By JOHN TORSIELLO
Rich Boulli is great at multitasking. As a co-owner of the always busy Maletta Pfeiffer and Associates Physical Therapy in Torrington, he is constantly in motion, dealing with patients, interacting with and analyzing injuries.
Actually, today is a rather calm day for the 45-year-old former star linebacker (he also played baseball) for the Torrington High School football team. He’s able to relax in his office for a bit and reflect on his career as an athlete, dad, coach and physical therapist. Of course, when you have been running a business as well as coaching or attending up to 200 softball, basketball or volleyball games that his three children have and are participating in a busy day at the office seems slow.
If you think Boulli is busy you should try and keep track of his children, Amelia, 15, Lilah, 13, and Samuel, 12. Amelia is a budding star as a softball pitcher and also plays basketball and volleyball. Lilah is an accomplished softball catcher and plays volleyball and basketball too, and Samuel plays basketball and baseball. They all play on travel teams that dad has or continues to coach. Amelia is a member of the Rapids 16-U softball team, Lilah the Connecticut Titans 14-U softball team, and Sam is on the Cardinals U-13 baseball squad. Rich Boulli still coaches his son in Police Athletic League (PAL) basketball.
“They could have 10 games in one day,” says Boulli with a raised eyebrow, “between softball and baseball games. I no longer coach my two daughters but I get to every game. It was hectic between work and their sports and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife Ella, my parents (Richard and Janice Boulli) and Ella’s mother (Hannah Florian). They get to pretty much every game, even the out-of-state tournaments, and help with taking the kids to and from their games and practices.”
Amelia’s and Lilah’s travel softball teams have played up and down the East Coast, taking part in tournaments during the summer in the Carolinas, Maryland, New York and throughout New England.
“We were at the last tournament that was played this year before things shut down because of the pandemic,” says Boulli. “It happened when we were finishing up a softball tournament up at Lake George in the Adirondack Sports Complex. After that we couldn’t play although we did play 50 travel games this summer, playing teams from within the state. Amelia was hoping to be on the THS varsity softball team as a freshman and was looking forward to playing last spring but that didn’t happen. Hopefully, things can get back to normal next spring and she hopes to play varsity. Even though there were no games for awhile, the kids continued to work hard. Amelia was throwing 600 pitches a week.” That her sister is an accomplished catcher has no doubt helped Amelia maintain her touch.
“Usually, Amelia would have stopped training with her pitching coach (Hannah Koch of Vernon) in March as the high school season rolled around,” explains Boulli. “But because there was no spring season she was able to continue with her pitching coach and that actually helped her.”
Says Boulli, “The girls have had some success. Their teams that I coached, along with others, won three straight district 6 championships and it was great that they were able to play the same team. We lost to Seymour twice in the sectional round of the state tournament and once to Trumbull in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. I guess I always expected more out of them when I coached them but it worked well and they love to play. Lilah was always able to play up in the age rackets. I decided when they moved up in age that I would pass the torch of coaching on to others. I still enjoy coaching Sammy in PAL basketball along with Steve Maraia.
Boulli says the pandemic and resulting changes to the routine of school has been a challenge for the children, but they are making due with what we hope to be isn’t the new normal. “They lost out on their spring sports in school and travel this summer and they were upset with that, but it is what it is. They missed their friends and teammates but they are now back in school taking part in the hybrid schedule. We are hoping sports can go on this school year and it will be a better year in 2021. We can only hope and do what we have to do.”
Lilah Boulli says of playing for her dad, “My father has made all three of us better athletes. He’s been the best coach and I just love going to the field with him every week. He’s the one that made me like softball because everyone knew that I was a dancer and didn’t like sports. But now look where I am and it’s all because of my dad. He encourages me to love sports and work hard. He pushes me every day to work hard and always try my best.”
Her sister, Amelia, offers these thoughts, “My dad is the best coach I have ever had. Even though we don’t see eye to eye all the time about the sports I play he made me better. He still teaches me to become a better athlete and pushes me every day, no matter what sport I’m playing, and he has never given up on me. I play sports because it makes me feel good about myself.”
As for his business, Boulli explains, “We are back to about full strength of our patient flow prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Once we were allowed to reopen our patients, and new ones, have returned and we thank for them for their trust and patience during these trying times.”
Being a physical therapist is a life’s ambition for Boulli. “It’s what I wanted to do since high school,” he says. “I wanted to help people get better and recover from injuries. I’m very much a hands-on owner and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” His business partner is Dan Albanese and the two balance responsibilities at their two sites (the other is at Peck Road in Torrington).
After graduating from Sacred Heart University in 1999, Boulli worked for Athletic and Industrial Rehabilitation in Brookfield for a year before joining The Physical Therapy Center, the Alvord Park facility. In 2013, he and Albanese who was at the Alvord park center) bought the two operations and merged.
“It’s a great business, Boulli comments. “The personal relationships you build with your patients and to get people back to enjoying their lives whether it’s playing sports or just daily activities is very rewarding.”
Pfeiffer began the business over 40 years ago and it has since expanded to 2,800 square feet of physical therapy space at Peck Road and 4,700 square feet at the Alvord Park Road facility. The facilities offer therapeutic procedures for neck and back pain; chronic and migraine headaches; neurological disorders including MS, stroke, balance, and gait; vertigo; sports and work-related injuries, carpal tunnel, arthritic pain, orthopedic problems and much more.
Boulli was an All-Naugatuck Valley League linebacker (he also played on the offensive line) and remains in touch with a number of his former teammates. “I went to Scott Barnsby’s (former star quarterback) induction into THS Hall of Fame this past summer and I still have friends from those teams. The best thing about playing sports in high school is that you develop a sense of team and camaraderie with the other players, which my kids have discovered. I believe I could have played at Sacred Heart but I wanted to concentrate on my studies. It was always going to be physical therapy as a major. Rob Ross (who works for Boulli and Albanese) was the one who really convinced me to make it my career choice.”
Rich Boulli, the dad, can’t wait to get back on the road, traveling with his children to other states and impressive sporting venues, mostly as a fan and not a coach these days. But that is just fine with him. He certainly has enough work on his plate as a physical therapist, husband, and nurturing father.