Picture this: it is the day of the conference championship game, and your team is one of the final two in the conference battling for the title. You have put in countless hours training and preparing for this day. All of the morning workouts before the sun comes up, the exhaustion from two-a-day practices, and the hours spent training over holiday breaks all brought you here. Thanks to the dedication of Ursinus’ strength and conditioning coaches, Mike Moronese and Eric Hoffman, you can feel confident that your strength will hold up for the big game.
Mike Moronese and Eric Hoffman are two of the most important people behind the scenes of student-athletes here at UC. Otherwise known as Coach Mike and Hoff, these two strength and conditioning coaches play a crucial role in helping athletes gain physical strength and assigning workouts specific to each sport. Because both coaches played a sport at Ursinus, with Mike playing football and Hoff playing lacrosse, and both earning a degree in Health and Exercise Physiology, they bring a vast amount of knowledge about what athletes do both in and out of the gym.
Because student-athletes make up a significant portion of the Ursinus student body, creating workouts for each and every sport is far from simple. In addition to all of this behind-the-scenes work for athletes, Mike and Hoffman also make sure to get to know each and every one of their players so that they are able to make accommodations for their individual needs.
Due to the work that both of these trainers put into the program, they tend to be perceived as the backbone to a lot of recent athletic success. But when asked how they felt about this, both Mike and Hoffman pushed back. “I think saying that we are the ‘backbone to success’ may be giving us a bit too much credit,” states Hoffman. Mike states that, “As strength and conditioning coaches we can’t really say we are the backbone of success, that title belongs to [the students] themselves.” Not wanting to take credit for any team or individual’s success, Mike and Hoffman make it known that while yes, they play a key role, there are other factors that contribute to the accomplishments of the athletes.
Both of the trainers are grateful for the opportunity that they have to see different sides that can come out of the athletes. “Our environment is much different than a sport practice. Motivation and performance are both high, but the pressure is reduced. We’re able to adapt our modalities to everyone’s needs and have fun with it as well,” says Mike. Hoffman agrees that there is a different side of people that comes out in the weight room, “Obviously athletes act a little different around us than they would with their head coach, so it is great to really see some peoples’ personality, motivations come out during workouts.” Mike and Hoffman also agree that it is an honor and privilege to be able to build relationships and share their knowledge and skill with the student-athletes.
There are many factors that go into successful strength training. The way Mike and Hoffman structure workouts is based largely on the demands of the athlete’s sport. “This design could come from specific movement patterns, metabolic or strength demands, or even balance and stability required for a given sport,” states Hoffman.
A lot of scientific knowledge goes into the planning as well, and according to Mike, “We’ve tailored our philosophy and mission to use a science-based approach to train the body in its ‘global’ movement patterns while adhering to the specificity of metabolic demands and adaptations for that sport. With our specialized role, we see and understand the amount of work that the athlete has dedicated to attaining those achievements.” When both Mike and Hoffman are able to see the progress that these athletes have put in during their workouts, it is something that makes them very happy, “It definitely makes us proud when we see some of our hardest working athletes succeed on their playing field!” states Hoffman. “We swell with pride and happiness knowing we were able to challenge and support them reaching their goals” says Mike. This just goes to show the joy that comes off of the trainers when they see hard working athletes achieving their goals.
Looking back on past years, the strength and conditioning program has improved quite a bit. Hoffman, now starting his fourth year here at UC, and Mike starting his third year, say that, “the advancements have been quite extreme.”
The first and the most obvious ones would be the physical changes to the fitness center, meaning that there is a completely new layout, more equipment choices, and the quality of equipment has gone up as well. In addition to these changes, there have been significant improvements in the commitment from the student athletes and the various sport programs. Mike did not even have a strength and conditioning program when he left in 2015, and when Hoffman first started, he had to beg programs to work out before 9:00 a.m. This is not being the case anymore, and is something that has completely turned around in the past four years. Both of the trainers agree that that the idea of “team lifts” has also taken off. “I think the athletes are starting to understand what it means to be committed to their sport program, and what it actually takes to be successful” Hoffman states, and according to Mike, “Athletes have committed to the process of attending lifts together, encouraging each other and pushing their limits weekly.”
Now that the physical changes and the changes in team dynamics have been made, the trainers have been able to introduce new and exciting challenges to the athletes to prepare them for game time.
With another year up and running, Mike and Hoffman are ready to prepare all athletes in the weight room. They are ready to push everyone to their limits with the challenges and ideas that they are bring to the table. The big steps that are being made by these trainers are being noticed by many different student athletes, and according to senior Haley Sturla, “There is more specialization within the lifting programs, especially for swimming. We have different workouts for stroke swimmers, distance freestylers, and sprinters because each specialty requires differ- ent muscle groups and endurance vs. strength levels. For example, a sprinter needs explosive exercises to maximize power and speed, while a distance swimmer needs endurance training.” In addition to the swim team noticing the drastic improvements, junior field hockey player, Gabi Howell states, “Because we average two games a week, Hoff and Mike designed active recovery days and lifting days so that we are not getting injured, but are still maintaining our strength throughout the season. They have taken the time to create workout specific to field hockey players which we can really see benefiting us on the field.” A big thank you to Mike and Hoffman for all that they do for the student-athletes and what they do behind the scenes that helps the coaches as well. Go Bears!