What are your philosophies for athlete development?
Im a firm believer that if an athlete is truly going to progress and achieve in their sport then they need to be able to play practice and compete in their sport as much as possible. So, with this is mind my philosophy would be to make an athlete as robust and resilient to the demands of their sport as possible, so they are not only able to tolerate their technical training but to excel in it. To achieve this, we would ensure that training follows a methodical approach backed by both a scientific rational and practical experience.
Do you train athletes differently in the university setting, than you would if they were full-time professionals?
There are a number of factors I would consider when working with university athletes within the UK in order to establish both mine and the athletes’ expectations. The UKs university athlete cohort can vary hugely. It ranges from very inexperienced athletes, current and established pro’s and elite level performers as well as veteran athletes. However, I would always aim to get the best out of each athlete in an S&C context. I would hope to ensure engagement and focus while establishing a solid work ethic and intensity of training regardless of their level or aspirations. Within the university setting in the UK its essential to get an understanding of why each individual is playing sports at university so it will allow you to tailor your expectations of that athlete accordingly.
Can you give an example of your S&C programming for a year/over 4 years?
Establishing the athletes training age would dictate the level that I would start them at, not all incoming athletes are equal and I wouldn’t treat them as such. As a general rule I would always focus on technical proficiency in our major lifts (Olympic, compound etc), load acceptance and tolerance with jumping and running mechanics, while building work capacity in the early stages of their university career. University sports can be brutal with regard to schedule and loading. Selecting specific windows of opportunities throughout the year to get improvements in weight room performance is essential if you want to maintain peak performance throughout the season. It's not always max intensity every session. I would expect to build upon this philosophy year on year. With many of our guys they will look to pursue a pro-career alongside their university commitment or move into a full-time pro career post. A huge pillar of my training philosophy is to ensure they are ready for this next level and educated enough around performance to survive it.
How do you develop coaches and interns? What are important factors for you?
The majority of our interns will come in with a decent understanding of anatomy, muscle physiology, training programming etc. In essence they are usually pretty book smart. So we really focus on the coaching and the applied side of things. Firstly, they must earn the right to coach any athlete and prove they know what they know and can apply it on the gym floor. Finding opportunities to gain confidence in coaching and finding their “own” coaching voice is important. Over the first few weeks interns will be assigned to coaches and shadow learn and encouraged to ask questions. They will then be asked to coach something simple such as a basic warm up or compound lift while under guidance. Reflective feedback is encouraged every session and informal meetings at the next session to review this. Formal CPD days every month and the interns are pushed toward resources and expected to bring challenging questions every week.
What should young coaches do who are looking to get into the collegiate S&C profession?
Never say no, take every opportunity you get to coach and work with coaches so you can figure out what works for you and your personality. The profession is small and jobs are sparse so networking is hugely important. My number rule is “don’t be a dick” no one has time for that, whatever you think you are owed or entitled too, no one cares. Listen, ask questions, take criticism and feedback positively, be polite and engaging, work harder than anyone expects and show initiative. DON’T BE LATE. Most importantly be likable….if people like you they will help you!
What threats are there to the university S&C profession?
Within the UK our biggest threat is job opportunities and lack their off, supply is hugely outweighing demand. As a result, I think myself and some of my colleagues in the UK have found ways to be really resourceful and add value to positions, create jobs out of nothing and proving your value. You can say all you want about the quality of coaches, lack of jobs or poor salary’s, but if you are good at your job, resourceful and not a dick you will be ok. If you are not you will get found out and struggle.
Who should manage/supervise the S&C/Performance department? Who should carry out audits and reviews?
In any business or organisation there has to be a clear hierarchy of leadership and management. Everyone needs to know who they are answerable to. Within S&C its no different. Performance managers/directors would lead on audits and reviews and filter down. However, I believe that everyone in the organisation has a role to play and a responsibility to add value to reviews. I encourage meetings and brainstorming/problem solving within group in the performance team, bringing together ideas and presenting to the main stake holders to ultimately move forward with and make the decisions. As long as you see yourself as a cog in the big machine that is athlete centred then I don’t think you can go too far wrong. Many programmes and teams have crumbled because they forgot what was important, as coaches, physios, sports scientists and directors surely we should all be athlete centred????
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