Boston College football strength and conditioning coach Phil Matusz had just a few short months with his new team on the Heights before the coronavirus pandemic sent the Eagles home. But even without knowing what lay ahead, Matusz and his team made the most of the time they had together.
Now, with the team scattered across the country, Matusz has been maintaining his original training program—but of course, it’s taken some creativity.
Though the team is no longer together in the weight room, Matusz said in a video press conference on Wednesday that he and his staff have found some unique ways to keep the players’ strength up. Using whatever is available, Matusz said he will make sure his players are ready for training camp, should it happen as planned ahead of the 2020 season.
What former BC offensive lineman John Phillips described in a previous press conference as “barn workouts” have become the new norm, depending on how much equipment a player has available.
For some players, high school coaches dropped off a few free weights or a barbell, but for others—think about BC’s large New York and New Jersey population—it’s all about adapting. Matusz described players using anything from carrying milk jugs to squatting loaded backpacks to chopping wood to get the work done.
The team follows a regimented running progression, plyometric program, and bodily maintenance plan, followed by what Matusz described as “metabolic work,” the real chance for his players to get creative.
“We give guys options like if you can push a car safely with someone operating the vehicle,” he said. “And then like, you know, wheelbarrow carries or farmer carries in general, or you’re carrying gallon jugs. And then there’s the old trusty chopping wood.”
Though the workouts are different than usual, Matusz still emphasized the importance of the athletes maintaining a rigid schedule as if they were still on campus, including sleep, regular meals, academic focus, and practice and meetings every day.
Matusz arrived at BC in early January after working as an assistant strength coach with Jeff Hafley at Ohio State the year prior. At the time he was hired, BC was just 12 days out from the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl, meaning the team had maintained its physical fitness enough to hit the ground running on a new lifting regimen with Matusz.
Because the players were already in shape when the new staff arrived on campus, Matusz said, they have an advantage entering this unconventional type of practice.
“We were very fortunate to install probably, you know, at least 65 to 70 percent of our training program,” he said. “The amount that they retain has been unbelievable, because they know how to execute it, and it’s easy for them to pick up … because we taught them the first five or six weeks we were there starting in January.”
As is true for the students’ academic work, their work with football has also begun to come in the form of videos, Matusz said. Platforms such as YouTube and Zoom have allowed Matusz and the rest of the staff to share much of their programming that they hadn’t already installed before leaving campus.
Through a tumultuous time when even the possibility of a football season is in question, Matusz said he and his staff are working hard to maintain as much normalcy as possible. Both the continuation of “Wisdom Wednesdays”—a weekly inspiration meeting—and the introduction of new conditioning programs on the regular schedule have served to keep the team connected.
“You know, sometimes we get caught up in the rush of getting back to football, and football is extremely important, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is the safety of our student athletes,” Matusz said. “So we’ve got to be really smart, and I think we’ve got the right coaching staff to really gameplan for this adversity.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics