A Coach To Look Up To

By Christina Katsamouri, Contributor

Professional, consistent, efficient, motivated and intentional are some of the things that characterize Mike Olave, the strength and conditioning coach of Manhattan College, according to his athletes. Olave, in his fifth year at Manhattan College, is in charge of all the 18 sports teams, as well as being their biggest inspiration and leader.

Olave served as the assistant coach for the 2017-2018 season until being promoted halfway over the year. In this position, he is now responsible for all aspects of strength and conditioning for the Jaspers’ Division I sports, as well as serving as the primary point of contact for all of them.

Olave was an assistant coach, but even in that role, he had very good leadership skills. Already as an assistant, he was communicating with his athletes, even though he wasn’t the primary leader in the weight room at the time and his skills quickly took over in the lifting room. His promotion came very quickly and it was also very sudden, but the transition was natural. He was ready to take on this challenge, and that says a lot about his character as Luke Pacher, a graduate student from the men’s lacrosse team stated.

“He took right over and he has absolutely crushed it since then by himself. He never has an assistant coach,” Pacher says. “We would have six am practices and he would be the first one to bring the juice in, we are 40 people in our team and he gets 40 people fired up.”

Olave has developed tremendously in his work in recent years according to his athletes. He has become more individualized between different sports and has diverse workouts, depending on what the athletes need or are looking for. He is a great communicator with his athletes as he works out of his way to understand the sport. Olave’s biggest attribute is how much he cares and he is willing to work individually with his athletes as he is a coach who walks the steps with them. The work he is doing is very noticeable to the athletes and it shows when they perform in their sport.

The work he did with the women’s basketball team three years ago was very remarkable, as the team had four ACL injuries during the season. According to Sini Makela, a graduate athlete from the women’s basketball team, Olave completely replaced the strength and conditioning plan for the next year and there was a tremendous decrease in injuries. A lot of girls suffered with knee and hip injuries and coach Olave planned exercises that really helped prevent those injuries. 

Olave has brought his own culture in the athletics of Manhattan College, and it seems to be the reason why he is as respected at his job. The weight room is his world and there is lots of discipline, energy, respect and effort in there, as described by his athletes, where every one of them follows these attributes.

“He has made our team much more disciplined,” Makela says. “We always wanna be at our best, he brings out this extra energy in our team, he himself is very disciplined as a person and he leads by example, that makes our team want to practice at the standards that he has set.”

Olave has gained a lot of trust from his athletes since their first words to say when it comes to talk about Olave are trust and respect. Anu Awonusi, a graduate track and field athlete, believes that his communication skills are the reason why there’s so much trust as he knows how to cultivate and create a healthy culture. No matter if you are the last person on the bench or the superstar of the school, he will give you the same amount of attention and expect from you the same effort. 

“I trust him with my life, I trust that he knows my athletic ability, he has a full understanding of what I do and what I need to be doing,” Awonusi said. “I trust him more than anyone in the athletic program.”

The professionalism in his work and the culture he contains make Olave stand out as a faculty member and a coach at Manhattan College, making him a source of inspiration for all his athletes. 

“If it wasn’t for coach Mike I probably would have been done with my sports a little bit earlier,” Awonusi said. “There are a lot of offline conversations we had in order to help me realize where I am at, he doesn’t keep it business, he actually cares and he sees you more than just an athlete.”

“He brings a culture where what you bring into the table you also get, the effort you put is gonna be the results you get,” Pacher said.

“Two of the biggest words he has used are efficiency and consistency and these are words I wanna live by. That’s why he makes himself so respected,” Makela says. “I look up to him, he leads by example, he is very much to the point, whenever we go to the lifting room he wants to get things done, he is pushing us to be in our best focus.”

Currently, Olave is in charge of every single team at the school which makes his schedule packed and his work from six a.m. to some days even eight p.m. However, all of his athletes report that he will still try to make time for extra workouts and his energy or work will never be less than what he has been giving all these years. Based on his athletes’ statements, it seems that Olave is holding himself to the highest standard as a coach, consistent and efficient.