugged non-conference schedule to test his team against some of the nation’s elite competition. With two games each against teams from the toughest leagues in the nation--the Atlantic Coast Conference and The Big East—the Panthers struggled early. “Every year we try and upgrade matches to compete at the highest level,” Acquista said. Acquista, who said the Panthers possess the weapons to again compete at a high level, added, “We expect to keep building a winning mentality every year and build on last year’s success. Our goals do not change as a program.” This year’s squad faces six opponents who were ranked in the top-10 in their respective regions at the end of the 2010 poll. Included in this group are three from the North Atlantic region — Loyola of Maryland, Marist, Iona and the University of Maryland--all of which defeated the Panthers within the ﬁrst month of the season. The whole season started slowly, as they went 2-4-1 before defeating Houston Baptist University, 1-0, in the Atlantic Conference opener. Omar Edwards’ goal with 22 seconds remaining in regulation gave Adelphi the win. “I felt that we needed to compete with the best to achieve greatness,” Acquista said. “Maryland is arguably the premier college soccer program in the country.” The team continued to fall to their next to their next ACC opponent, Clemson University. 13 WWW.ULTIMATEATHLETEMAGAZINE.COM
Despite their disappointing results against the nation’s best, the Panthers are still undefeated in-conference and poised to win their third-straight conference title. To do so, they are going to need strong performances from key players: Senior Brendan Cullinan, juniors Henderson Hewes, Domenico Parrelli, Steven Rivera and sophomores Nicholas Costa, Michael Guerra and Aliyu Isa are the returning starters at midﬁeld. Other than some impressive newcomers, Acquista said, “We will have a great mix of ﬂare, technique and speed for this coming year.” Scoring goals was a weakness for Adelphi last year, but the Panthers had a lot come back this fall with ﬁrst-team AllConference and second-team NSCAA AllRegion honoree Issa Tall, who has three points this season, leading the attack. “Issa will be surrounded with some balance in the attack,” Acquista said. “We have built this year’s team around speed and technique. We are expecting another breakout year from him.” A solid supporting cast includes veterans Brandon Stoneham, who is leading the Panthers with seven points, James Diana, 14 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
Omar Edwards and Steven Kocal. Acquista recruited Swedish freshman Adrian Sundquist and Andres Torres of Connecticut to add speed and versatility to this unit. Defensively, the Panthers return a reliable nucleus that allowed just 14 goals in 19 games last year. Leading the way is senior Mauricio Mora, who was the ASC Tournament co-MVP for defense, and a ﬁrst-team All-Conference selection in 2010. “Mauricio has developed into a top 100 senior pro prospect this coming year,” Acquista said. “With his attacking ﬂare as an outside back, he keeps his opponents on their toes.” Another ﬁrst-team, all-ASC selection is senior Dan Larenius who joins Mora in the backﬁeld. “Dan has blossomed into a smart and steady center back and has created a great partnership with Mauricio and his back line,” Acquista said. Senior keeper Kyle Blackmer, a backup last year, will be trusted with the keeper duties. Blackmer did not allow a goal in 155:37 minutes of action last season. “Kyle has developed into a consistent and steady keeper,” the coach said.
With a solid nucleus and promising newcomers that have already faced the best the nation has to offer, Adelphi is prepared to make a run at their third straight conference crown.
By : Wesley Sykes | Photos By : Hofstra Athletics
Protecting the Lionâ€™s Share Hofstra women must stand their ground to repeat as Conference Champs 18 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
he hunter has become the hunted.
Last season, the Hofstra University women’s soccer team pursued and took down their opponents like the pride of lions that represent their school take down prey. Team by team fell to the ravenous squad on their way to a gleaming 19-3 record. After an unblemished 11-0 regular season, unparalleled in Colonial Athletic Association history, they continued to the NCAA tournament before losing to Boston College in the second round. Now, with targets paint-
ed on the back of their blue and gold jerseys, the Pride became the prey; in 2011, members of the CAA view a victory over Hofstra as a season-maker. The Pride, comprised of highly skilled and competitive players welcome the challenge, but are often overwhelmed by the level of competition they face on a regular basis. Despite their skills, their consistency has been their biggest flaw this season. When the team fails to show up, they are quickly exploited by an opponent that has had them
circled on their calendar for weeks. “As great as last season was, it’s almost a burden for us now,” sophomore keeper Emily Morphitis said. “We had this amazing season, now we have the targets on our backs. People want to beat us.” Expectations were reasonably high this season with skilled players returning equipped with NCAA tournament experience. Senior forward Laura Greene’s stellar offensive output--she is second in the CAA in goals (13) and points (27) while boasting four
multi-goal games, including a hat trick against Harvard on September 16-- assuages the sting caused by the departure of Selma Tarik and Tiffany Yovino. Brittany Butts and Courtney Breen are providing secondary scoring, helping Greene shoulder the offensive load. Greene knew she needed to step up her scoring after playing a secondary offensive role last year, mainly to the graduated Yovino. Now, Yovino, who scored 12 goals her senior season, is an assistant coach and has taken Greene under her wing. Greene attributes part of her success to Yovino’s individual drills, which honed her finishing skills as well as helped develop her propensity for setting up her teammates for goals.
Talent has not been an issue for this year’s team, but both physical and mental consistency have been fleeting. Their three early losses were all by a one-goal margin with two coming in extra time. Against James Madison University, the Pride squandered a 3-1 lead, giving up three unanswered goals over the final 15 minutes of the match. Riddiough’s post-game comments serve as an umbrella for the season. “For 75 minutes I think we performed very well – executing our game plan and the players giving everything,” she said. “Unfortunately we had some mental lapses.”
Hofstra head coach, Simon Riddiough, downplayed Greene’s success as it relates to the performance of the team, preferring to focus instead on the team as a whole.
Sophomore defender Brittany Farriella agreed with her coach on the team’s mental lapses. She feels that every aspect of their game is being compared to the 2010 season, which causes them to be too hard on themselves after a loss or bad play, eroding their effectiveness.
“We don’t need to sit here and talk about how good [Greene] is,” he said.” We know how good she is. We have to prepare as much mentally as physically. These girls are not going to let me down. They aren’t going to let this university down.”
Continuing to advance while sustaining damage is essential to survival as a predator. Deflating losses to James Madison and Texas Christian University in the Red Raider Invitational hurt, but nothing will hurt more than succumbing to defeat against teams the Pride
20 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
should beat. The Pride dropped four straight games by one goal, the first three to Delaware, Towson and George Mason, all teams bunched up with Hofstra behind CAA leader William and Mary. That’s why, for Riddiough, it’s about his team finding consistency to avoid let downs and embrace the everyday pressures of being a top-tier team. According to Riddiough, part of instilling that consistency is preparing the same way after a loss as a win. Riddiough’s stoic, even-keeled presence must rub off on his team win, lose or draw. “It’s never easy [preparing your team after a loss],” he said. “Even when you win it’s not easy. When you win, you want to keep the confidence going and don’t want to get complacent. When you lose, it’s an emotional letdown.” It would be a mistake to count out the hunted hunters, as the only thing more frightening than a hungry predator is one that’s been dismissed by its prey.
