by, Whit Anderson, Asst. Sports Editor
The widespread cancellation of sports seasons on college campuses across the country has many coaches and athletes trying to find some stability in the midst of these uncertain times. Here at Manhattan, Head Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Olave is helping lead the efforts to keep our student-athletes in good physical condition during the coronavirus pandemic.
Previously an assistant at Manhattanville College, the Jasper alum and former United States Military Academy intern made his way back to campus in 2017 to become the Head Strength and Conditioning coach in charge of various sports such as cross country, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and women’s basketball.
The MAAC’s cancellation of fall sports in July forced Olave to get more creative in the way he does his job. Since the start of the pandemic, one of his main priorities has been to achieve positive communication between him and his athletes.
“It [the cancellation] was kind of expected,” Olave said to The Quadrangle. “I think the main thing I try to focus on and communicate to the athletes is that there’s still an end goal, whether it’s being delayed or not. The direction we’re going is always forward. We want to make sure we keep a positive environment so they feel comfortable and that they’re not training for nothing.”
Although Olave is still a relatively new staff member, he has one of the stronger influences among members of the athletic department in determining which organizational approaches yield the best training results for Manhattan athletes. The central goal is to execute these plans as best as possible, and having a mind like Olave involved with this committee to stay on top of these changing circumstances is reassuring.
“Over the entire summer, I was a part of a task force which involved a lot of people from our athletic department and also people from the school itself to try and develop scenarios and plans for how things are gonna look,” Olave said. “A lot of those plans changed week to week and day to day. They’re still even changing now. The biggest thing is that we’re all working together as a community to figure out what’s the safest way and most effective way to do what we need to do.”
The development of fitness routines for athletes this fall is the main focus at the moment. This phase of the planning process comes after a summer filled with changes made to the traditional conditioning programs for athletes. However, Olave knew how to make modifications to their regimens in ways that were easy to follow. And since each athlete had different levels of access to resources, Olave concocted multiple plans to ensure nobody had an excuse for coming back to school out of shape. Clearly, his high expectations for his athletes have not changed, even in this weird environment.
“Every summer I send each team their own packet with everything from speed, strength, conditioning, agility, and everything they need,” Olave said. “Basically I just extended their summer packets to five months. And being in the situation we were in, I knew a lot of people weren’t going to have access to gyms or equipment. So I came up with three different plans, one being with body weight, another being with a little equipment, and the third being a lifting plan if they had access to what they needed.”
One silver lining that comes from having a season cancelled is the extra time afforded to get better. Olave’s ability to keep his athletes prepared is a testament to the work he puts in to motivate his athletes, and also a reflection of how committed and driven the students are to be at their best for when their time to compete comes. And while the status of the fall season has already been determined, the winter and spring seasons are still up in the air. But regardless of what the future holds, there is zero intention from Olave to create any major differences in the level of intensity between how fall athletes train and how the rest of the athletes do.
Olave goes by one mantra.
“My philosophy is if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,” he said. “As long as we have that mindset we should be good. We don’t know who’s going to play and who isn’t, so the biggest thing for them is to try and get better everyday.”
The athletes seem to be in good hands under Olave’s care. But what about the average student? How can a non-athlete stay in shape with the fitness center and Draddy Gym being closed off at the moment? Similar to what he demands of his teams, he wants everyone to have a no-excuse mindset.
“There’s so many things you can do,” he said. “You just have to be creative to find ways around the restrictions.”