Strength coach raising the bar at BGSU

Chase Bachman and Chase Bachman

Allison Papenfuss is in her element when she’s in the weight room. Few people at BGSU have seen an athlete get after the weights the way she does. It’s been that way since high school. Now with her playing days behind her, she spends her time in a weight room helping others get after it, as the assistant director for strength and conditioning at BGSU.

“Some days are really busy and I get about an hour to sit down. Other days are calmer. It ebbs and flows depending on the team’s season,” Papenfuss said.

She interacts with a wide variety of sports. Being in charge of both basketball teams, both soccer teams, women’s tennis and women’s golf, Papenfuss works with six different sports and over 100 athletes.

Papenfuss assumed her title in July 2018, but she certainly isn’t new to Bowling Green. Her history with the school goes back 10 years, starting with her days as a high school prospect. 

As a star athlete on both the volleyball and the girl’s basketball team at Anthony Wayne High School, she was on the radar of Division I coaches early on. 

“She was the hardest working player that I could imagine playing the game of basketball,” said Justin Zemanski, Papenfuss’ high school basketball coach.

Papenfuss started in nearly every high school game she played. Mid-American Conference schools like Bowling Green, Toledo, and Kent State took notice of the northwest Ohio native. Ultimately, it was the Falcons that earned a commitment from the girl teammates referred to as Pap.

From the time she stepped on campus, Papenfuss proved herself to be one of the hardest working players and best teammates.

“She was always in the gym putting in extra time,” said Simone Eli, a friend and former teammate of Allison’s at BGSU. “Beyond that, she is an awesome friend. Super supportive of everyone on the team, and just got along with everybody.”

Papenfuss was a freshman on the 2009-10 squad that won 27 games, highlighted by MAC regular season and tournament championships, as well as a trip to the NCAA tournament. 

“You see the results and you want that again, so you’re willing to go through it again,” Papenfuss said. “You’re willing to understand what it means to be in the system, and to continue to get better.”

The team continued to win plenty of games throughout Allison’s career as she carved out her role as a player who provided minutes and points off the bench. 

In her senior season, Papenfuss’ role expanded, playing in all 35 games, reminiscent of her days in high school. The team’s 2012-13 season came to an end in the 3rd round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Papenfuss’s career playing college basketball was over. 

“I got to do it with great people that had my back. At the end of four years, I wouldn’t replace it with anything,” Papenfuss said.

But after four years of basketball, Papenfuss wasn’t done playing sports just yet. With a year of eligibility still remaining, Papenfuss joined the BGSU volleyball team. Playing two sports in college is a rarity these days, and few people expected Papenfuss to pick up a volleyball after not playing in four years. But with Allison’s athleticism and maturity, she had no problem making the transition.

“I went in to help the team. I wasn’t there to be the star. I went in to mentor the freshman, and it’s what really got me into coaching and training,” Papenfuss said.

Following graduation, Papenfuss made it her career to train and condition athletes at college programs.

“In strength and conditioning, I get to coach my favorite part,” Papenfuss said. “I don’t worry about what the other team is doing. I just get to worry about what my guys or girls are doing.”

As a trainer, her work has taken her to Frostburg State, Indiana, and now Bowling Green again.

“I was very ready to come back to Bowling Green,” Papenfuss said. “When they offered the strength job, I was more than willing to jump on board.”

Papenfuss trained and worked under Kenny Goodrich, who was recently named Associate Director of Strength and Conditioning at Michigan State University. Goodrich says that during her basketball days, Papenfuss was by far the strongest player on the team.

“It’s a natural fit for her to be a strength coach because it was always where she was most comfortable,” Goodrich said.

Just as Goodrich himself has moved from Bowling Green to a bigger program, there are those that believe Papenfuss is good enough to jump to the Power 5 level permanently.

“She’s going to take a huge step somewhere and run her own department,” Eli predicts.

Papenfuss wouldn’t rule out the possibility of moving again, but says she’s happy right where she is.

“This situation is great for me. I bought a house recently. My family is close by. Everything is great.”

Allison was recruited to play basketball, but finished her career as a volleyball player. Though most fans don’t see her nowadays, she’s always been one to notice in the weight room. Whenever spectators watch an athletic dunk or a killer serve, you can credit Allison Papenfuss for making it happen.