“New Buff Guy” Spotted in Packer Actually Our New Athletic Trainer
Above: Mr. Cunningham mid-workout on his fitness Instagram page, @mike_cunningham1424.
“Oh, who’s that muscular guy?” – “Yeah, that new Mr. Quigley is ripped, I must say” – “Absurd, absurd” – were just a few of the comments milling about the chapel as Mr. Michael Cunningham, Packer’s new Head Athletic Trainer, was introduced to the school at large earlier this year. Standing in at 6’2 and 205 pounds, “Mike” – as he implores his students to call him – is a paradigm of strength and athleticism, traits he hopes Packer students will make their own under his fitness agenda.
Mr. Cunningham’s passion for training and fitness – a “thirst to move,” as he brands it – was inculcated at a young age, when his father, a former all-state football player in college, opened up a martial arts studio some fifteen years ago. Mr. Cunningham began teaching at the studio – which specializes in Chung cu Quan, a Korean derivative of Taekwondo – at age sixteen, and since then has co-owned the workshop with his father.
In Quinnipiac University and later, Seton Hall, Mr. Cunningham majored in Health Science, working with a number of different organizations including Rutgers University football team as well various NFL teams, where he had the opportunity to train players like Tyler Kroft, Eric Decker, and even Chris Johnson. After graduating, Mr. Cunningham moved back to New York to help his father run the martial arts studio. While in the city, he worked with One on One Physical Therapy and part-time at a few high schools in Bay Ridge before finding Packer, a place he claims he “fell in love with immediately – literally the minute I walked through the door… it seemed like the perfect job for me… literally exactly what I was looking for.”
Mr. Cunningham described a common misconception in regards to his job, saying that many perceive the role of the athletic trainer to revolve around personal fitness – “‘oh, I’m really trying to get my triceps in shape for Summer when I’m on the beach.’” The reality, however, is that his role relates to sports medicine more than anything, in which injury prevention, concentrated strengthening, and conditioning take precedence over “getting big.”
As to how such a form of athletic training can be specialised to Packer, Mr. Cunningham expressed awareness that many students may be averse to certain facets of fitness, whether it be treadmills or weight-lifting, and said that he simply wants students to “buy in” – “I would like to find what each student likes to make it a more well-rounded gym, so each student can get what they want out of it… Whatever the students want, I want to get for this gym… because I want this gym to be crowded and I want people to be interested in working out and know that fitness is really fun, you just have to be creative.”
This commitment to creativity proves to be large part of Mr. Cunningham’s approach to fitness. A small factoid about Mr. Cunningham that speaks to his creative mindset is that he won an award in high school for his drawing and cartooning skills. After explaining that he receives many of his creative training ideas through various Instagram videos, Mr. Cunningham credited his love for Packer partly for their creative students, which, he said with a laugh, it seems to have “by the crap-load.” He considers the merger between a creative mind and an adherence to fitness as a “killer combination,” and one of his favorite aspects of being a high school athletic trainer.
Drawing from his experience in the martial arts, sports medicine, and football, Mr. Cunningham is bringing a whole new dimension to Packer athletics. When asked what exactly he aspires to provide Packer students in the future, however, he answered in his typically humble fashion, turning the tables and saying that what he would really love is “if the students answered that question.”