Jul. 4—Some college coaches look like they played a century ago.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski will turn 75 this season and legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden retired at 80.
It’s safe to say they aren’t doing too many hands-on drills with their teenage stars.
Merrimack assistant track coach Sam Weeks, 26, is different. Twice this spring “Coach Weeks” threw against his Warrior athletes and a few other schools.
At the Merrimack Invitational, Weeks won the discus by 33 feet with a 181-9 throw.
That’s no knock on those young competitors. Weeks is that good, nearly good enough to qualify for the recent Olympic Trials.
“It’s definitely fun. I love it,” said Weeks, an Eagle-Tribune All-Star in football and spring track at Methuen High.
“It’s good for them to compete with someone at a higher level. We all have fun. Throwers stick together. Not everyone can say, ‘Hey, I compete vs. my coach.'”
Track has to be a labor of love for someone like Weeks, who is entering his fifth year as an assistant at Merrimack. He’s good enough to be terrific, but not good enough to get sponsorship or prize money. So he has to work just as hard as the elite of the elite, but basically do it all on his own.
All while coaching and working his full time job as a program assistant at Methuen High.
“I just love the sport. It’s that simple,” said Weeks, who is now living in Haverhill. “I have the drive to be good. That’s my goal, to be good. I love the competitive atmosphere. At the end of the day, if I didn’t have a great season it means I didn’t put in the time needed to.”
No doubt he squeezes as much as humanly possible into his days.
He said, “My day (teaching/coaching) starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. Then I’m training until 10 p.m.”
But he insists: “It’s easy for me.”
He’s thrown the discus 193-3, an improvement of nearly 28 feet since his days as a Division 3 All-American at Worcester State.
A lot has gone into that. He’s just doing the discus. At Worcester State, he placed sixth at the D3 NCAAs in the discus, and also qualified for the NCAAs in the weight throw, shot put and hammer (13th at NCAAs).
A big part is he’s gotten much bigger and stronger. A two-sport college athlete, he was also a football tri-captain as an undersized defensive lineman. He was just 5-11, 205 pounds as a college senior in track.
Now he weighs 225 and his maximum lifts have gone way up in the four years since college: bench press 285 to 350, squat 405 to 490 and clean 300 to 365.
He works a lot with Methuen High’s Mike Nguyen and does work online with highly-regarded Dane Miller of Garage Strength in Reading, Penn. Miller trains several top American throwers.
“My strength has gone through the roof,” said Weeks.
That’s important, the strength, and his impressive quickness. He doesn’t have that classic long and lean discus frame where many look like NFL tight ends.
Due to the pandemic, the next Olympic Trials are just three years away. But if you are working that hard and not getting paid “just” may not seem the proper word.
But asked if the 2024 Trials were his goal, Weeks said, “Absolutely. I have to sacrifice a lot but I love throwing and I love track and field. I think it’s worth it. I don’t want to wonder if I had what it took.”
There were 25 competitors in the discus at the recent US Trials. He said he’d probably have to throw about 5 feet further to qualify in 2024.
Head coach on Sam Weeks
Fifth-year Merrimack College head coach Mark Connolly sees how hard Sam Weeks works as an athlete and as a coach.
“His approach is very high level,” said Connolly, an Andover native who starred as a middle distance runner at Austin Prep and Holy Cross.
“He’s constantly working on his footwork. There is like an underground network of coaches. He takes video and sends it to them. He works in obscurity but he works.”
That carries over to his coaching.
Connolly said, “I’m fortunate he’s not motivated by money. He does so much for the team. He’s the ‘fire up’ guy. When we have a pre-meet meeting, I call in Sam. Our 125 athletes’ faces light up. He’s the guy. They all respect him because they see the kind of work he does. He’s young and fun and a great guy. I admire his work ethic.”
City of Throwers
Methuen has already produced two Olympic throwers. Fred Tootell won the 1924 gold medal in the hammer. Sean Furey was on the US team in the javelin in 2012 and 2016.
Sam Weeks said, “I’ve met Mr. Furey when he was an assistant at Brown.”
Ex-Ranger David Shaw set the UMass Lowell record in the old javelin with a throw of 227-10 in 1984.