Photo by Adil Borluca
C. W. Post Sophomore and Native Hawaiian, Shayla Hixon loads up for a powerful server.
By : Dan Cappello | Photos By : Adil Borluca
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Painting the town red
St. John’s Soccer is forcing the Big Apple to take notice
esidents of the New York Tri-State Area have a wide range of professional sports teams to enjoy rooting for and rooting against.
But when it comes to college sports, well, there are limited options. None of them are elite such as the football programs at Ohio State and Texas, nor have they ever never been as dominant. Local colleges can only dream of garnering the national visibility and following that they do. The lack of major success of the local college football programs has prevented any college from wrangling a substantial fan base or viewership from the professional market. If there is one school that is doing everything possible to put metropolitan area college sports on the map, it has to be St. John’s University. Not only has the recent resurgence of the basketball program created a major buzz around town, the men’s soccer team is making a name for themselves throughout the country. The team hasn’t lost a game at home all season, increasing their home record to 6-0-2 after defeating DePaul University. With a 10-4-2 record, they have placed themselves among the elite men’s programs and are demanding the attention of soccer fans throughout the city. “It’s always good to have the spotlight on us,” said Jack Bennett, a junior mid-fielder who leads the team with 5 goals on the season. “We are trying to get as much support as we can.” After losing the first game of the season to a topranked Maryland, things quickly turned around for the Red Storm. They went on to win five of their next six games, outscoring their opponents 10-0—that’s six games without allowing a goal. “The streak gave good pressure to our forwards because the defense wasn’t giving up goals,” said goalkeeper Rafael Diaz, who was awarded with the Big East Goalkeeper of the Week accolades during the streak. “It gave the team confidence and good vibes and spirit.” Their remarkable streak came to an abrupt end in front of several thousand fans at the University of Connecticut. Their 2-0 loss was a setback, but not a major obstacle. The Red Storm went on to win their next two games, including
an impressive double-overtime win over Notre Dame. “We take every game as a game to a make a statement,” Diaz said. “The goal is to win a national championship. We want to improve as a team to achieve that goal in the end.” The Red Storm have struggled in their conference, however, only a one game over .500 (4-3) and with key losses to UCONN, Southern Florida and Villanova. With games remaining against neighboring rival Rutgers followed by Cincinatti, St. John’s can still turn things around before heading into post-season play. With their early season success, and high national ranking, the Red Storm will have high expectations from NYC fans. “If you don’t have the expectations you’re not going to be successful,” Bennett said, a native of England that transferred to St. John’s from Tyler Junior College in Texas. “We first need to defend and give up the least amount of goals possible and score the most goals possible.” Their road to a national title won’t be easy. Three of St. John’s four losses came from teams ranked ahead of them in the national polls, showing that their weaknesses have been hard to overcome by the better opponents. Maryland and UCONN sit at number one and two respectively, two teams that St. John’s couldn’t even score against. “We still have a lot of work to do,” said Diaz. “We want to improve our backs, get organized and be in top shape.” After bouncing back after being upset by Villanova, the final two games of the regular season mean everything if St. John’s hopes to create a lasting reputation as a New York City college program with national power.
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By : Mike Browning | Photos By : St. Joe’s Athletics
Together we stand, united we ball The St. Joe’s men’s soccer team has a unique look and is turning heads in its inaugural season 28 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
t wasn’t just a goal.
It wasn’t just a well-executed finish of a 2-on-1 that squelched the waning hopes of Webb College. It didn’t just cap off a 10-goal explosion from the Bears, sealing the first win of the season, the first in St. Joseph’s College men’s soccer history. When Daniela Semilia came down the right wing and sent a cross to Cynthia Gambino, who eﬃciently deposited it in the net, it wasn’t just the first goal scored by a woman in St. Joseph’s College men’s soccer history on the first assist registered by a woman—it was a triumph. The goal made headlines throughout New York and was a shining moment for the team, the College and athletics in general--but the unusual scenario of a woman, a woman starting at forward no less, scoring in a men’s game did not stand alone; it was the culmination of an unusual process. Rarely do women crack the roster of a college men’s soccer team, and it’s even rarer when they start, but then again, rarely does a full-status Division III team form directly from a club team. After two trial games last season against Vaughn College and Yeshiva (both losses), the Bears soccer club attained full varsity status in September, becoming the 12th varsity sport for St. Joseph’s Brooklyn campus. Without enough female players to field a women’s team, it was decided that the men’s team would be coed until the women’s inaugural season next September. It’s been a long time coming. As the most universally followed and played sport on earth, soccer was an integral part of life on St. Joseph’s multi-cultural campus. Accurately representing the diversity of the student body, the team features players from four different continents, who speak a multitude of languages and are coached by a Ukrainian and Ecuadorian among others. “There’s nobody on the team that is of the same background,” said freshman keeper Michael Miner, one of only four members of the team who dorm near campus. “I didn’t notice until the first week how diverse our team is--I’m probably one of the only kids on the team that doesn’t have second language-people speak Italian and Spanish and there are kids from Africa who speak six different languages.” Club games were taken seriously and played with a level of skill on the threshold of the varsity level. Most players had skills that dwarfed those of the typical ball-juggling student, developed from a lifetime of playing
soccer in some of the most soccer-crazed nations on Earth. Most, however, never considered playing collegiately, instead choosing academics as their main focus. “[St. Joseph’s] did not have a soccer team when I applied, so my intent was just to play soccer for fun and my focus was mostly on studying ,” said sophomore midfielder Omar Al-Dulimi. “Political science was a major that I wanted to study and I came here and saw that they had a pretty good department.” When the club began to gel and the collective focus and passion of the players became undeniable, the team began to crave legitimacy and wanted a spot in the NCAA. “There were a lot of players that really wanted to play varsity soccer,” Al-Dulimi continued. “We were never really oﬃcial, but I saw a lot of promise. The college was getting behind us and we tried out the first two games the year before, but we really wanted to play a normal season, wear normal uniforms and have coaches and the assistant coaches and a normal program. “ Enter Head Coach Vadim Chernyakhovsky. A 10-year veteran of the Ukranian professional league and a stalwart in youth soccer in the Metropolitan area, Chernyakhovsky had the experience to mold the raw materials offered to him by Athletic Director Frank Carbone. International playing experience at an elite level aside, Chernyakhovsky’s diverse coaching experience in the tri-state area (he coached all six female players in club soccer) would prove invaluable not only while coaching one of the only coed college soccer teams in the nation this season, but also during the program’s initial recruiting effort and while presiding over both the men’s and women’s teams next year. “I’ve done it many times on different levels whether on high school or a club, so for me to start a program is not something new,” Chernyakhovsky said. “Frank saw that I was capable of taking care of this program and hoping that we’ll start on the right foot. I had coaching experience on different levels involving girls, boys, men and women.” Chernyakhovsky will need to channel all of his experience in the first few years of the burgeoning program. Aside from coaching both teams next season, he’ll be playing the role of the program’s promoter and public relations director. This season, while training an inexperienced co-ed team to face men’s teams, he has to convince quality collegebound soccer players who have never heard of the program to come play at St. Joseph’s.
