All football players hit the weight room, but if they don't have someone with expertise to oversee the operation, athletes risk injury due to overexertion or improper technique. For North Haven football, that's where Brian Woodford comes into the picture.
Brian is the Indians' strength and conditioning coach and serves as one of the program's volunteers. Brian captained Haddam-Killingworth football as wide receiver/cornerback before graduating in 2002 and then played at Springfield College, where he majored in exercise science and was part of three division championships.
Last year, Brian was working as a personal trainer and told his client he wanted to be part of team in the fall. That person refereed Brian to Indians' coach Anthony Sagnella, who brought Brian in as a freshman assistant. Following the campaign, Brian asked Sagnella if he could participate in North Haven's offseason training and Brian was soon teaching the athletes how to get stronger and faster through lifting and other training.
"I feel at home in North Haven and appreciate that Coach Sagnella trusted me to head up our offseason lifting. The kids are great, the parents are great, the community is supportive, and the coaching staff is like one big family," says Brian, 29. "I have a passion for football and had a great experience playing at HK. I've always wanted to take what I learned and give back to the kids. I want them to take what they learn in the weight room and use that in life by pushing themselves to get to the next level."
Brian began this mission in January, when he and Mike Ranfone formulated the regiment that North Haven's football players-and other athletes, both male and female-went through for about an hour four days a week until June. The athletes first did a warm-up, followed by lifting, and then concluded with anterior and posterior stretching. Then in the summer, Brian and Ranfone guided a morning summer camp five days a week that featured athletes spending 45 minutes in the weight room and another 45 working on speed and agility in the gym.
Brian says North Haven's athletes met his high standards and the football team exemplified that by finishing fourth at the state's Linemen Challenge, winning the bench press event.
"The kids rose to our standard of excellence. They worked hard and I was happy to see such great turnouts with about 30 to 40 kids each day," says Brian. "The kids had a checklist of what they were supposed to do and I'd patrol the rows to make sure they had the correct form so they wouldn't get hurt. If you don't have the proper mechanics, you fall into a cycle of getting injured and nobody wants that."
During the season, North Haven lifts twice a week and Brian not only spends time assisting that process, but coaches with the freshmen and takes the varsity squad through its warm-ups.
One person who's there alongside Brian is Coach Sagnella, who feels immensely grateful for how he's benefited his program.
"Brian has made more our offseason more detailed and efficient. He knows the best way to manage time with so many bodies in the weight room and immediately got the kids to focus," Sagnella says. "Brian is an extroverted person who's enthusiastic about what he does and, like all our volunteers, we appreciate having someone like him, who goes above and beyond because he cares so much about our program."