By John Jackson, Staff Writer
At the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, Manhattan College welcomed Jonathan Larson to its sports staff. Larson filled a newly created position as Assistant Athletic Director of Sports Performance.
Larson’s interest in strength and conditioning originated from his own sports experience. He went to a military academy in Pennsylvania where he caught all four years on the high school varsity baseball team.
He wasn’t a highly recruited ballplayer but loved baseball. With a mixture of his physical training background from attending the military academy along with his own power lifting career, he decided to turn his passion into a career and help athletes who have the talent to play at the collegiate level.
“I wanted to apply my passion to my career.” Larson says. “To take my passion for training and pushing the body to its mental and physical capacity and carry that over and … better someone else that is athletic, that does have the tools to play at this level.”
Larson already has a multitude of experience in his brief career. He first volunteered at Hofstra University when he attended there as an undergraduate. His volunteering there included helping with the baseball and wrestling teams.
He then moved on to the Professional Athletic Performance Center where he helped out with the Nassau Community College baseball team. While there, he also shadowed and assisted with the training of professional baseball players Jose Reyes, whom at the time was on the move from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Larson next moved on to West Point to shadow and volunteer as a coach. A mentor of his there introduced him to a strength coach from Alabama who was looking for a graduate assistant. Larson accepted the position at Alabama where he worked with the softball and football teams.
He was in the midst of finishing his master’s degree at Alabama when one day he got a phone call from the St. Louis Cardinals.
“When you’re 24, 25 years old and you’re getting a phone call from one of the most historic franchises in all of American sports to come be a strength coach on their staff,” says Larson, “the thought of ‘No I’m just going to sit here, go to class and finish my Master’s degree and not take that opportunity on’ is kind of naïve especially for a person in my career path. So I ventured not to finish my Masters and I took the job with the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Larson worked with the big league club in spring training. He was then assigned to their High-A affiliate, the Palm Beach Cardinals to finish off the season. At the conclusion of the season, Manhattan College offered Larson a job in the brand new department for sports performance and the athletes are happy with that decision.
“It’s been great working with him,” says Amani Tatum, a guard on Manhattan’s women’s basketball team “He brings a lot of energy to the school, to the program, to all the sports teams. He builds relationships with us so we can trust what he’s doing and how he’s going to develop our bodies.”
Larson says that he has different approaches for different points in the season.
For the baseball team, which is now in season, Larson works to maintain the structural integrity of the players’ joints to keep them as healthy as possible throughout the season.
As for a team in its offseason such as the men’s basketball team, he looks to build up muscles to keep it healthy for next season.
“So basically for men’s basketball my main goal is to put as much soft tissue on their lower extremities as possible,” says Larson. “Strengthen their core, strengthen their hamstrings, get glute development, things like that to help protect them structurally. So that way going into next season, playing [Coach Masiello’s] style, their bodies can last and we can get a little more depth off the bench.”
Track and field athlete, Maddie Arndt touts Larson’s newly implemented programs especially the Olympic weight lifting.
“He taught me originally how to Olympic weight lift,” says Arndt. “That’s become a big part of my program as a track and field athlete. He taught me the basics and it’s only helped me in the long run.”
What Larson likes most about Manhattan College is the close-knit community where relationships are built.
“What I would say I like most about Manhattan is the kids,” says Larson. “The student athletes; the young men and women I get to interact with and work with on a daily basis.”
The students appreciate Larson as well and all that he has done for them.
“He is a great additive to the program,” says Arndt. “When he came in a lot of changes came in with the quality of the weight room, the quality of the lifting programs of the athletes, and everything has gotten a lot better since he got here.”