For now, until he can cast his nets wider and use his contacts within the youth soccer community and his assistant coaches to meet more players, his most effective recruiting tool is the on-field product. To bolster it, Chernyakhovsky is focusing on turning his variety bag of players into a fundamentally sound unit. With the emphasis on fundamentals rather than stealing wins, the team can build on what they learn in practice and gauge their progress by how well they utilize those lessons in the game rather than actual results. “We focus on the Technical things,” Al-Dulimi explained. “[Chernyakhovsky] really knows how the game goes and makes us focus on passing the ball; the small aspects of the game, with the understanding that it’s our first year. He focuses on building the team rather than just winning and trying to score goals—he wants us to go from the beginning and establish the team. “ “This season is a learning experience,” Chernyakhovsky said. “You learn about me a little bit, I learn about you—most importantly,
it’s a learning experience for us as a soccer team. Little by little, we have to improve. If we don’t improve, it doesn’t mean anything because we’re not on the right track. Everything you do many, many, many times during the different practices, do this on the field. When the time comes to do so, I expect you to do it without even thinking about it.” With experience playing together in the laid back atmosphere of club soccer, members of the team, about as different from one another as players can be, developed a strong chemistry that Chernyakhovsky explained as “a close friendship.” “[The diversity] is actually an excellent thing because they share their lifestyles and experiences previously before they entered the college, so the team bonded extremely well,” Chernyakhovsky said. On a bus ride back from an away game, his players joking asked him if they could remain as a full team rather than separating the men and women next season. “What I anticipate to be the greatest thing,” he said in response, “is we will go to each other’s games and support each other. That will show friendship and what you achieved this fall and you will carry this to the next year.” The team, with less time to prepare and far more obstacles than any other team on their schedule, suffered lopsided losses to begin the season. They fell to Berkeley, the Culinary Institute of America and Cooper Union by a total of 20 goals before the first monu-
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mental breakthrough of the program’s young history. The offense exploded, scoring ten unanswered goals on Webb College, including the iconic goal by Gambino, which had special meaning to the team. “The men were always very open to playing with the women and they look out for us on the field, so it was great that we were all together on the field when Cynthia scored,” said junior midfielder Jessica Gargano.” “It was great—she had the ability to have a chance to score a goal on a men’s team and took advantage of it. It was great for everyone.” “It lifted our spirit of course,” Chernyakovsky said. “It was an incredible 10-2 win; phenomenal. We played at the home field, we had spectators, and that was absolutely great—and the fact that one of the goals was scored by a girl and the pass was made by another girl—a full combination of ladies, pass and finish, made us absolutely ecstatic.” Since then, the team has yet to see the results of their diligence in the standings, with lopsided losses a frequent occurrence. However, the team has made great strides. The players are improving, some budding into stars such as Raul Urshela, who has nine goals and 18 points, others settling into roles like Miner, who recently had a twenty-save performance. The women are gaining valuable experience playing up in competition, so that they have a chance to excel playing on a level field next season. “After the second half, you can see the other team with a different mentality then when they started the game,” Al-Dulimi said. “They start playing their main players and normal formations and are trying to create more plays and play the game that they usually play. At that point, we know we scare them in some way. “ “We want to make the playoffs—this is our number one priority,” Chernyakhovsky said. “Building both teams strong enough to make the playoffs and see where that takes us and continue to bring quality players to the school so it will be easier to build a program based on quality. When [recruits] first look at us, this team is really just a joke and not that great but when they see how the girls and guys play and how tough they are and hard they go on the field, they really reconsider that first thought.”
By Matt Sugam | Photos Courtesy of Rutgers University
In the Scarlet Sights
New Jersey’s #1 recruit faces intense scrutiny at Rutgers in his freshman season avon Huggins’ football career almost ended as quickly as it began. The bruising Rutgers tailback got his ﬁrst carries playing ﬂag football as a child, albeit with a much different style. To avoid defenders swiping his ﬂag, he relied on a ﬁnesse game that involved avoiding any form of contact. He became enamored with the tackle-free version of football, so when he came of age for Pop Warner, he had his parents sign him up. On his ﬁrst day, Huggins experienced a rude awakening when he found out he had a lot more to worry about than people reaching for his ﬂags. 32 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
Despite a love for competition and innate athletically ability—including uncommon speed that Wendell noticed as soon as his son ﬁrst took a handoff—there was one thing about the new game Huggins didn’t like: getting hit. “I don’t want any part of this,” his father Wendell recalls hearing when Huggins returned from his ﬁrst day of practice. But a year later, Huggins’ competitive spirit overcame his distaste for contact and he tried suiting up again. “The rest was history,” Wendell said. “He just started outshining the other kids because he was always aggressive and he was always so fast. We just thought at that particular time he was
better than the kids there.” Soon enough, Wendell would ﬁnd out that Savon was better than the kids just about everywhere. It started at Dhani Jones Camp at Strasburg University, where Huggins simply outclassed all the other campers en route to winning the “Most Outstanding Player” award three years in row. The streak would have continued, but camp organizers wanted to let a different kid win. The summer before high school, Huggins went to a camp at Boston College with similar results. He was so good, the coaches moved the young teenager up to play with the oldest group. From there, football started to get serious for Huggins. Entering high school, he had his pick of parochial football powers—a precursor of things to come. After weighing his options, Huggins selected St. Peter’s, which meant a daily trek of 90-minutes from his home in Jackson to the school in Jersey City. The star recruit wouldn’t have to make the trip alone; he would be picked up by head football coach Rich Hansen. Through the three hours spent in the car together every day and the late nights spent together at athletic events and football, they formed a relationship rarely seen between a high school athlete and his coach. ”He was somebody more than a player to me and we developed a bond,” Hansen said. “It’s a special relationship.” As the relationship blossomed, so did Huggins’ football career. After just one game, Hansen moved Huggins up to varsity as a freshman. Then, on a nationally televised game on ESPN against rival Bergen Catholic in September of 2007, Huggins ran for two touchdowns and broke a pivotal 57-yard run in the fourth quarter.
