Aug. 7, 2014
WASHINGTON - First year Head Coach Rob Sgarlata had a few questions to answer following the Georgetown Football team's strong performance during spring ball.
How would he build on the momentum from spring through a summer where less than one-third of the team could remain on campus to train, with the rest being spread around the country for internships? Next, could he keep the squad motivated to complete grueling summer workouts? Finally, how could he incorporate 32 incoming freshmen and get them comfortable with the team prior to report day?
So Sgarlata went to work along with Sports Performance coach Chris Tolzman and the Hoyas' coaching staff to develop a summer program that would play on the team's competitiveness and build camaraderie through months where they normally have little contact. What came from those discussions was the concept for Summer Stars.
The assistant coaches drafted small teams, including the incoming freshmen. The teams would gain points by completing the workouts designed by Tolzman. To add an element of competition, each student-athlete, whether they were on campus or away completing an internship, posted videos, allowing for critique from the team's upperclassmen or creating competition to one up their teammates.
"The Summer Stars program allowed everyone to communicate with their particular team, as well as interact with the rest of the team via our Facebook page," Sgarlata said about developing the program. "Each week, all of our players had to post a workout or task assigned by our strength coaches. A benefit of the program was the interaction of our entire staff with the incoming and returning players. Usually our players have the most interaction with either the coach that recruited them or their position coach. Summer Stars provided an opportunity for our players to get to know some staff members that they do not work with on an everyday basis."
BRINGING THE TEAM TOGETHER THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
During the winter training program, team lifts keep everyone accountable, as the student-athletes push each other to put up the biggest weights. In the summer, everyone spread around the country during the summer, the idea of summer team lifts seemed impossible. Enter the team's Facebook page.
"In my eyes, the thought of being exposed and having all your teammates see how much you are or aren't doing can make anyone work harder for the camera," Tolzman said. "Using social media was definitely a unique situation. But it goes back to knowing that these days; kids will always have their phones with them. We just wanted to capitalize on this opportunity by asking them to post a certain segment of their workout to our Facebook page which will not only give us an idea of how their training is going but to also show your teammates that everyone is doing their part."
"It keeps everyone more accountable, there's no more slacking off," junior linebacker Matthew Satchell added. "Coach Sgarlata is big on everyone being accountable and honest, so we get to see who's working hard and then push each other."
MAINTAINING A COMPETITIVE EDGE
As expected, the program fed the team's competitive spirit. Where in previous summers, jobs and internship responsibilities could sap the intensity of offseason workouts, Summer Stars has made everyone accountable from the team's seniors to its newest members.
"It was good to see that everyone else was working hard; it motivates you," said junior running back Jo'el Kimpela, who spent his summer working with the Department of Student Housing on campus. "If I see a teammate lifting 500 pounds, I want to lift 600 pounds; I want to do better than the next guy."
Senior linebacker Patrick Boyle, who spent his summer in Chicago for an internship agreed with Kimpela's sentiment. "All of us are really competitive," said Boyle. "So when you see someone put up a big weight or put up a good time running, you want to beat it. Summer Stars kept everything competitive over the whole summer."
BUILDING A TEAM
The program continued to strengthen the bond within the team from the spring, but also served its desired purpose of welcoming a large group of newcomers. The Hoyas incoming class of 32 freshmen is the largest for the program in recent memory. With the group constituting over one-third of the roster, the staff and returning players realized it would be important to get the group up-to-speed as quickly as possible.
"The whole idea of what Coach Sgarlata is trying to do is to keep everyone together and keep everybody a family," Kimpela said. "Summer Stars gave us a chance to get to know the incoming freshmen and reach out to them."
"It was a good way to get the freshmen involved in the team," Boyle said. "They always come in wide-eyed and don't really know what to do with the running and lifting, they're just thrown into the deep end, so this was a good way to get them on the same page."
So far, it has proved beneficial to many of the team's freshmen, who have adjusted nicely through the first week of training camp.
"It was huge," freshman running back Alex Valles said. "I got a chance to know the guys that are on the roster because of Summer Stars. You see them posting so you're familiar with who they are and how hard they work, so you want to work as hard as them. It's made the transition easier, because you're familiar with everybody. I got to work out with (sophomore offensive lineman) Joseph Bottari because of Summer Stars and I was able to connect with him and do a couple of the running drills with him."
The team's upperclassmen have noticed that the incoming freshmen have taken the Summer Stars program seriously and followed the example that has been set.
"I think this freshman class has worked harder than any freshman class that I've ever seen," Satchell said. "They are a hard working group, from the people that were here this summer to the guys posting videos; they were all doing good heavy weights and working hard on every rep."
Now the task will be to see how all of the summer work will carry over onto the practice field and into the Hoyas' season-opener with Wagner on August 30. But for now the staff has been encouraged by the progress.
"With summer training having such an impact on the team, it's imperative to know if our athletes are putting in the work we ask them to," Tolzman said. "Although staying on campus and going through the voluntary lifts is the gold standard, I think using social media as a platform to connect has its advantages. With the athletes now being on campus for fall camp, there is a sense of camaraderie to the team as if they all never left campus during the summer. Posting on social media and seeing each other's training was almost like having us all meet up once a week to train."