By Dan Harrison
---- — The picture of the high school athlete has changed over the last 15 years.
Kids are bigger, stronger, faster and most importantly, more dedicated to becoming all those things. In the past, practice made perfect. Now simply practicing just isn’t enough.
Local strength and conditioning guru Matt Foley understands this as well as anyone on the North Shore. His latest program, Elite Sports and Fitness, aims to help local athletes best prepare themselves for today’s ultra-competitive high school sports landscape.
“Practice isn’t enough. Practice is to games what strength training is to practice,” explained Foley. “(Elite Sports and Fitness) will make your practice easier and when practice is easier you can listen to your coach and interpret their message better. You have to prepare and practice is not preparing especially now a days.”
There are plenty of high school athletes in the program but Foley will train any level from middle school to semi-professional. “You name it, I’ll train it,” is one of him mottos.
Foley’s new brand new facility is located on South Maine St. in Middleton and offers 3250 square feet with six power racks, over two tons of free weights, a dynamic warm-up area and a 20x8-yard drill area. More important is the man himself as Foley plays equal parts instructor and motivator with the necessary passion and precision.
“I love what I do. I’m real. What you see is what you get. Every one of the athletes that comes through the door knows it’s real,” said Foley. “I want them to succeed. I want the best out of them and they give it. If you’re real, success will come.”
There’s a whole generation of local athletes who can attest to his genuine nature. Foley worked with Mike Boyle in 1996 before starting his own strength and conditioning program with Hamilton-Wenham athletes back in the summer of 2001 at Iron Rail. Then, Foley worked athletes out of an equipment closet at Hamilton-Wenham Regional before moving to his own facility.
Foley had actually joined up with Peter Reppas forming Impact Athletics in 2011 but found that he preferred his way of doing things.
“I need to be doing my thing. I need to do it my way and have my freedom with nobody looking over my shoulder,” noted Foley. “It’s all me now getting back to the old days. It’s smaller, like when we were all in the equipment closet together. No thrills and no egos. Just back to the basics.”
Strength and conditioning techniques change as new studies are done all the time. Foley not only keeps up with the changes but also tweaks his program depending on what he learns.
“Every year I keep learning more and every year the athletes bring something new to the table. There’s some new twist you have to count for and learn it,” said Foley. “If you don’t learn it, people know you’re a fake. If you want to be respected you have to know your stuff so every year I keep learning more trying making the program better.”
Knowledge has certainly helped Foley maintain a successful training program. But what truly separates him from other trainers is that he wants all his students to look at him as a friend.
“What makes me different is that I feel you have to be a friend. If I’m going to ask you to give me everything you have, you have to know I have your back and that I’m there for you no matter what,” said Foley. “The athletes I have know I have their best interests at heart and when they do a personal best I’m there for them.”
It’s why Foley makes it a point to attend as many games as he can to watch as many of his kids compete. Not only does it reaffirm that Foley is in your corner, but it also gives him a chance to see you in your element and he can adjust your program to what he sees when you compete.
“My job isn’t done just because they came in the door, trained with me and left,” said Foley. “It’s sending messages on Facebook and trying to go and make at least a game a season. You have to make time just to let them know that you care.”
Danvers native Mike DiSciullo, who started as a freshman on the Danvers hockey team and will be a junior at Austin Prep this fall, can attest to Foley’s methods.
“I’ve been going (to Foley) for three years and since day one he made me feel like his own kid,” said DiSciullo. “He will catch anything and he’s nice about telling you what’s wrong. He knows more about you than you know yourself. Going there it’s like a home away from home. He makes everyone feel comfortable and we have a blast.”