top colleges in the country. Huggins mulled over his college decision his senior year, all the while rattling off 1,876 yards and 35 touchdowns. Huggins’ uncommon talent and work ethic were not left on the ﬁeld; he found equal success in the classroom. “[academics was] something we instilled in both our kids,” Wendell said. “At the end of the day, that’s what comes ﬁrst. We always told him that the more of student you are, the better of an athlete you are going to be.” As a National Honor Society student with a 3.8 grade point average, Huggins was only satisﬁed by the best results. A poor performance in one of his clases (he got a B) bothered Him so much, he spoke to his teacher to see what he needed to do to better. The fact that his talent and passion in academic matched those in football made him all the more attractive to colleges. After visiting 17 schools on both ofﬁcial and unofﬁcial visits, Savon and his family saw enough to know the dog and pony show worked. After all the hand-shaking and campus tours, Huggins decided on a place where he felt comfortable and could play under a head coach whose relationship went beyond the “I’ll see you when I need to see you” basis. There was no place more comfortable than his home state school, and there was a familiar connection he felt with Rutgers head coach
As he rushed for 1,475 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, Huggins’ mailbox became ﬂooded with recruiting letters from the
Greg Schiano. “He had a very good relationship with Schiano,” Wendell said, “He had that type of relationship with Coach Hansen in high school so he wanted that type of relationship with his college coach.” But with Huggins’ choice came more pressure than any other recruit in Rutgers history ever faced. As New Jersey’s ﬁrst ever No. 1 recruit to attend Rutgers, Huggins was immediately tabbed the next Ray Rice. Before even having a college practice, he was supposed to be the greatest Rutgers player ever. “We talked about handling pressure throughout high school,” Hansen said. “How to deal with it, how to be mature about it.” Staying in his home state was more of a burden than he would have had to deal with anywhere else. During spring football, Huggins made headlines even though he was still at St. Peter’s. Wide receiver Quaron Pratt changed his number from 28—Huggins’ high school number—to 7. ”That was the ﬁrst day of spring ball and I said to [Savon], ‘you wouldn’t be reading about that if you had chosen Notre Dame or Auburn,” Hansen said. “That’s going to be the tone of your career. The spotlight is on. The microscope is on. There’s a high expectation and he looked and me and said ‘coach, I wouldn’t want it any 34 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
other way.’ Some kids love that, some kids would prefer to ﬂy under the radar, but that’s not him.” With the weight of the Garden State already on the shoulders of his six-foot-tall, 190-pound frame, the freshman got off to slow start in his ﬁrst collegiate games. Early struggles only caused the pressure to mount, but that’s the furthest thing from Huggins’ mind. “No pressure at all. I really don’t think about it,” Huggins said of living up to the expectations. “None of that is relevant to me. I just go out there and play my game.” And he’s gotten to play a lot more now that starting running back De’Antwan Williams left the team. But an increase in carries will only elevate outsiders’ expectations of Huggins running Rutgers to its ﬁrst Big East Championship. Then again, Huggins has set lofty goals and expectations for himself his whole life.
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Back to the future
Dowling Volleyball returns to form after early setbacks
f one word best describes Dowling College’s volleyball program, it’s “constant.” The Golden Lions are a constant national championship contender of constant relevance in the East Coast Conference and a constant destination for Long Island’s best high school players. The man largely responsible for Dowling’s constant success has been a constant himself, a mainstay at the helm of Dowling’s championship runs for the past 11 years. Responsible for 328 of Dowling’s wins, Alex Koszalka has coached his teams to nine playoff appearances including six conference championships and ﬁve regional championships. Last season, his team went 32-2 and was the ﬁrst-ever East Regional team to advance to the national semiﬁnals. As his players walked off the hardwood after the season-ending loss to Concordia University, many for the last time, it was with the knowledge that after its ﬁnest season ever, the program would soon be in a position to once again excel. It was this perpetual hope for the future that was perhaps the biggest advantage of having Koszalka as a coach; no matter what, he was going to put his team in a position to win and his past, present and future players knew it. Future success could be predicted by past accomplishments. This spring, Koszalka shocked the Dowling and volleyball communities alike by announcing his resignation. The team learned they would be taken over by an interim head coach, Athletic Director Rick Cole for one season. Dowling would then hire a full time head coach for 2012. With no permanent replacement announced, the team was unsure of its future and for the ﬁrst time in decades, could not be deﬁned by continuity. “Uncertainty” became the word of the day. Questions like “who will step up as a team leader?” “What will the identity of this team be?” “Can we really rely on the leadership of a temporary head coach?” arose. The lack of a permanent head coach cast a dubious light on the preseason. The returners arrived with the sense that the foundation for their 2011 season had crumbled and that team would have to build from scratch with limited instruction. “And so it begins: another school year, another volleyball season,” wrote junior de-
fense specialist Morgan Mutranowski in her running blog on Dowling’s website upon arriving at training camp this summer. “For any other team, this may seem like boring repetition, time to reunite with old teammates and learn how to work together again. But for DCVB, this preseason is an experience totally different than anything us returners have experienced before.” Mutranowski joined senior outside hitter Chelsea Callahan, senior center Mitra Potpara and junior outside hitter Bethany Shepard as returners from the 2010 semiﬁnalists. “Everything is basically new, like the new coaching elements,” explained Potpara. “All the returning girls have the leadership position this year. It’s not just the seniors.” While doubt lingered within the volleyball community, it was quickly cast aside by Cole and his new team. It wasn’t long before the answers to the questions posed prior to the season were answered early in quick succession. The team, possibly riding the momentum of the gears set into motion by Koszalka and guided by the leadership of Cole and the returning players, did not skip a beat. They began the season 13-3 and 5-0 in the conference. Knowing they did not have the luxury of looking to the future, they fully embraced the fact that their season hinged on living in the now and viewing each game in a vacuum, knowing each was just the next obstacle of many that needed to be dealt with.
“The goal of this past week was to bounce back from losing to New Haven, and we rose to the opportunity with a huge week,” Mutranowski wrote after the bounce-back win. “Last Tuesday, we defeated Queens in three games with scores of 25-17, 25-16, and 25-15, but still weren’t impressed with the way we played. Last Thursday, we had 10 local Long Island recruits on unofﬁcial visits and gave them tours of the campus. They got to participate in our pregame activities, and we got to see which personalities we would like to invite back on ofﬁcial visits. The recruits were awesome and we all really excited to be there…the future looks promising for these potential Golden Lions!” A recent tri-match against Stonehill College and Southern New Hampshire University in which Dowling won both matches demonstrated the team’s new dynamic. Stephanie Shepherd, who has been a rock for the team this year, leading the team as well as most of the conference in kills, set the tone by racking up a season high 31 in the opening match against Stonehill. The real story, though, was the players who also hit double-digit kills. Freshman Cassy Kelly and Dragana Jelovac had 11 and 15 respectively, while graduate student Maja Potpara supplied 60 assists. For the 2011 Golden Lions, stats are numbers that mean more than age, as the leadership and chemistry has brought players from all ages and graduating classes smoothly into the fold.
