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9.19.2009

Celtics Get Dance Instruction

1983-84 Boston Celtics
Training Camp

David Bowie's "Let's Dance" bounces off the Pappas Gymnasium walls at Hellenic College and the Celtics begin loosening up for another preseason practice. Danny (Ziggy Stardust) Ainge starts in on his Bowie imitation. Across the court, Gerald Henderson is in motion and looks like he's ready for the Solid Gold Dancers. Cedric Maxwell and Kevin McHale, famous for eschewing calisthenics in past seasons, happily join 15 other Celtics in a 13-minute stretching drill led by 5-foot-2 aerobic dance instructor, Louise Boland.

The scene draws a few chuckles from the sidelines, but Red Auerbach notes, "The funniest thing is that they're all into it. I thought we'd have a problem, but watch Bird, watch Max. This is the only thing you can get Max to do."

Anyone can sense the new atmosphere in this 1983 Celtic camp. The Bill Fitch goose step has been replaced by the K.C. Jones' soft shoe. Fear and loathing have yielded to communication and respect. Along with all these changes, trainer Ray Melchiorre's flexibility program has gone disco - AM and FM. Stress on stretching has always served the Celtics well. Muscle pulls virtually disappeared when Melchiorre instituted his program four years ago. The only negative aspect was that the tedium sometimes caused veteran players to lose interest.

They are all paying attention this year. "Let's face it," says M.L. Carr. "If you've got to stretch, listening to music and looking at a nice-looking lady is better than listening to Ray and looking at Ray. Obviously, Ray thinks he has to compete since he's growing his hair long, but I don't think it's gonna work." Jones is responsible for bringing Dance Fever to the Celtics. He heard about Boland's "Fokus on Fitness" company in Holliston and sent Melchiorre to see what the program was about. Melchiorre met Boland at Auerbach's summer camp and enlisted in an aerobics program.

"I felt like Richard Simmons," recalls the Celtic trainer. "It was me and 50 women at those things. But it was a great workout and seemed like it might work here." Melchiorre asked Boland to condense her hour workout into a 13-minute pre-practice stretching program for the Celtics. She showed up at practice last Friday and has been back each day since then. When she's unable to attend, Melchiorre will play the tapes and lead the exercises. "I tried to take the moves Ray was already doing and choreograph them to music," said the 39-year-old Boland. "When you stretch to music, you tend to complete the moves and hold them longer than you would otherwise. It's not as boring.

"They seem to like the idea so far (the Celtics have already hit Boland with a couple of special requests - they want more Michael Jackson and Air Supply). It's kind of funny because I've been having trouble getting men to come to my classes. This is an incredible experience." Boland has a master's degree in reading and languages and started teaching aerobics two years ago. She coaches her son's soccer team and has completed three Boston Marathons (3:40 is her best time). "She's tough," says Carr. "She singled me out last week and said, M. L. that was pitiful.' That's kind of embarrassing."

"I want them to feel I mean business," says Boland. "The fact that she's a woman is insignificant," says Melchiorre. "It's the music, the atmosphere and the fact that it's more of a challenge to do it this way." "Relaxation is the big thing," says Carr. "That's typical of what's different here this year. We want to work harder to make it happen, and I think we are working as hard or harder than we did when Bill was here."

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