hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 15, 2012

Coach: Off-season training wins games

Hillie football players hit the weight room

By Alex Lippa

It may be the off-season for the Haverhill High football team, but that doesn't mean that the team is broken up.

Off-season conditioning is under way, as players prepare to get in shape for the gridiron next fall.

"I'm a firm believer that championships are won during the offseason in the weight room," head coach Tim O'Connor said. "We want our players to get bigger, stronger and faster."

The sessions, which are optional, run for about an hour a day, three days a week. They began last off-season, which was the first full year that O'Connor was at the helm. During the sessions, the weight room is packed with students immediately after the school day because the program is open for both the football team and the wrestling team. O'Connor is a coach for both teams.

The sessions also are giving new football captains Tommy Morgan, Chance Brady and Dan Burrows their first official chance to transition into the team's new leaders. Although they are now captains, setting examples for the other players is not a new challenge for them.

"Last year I was told that this is my offense," said Morgan, who will enter the season as the team's starting quarterback. "I was in charge of the huddle. This is our first chance to control the whole team, but we definitely had some leadership roles in the offense last year."

The captains and coach hope the conditioning program will also help unite the team and improve its chemistry. He often referred to the team last year as a "family atmosphere," and in his mind families need to be together through the entire year.

"Team camaraderie is a big part of a football team," O'Connor said. "We feel that this (off-season workouts) will develop some more chemistry as well."

"We are starting the process of getting closer with each other," Brady said. "Once you trust people, you work better with them. The main reason we did so well last year was because (O'Connor) instilled this on us then."

To help ensure a positive relationship with his players, O'Connor is pairing up his seniors with underclassmen. He hopes that a positive experience will convince underclassmen who are undecided about whether to continue playing football to join the squad.

"It's a launching pad for me to check on the kids academically and socially," the coach said. "It is also a recruiting platform for kids who are on the fence."

For Burrows, although he plays three sports year-round, the weight training gives the junior offensive linemen more time to do some work specifically suited for football.

"I'm working on strengthening my legs," he said. "I'm trying to do some more squats. As an offensive lineman you use your legs mostly to drive your opponent backwards."

This is the first of three sessions of the offseason conditioning. The first session runs from the beginning of January to the middle of March. The second session increases the workload to four days a week in the gym and goes from March through the end of the school year, and the last session is during the summer. O'Connor said that as the year goes on, he expects more players to be in the gym as football season approaches.

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