“There are too many competitive matches to look so far ahead,” an amused Cole said when asked about Dowling’s prospects for competing for another conference championship. “We are very much in the now, very much in our next month, next point type of mentality.” The circumstances, which many people thought would keep the team divided and ineffective, actually united them, strengthening their bond by instilling an “us against the world” mentality. Chemistry and leadership, projected to be their weakness, proved to be their strength this season. The rash of early success and the crisp, upbeat practices the team was enjoying on a daily basis prompted Mutranowski to give a more promising outlook in her next blog entry. The junior could not wait to express her conﬁdence in the team’s unlikely dominance. “Not only has this year’s team been consistently improving as far as talent is concerned, we have also grown extremely close off the court,” she wrote. “As the season progresses, we are getting used to playing with each other, and the chemistry is ﬁnally starting to come together.” “I think it’s a good change of events for us,” Shepard said. “It’s deﬁnitely good to have someone new in here, teaching us different ways. It should be a good season with the new coaching staff.” The season has not been without challenges, but the team’s short memory as well as the support its members have shown each other has resulted in immense collective focus in each match. After a loss to New Haven University, the team was able to regroup and beat Queens College in front of a batch of potential recruits, who bore witness to the fact that Dowling volleyball has not changed.
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r e d a e L e h t w o l l o Follow the Leader F
Sought-after coach brings his talents —and players to Stony Brook
Story by Gene Morris Photos by Morgan Harrison
he only thing the women’s lacrosse programs at Adelphi University and Stony Brook University had in common is the fact that they’re both located on Long Island. Adelphi, the three-time defending Division II national champions, just completed a perfect 20-0 season. Stony Brook has won 20 combined games in the past four years. Despite their differences, the two programs will now be forever linked by the man who presided over the Adelphi Dynasty, Joe Spallina. While he was the head coach of Adelphi, Spallina plucked many of the most talented players on Long Island like low-hanging fruit. Division Icaliber Stars such as Claire Peterson, Demmianne Cook, Frankie Caridi and Emily Mercier played for him on Division II fields, but were on a different plane than most of their opponents, helping claim three national championships in Spallina’s four years. After making a monumental mark during his brief stint in Division II, Spallina, a Long island native, looked above to the Division I ranks to forge a new legacy. He took the Seawolves job in June and was promptly joined by four of his best players, eager to make the jump alongside their trusted head coach. Petersen, the 2011 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Attacker of the Year, racked up an incredible 104 goals and 206 assists in just 40 games at Adelphi. Cook, the 2011 IWLCA Midfielder of the Year, scored 97 goals and assisted on 23 others in her two years. Caridi, a first team all-American, started all 20 games in goal. Mercier, a highly touted sophomore, scored seven goals in 14 games as a freshman. Spallina asserts that last season’s Adelphi team would have been a top-15 Division I team. He intends to surpass that mark with his new Division I team. “As far as Claire Peterson as an attackman, there are very, very few players that are better than her,” Spallina said. “As far as Demmianne Cook as a midfielder, she’s an athletic freak and she’s a dominant player. Frankie Caridi is an outstanding
goalie; she’s one of the best around. Emily Mercier is a young budding star. These kids, I’m not worried. They will produce and they have produced thus far against D-I opponents that we’ve played, teams that were in the NCAAs last year.” The new look Seawolves have already gelled well together in scrimmages this fall. Spallina said that having four players and two of his assistant coaches with him at Stony Brook helped make the transition a smooth one. “It gives the girls an actual model within our system, within their abilities, within their play,” Spallina said. “It kind of gives them the idea of the type of lacrosse we’re looking to play. We have an attack man, two midfielders and a goalie so we’re kind of spread along the field which helps mesh each position.” The former Adelphi players immediately knew that they would follow their leader and head coach east to Stony Brook. “At first I was undecided but I kind of eventually figured out that I wanted to step up my level of play,” Caridi said. “Adelphi was fun while it lasted, but I wanted to challenge myself more and I knew that Stony Brook was something I needed for myself to step up my level of play.” Petersen, now attending her third college in as many years, originally played at Catholic University and transferred to Adelphi after her freshman season. She knew she would be on the move again after she heard the news of Spallina’s choice to take over at Stony Brook. “When Coach got the job I knew I had to transfer again,” she said. “I had to.” All parties made the move to experience new surroundings, new teammates, and a new level of competition. The differences were immediately apparent.
“It’s definitely just a step up from where we were, all around,” Caridi said. “In class, on the field to what we do and the extra we put in every day. It’s all around just the next level – exactly what we wanted.” With the Seawolves’ schedule ramping up in difficulty next year, it will be known early if the Adelphi transfers will make an immediate impact. After the level of success their reached at Adelphi, the new Seawolves have no reason to believe Spallina won’t lead them to another championship. “We all wanted to be the best and we worked like we wanted to be the best so we were the best,” Petersen said of their time together at Adelphi. Adding the perks of being at a D-I school has Spallina aiming for a new level of glory. “When you’re able to add in the conditioning and all that stuff with it, the supplemental stuff, I think they’ll continue to be special athletes,” he said.
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AASWING IN Swing in Momentum COLUMBIA’S MICHELLE PIYAPATTRA MOMENTUM Will Attempt to Avoid the Sophomore Slump After a Remarkable Freshman Season
Columbia’s Michelle Piyapattra will attempt to avoid the sophomore slump after a remarkable freshman season.
By Jerry Del Priore Photos Courtesy of Columbia Athletics
ichelle Piyapattra’s golf career has been a tumultuous ride. Over the past half-decade, it could be described as both promising and dubious and has taken her from several low points to the pinnacle of her sport. Her talent is undeniable; athletic genes run in the family. Her father, Wachera Piyapattra was a member of the 1984 Thailand Olympic Archery team and made sports an integral part of his daughter’s life.
Her parents believed sports offered a path to success and encouraged her to participate in as many athletic endeavors as possible. They enrolled her in golf at the age of five because, as she noted, not many people were playing at such a young age and there could be a bright future in it for her. ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
A childhood centered on achieving excellence both on the links and in the classroom resulted in a spectacular freshman campaign at Columbia University, in which Piyapattra captured the women’s individual Ivy League golf Championship. It was the unlikely culmination of an internal conflict she experienced in high school; despite all her success, her greatest challenge, at times, has been her own focus. Piyapattra struggled on the links in the months leading up to the summer prior to her senior year of high school—the time period that is most important in getting recruited. Fearing she might blow her shot at piquing the interest of college coaches and not wanting to lose focus academically, she seriously considered quitting golf to make sure her grades were worthy of a school of her choosing.
