No Offseason for GCU Strength and Conditioning Coach
The license-plate frame on Chuck Howard’s Nissan Pathfinder reads, “The Best Exercise … Walking With God.”
And to make sure you get the point, it cites 1 Timothy 4:8:
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present and the life to come.”
Physical training has “some” value? Then how come Howard’s little sweat shop off the southwestern corner of GCU’s old gym is busier than a turnstile at Yankee Stadium? And why does the so-called offseason for Antelope athletes have Howard, their strength and conditioning coach, working with 60 of them on campus and an additional 200 online?
“There’s really no downtime,” admits Howard, the 47-year-old dynamo who hustles to keep all of them on track. “You’re working with everybody, constantly developing new programs, addressing injuries.
“I’ve lived the athlete’s life, and I know how hard it is to stay on task in the summer.”
Howard, an Indianapolis native and former football player at Indiana University, earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science. However, it wasn’t until he suffered a serious knee injury in a game against the University of Southern California that he began to think in terms of a training career.
“Rehabbing my knee gave me the desire to do what I’m doing now,” he says. “It was through my desire to get back on the field that I wanted to do this.”
If it seems to GCU’s athletes that he’s a bit of a drill sergeant, well, he’s got the background. Howard trained troops for the Army for four years. He also managed corporate wellness for Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co. in New York.
After a brush with tragedy — he would have been in the Twin Towers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, but an appointment there was rescheduled — Howard decided to pack up his wife and three sons in 2002 and move to Arizona. He opened a gym in Tempe, Champions Personal Training, and met Russ Pennell at about the time Pennell was opening the Arizona Premier Basketball Academy in Gilbert.
The cross-country move was a leap of faith for the family. Howard had recommitted his life to Christ in 1996 while attending a small storefront church in Dover, N.J., and becoming close to its pastor, Sal Bellini, who has since died of cancer.
“Losing him and moving out here was a rough stretch,” Howard says, “but God protected us, directed us and united us. I was very comfortable with my life, but God said (Arizona) was where I needed to be.”
A session with Howard can involve some spiritual heavy lifting. He’s not afraid to bring the Gospel into the weight room.
“Every day we start with a devotional of 15 minutes,” he says. “I ask them to bring something, then we pray and we go to work. If they don’t have a relationship with God, then this is where they can meet Him. This is good soil for that.
“This position has rejuvenated my zest for training. Generally, athletes’ desire to work is high. It excites me to be a part of GCU. The opportunity before us is special.”
GCU’s strength and conditioning program will have a new home this fall when Howard’s operation moves into the new Student Recreation Center and 5,000 square feet of dedicated space. Top-of-the-line equipment has been ordered, and Howard already has a name for the place: the Performance Athletic Center.
“Everything we do is side by side,” he says of his training philosophy, citing Proverbs 27:17, which speaks of iron sharpening iron. “There’s accountability and unity that way. We’re trying to make a mark and establish a legacy here. We want to do more than what’s expected.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 602.639.8011 or at [email protected].