Nuggets strength team making a huge impact in native Brazil

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Soccer is king in Brazil, but the Nuggets strength and conditioning coaches are using basketball training techniques to help uplift their compatriots during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Felipe Eichenberger, head strength coach, and Claus Antunes de Souza, assistant strength coach, both hail from Brazil and the shared cultural ties between the two have certainly impacted their relationship over the years.

“[Felipe] will give me [expletive] because I did something wrong, regardless of where I’m from,” Antunes de Souza jokingly explained on April 27. “It’s funny because we can speak in Portuguese and chop it up.”

The two men might exchange Portuguese memes or have lunch at a Brazilian hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Lakewood. Both men are extremely passionate about helping basketball grow in their home country and teaching people back home how to properly train for the sport. The challenge in making a difference back home has been time.

READ MORE: How Nuggets are staying fit during hiatus

During the grind of an 82-game season, opportunities to engage with inquisitive minds back in Brazil can literally are few and far between. With the NBA currently on hiatus, Eichenberger and Antunes de Souza still have training responsibilities with the Nuggets but have a bit more flexibility to pursue making a difference back home.

Over the past two months, both Eichenberger and Antunes de Souza have individually recorded instructional videos in Portuguese on an almost daily (sometimes more than that) basis and have shared it on their social platforms. It isn’t uncommon to see Eichenberger, for example, instructing schoolchildren on certain cardiovascular exercises. The pair have also conducted multiple interviews on a frequent basis with Brazilian media outlets and have also spent time providing advice to strength and conditioning coaches in the country.

“I’m so passionate about it,” Eichenberger said on April 15. “Just being able to help people and share what I know. We’re here to share. That’s my goal…My passion is ‘Here’s what I know, here’s how we do things and can you use it?’ Ask me questions, I’ll answer whatever you want.’ For me, it’s a form of payback [to back home].”

“There was one day where I think I had like six or seven calls,” Antunes de Souza added, “It was all like 30 minutes to an hour [of showing drills]. It was great because I finished the day and I was exhausted.”

Although soccer holds a lion share of the sporting interest of Brazil, there is a growing intrigue about basketball in the country. Buoyed by the recent successes of Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejão among others, the sport continues to grow in popularity. The fact that both Eichenberger and Antunes de Souza are well-known back home speaks volumes.

“It’s almost like ‘Wow, how did you guys achieve that?’” Antunes de Souza explained. “People are super nice online, they’ll send messages like it’s super encouraging to see someone from Brazil reach such a high level and represent us. Felipe and I always get messages like that. I’m like that’s crazy. I never thought of it like that, but it’s cool to know people support you.”

Since the turn of May, Brazil has seen a dramatic increase in its Coronavirus cases. The Guardian reported there were 833 deaths on Tuesday, May 5. As of May 6, there are 126,000 cases of the virus in the country and 8,574 deaths reported. Due to poverty in some parts of the country, there are many media outlets who estimate the figures could be much worse. Eichenberger and Antunes de Souza hope their efforts offer a brief reprieve.

“I think the most important thing is, it might sound like work, but it is very much us trying to give back and help people,” Antunes de Souza said.

“It is cool to see [how interested people are in what he’s putting out],” Eichenberger added. “I haven’t been to Brazil in a while and I know a lot of people there, so it’s really cool to see.”

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