“There was a time when I wanted to quit golf, and focus on studying,” Piyapattra explained. “I wasn’t playing well, and it was coming close to that time in the summer when I was going to be recruited. It made me nervous.”
“I was much more focused,” Piyapattra said of the difference in concentration between Public Links and the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Road Island Country Club. “My goal was to make match play.”
But Piyapattra enjoyed an elevated measure of success that summer, improving her standing as one of the highestranking juniors in the country who had yet to commit to college. She finally chose Columbia in January of her senior year, lifting the burden she carried since her second semester of her junior year.
In match play, she had the task of playing someone she is somewhat familiar with: Kristen Park, an accomplished Southern California golfer who shares her coach with Piyapattra.
“Senior year, there was a lot of things going on,” she said. “Once I got recruited, there was this huge weight off my shoulders. I started hanging out with my friends. I still focused on golf, but there wasn’t as much pressure.”
“I was definitely nervous, even slightly intimated,” she said. “She had more experience in match play, but my caddy kept me clam. He helped get me back on track. He helped clam my nerves. “I was letting her distract me from my game. I didn’t want to lose because I wasn’t playing my game.”
After the high she experienced from being accepted to Columbia, Piyapattra struggled in the fall of her freshman year. It took some time for her to adjust to college life, the cooler weather and the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.
Able to gain her focus and hang on to defeat Park, Piyapattra moved on in the event, a glimpse of her form in the Ivy League Championship.
Staying true to form, Piyapattra rebounded, adjusted to her new surroundings and once again, found her fleeting focus. She went as far as saying her first school year in New York City made her a better overall player and individual.
Though she fell to rising LSU sophomore Austin Ernst, ultimately coming up short after going 1-up and shot-for-shot with the first team AllAmerican, it was clear her focus was back.
“Having a year away from home helped me grow as a golfer and as person,” the 19-year-old former high school valedictorian said. After three tournament wins as a freshman, Piyapattra found herself well ahead of the field at the Ivy League championship en route to a decisive victory, the crowning moment of her young career. As expected, however, a valley awaited.
This November, Piyapattra plans on participating in a college tournament in Austin, Texas, after autumn Ivy League play has concluded to help sharpen her skills and bond with Columbia head coach Kari Williams.
Her highly anticipated sophomore campaign got off to a sputtering start. Piyapattra didn’t shoot well, and failed to advance to the second round at the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championships in Bandon, Ore., in July.
Once officially done with competing for the winter, the risen collegiate star would like to branch out more at the university beyond golf.
A month-long family vacation in June cost Piyapattra some practice time, she noted, and seemed to throw off her game.
“I am going to try to experience more of Columbia; join culture clubs, do more activities,” she vowed. “I definitely want to take advantage of the resources I have here at Columbia and have more friends outside my golf circle.”
“I definitely didn’t play as well as I liked,” the Corona, California, resident recalled. “I wasn’t prepared as well as I should’ve been.” To her credit, Piyapattra refocused her energy and practiced hard to rebound at the 111th U.S. Women’s Amateur in Barrington, R.I., in August, achieving her objective of making it to match play.
Asked if turning pro is something she’s still considering, Piyapattra said, “It’s definitely a possibility. My first season of playing golf in Manhattan was a confidence booster, because of limitations and restrictions of weather and location, that I was able to pull through and do well.” 47 WWW.ULTIMATEATHLETEMAGAZINE.COM
First, Piyapattra, who plans to major in Political Science, still wants to earn her college degree before considering a pro career and believes that the decision isn’t a matter of urgency. “I definitely want to have that degree as a backup plan,” Piyapattra said. “Turning pro, I can play for a long time. I see women who go pro in their twenties and play into their forties. It’s nice I have time to decide, and I don’t have to rush.” For now, buoyed by the entire experience of a successful freshman year, aside from defending her Ivy League title, making the NCAA Championships is something Piyapattra aspires to accomplish this season, even if things don’t go smoothly at first. “I think it can definitely get repeated,” she said of winning the championship again. “My goal for this year is to make the NCAA. Now I know what to expect, and can change [them] and improve it.” And it isn’t just California dreaming, just a New York State of mind.
48 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
The NFL Youth Football Fund and USA Football salute the players of the 2011 Empire Challenge High School Football All-Star Game. Football teaches its players, coaches and participants valuable life lessons that can be applied both on and off the field. Your participation today is not only a celebration of your all-star season, but also a testament to the perseverance of Empire Challenge Inc. and the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Their tireless efforts in the fight against cystic fibrosis bring those with the disease closer to a cure, and help them live healthier lives.
PRO C Pro Corner - First Things First
A SABATHIA RETURN WILL COMPLETE YANKEES ROTATION BY : JOE PIETARO
ankees General Manager Brian Cashman knew this day would come. A year ago, the New York Yankees were snubbed by Cliff Lee on the free agent market and had to resort to a much lower caliber Plan B. Stop gap signings of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were successful, but neither should be counted on for a repeat performance, if one or the other are even brought back. But filling those two holes in the starting rotation is the least of Cashman’s problems. His own contract is up and the general manager is expected to be re-signed. So once Cashman is oﬃcially retained, he has to begin negotiating with another key left-handed starter. That is, if ace CC Sabathia opts out of his current deal in an attempt to shake the Steinbrenner family down for even more money than he has already earned from them. He is expected to do just that, a move that has been grudgingly anticipated since Sabathia had the escape clause included in the seven-year, $161-million free agent deal he signed in December of 2008. There is no way that the Yankees can allow Sabathia to leave and that will be his biggest bargaining chip. Money is not much of a concern in the Bronx and especially since a guy like Sabathia is key in the quest for another title, the only goal the Yankees have every spring when they head north from Ft. Lauderdale.
kees managing general partner said in a statement. “It is, and always will be, our single goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a 28th championship to the Bronx. That work starts now.”
While some organizations would have been content with the league’s best record and another postseason appearance, the Bombers have a higher ceiling. Collectively, they will never rest on their laurels and Hal Steinbrenner is already in the process of looking ahead and not behind.
Sabathia is the first course of business and that move will be necessary because there is nothing but question marks after that - even without Colon and Garcia in the conversation. Ivan Nova may have been impressive in his first full year as a major league starter, but can he repeat? How about Phil Hughes? Consistency and staying healthy are the concerns with the young right-hander.
