BURNABY — The Simon Fraser football team has already shown how adept it is at carrying the weight of disappointment that comes with a COVID-19-cancelled college football season.
Now, over the course of a five-day run beginning Monday, the NCAA’s lone non-U.S. team will be demonstrating the best ways in which they have collectively lifted each other during these tough times by hosting its inaugural SFU Football Lift-a-Thon, a fundraising effort which seeks to emphasize the importance of its off-season conditioning program, and to provide additional support for its student-athletes to improve their overall experience atop Burnaby Mountain.
Players will take part in three different core weight-room exercises, and full details on making donations as part of the cause are available by clicking here.
To Simon Fraser associate head coach and defensive coordinator Taylor Summers, there is a foundational purity to be gleaned by those who make the weight room a second home, and thus for him, SFU’s inaugural Lift-a-Thon is a celebration of more than the simple act of pumping iron.
“In the end, that is where the passion lies,” explains Summers, who along his journey became a certified strength and conditioning co-ordinator while coaching various aspects of the offence and special teams during an earlier stop along his journey at Div. 2 Minnesota Crookston. “Emphasizing the sports psychology development that our athletes need to have when they come into their season… it all starts in the weight room.”
While NCAA regulations put a limit on the amount of time teams can mandate their student-athletes be in the weight room, during these COVID-19 challenged times, lifting is one of the things that players can do on their own time to their heart’s content in their own safe environments.
And as Summers stresses, it’s an aspect of a player’s daily ritual which can’t really be graded from the outside as accurately as so many other skills.
“It carries over (to the professional ranks),” admits Summers, a Sammamish (Wash.)-Skyline High graduate who later suited up at linebacker and along the defensive line at NCAA Div. 3 powerhouse Linfield College. “It’s the thing that scouts always ask of us. They can watch video and see how they are on the field, but they want to know more. Scouts want to know what players are doing in the off-season, what they are doing to improve their bodies and really make longterm gains year-to-year.
“So, pro mindset is something we talk about a lot when it comes to training”
Which brings us to the 2020 SFU football team, a unit that was making clear strides to gain traction in the GNAC but has been sidelined in its quest to show that improvement on the field this season.
Ask Summers for a good example of a player who is going to move a lot of weight come Monday at the Lift-a-thon, and the first name that comes to mind is that of veteran linebacker Griffin Barrett, the Moose Jaw, Sask., native who last season was the conference’s runaway tackling leader at 10.5 per game.
“I think he’s one guy that really stands out and he’s always been a really hard worker in the weight room and is now going on to his fifth year in the program next fall,” begins Summers.
“He is so dedicated to the weight room and you see it on the field,” he adds. “He was first-team all-league last year and he just continues to get stronger, more explosive and just a better overall athlete.
“He’s that athlete who stays in B.C., working out in the summer when it’s not mandatory,” continued Summers. “It’s that whole year-round mentality of being an elite athlete… he is a guy who I expect gets a look in the CFL and/or higher because he really does train his body the entire year-round. It’s how he is able to withstand high levels of competition and withstand longterm injuries. It’s because he is so strong.”
Safe conditions, of course, will be paramount during the Lift-a-Thon.
“Even though we’re going to be in really small groups in the weight room, it will still be a fun environment,” Summers explains of an event which will give the coaching staff a good baseline of where they are as they head into an all-important period of off-season conditioning beginning in January. “Our weight training is a big part in terms of building our culture and our value system, and that starts with the hard work they do in the weight room.
“Our guys are really competitive, not just Griffin,” Summers adds. “That’s the mindset we’ve had the past couple of years, and any time they get to show their best in the weight room is a big day for us.”
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