Six years into his career at Northeast High School and his first full year as head strength coach, Pete Tanzillo took a look at the number of athletes doing extra strength conditioning.
That’s when he realized he needed to do something.
“Last year’s numbers, they were suspect is what it was,” Tanzillo said. “We knew certain kids would show up but we wanted everyone to. I called an all-athlete meeting at the end of the year and put it on the table. I said hey, if we want to continue down the road of not performing at a high level then continue what you’re doing. If you want a better chance, it’s time to show up in the offseason.”
The Rebels really responded, and it all started this summer. Taking inspiration from a fellow coach in one of his master’s classes, Tanzillo created a slogan for the summer: Invest in the Grind.
Suddenly, Rebel Strength saw 60, 70 kids showing up in the mornings during the summer to lift and condition and train. The first thing he noticed was the attitude.
“I told them right away that it takes a few weeks to build a habit,” Tanzillo said. “I didn’t want them to get scared about their bodies being sore after the first days. I tried to praise them for coming every day telling them to hang in there. Now, I have kids telling me that not being here this week has been messing with their routine.”
There was more, though. He tested his junior and senior athletes at the beginning of the summer and by the end, saw tangible proof that the Rebels had invested.
“We saw some really good results. Some number skyrocketed this summer,” Tanzillo said. “As a basketball coach, seeing them translate what they did in the weight room to the court is phenomenal.”
He wasn’t the only one that noticed the changes, either.
“When I first started ten years ago we might have one kid who could dunk the basketball,” Northeast head basketball coach Travis Eversmeyer said. “Now we’re looking at 5-6 guys who can get up there consistently. Explosiveness and athleticism has definitely picked up, and it’s a tribute to what he’s doing.”
It’s something that he preaches to his athletes. He tells them that in order to be successful, steps like this are what they have to take. It’s paid off, because his basketball program has made postseason runs in recent years including a trip to substate last season.
“I think they know now that our program has been established that if you’re not doing the extra you’re going to kind of get passed over,” Eversmeyer said. “They’re buying in. It’s the little things in the offseason that you have to do to compete not only in our school but across the conference and the state.”
One of his athletes, senior Connor Petersen, is one of those taking those extra steps.
“I really care about basketball. I think the best way to improve other than practice is lifting,” Petersen said. “If you’re bigger and stronger than other teams, you can really do a lot.
“Sometimes it sucks getting up early and you want to go back to bed, but once you get it the first few times and you focus on what your main goal is and think about the season and what you want to do, then you get into the habit of going every time.”
It’s not just basketball, though. Volleyball and football has done workouts as a team, and the athletes from every sport are reaping the benefits of Tanzillo’s new approaches.
“He’s aware of what our demographics are,” Eversmeyer said. “We have multiple-sport athletes out here and he does a good job of making it total body workout so they’re training multiple regions and areas. We’re training athletes and not specific sports players.”
Meanwhile, Coach Tanzillo only sees Rebel Strength as a growing project. He’s currently getting his Master’s in Exercise Science, and plans on continuing his education after that. Now that he’s seen results, he wants to continue.
“I want to take whatever knowledge I can and apply it here,” Tanzillo said. “It’s trial and error is what it is. If something doesn’t work, go to drawing board and fix it.”