Behind every great team is a great support staff and the BC Lions are no exception. Whether the players are on the roster or on the practice squad, they need to be kept in top physical condition. That’s where BC Lions strength and conditioning coach Chris Boyko comes in. Boyko is a fitness and personal training guru who has many private clients in addition to his job with the Lions.
Former Lion Emmanuel Arceneaux, now with the Minnesota Vikings flew to Vancouver this off-season, just to work out with Boyko.
We recently had the chance to speak with Chris about his duties with the Lions, his business of training athletes on many levels and his passion for his own love of martial arts.
BCLD: Chris, thanks for talking to us. Let’s start with a description of your duties with the football club and how you became involved with the team?
CB: Thanks for the opportunity to give some insight to what happens behind the scenes. As a strength coach and a member of a 5 man training room/equipment staff, I have many duties but my main focus is the players. All 5 of us Billy, Benjie, Kato, Gavin and myself do our best to make sure the players are well prepared to go into battle! My duties can be challenging but its simple. First, to get all players ready to use there talent to the best of their ability. Second, to get injured players back on the field as quickly and safely as possible, and third to develop the practice roster players and to have them ready for the possibilities of getting into the lineup.
I became involved with the team after years of being a personal trainer to up and coming athletes, including CFL players. I would design in-season and off-season programs for players years before I was a staff member and had some communication with Billy throughout, so when the position opened up 4 years ago I was on the list as a candidate and needless to say I attacked the opportunity!
BCLD: Can you tell us the difference between working with different types of players? Like for instance obviously with receivers you want them to maintain speed while being strong, offensive linemen you want bulk and power combined with agility. How do you approach things as a coach for different positions?
CB: I work with many different types of athletes who play different sports as well, and the first and most important factor is that every good trainer must know their athlete because no two athletes are the same. So when I have guys at different positions and body types I pay close attention to each athletes movements, his strengths and weaknesses and his primary function on the football field. So basically I assess my athlete! But even before that, I get info from Billy regarding previous injuries, and recruiting info from Wally and other coaches on specific attributes that need to be improved. So my approach is based on having a communication relationship with my player. Obviously he has talent or he wouldn’t be here, so I want to know what programs he followed in the past or in college or previous team to get a better understanding of my athlete, from there I work him into my program accordingly, then the quest for improvement begins! I will get each guy who works with me as big, strong, fast and explosive as possible based on his own capabilities. I have a certain expectation of the type of athlete that can be a champion, I will bring that quality out in my athlete.
BCLD: Describe your working relationship with long time Lions trainer Bill Reichelt. Obviously when players are injured team doctors and Bill are actively involved in the treatment that player takes. Are you involved from the start or does your role kick in once the player is ready for rehab?
CB: My working relationship with Bill is fantastic! We work very well together. Bill is an amazing athletic trainer and therapist. Bill is cool as ice in the hottest situations, and I do my best to follow his lead. First there is always time invested in going over the players that we have and the injuries to watch out for based on a history of our athletes. By the time training camp hits, Bill has already briefed me with an advantage. At that point I develop injury prevention programs. So yes, I am involved from the start, however when injuries happen during the season the athlete goes through Bill and the doctors first and then depending on the severity of the injury I begin active rehab based on what Billy and the doctors authorize. As we know injuries can be inevitable in contact sports so my goal in my program is to lessen the severity of these injuries so that my guys can stay on top of their game.
BCLD: You often tweet about players on the practice squad coming in for training sessions at the facility. I know these guys are professionals, but is it a challenge to keep a player on the practice roster motivated?
