About Coach Konopka
My name is Steve Konopka. I am the head Strength and Athletic conditioning coach and owner of Strength N Honor Training Facility in Simsbury, CT. Strength N Honor Training was born out of my passion to pass the mindset to achieve the highest levels of success on and off the competitive playing field to athletes of all ages. We use these methods and philosophies to help every day citizens become healthier, happier and more functional to enjoy an active life.
I developed the Strength N Honor mindset and training philosophy through my own life experiences on and off the field and in the gym. Life has tossed me many curve balls athletically and personally. It's through these experiences I realized the power of the mind combined with training - that's how I rose up each time and continue to do so today.
Looking back at my football career which started kind of late (putting on my armor my freshman year of high school) it was apparent very quickly that I would excel at this sport - I was made for it. After a great sophomore year which included varsity play time I knew I wanted to keep succeeding and set my goals to play in college and beyond. I attacked the weight room with a NO WHITE FLAGS attitude. After a summer of clanging and banging the weights I was ready for hell week and my junior year season of football. During training camp conditioning I felt a pop in my knee and it locked out. I fought through it but my knee kept locking and the trainer would have to manipulate it to get it unlocked. After an MRI confirmed a torn meniscus diagnosis I started P.T. and eventually had to have surgery (during week 4 of the season). I was told season was probably over. This was one of those "downs" I mentioned earlier and the start of my Strength N Honor mindset. I was not accepting the season was over. After the surgery I went to P.T. three times a week and hit the gym everyday on my own for an upper body work. Once I was further along, I added legs daily. The result? In four short weeks I was on the field as a starting player. I played in three games that season and still made first team all-conference. The weight room is what brought me back up from that valley and got me back on the field.
Senior year I finished with an awesome on field performance but my performance in the classroom wasn’t as spectacular. Division 1-AA offers and letters were coming in but my effort to bring my grades and scores up to their standards was unfortunately too little too late. Enter my new low - these missed opportunities were because I was a knucklehead in the classroom. The lesson? grades are also important! I knew I needed to work even harder than before so I got focused, hit the gym even harder and an opportunity arose for me at Central Connecticut State University. Although a smaller Division 1-AA school, I would be continuing my career. Freshman year I hit the ground running working my way into the starting lineup and finishing the season with All-Conference honors. The next two years were an onslaught in the classroom, gym and the field.
I ventured out to build my strength. At the time, the school didn't offer a strength coach. I learned from anyone and anywhere. There was a lot of trial and error but I kept plugging forward. Two years later brought NFL scouts and media attentions daily. As my path would have it, the sixth game of the season I suffered a devastating high ankle sprain on an illegal block. I was sidelined for the remainder of the season and the blue grey all-star game which would've let me show the scouts I could play with the big boys. Doing well in that game would have solidified my 3-4th round rating for the upcoming draft and possibly upgraded me.
What did I do? You guess it, once again I hit P.T. and the gym. A few months later I was signed as a priority free agent minutes after the draft.
Though my time in the NFL was brief, I was there with the best in the world and learning a lot. The experiences and things I learned were tremendous. The main thing was it was a business and everyone is training like you or even harder. Excuses were not valid. If I wanted to be the best, continue my career I knew in my my heart I still had something to prove. It was off the gym again! You might be picking up a trend by now, no?
After aggressively attacking the weights with my NO WHITE FLAGS mindset for a few months I signed with the New England Sea Wolves of the Arena Football League. I was fortunate to have a very successful 8 year professional career in the heyday of the Arena Football League. That came to an abrupt end one night on the way home from training. I was involved in a hit and run accident that left me down a ditch, into a tree and seriously injured. This all happened only three days before the start of training camp. I was in very bad shape from the unconscious jaws of life exit of my vehicle, my season was ruined.
I was subsequently released from my contract and left with no insurance, income or a clue what to do next except... you guessed it hit P.T and the gym. I worked hard, really hard, but being 32 at the time (ancient for a pro-football lineman) and because of the types of injuries I sustained I could not bounce back fully and return to a pro career. I was able to get to 50% easily. After that my body would not respond. I was forced to face the hardest fact - I was done playing football. I had to put the helmet up on the shelf and figure out what was next.
What was supposed to be next was the original Strength N Honor training facility. The lease was signed and equipment was bought. The problem was my body could not do the training. I also could not properly coach the young athletes the way I expect them to be coached. This is part of the Strength N Honor philosophy when you show up to train our trainers are ready to attack and motivate. For these reasons, I did not open the facility.
