For high school football hopefuls, lounging on the couch and watching television with a bowl of ice cream is the last place to be at this point in the summer.
With practices beginning in less than three weeks, many athletes are in full stride by now, working vigorously, conditioning themselves for muggy August two-a-days and ultimately, for the long grind of the season that awaits.
Mike Tivinis, an ambitious rising senior at Masconomet Regional High School, has been preparing for the 2013 campaign since the 2012 season came to a close.
As a member of Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning fitness center — chosen as the No. 1 gym in America by Men’s Health Magazine in 2010 — the running back has been working intensely to prepare himself, taking part in the gym’s winter, spring, and summer sessions.
According to Steve Bunker, the manager of the North Andover branch that Tivinis attends, preparing athletes for their respective seasons is the gym’s specialty.
“Our goal is to make our athletes prepared to play their sport, whatever that might be,” said Bunker, who also serves as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for the Masco football team. “ We want to make them stronger, faster, less susceptible to injury and do it in a setting that the kids enjoy and make them want to come back.”
Tivinis had injuries in the 2012 season, pulling both of his hamstrings and missing some playing time. But Boyle’s has built him into a fitness machine.
“It’s had a huge impact,” said Tivinis of the gym, which contains 1,600 square feet of indoor turf and four Olympic weightlifting platforms. “Ever since I’ve been there my [lifting capacity] in the weight room has skyrocketed, my speed has increased, and so has my flexibility.”
Before attending his first session in 2012, he recalled he could barely bench 225 pounds and squat 350. Now, after being a yearlong member, the 5-foot-7 190-pound Tivinis, who Masco head coach Jim Pugh says is one of his strongest players he’s ever had, can bench 300, and squat 450. According to Bunker, Tivinis did 10 dead-lift reps at 500 pounds in June.
For the three seasonal sessions, the cost is somewhat steep — about $2,000 in total — but Tivinis says it’s absolutely worth it.
The trainers “are always watching you to make sure you’re doing the workouts correctly, and they just keep on pushing you,” he said. “If it weren’t for Boyle’s I think I would still be benching around 250, and wouldn’t be nearly as strong and fast on the field as I am now.”
While Tivinis and up to 20 Masco athletes in all are taking football workouts to an extreme level at Boyle’s, others are staying in shape by participating in summer football sessions with their teammates.
Pugh, who will be going into his 25th season as the Masco head coach, encourages his players to participate in optional summer drills at the high school, which are held three days a week, and consist of an hour of lifting and a half-hour of running.
“We tell ’em it’s all about how important football is and what it means to them,” he said. “If they really want to play and want to improve, then they have to be serious about it. If they want success during the season, they should come in and be in good shape.”
Lowell Catholic head coach Rick Sampson also advises his players to take part in the summer drills that are primarily run by his team’s captains.
One of them, rising senior Connor Sullivan — who also hits the gym about five days per week — helps lead the team in drills on Monday and Thursday evenings at Lowell High.
About two-dozen players show up and practice routes, push/lift tires, do calisthenics and run.
“Kids keep bringing down their friends who are thinking of playing football, and we’re getting a great turnout,” said Sullivan. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement over the summer in most of the new freshmen and sophomores who are showing up.”
And for those not showing up, and working out minimally, come Aug. 19, the results will show on the field.
“You can definitely tell at the summer workouts which kids have been sitting on the couch too much,” Sullivan said. “There are some kids who just get really winded, very early.”
The slot receiver/cornerback/linebacker added: “I’d say if they don’t start now, they’re really going to feel it once practice comes around.”
That’s something to which Tivinis can attest. In his sophomore year — his first season on varsity — he started working out in late July, a choice that proved to be costly in his first week on the field, which he recalls as “hell week.”
To avoid having a “hell week” when he returns to the field, Haverhill High’s Phil Panici has been conditioning and lifting with teammates at his school’s gym four days per week over the summer. They also have taken up yoga, as a strategy to become flexible and lean.
“Some kids that don’t go to the weight room aren’t as effective on the field as the others,” said the rising junior. “It can only be beneficial to be in the weight room; it can’t hurt you.”
Along with hitting the gym, Panici has also benefited by cutting out junk food, and adding more proteins and vegetables to his daily intake.
“I changed my diet a lot this season, just so I could enhance my performance on the field. I just wanted to be in even better shape,” said the 5-foot-10, 220-pound guard/linebacker. He said he has lost a lot of body fat during the offseason.
But while kids are dieting and putting hours upon hours of time into staying in shape for the upcoming season, Sampson keeps in mind that the young athletes should put aside some time to relax and enjoy their youth.
“I think kids still need to be kids and have time to themselves,” said the Lowell Catholic coach, who is entering his third season at the helm. “I don’t want them to be spending 24/7 working out for football; they need to have some fun too.
“But anything they can do to get themselves in shape is a good thing,” he added.
Andover sophomore commits to UNC
Andover High School rising sophomore Alexander Marshall has verbally committed to play lacrosse for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman was an All-Merrimack Valley Conference selection in the spring and played for local club team, Laxachusetts, on its 2016AA team.
He also participated in the 2016 Jake Reed Nike Blue Chip Lacrosse Camp at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and was selected the defensive Man of the Session by the magazine/website Inside Lacrosse.
As a freshman last year, Marshall was a three-sport varsity athlete, also playing for the Golden Warriors’ football and basketball teams.
According to his father, David, he was also strongly considering Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and the University of Virginia, but ultimately chose the Tar Heels, who were ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation in the spring.