CB: Yes I do often tweet about practice squad players and their training success. First I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and respect the guys who are still grinding away to become a better athlete! And even though they are pros I can see that motivation for some begins to fade. But we are blessed to have each other in this environment. It is definitely a challenge at times to keep the PR guys pumped up! There comes a time that produces a negative thought I call THE ENEMY, when a PR guy may think he dosnt have a shot in ever playing a game during the season, and that’s where I come in! I am passionate about not ever giving up! So this is the point I get across to my players, I always tell them to BE READY! Because things can change so quickly. Before you know it your the guy expected to fill in for a fallen soldier. I usually develop a close relationship with some of these guys due to the fact that I spend more time with them during the week and when the team travels I stay with the slightly tweaked guys and the hungry guys fighting for a shot! I fully appreciate every drop of blood and sweat that my guys shed for me and I won’t stop grinding with them, its an honour.
BCLD: How closely do you work with veteran players like a Geroy Simon? Obviously he’s been doing this for a long time and is in great shape year round. Does a player like Geroy still get input from you or is he pretty much left to do what works for him?
CB: I work closely with a lot of the veteran players throughout the year but Geroy and I have been training together for over 6 years. Geroy hired me as his personal trainer in 2005 to get him ready for the 06 season and that led to an outstanding player award, new record and a Grey Cup championship! Since then we have had a lot of success with my program. Geroy is an unbelievable athlete, he never seizes to amaze me with the things he does on that field. Geroy is a unique man with unique training needs and I feel I have developed a training style that fits. Geroy treats his body like a finely tuned machine and stays in shape year round, and as geroy would tell his teammates ” that’s the difference between being good and being great”
Even though Geroy has been around a long time and has a lot of experience in training for football, we both have an understanding that when it comes time to train even the most elite athletes can benefit from having a trainer guide them to a higher level of performance. It’s because of all the experience we have together that makes the training process so successful. Geroy knows his body and I know Geroy’s body! So when I develop the program, I know what needs to be improved. The human body goes through changes year after year in this sport so the program has to evolve along with the athlete.
There is certain things that Geroy likes to keep in his training because he knows they work for him, but he is a true pro and still is open for input because he is a competitor and wants to always improve! I can tell you that Geroy is one of the hardest workers on the field and in the weight room/ track. The up and coming athletes should use his work ethic as a manual for athletic success. Its an absolute honor to be his trainer and his friend! I am definitely a Superman fan!
BCLD: I understand you do other training besides working for the Lions. Do you have individual clients in other sports?
CB: Yes I do other training besides the Lions. My passion for developing athletes of all ages has put me in a position to be a conditioning program designer for the youth program at GAME READY FITNESS, in addition to that I am the strength and conditioning coach for a high level of athletes for the India Field Hockey club, youth soccer and high school football teams. My amazing wife and I run our company BOYKO ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT and cater to team, group, fighter and individual personal training.
Photo by: www.masiphotography.com
BCLD: Can you tell us a little bit about your passion for martial arts? Do you have a desire to, or do you compete in UFC type events?
CB: I have a burning passion for martial arts! I am deeply rooted in the lifestyle of a martial artist, I have been training since I was 12 years old in different fightings arts. Starting with tae kwon do, kung fu, and muay thai. I have been in many fighting tournaments, form competitions and in the ring fighting muay thai. I have been blessed with great trainers that have prepared me to fight here in Vancouver, Vince at WKX years ago and recently Master Song at KAI SING THONG MUAY THAI. I believe that if you want to be the best you have to train with the best! I absolutely love UFC and mixed martial arts. I still 100 percent have a desire to compete as a fighter and I don’t know if I will ever lose that, its such a part of me! I train hard year round, always developing new methods of improvement to add to my tool box. I also enjoy training other fighters when I am not preparing for a fight. I am a peaceful warrior, but my mind, body and spirit are ready for war.
BCLD: Chris, thank you for taking the time to give us a glimpse of your role with the BC Lions. Best of luck to you and the club in your pursuit of a Grey Cup in 2011 and with all your goals and ambitions for the future!
CB: A big thank you to you and everyone who is interested and supports us as we pursue a Grey Cup title in 2011! The pleasure is all mine. Talk to you soon!