At center stage of Butler athletics are the National Championship runs, the All-Americans, the conference titles and Athletes of the Week.
Behind the scenes, however, Butler’s strength and conditioning program plays a key role in making all this possible.
What people see on the outside is a major reflection of what happens behind closed doors, specifically in the varsity weight room in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
There, head strength and conditioning coach Jim Peal spends nearly 60 hours per week working with 19 different Butler athletic squads.
Peal’s main interest is in bettering every athlete in every sport, in addition to promoting a healthy breakfast each morning and telling his athletes to “Be safe, be smart” every weekend.
Now in his 10th year at Butler, Peal has spent the last eight in his current position, coordinating and overseeing the strength, flexibility and conditioning programs with the help of his two current assistants, Joey Guzzo and Damien Black.
“The most important part is getting athletes ready for play,” Guzzo said. “What we do in here is a complement to what they’re doing in practices, so we’re just another phase to get them prepared to win.”
Shelbi Burnett, a senior on the women’s cross country team who captured the Horizon League individual championship last season, was advised to do strength work, after multiple injuries.
She’s worked with Peal since last year and said he is always in the weight room, going over each lift with her if she needs it and answering any questions she has.
“He’s very understanding that lifting is a supplement and not the sole focus,” Burnett said.
Peal is so personable that it makes it easy to get caught up in the weight room, Burnett said.
“He’s got a million stories to tell, but he’s so understanding and very concerned about our personal well-being,” she said. “That’s something that I really appreciate.
“When you get into athletics, sometimes coaches can forget you’re just a person. Coach Peal never forgets that. He always asks me how I’m doing, how I’m eating. Those things are critical in terms of how well you’re going to perform.”
Peal said he wishes he could get to know all of his athletes better.
“I spend more time with them over the course of the year than any of their coaches,” he said. “I have to be concerned about their welfare.”
For all 19 Butler teams, as well as individuals needing extra attention, Peal puts together each program himself, including sport-specific exercises and more common ones.
He oversees each sport’s main workout lineup, in addition to directly overseesing football, volleyball, men’s basketball and both soccer teams.
His assistants control most aspects of the other sports teams’ routines.
“My assistants help out a lot with all my sports,” said Peal.
He said he’s aware of the basic programs that teams are doing, making sure certain things are being done in workouts, and said that he’ll pay a little more attention to certain teams at certain times.
He wants Guzzo and Black to be capable of taking over at some point, though.
The entire system is a combination of the three strength and conditioning coaches, all for the purpose of helping Butler’s students-athletes reach their highest potential.
“(Men’s basketball) coach (Brad) Stevens said one of the best things I’ve ever heard: ‘Strength and conditioning isn’t about getting stronger or getting in shape. It’s about getting better,’” Peal said. “We’re here to get better. Everything we do has a purpose.
“Getting stronger is part of it—but it’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m going to lift weights,’ or ‘Oh, I’m going to do sprints.’ We’re trying to do things the way it relates to sports all the time.”