“I personally share in our fans’ disappointment that this season has ended without a championship,” the Yan-
If Hughes has some questions, then times that by 10 when it comes to A.J. Burnett. You never know what
50 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
O RNER youâ€™re going to get from start to start with him. But with so many other areas to focus on, Burnett may get another shot to get it together. Of course that depends on who will be ahead of him in the mix, lessening the expectations and pressure on the former Met farmhand. Flags and rings are expected in the Bronx and selling a few playoff tickets means less to the Yankees than any other franchise in sports. Only when a ticker tape parade is part of the fall does it matter. But that will not be the case until the starting pitching is improved.
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Sports Ps Sports Psychology
Sports, School, Friends and the Importance of a Balanced Lifestyle
By: Dr. Tom Ferraro Sport Psychologist
f you are reading this article I bet you are the type of athlete that gets straight Aâ€™s, letters in three sports and volunteers part time at the local hospital. And I also guarantee that you have often asked yourself when do you get some down time? This article is designed to address this common problem. Almost every athlete I have worked with suffers with burnout, fatigue and overuse injuries at one point in their career. Today we will talk about the signs and symptoms of overwork, the many causes, and the ways to get out of the pattern of burnout.
How does one balance sports, academics and friends?
I. Signs and Symptoms of an imbalanced life: When the young athlete becomes overscheduled and finds no time to rest various symptoms are sure to follow. They may have stomach problems, become prone to colds, feel unmotivated, angry, and suffer with headaches and more. Their performance will also show signs of flattening out. Maybe their grades start to slip or they become easily irritated. These are signs that the player has been trying to do too much for too long and stress related illness starts to show up. And if something is not done soon, injury is the next step in this downward spiral.
The signs of an imbalanced life style will be illness or injury. 54 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
sychology II. Causes:
In America we are all part of a pretty intense race to the top… the problem is there never seems to be a finish line.
We live in a very competitive world and the high achieving kid feels pressure to excel in almost every area. They must take honors classes and get A’s. They must take SAT classes. They must do well in one or more sports. They must join other clubs and maybe a theater group. All this so they can insure that they will get into a top level college or get a scholarship to a Division I college. I believe that overwork is America’s number one problem. We get ahead this way and have become the most powerful nation on earth but the cost is great and the young athlete is a perfect example of the true overworked and overspent American. I just returned from a vacation in Italy and the lifestyle there could not be more different. They work from
about 8 a.m. to noon and all of them take off three hours for lunch. They go back to work at 3 p.m. after a nap and work until 7 p.m., and then they go to the town square to hangout before going home for dinner. They may not produce as many world class athletes as we do but they sure seem to live a happier, healthier and more carefree life. In contrast, both adults and high functioning kids in America regularly work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (15 hour days) and often work both Saturday and Sunday. Parents work long hours and kids do too. It almost goes without saying that this is an extremely imbalanced lifestyle and makes us very prone to food and drug addiction and various stress-related illnesses.
III. The Cure: So how does one stem the tide when all around you people are speeding along in overdrive day in and day out? No one wants to be left behind. Can you really achieve the American dream by going slower rather than faster? Here are two things you may want to consider: It is crucial to recognize that a life of all work and no rest is not very healthy. All work and no play make Jane or Johnnie a very dull athlete. And just because you are ‘playing’ a sport does not mean that’s play time or relaxing time. It most certainly is not. Sports are every bit as draining as study. If you begin to see that you are living an imbalanced lifestyle with all work and no time for fun, socializing or just doing nothing then start to add some of that into you weekly schedule. Play one or two less sport during the year. Stick to only one sport per year. Spend Saturdays with friends and not playing sports. Do what the Italians do, which is to say ‘La dolce vita is la dolce far niente.’ The sweet life is the life of idleness. You must begin to realize that rest and idleness is not only good for your soul but also good for your game as well. You will play better, have far fewer injuries and be a much happier team player. Remember there is room for la dolce vita in America… why should the Italians have all the fun anyway?
Start to live like the Italians do with some Dolce Vita or sweetness… give your life some idle time to relax and unwind with friends. 55 WWW.ULTIMATEATHLETEMAGAZINE.COM
UA UA Tr aining
Ready... or Not?
Which exercises should you really be doing in the gym. Story By Mike Mejia, CSCS | Photos By Mohan Harrison
hen you’re first learning how to play a sport, there are certain fundamentals you need to master before moving on to more advanced types of skills. A lacrosse player, for instance, has to learn how to cradle the ball before he, or she can even think about taking a shot on goal. Just as a swimmer needs to know basic stroke technique, before learning how to explode off the starting blocks. Sadly though, no such prerequisities exist for young athletes first entering the weight room. Most of you tend to immediately gravitate towards advanced exercises such as Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts and bench presses, often times with little to
no instruction as to their proper execution. Making matters worse, even on those rare occasions when these lifts are performed correctly, they’re often prioritized to the point where they either help cause, or worsen, existing strength and flexibility imbalances. So, in this article, I’m going to show you some quick physical assessment drills you can perform on yourself that will help determine your readiness for certain exercises. Because, even if you are able to perform a given lift, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea for you to do so. Think of it sort of like a contractor who wants to build an addition on
top of an existing structure. Before he begins work, he’d better make sure the foundation is sound, otherwise, that homeowner will be in for some serious problems down the road. It works sort of the same way with your body; you need to posses certain baseline levels of strength and mobility before you can just go heaving weights all over the place. That’s where these tests come in. Try the three featured here for your upper body and keep an eye out for the next edition where I’ll tackle the lower body and core. Oh, and just a quick heads up: some of you are going to be very surprised by what you find.
Bench press lovers, pay attention! This seemingly harmless little drill has the potential to reduce you to mush. That’s because to do it correctly, you need to have excellent flexibility in the pecs, lats and basically all of the muscles that contribute to internally rotation of the arms. It’s also a great way to strengthen the scapular stabilizers of the upper back (particularly the middle and lower trapezius), which go chronically underworked in most traditional lifting programs. To do it: Stand with your back to a wall, with your feet about 6 to 12 inches away from its base. Begin by leaning back on the wall, making sure that everything from your tailbone to the back of your head is held as flat against the wall as possible. Next, place the backs of your arms on the wall just below shoulder’s height, with your forearms held out in front of you parallel to the ground. From there, keeping your arms bent about 90 degrees, externally rotate them until the backs of your forearms, wrists and hands make contact with the wall. If you can do that, continue the drill by sliding your arms up the wall as high as you can, without anything losing contact with it. This includes your lower back; be sure not to arch your back and gap it away from the wall in an effort to get your arms up higher. Lower and repeat until you’ve completed 8-10 reps.
