Grand Haven’s varsity boys basketball team won’t play a game that counts for another five-plus months.
But it’s the work that’s going right now that could lead to more success on the court — not to mention fewer injuries — for coach Steve Hewitt’s team.
The Buccaneers’ basketball program is one of several Grand Haven athletic programs working with the experts from Shoreline Sport and Spine this summer. On Wednesday, the Bucs’ boys basketball players were getting punished by the newest member of the Shoreline team, Joe Tofferi.
“Everything we’re doing out here is basketball specific,” said Tofferi, who recently joined Shoreline Sport and Spine after spending seven years as the director of strength and conditioning for the University of Detroit.
Tofferi said his goal is to challenge the kids both physically and mentally.
“This time of year, we want to set the example with a lot of hard work, building them as a team, getting them out of their shell emotionally and setting good habits,” Tofferi said. “Today, we were doing a lot of pivots. These are young kids, so we’re not worried about how much they bench or squat. We’re just worried about getting them fundamentally better.”
Much of Wednesday’s work incorporated weighted medicine balls. Tofferi walked up and down the line — one moment clapping and hollering instruction in his high-energy mode; the next stopping to quietly offer specific instruction to individual athletes.
Working with young athletes is exactly why Tofferi, a Kent City native, left Detroit to move to West Michigan.
“This is what I was made to do, and I’m very blessed,” he said. “This is like a vacation for me. I love getting out and watching kids get better, watching them get stronger.”
While Tofferi worked with the basketball team, Patrick Wykes was 50 yards away working with the Bucs’ girls cross country team.
Wykes, who serves as the athletic trainer for the GHHS athletic program during the school year, said he relishes the chance to do injury prevention and strength training during the summer months.
“This time of year, a lot of our teams, especially the fall teams, have the time available to work, get stronger," he said. "And now I have the time, so I’m able to change roles, put my strength and conditioning hat on, and work with a lot of teams.
“Our big focus is getting the kids moving, getting their body more aware of what it’s doing," he continued. "And we do that by making sure we got the body moving in and out of different positions through all the different planes of motion.”
Wykes explained that the body can move back and forth, and side to side, as well as rotating, so he makes sure workouts take all of those planes of motion into consideration.
“Whenever we exercise, whenever we train, we try to train the body and the nervous system to operate on those three planes of motion,” he said. “If you think of your body’s communication system as a dial-up Internet when we start. As we continue to train, we get to the DSL Internet, then eventually to a cable Internet.
“The messages get sent faster, and the bodies feel stuff better — so yes, we want to get stronger. Yes, we want to get faster. By doing that, if we can make ourselves more resilient to injuries, that’s a win-win.”
Wykes said a prime example is the Grand Haven girls basketball program. He’s worked with the girls basketball players the past three years — and, during that time, the Buccaneers have reached the state finals each year, winning a pair of state championships.
“Obviously, they’re a phenomenal team, and they did very well — but where I saw the most success was with the injuries,” Wykes said. “Out of those three years, we’ve only had two ACL injuries. The kids have bought in, the coaches have bought in, and they’ve told me several times they just feel more stable, like they can move better, and they have more confidence. That’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
Wykes, Tofferi and the rest of the Shoreline Sport and Spine staff work with several different high schools in West Michigan, including Fruitport and Muskegon Catholic.
They also work with small groups and individuals on strength and conditioning, as well as on injury rehab.