Owner's Overview: Building strength
June 8, 2012
Jacks Owner/GM Josh Mervis talks building a team and building muscle, as Tryout Camp arrives and Matt DeBlouw proves the merits of the Muskegon strength program at the NHL Combine!
Lumberjacks Owner & General Manager Josh Mervis recently talked with Matt Gajtka as the team continues to focus on building for the 2012-13 season. Building a team – and building bodies – are twin focal points of this month’s Owner’s Overview:
Matt Gajtka: How would you rank Tryout Camp on the list of important events during the year?
Josh Mervis: It’s the first tangible step towards a championship. It’s a very important event, but it’s only the midpoint of the beginning of the team.
There is still a lot that can occur over the summer, and our players still need to do a lot of off-ice training in order to prepare themselves to have success in the USHL. Our staff will be working with the players we select over the summer to ensure they are working on their training regimen, and getting bigger and stronger.
We demand, and expect full participation in our training program. If an athlete does not want to make that level of commitment to excellence, we don’t need that athlete. Tryouts are a big week, but it is just one of many steps that a championship team has to proceed through.
MG: How can a player best make a positive impression at Tryout Camp?
JM: Above all, a player needs to compete and play hard.
In addition to that, he should try to do what he does well, and minimize what he doesn’t do well. At this level, players should know what they are good at. In camp you need to play to your strengths, show what you bring to the team, and minimize what you still need work on.
Don’t try to do everything. Just do your “job.”
MG: With this being the Lumberjacks’ third camp, how has the organization’s approach changed since 2010?
JM: You learn and improve each year, that’s part of life. I think we have a better understanding now of what we want out of camp, and how better to prepare for camp.
The work of building a good team was done during the season and in the two drafts. Now is just the time that we “harvest” the draft. The truth of the matter is that the “hay is in the barn” and now we have to assess our team, selecting the members we believe will give us the best opportunity to win a Clark Cup championship.
We also need to see if we have any glaring weaknesses and use the summer and fall to address and improve them.
MG: Finally, Matt DeBlouw recently did very well in numerous fitness tests at the NHL Combine. What does this say about Matt’s work ethic and the Lumberjacks’ strength program? What makes the program so elite?
JM: Matt has learned how to apply himself in the weight room. He’s done the work, and he deserves the credit for that work. I salute him on his preparation.
Our weight program is elite because of the commitment and value we place on it organizationally. Sure, I guess you might say it starts at the top: I place a great deal of emphasis on the value of in-season weight room development and I decided to build the best weight room in the USHL. It is seven steps from our locker room, and our players have unlimited access to it.
The only other facility that can compare is the NTDP in Ann Arbor, that’s what I modeled our facility upon, and have tried to top. That is what the original plan for Tier I/NTDP was intended to do: develop the proper “model” for USHL teams. So I’ve followed that blueprint, and we have a facility that is second to none as a result. But just having a weight room means nothing if you don’t have the proper staff/trainers, or the commitment to using it.
In Dave Noel-Bernier I believe we have one of the top young trainers in the game today. I see a very bright future for him in the game, and our players (Matt DeBlouw included) have GREATLY benefited from his expertise. Also, you cannot ignore the commitment to supporting Dave’s efforts, or the importance that is placed upon the weight program by our Head Coach Jim McKenzie.
Without the support of the head coach, the players will never buy in, Jim has created an atmosphere where there is total “buy-in” with our weight program. Coach McKenzie knows firsthand the importance of physical development, and the benefits it brings to your hockey career.
For instance, Lumberjacks players had 96 team lifts fully supervised by a trained professional last year. Add that number to 137 practices and 60 games and that’s over 300 development opportunities! No other program in the league can match that number.
Our weight program is a key, integral part of our commitment to excellence here in Muskegon. For the player who wants to develop his abilities to their full human potential, it is in Muskegon – and only in Muskegon – he will find the facilities and staff necessary to meet those lofty goals.
Matt Gajtka is the Communications Director & Broadcaster for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org!