Rob is an up and coming Strength coach based in Setanta College, Thurles. Me and Rob used to work together a few years back. The boy knows his stuff and is always upskilling. After interning with Connaught rugby he led Cistertians to Senior cup victory earlier this year.
This blog is my first written piece, focusing on lessons I have learned over the last few years. My philosophy, experiences, stories and mistakes learned thus far. The blog is mainly geared towards S&C coaches but can be applied to anyone with an open minded view towards health. I hope you enjoy my piece.
“Everything works but nothing works forever” – Jim Stoppani
The million dollar question, and something that you really do need to sit down and think about on a regular basis. If your coaching philosophy remains the same from Day 1 you aren’t learning anything new.
Looking at programmes I have written in my first few years in comparison to my current work, I’m delighted to see a shift in the way that I think, and program. Your own philosophy should roll off the tongue, if you don’t know where you are,how can you know where you’re going?
My philosophy includes a mixture of philosophies from coaches I respect: Make the person move better, make them strong and injury proof then make them powerful. Train smart and effectively. The athlete is not just physical but also mental, social and more.
Enjoyment, trust and guidance is just as important as the program in place. Educate the athlete / client whilst encouraging effort, not talent. Get your athletes to become outcome junkies who piss excellence. Athletes are selfish, if they can see how it will make them better they will buy into it. Sell yourself and your philosophy.
At the minute I am averaging roughly 2-3 books a month. Finishing your degree is only the start of your education. In a book I read recently (called Legacy by James Kerr) there was a quote that stuck with me that I’d like to share.
“Whatever we do in life, we’re giving our life for it, so we best be sure it’s worth it. Killing time is slow suicide. Treading water is drowning.”
Quotes mean different things to each individual, that’s why they can be so powerful. To me it screams out continuing professional development (CPD). Love what you do, if you are going to do this for the rest of your life why not be regarded as one of the best in the business.
2. Job Opportunities
Not every job offered to you is going to be perfect. Don’t be afraid to say no to work if it doesn’t fit with your beliefs and philosophies, especially if you clash with the management but more on that later. You will go on hundreds of job interviews, you will get offered a fraction of those positions, don’t be afraid to say no.
3. Work hard, graft, but also live, laugh and love
Don’t sacrifice working crazy hours (which, in season, I am notoriously guilty for often working 6:30am to 10:00pm multiple days of the week). Spend time on you’re craft, love what you do, but have the ability to “switch off” when needed.
Over the last year with my rise in demand of coaching I have found it more difficult to leave work at work. It’s important that you’re great at what you do and are leaving a positive and memorable “social footprint” but don’t sacrifice nights out with friends, a coffee, visiting family, walking your dog, or a cinema date.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I’ve been lucky enough to work for a professional team for a few months and a great manager for several years who will go out of their way to accommodate you. If you need help, ask…some times you need to network to get further instead of putting your head down and slog to dead ends.
You would be surprised at the connections you have available to you on your doorstep. Recently I’ve been lucky enough to work in Cistercian College which has close links with all the Provincial Rugby teams. All of which are very generous with their time when I seek advice whether it be for Sport Science, Strength and Conditioning or professional queries.
This also goes for mental health, something that is increasingly becoming an issue in males in Ireland. Ask for help, communicate, you would be surprised what people would do for you when the time comes.
5. Find mentors
For me in Ireland, this one is huuuuuuge! We have such a small island with some truly remarkable coaches. Find them….seek them out. I can guarantee they will be more than willing to help. If they don’t want anything to do with you, even to meet for a coffee….ask yourself…. is that the kind of person you want to aspire to be?
6. Surround yourself with like-minded people
You are the average of the five people who you spend the most amount of time with…..let that sink in for a minute. Who are the five people you spend time with the most? Are you happy to be that average? If you are kudos, if not, simple….change it.
If you are the smartest person in the room, or the best at what you do in that room,you’re in the wrong room! Time is precious, we only have so much of it, use it wisely and share it with people who truly matter.
7. Invest in yourself
“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.
– Paulo Coelho
Attend conferences, CPD, meditate, take holidays, practise what you preach, foam roll, eat good food, prepare meals, lift heavy shit and move better. Try to improve yourself on a personal or professional level, be the person people want to spend their time with.
