By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The previous weight room at Merrimack College’s Volpe Athletic Complex was so small, now that it’s no longer needed, it has returned to it’s original intent: quite literally, it’s a storage closet.
Last week, the college christened a new 5,000-square-foot facility as part of an expansion that includes a second ice rink, a new entrance and a new sports medicine facility.
The new strength facility is perhaps the crown jewel, though, and a virtual playground for Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Kamal, who is joined by his assistant director, Jim McGuire.
“With the size of this facility, now we have the ability to train all teams, minus football, as one group,” said Kamal. “ The importance of team training is as much psychological as it is physical. Athletes need like-minded athletes to push themselves past the point of what they believe possible. The training environment, with proper attitude and great effort, has the ability to allow anyone to accomplish and attain results that they could never fathom.”
In Merrimack’s old facilities teams struggled to fit inside the tiny quarters, which were placed oddly in the middle of the complex’s lobby. Oftentimes athletes would be spilling out into the lobby for workouts while fans were entering for games.
The previous facility had four half racks and one set of dumbbells. This new home has 10 sets of half racks and custom engraved dumbbells with Merrimack’s logo. It also includes three air-compressor units and drive sleds.
“Pretty much everything in the room has been completely updated,” Kamal said. “The Olympic bars, engraved equipment and custom equipment will do wonders to promote us. The wall pads (emblazoned with Merrimack’s logo), really bring out the room from an imaging standpoint.”
Along with state-of-the-art weight equipment, the facility also houses a 35-yard turf field.
“That allows us to do our speed, agility, and conditioning right where we train,” Kamal said. “In the past, we struggled to gain access to the basketball court, turf field or any grass field and would fall back into the lobby to do so. The size of the weight room allows us to train as an entire team where before half of the teams here had to be broken up into multiple groups throughout the day.”
“On top of that, to support the athletic department, we view and foresee hosting recruiting visits, clinics, and presentations in the facility.”
Strength and Conditioning has become an integral part of an athlete’s performance and maintenance. It’s as much about building strength and endurance as it is preventing, and recovering, from injury.
If done right, the new equipment and training provided by coaches can help prevent major injuries.
“We stand by our mission statement,” Kamal said.
That statement reads: “The Mission of Merrimack Strength and Conditioning is to physically and mentally prepare the athletes for the rigors of collegiate athletics. This is done through the implementation of professionally designed, scientifically sound training programs to reduce injury and improve performance. The mission can be summed up using the following three goals: 1) Reduce the risk of injury; 2) Improve athletic performance; 3) Optimize team success.”
The program isn’t just about adding as much muscle mass as possible. It’s even more so about working an athlete’s joints along with making sure their balance and flexibility, along with nutrition, are all up to par.
There’s also no arguing Merrimack’s success since Kamal came on board. Now entering his seventh season with the Warriors, the entire program has been one of the most successful in all of Division 2 along with Division 1 hockey reaching its highest success as a D-1 program.
Last year was perhaps the high mark, with five teams winning conference titles in the Northeast-10.
Kamal is also responsible for bringing the highly-acclaimed “Judgement Day” program to Merrimack athletics.
The disciple of strength-and-conditioning legend Mike Boyle — Kamal received his masters degree from Springfield College and interned for Boyle — he was at Bucknell and the University of Iowa football programs before joining the Warriors.
“If we are training our athletes properly, done to every detail that we are sticklers for, we believe that those three goals are all interchangeable and we directly focus on them all simultaneously,” he said.
With modest resources, to say the least, Kamal’s staff has garnered impressive results. Just think of what can be done now.