What it tells you: An inability to even get your forearms onto the wall indicates that your internal rotators are way too tight. Start doing internal rotation stretches (pictured: broomstick stretch) and external rotation strengthening through a full range of motion (pictured: 45 degree ext rotation). Failure to slide your arms up the wall to any degree means tight pecs and lats and/ or weakness in the upper back. In addition to stretching the muscles that are tight, start doing the prone Y raise (pictured) for 8-10 reps per set to help build strength in this area. 56 ULTIMATE ATHLETE MAGAZINE
AINING Reach, Roll and Lift:
Love those pull-ups and pulldowns? Then this drill is for you- although like the previous test, it will also help assess what’s going on at the shoulder joint. To do it:
Kneel down on the ground sitting your butt back on your heels, with your chest as close to your thighs as possible. With your arms bent about 90 degrees, place your forearms and palms down on the floor right in front of your knees. Begin by keeping your right hand in contact with the ground as you slide it forward as far as you can. This should give you a nice stretch in the lats. Once your arms is completely extended, keep your butt and chest down as you rotate your palm up to try and face the ceiling (by turning your thumb outwards). Hopefully, you will be able to get the entire back of your hand on the ground and palm facing the ceiling. Once there, keep your arm as straight as possible and lift it several inches off the ground without raising your chest, or bringing your butt away from your heels. Hold for a second, then lower back down and return your hand to the starting position and repeat with the other side. Continue alternating until you’ve completed 10-12 total reps.
What it tells you:
Once again, failing to turn your palm all the way up indicates tightness in the internal rotators of the arms. This can be confirmed by an arm that either can’t keep straight at the elbow when you attempt to lift it, or if you can’t lift your arm very high at all. Start stretching your pecs, lats and also work in the broomstick stretch featured above. If you can get your palm turned all the way up but can’t lift your arm, you probably need to strengthen the middle and lower trapezius with the prone Y drill.
Gauges your ability to rotate through the thoracic spine (middle, upper back) with the hips in a fixed position. To do it:
Sit down Indian style inside of a doorway, with your shins basically making contact with the frame on both sides. Holding a broomstick across your collarbone, sit up straight and tall as you rotate to your left, attempting to get the stick to make light contact with the wall. When you’ve reached your furthest point, return to the starting position and repeat to the other side. Continue alternating until you’ve done 10-12 total reps. What it tells you: Inability to even get into the seated position indicates extremely tight hips, but we’ll get more into that in part two of this article on the lower body and core. Assuming you can at least sit properly for the test, an inability to turn enough to touch the door frame, or in some instances to turn very much at all, indicates limited mobility in your thoracic spine (middle, upper back). Ideally, you want your lumbar area (lower back) to act as a stabilizer while you rotate the upper part of your torso. Failure to do so can put you at risk for lower back injury when your hips are not locked down in a fixed position (such as when playing your sport), as you’ll likely increase the demand on this area to make up for the movement restrictions further up the chain. To fix this, start doing more thoracic mobility drills (pictured) and core exercises that incorporate upper body rotation with stabilization like the kneeling chop (pictured). 57 WWW.ULTIMATEATHLETEMAGAZINE.COM
UA Tr aining
Putting it all together
So, how’d you do? If you were able to perform all of the tests without a problem, great! Keep doing whatever it is you’re currently doing from a training standpoint. If you didn’t fare so well though, you’ve got some changes to make- especially if internal rotation dominant exercises like bench presses, pull-ups and flys comprise the bulk of your routine. Even if you’re not currently experi-
encing any type of pain, keep building on top of this faulty physical structure of yours and I can practically guarantee that you will in the not too distant future. Because if you think these imbalances will miraculously just go away, you’re dead wrong. In fact, they’ll only get worse as you become bigger and stronger and keep adding more weight to your favorite lifts. Not to mention the compounding effects
that poor posture can have, courtesy of all that time you spend slumped forward while on your computer and texting. The choice is yours: take a step back and start fixing your body now, or run the risk of having and injury that you might have been able to prevent, put an end to your playing career.
Broomstick Stretch: Stand holding a broomstick between your right thumb first two fingers, resting on the back of your forearm. With your right arm help out to the side, reach across your body with your left hand and grab the bottom third of the stick and gently pull back until you feel a stretch deep inside the shoulder. Hold 30-60 seconds and repeat to the other side.
Knee supported External Rotation: Sit on an exercise bench with your right foot up on the bench bent 90 degrees and left foot flat on the floor. Prop yourself up with your left arm placed behind you on the bench, as you hold a dumbbell in you right hand, with your arm bent 90 degrees. Resting your right elbow against the inside of your right knee, begin with your forearm pointing downwards and then externally rotate your arm until the dumbbell is almost perpendicular to the floor. Hold for a second, then lower and repeat for 10-12 reps.
For more great strength and training information from Mike Mejia, Visit his website at www.basesportsconditioning.com
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Prone Y Raise:
Quadruped Thoracic Rotation:
Lie prone on an exercise bench with a small towel under your forehead to keep your spine in proper alignment. Begin by placing your hands down on the floor just in front of you, with your arms straight and thumbs pointed up. Next, reach your arms forward as long as you possibly can while using your middle, upper back to raise your arms up in a “Y” position as pictured. Lower and repeat for 10-12 reps.
Get down on all fours with your back flat and place your right hand behind your head with your elbow held out top the side. Keeping your lower back still, rotate your upper back as you reach down underneath your body and try and touch your right elbow to your left forearm. From there, rotate the opposite way as you try and bring your right elbow towards the ceiling. Be sure to keep your lower back still throughout so the rotation comes from the thoracic spine.
Kneeling Wood Chop: Grab hold of a straight bar, or long rope handle (as pictured) that’s attached to the high pulley of a cable station. Next, get into a half kneeling position with your left leg out in front of you bent 90 degrees and your right knee down on the ground. In this position you should be reaching across your body so that your left hand is holding the upper part of the bar, or rope and you right hand is on the lower portion. From here, use your core muscles to “chop” the handle down across the front of your body so that you start up over your left shoulder and finish with both arms down by your right hip. Hold for a second, then return to the start and repeat for 8-10 reps before repeating the sequence to the other side.
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Step up your healthy lifestyle. UnitedHealthcare is right behind you. We all know that regular visits to the doctor are important. But growing healthy is about more than just doctor visits. An active lifestyle that includes exercise is an essential part of your overall well-being, including both your body and your mind. That’s why we provide members with the tools, resources and information they need to get active and stay motivated. At UnitedHealthcare, through our Oxford products, we’re committed to helping New York area members live well and grow healthy.
oxfordhealth.com Insurance coverage provided by or through: UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company, UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company of New York, or their affiliates. Oxford Health Plans LLC. Oxford HMO products are underwritten by Oxford Health Plans (NY), Inc., Oxford Health Plans (NJ), Inc. and Oxford Health Plans (CT), Inc. Oxford insurance products are underwritten by Oxford Health Insurance, Inc. © 2011 United HealthCare Services, Inc. © 2011 Oxford Health Plans LLC. UHCNY528490-000
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