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Progressive Sports
Steve Sobonya M.A., C.S.C.S.


sierra sport

perform better




Andy Boogaard The Fresno Bee
Originally published 1995-06-17

With all due respect to Jerry Tarkanian, Steve Sobonya is the hottest ticket at Fresno State.
The school's strength and conditioning coordinator has Bulldogs athletes pumping iron, running stairs and obeying nutrition like never before. "There's never been so much excitement in the weight room," said Jan Cummings, a football secretary whose office is just down the hall in the Duncan Building. "And I think Steve's personality is the reason."
College strength coaches are paid to develop muscle and stamina, not friendships, but Sobonya is establishing new standards at Fresno State.
"He communicates so well and players feel comfortable around him," said Omar Stoutmire, a Bulldogs junior defensive back in football. "He's pushy, but he does it in a way everybody responds to what he says."
Under Sobonya's tutelage, Fresno State athletes are making newfound gains across the board.
Stoutmire, for one, recently set a program record for a defensive back with a 306-pound power clean. In two months, he made a 21-pound gain in that lift and improved his bench press from 310 to 325.
Football coach Jim Sweeney said Stoutmire's increases are typical on the 100-man team.
"[Sobonya] has improved all of our players at least 6 percent in the bench and the squat, some as high as 17 percent," Sweeney said.
Joe Freitas, a junior outfielder in baseball, was so convinced he hired Sobonya for personal training last summer. The result was nearly a 30-pound increase in body weight, significant improvement in running speed and more - he was recently drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
"There's no doubt I would have been drafted lower if not for the increases," Freitas said. "I didn't have to pay him, I wanted to. I'd go over to his house and eat dinner with him. We became good friends, and he took a lot of interest in me. I owe a lot of my success to him.
"I guarantee you, whatever happens, if I go pro or stay in school, I'll come back and see Steve Sobonya."
He's become a big hit with Fresno State's women athletes, too.
"Obviously, our players like to work out with him or they wouldn't be making the effort," women's basketball coach Linda Wunder said. "He must be making it a good situation."
Those who work near Sobonya, 27, attribute his success to several factors, but almost all start with personality.
"You won't find anybody that doesn't like Steve," said Vickie Gould, who works alongside Cummings as a secretary in the football office.
They talk about his organization and knowledge, and they talk with reverence about Sobonya's ability not only to demonstrate techniques but to match and often exceed the athletes' strength and stamina while doing so.
Defensive lineman Leroy Colbert is the team's strongest in the squat, a lift he repeated seven times in one set recently at 505 pounds. The 5-foot 8-inch, 175-pound Sobonya squated the same weight five times.
A former competition weightlifter, Sobonya can squat 600 pounds and bench 310.
"I love to work out with the players," he said. "Being able to do it right with them, I think shows I'm not unrealistic, that, yes, we can get there."
Stoutmire said, "He shows you what he expects, which makes it a lot easier for us. He's fun to work out with."
Not always, as Freitas found out one time last summer.
He got to bed in his Bulldog Lane apartment after an out-of-town baseball trip at 2 a.m., eight hours before he was scheduled to run with Sobonya.
"I called Steve and said, "Man, I'll make it up in the evening,' " Freitas said. "He said, "No you won't, get your butt over here.' I was 15 minutes late and, when I opened my [apartment] door, he was standing there. He said, "I just came to get you.'
"He made sure I wasn't going to see my dream slip away because I was too tired or wasn't feeling well that day.
"He worked the crap out of our baseball team. There were times we wanted to get off the floor and strangle him, just strangle him. But he knows what it takes to be a champion."