8. Be nice to people
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This should be a given, no matter what profession. Just because you are an amazing knowledgeable coach doesn’t give you the right to be a douche! Mike Boyle recently said “Arrive early. Stay late. Give people more than they ask for. Read an hour every day. Treat athletes or people the way you want to be treated”.
Life lessons by Mike Boyle in two sentences. There is some very bitchy professionals in this industry who can be quite critical of others, people’s programmes, coaching philosophies and also just critical of the individual for personal reasons. I have some simple advice for you, DON’T BE THAT PERSON.
9. You can’t be perfect at everything
A lesson I learned twice, once while completing my Masters and once while interning with Connacht Rugby. I noticed something which for some reason only stood out to me while being there for a few months. If you want to excel in your job, there is no point in being good on a variety of different aspects in S&C.
Excel at one part whether it be S&C, nutrition, video analysis or coaching. My main take home message from this point is find your niche which you excel at and sell yourself that way. You will love work more and also, build a better business for yourself becoming known as extremely professional or competent in a certain area.
A recent study has shown people become happier spending their well earned money on experiences rather
Maya bay, Thailand
than possessions. This year instead of buying material objects I’m going to take time and go to a new country. I travelled for 2 months with a close group of friends after completing my Masters. We spent 1 month in America travelling East to West Coast hitting all the major destinations like New York, Boston, Chicago, Wisconsin, Colorado and San Francisco.
From there we spent a month in Thailand. The experiences I had will outweigh any bought possession. We all face tough decisions and balancing acts of when is the perfect time to do something, you just have to make sure “the juice is worth the squeeze”.
11. Ask yourself questions
Challenge yourself daily. Can you be better at something? What is the time that goes into improving on something and is it worth the outcome? 9 times out of 10 I would go with yes.
12. Set targets for yourself
Recently I was asked where I see myself in 5 years, my head instantly began to spin like Wendy falling down the rabbit hole. My response was vague and lacked quality and confidence in what I was saying.
Honestly, between me and you, I didn’t have a notion where I wanted to be in 5 year time, hopefully retired by the age of 30. This goes back to my previous point of if you don’t know where you are, how do you know where you’re going?
Set targets and goals both professionally and personally, and tell people about it to hold yourself accountable in your social circle. People will want to help you get there. For example a few professional goals of mine include becoming EXOS, CSCS and UKSCA certified and work in elite level sport in the coming 3 years. On personal goals, I’d like to travel more, see a new country every year, and be in a good mental and physical position in life.
13. Build a routine but don’t be held to it
Getting up early is the best part of the day. Every morning my alarm goes off at 6am, the demons in my head are telling me I don’t need to do anything for another few hours. I sleep with the curtains open for this exact reason.
I look out the window and see the river Shannon from my bedroom window and the sun shining. I meditate for 10mins (using an app called Headspace recommended by one of my favourite bloggers Nate Green).
I read a book while stretching my hip flexors on a yoga block for 15 minutes. I go downstairs and grind some coffee beans for my Aeropress (highly recommend). I make breakfast and walk my dog all before 7:30am. Time is valuable, we only get so much of it, use it wisely.
14. Coaching is not just about enjoyment or money it’s about the experiences and lessons learned along the way
Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”
– Chinese proverb
You won’t always be coaching an athlete or client so teach them for when you won’t be around so that they know how to train and why they are doing certain movements. When I was personal training I built a strong relationship with a lot of my clients. First to ensure they were comfortable to train with me in the gym environment. Secondly because it’s good for business.
You create a circle of clients where its much more than just another training session. A great quote from Brett Bartholomew an EXOS S&C coach summed it up perfectly. “One sign you’re building a true relationship with an athlete you coach? They start asking what books to read, not just what exercise to do”.
15. Find a supporting workplace environment
Negativity and bullshit excuses are poison. I was lucky enough to work with Conor for a few years where we shared similar thoughts, training principles, ideas and interests. Hearing stories from other professionals where they aren’t valued is heart breaking and soul-destroying. If you don’t feel valued in the workplace get out of there!
16. If you are good at something,don’t do it for free
To a certain extent. I whole heartedly agree with helping a certain cause and getting some valuable experience. However there comes to a stage where people don’t value the product you are selling (in my profession it may be a S&C program or a personal training session) because you aren’t charging for it.
If you make the people pay for your service firstly, you will put in a lot of effort because you are professional. Secondly they will value your service more because they are paying their hard-earned money for what you are selling.