These were the dark times. The layoff snowballed my body and mind into a negative place. No longer was my body being treated like a finely tuned Formula 1 race car it was being treated like a 1988 Ford Escort (no offense to Ford). My weight was bad. I lacked energy. I suffered from constant aches and pains. All this, coupled with poor self-esteem all hit me like 1000 pass rushers coming at once. When you add the stress of mortgages, bills and trying to find a job, things were spiraling out of control.
About two years later, I was blessed with the birth of my first son. This was the spark I needed to get out of my low. One day after watching some college football I took a shower and bam! I looked in the mirror and said who is that? I remember the day like it was yesterday. Don’t get me wrong I was never an Instagram model (it didn’t exist back then) and I couldn't step on stage in a neon yellow banana hammock but my hard work in the gym gave me a good physical presence that I took PRIDE in. At my last training camp at 31 years old I weighed 283 on the dot and was 9.3% body fat by calipers 13% in the body pod so I was in decent shape. What triggered me was I didn’t want my son to say “my dad used to be in shape or he used to work out.” I wanted to train with him. I wanted to lead by example about how important being fit and healthy is. This was the kick in the ass I needed to finally get going again.
Once again, the gym is where I ended up. This time there wasn’t 500 lb bars on my back nor was anyone in the gym stopping to watch my teammates assault the hammer strength jammer machine. I wasn’t training for my paycheck or an opponent. Now it was more important, my son was watching.
This long poor me bio has a point. The gym and fitness always brought me back from my low points and to what was important to me. That’s how Strength N Honor was developed. No shortcuts, no excuses, no limits and NO WHITE FLAGS! That’s where the passion comes from and that is the passion that we put into every session and every program we make. This passion of hard work, pride and commitment is what we try to develop in all our young athletes to help develop them on the field and in life.
So, what did my god given talent and work ethic in the gym get me? Here’s the detail starting with where I am today:
- Olympic Athletes
- Professional fighters
- Division 1 college bound athletes
- HS athletes
- HS group speed and performance training
- Aspiring young athletes
- Highly motivated adult professionals looking to improve an active lifestyle
- Certified Physical Preparedness Specialist
- Certified Football Preparation Specialist
- Weight-cut specialist (Lockhart and Leith)
- ISSA Nutritionist
- Underground Strength Gym
- Sophomore Year- Varsity
- Junior Year- 1st team All-Conference played only 3 games
- Senior Year- 1st team All-Conference 1st team All-State Hartford Courant 1st team All-State New Haven Register
- Freshman Year- Started all but 2 games Top 3 on team in tackles, sacks, TFL,FF
- Sophomore Year - Preseason All-Conference 1ST Team All-Conference Top 3 on team tackles, sacks, TFL, F-Fumbles, F-recoveries, blocked kicks, Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the week 2 times
- Junior Year - Preseason All-Conference, 1ST Team All-Conference, Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the week 3 times, Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year (only played 6 games) Led league in sacks, TFL, FF, Blocked Kicks(only played 6 games) Mel Kiper Jr. Top prospect list, Pro-football weekly top 25 defensive tackle.
National Football League (NFL)
- New York Giants - 1999 Priority Free Agent signed 1998 draft
Arena Football League (AFL):
- 2000 New England Seawolves
- 2001 Toronto Phantoms - led team in sacks, TFL, Ford Tough Man of The Game 5 times
- 2002 Toronto Phantoms - Top 5 in the league sacks, TFL, FF ,led team in sacks, TFL, Ford Tough Man of The Game 6 times ADT Defensive Player of The month, Runner up- Arena Football Lineman of The Year
- 2003 Las Vegas Gladiators - Top 3 on team in Sacks, TFL, FF and Blocked kicks
- 2004 Las Vegas Gladiators - Top 3 on team in Sacks, TFL, FF and Blocked kicks
- 2005 Las Vegas Gladiators - Leader on team in Sacks, TFL, FF and Blocked kicks, Las Vegas Gladiators Lineman Of The Year, Captain
- 2006 Las Vegas Gladiators - Leader on team in Sacks, TFL, FF and Blocked kicks, Las Vegas Gladiators Most Valuable Player of The Year, Captain
- 2007 Utah Blaze - Top 3 in sack, TFL, FF, Captain