Marvin Abney all about strength, condition and motivation


The weight room: dumbbells clang as they slide onto bench press bars, music pumps along with hearts, students dance through agility drills and smile with the accomplishment of a finished set. Mirrors surround the room, expand the commotion. At the center of this hubbub of action and exercise is Marvin Abney, the school’s new strength and conditioning coach.

Abney’s job is to work with Seahawks, individually or as a team, to improve their fitness.

“Being an athlete, it’s hard work. I don’t care what anybody says and I don’t care which sport it is, they’re all tough, you know. So why would you put yourself through that if you’re not gonna do your absolute best? It just doesn’t make sense to me. So my goal is to help you get to that point,” Abney said.

Abney knows what it is to be an athlete, as well as to train them. After playing football at his New Orleans high school, he played for the armed forces team from 1976 to 1979, travelling from Germany, where he was stationed, to England and Spain for games. After his time spent serving abroad, Marvin spent thirty years in the Seattle Fire Department, eventually taking the title of captain. For his last five years in the department, he became a sort of personal trainer for firefighters.

“I’ve been active since I was a little kid. I played sports from peewee and little league baseball all the way up to not being able to compete anymore,” Abney said.

Abney strove to be an example for the men in his line of work, training and improving his physical fitness constantly.

“I was always training. I wasn’t like a lot of firefighters that, they had other jobs or they had businesses or what not. I just trained. I did triathlons for five years. So when I wasn’t at the firehouse I was riding a bike or swimming or running or doing something like that,” Abney said.

At 58, he bid farewell to the department. But that’s too young to “lay around and do nothing.” The retired fire captain now works at Gateway Fitness, leading a bootcamp and working as a personal trainer. He is very excited about being hired by the school.

“I prefer to work with athletes. Granted I don’t mind working with the Joe-average you know at the gym and stuff but athletes seem to be a little more motivated… and it’s real similar to training firefighters. You know the type training, the intensity level, all those different things is very, very similar. So I was more comfortable with that than a bunch of soccer moms. Nothing against them,” Abney said.

“He motivates me by telling me something if I’m doing something wrong. And he just pushes me to the max,” Senior Bryce Gourley said. Gourley is a baseball player who has been working with Abney since late September.

Coach Abney works with almost every team on different days of the week, from football to volleyball to cheerleading. His programs are designed for each sport, becoming more specific to the mode and techniques of the particular sport as time goes on.

Abney starts teams off with a fundamental base training, increasing muscle strength. Next, teams move to the maximal strength phase, lowering repetitions and sets, but increasing intensity. The pre-season phase focuses on sport specific exercises such as speed training or explosiveness. During the season, the goal is “maintaining the strength they acquired in the off-season.”

Abney believes high intensity, metabolic conditioning exercise produces the best results.

“I just think that form of training is just better for you. You’re training like an athlete essentially,” Abney said. “‘Cause athletes, you never see them on a treadmill, they’re out there working really hard.”

Senior Kirstine Rivera began training with Abney in the summer to prepare for basketball season.

“[He’s] just really positive and always pushing you and saying you can do more and more,” Rivera said. Abney doesn’t only work with teams and athletes, he encourages everyone, teachers and students, to come up to the weight room.

“This is a good time to really get into the fitness thing if you haven’t already, and then as you get older it becomes a habit. And that’s what’s actually gonna stop you from having all kinds of diseases and stuff,” Abney said.

He doesn’t promise staying physically fit will make you live longer, but he is convinced “it makes your quality of life better.” The veteran soldier and firefighter still trains six days a week, despite having both of his hips replaced. He does a mix of crossfit, some bodybuilding and weight training.

“You know I’m 60 and I don’t take any meds, I’m never sick; until I came and hung around these little walking petri dishes,” Abney said. His goal as the new strength and conditioning coach is to help everyone who comes to him realize their potential.

“If you look in a mirror and go ‘ok last season I did this, this, this, this, this. Well these are the things I didn’t do too well, [these are] the things I need to work on.’ And constantly try to get better,” Abney said. “So you have to have this burning desire to be the best and you have to not let your ego get in the way of your progress.”

Whether Seahawks consider themselves athletes or not, they might want to consider taking up the opportunity to work with a coach so dedicated to the health and success of students. Stop by the weight room and look into one of its many mirrors.

“If you want to be an athlete, be one,” Abney said.