Coaching is a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.
The learner is sometimes called a coachee. Occasionally, coaching may mean an informal relationship between two people, of whom one has more experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the latter learns; but coaching differs from mentoring by focusing on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to more general goals or overall development.
So you’re a strength & conditioning coach who’s tired of relying on trading time for income, you want to create a scalable income stream and looking to go online. You want to provide value, but you also want to make some passive income. One way to do that is by providing an online program. There are a few different ways you can go about this. Read on as we tackle the different ways that having an online coaching program can provide passive income allowing you to have flexibility with your schedule.
But before we get to that, let’s first talk about what passive income is.
What is Passive Income?
Passive income is a type of income that does not require active work in order to earn money, imagine earning money while you sleep. There are a few different ways to generate passive income, but the most common creating a blog and or YouTube channel, or developing and selling products and courses.
While there is some initial effort required to set up these passive income streams, once they are up and running they can provide a steady stream of income with relatively little ongoing work. This can be a great way to earn money without having to trade your time for dollars.
And best of all, you can often start generating passive income with very little upfront investment. So if you’re a Melbourne strength & conditioning looking for a way to make money that doesn’t involve working long hours, consider pursuing passive income. It could be the key to financial freedom.
Now that we’ve got a handle on what passive income is, let’s take a look at why this is important for an AFL strength and conditioning coach or any coach for that matter.
There are a few reasons why having passive income streams is important for coaches. Let’s briefly discuss what these are:
1) They Provide a Consistent Stream of Income
Coaches are always looking for ways to bring in new clients and grow their businesses. However, this can often be a challenge, as it requires a lot of time and effort to build up a client base. One way to ease the burden of finding new clients is to create a passive income stream. This could involve creating an online course or product that can be sold without requiring much hands-on work. Not only will this provide a consistent stream of income, but it will also free up your time to focus on coaching your existing clients. In today’s competitive market, having a passive income stream is essential for any coach who wants to be successful.
2) They Can Help Coaches Save Money
For many coaches, especially AFLW coaches, their passion is not just a job but a calling. They love working with athletes and helping them achieve their goals. However, coaching can be a very demanding profession, often leaving little time or energy for anything else. This is why having a passive income stream can be so helpful for coaches. It can provide a much-needed financial cushion, allowing coaches to save money and focus on what they love doing. There are many different ways to create a passive income stream. Whatever the method, having a passive income stream can be a valuable asset for any coach.
3) Help Diversify Income
As a coach, it’s important to have a diversified income stream. A passive income stream can help with this. While you may not make as much money per hour with a passive income stream, it can help to even out your earnings. This is because you’re not trading your time for money, so you’re not limited by the number of hours in a day.
Additionally, a passive income stream can help to buffer against economic downturns. If you have a diverse mix of income sources, you’re less likely to be affected by an unexpected loss of income from one source. This can help to provide financial stability and peace of mind. So if you’re looking to diversify your income while practicing AFL coaching, consider adding a passive income stream to your business mix.
Ways That Coaches Can Generate Passive Income
Now that we’ve discussed some of the reasons why passive income streams are important for coaches, let’s take a look at some of the ways that coaches can generate passive income.
Create an Online Course
Have you ever wanted to learn about Melbourne strength training, but couldn’t because the coaches live in a different state or country? Well, with the internet, anyone can create an online course and share their knowledge with people from all over the globe. Not only is this a great way to generate passive income, but it’s also an excellent way to build your brand and reach a wider audience.
By creating an online course, coaches can share their wisdom on any number of topics, from sports nutrition to training techniques. And best of all, they can do it on their own time and at their own pace. So if you’re a coach who’s looking for a new way to generate income, consider creating an online course. It’s a great way to reach more people and make some passive income.
Build Your Brand on Social Media
One of the best ways for coaches to create passive income is to build their brand on social media. With a strong social media presence, coaches can reach a large audience of potential clients without incurring significant marketing expenses.
Furthermore, by regularly sharing valuable content, coaches can establish themselves as thought leaders in their field, which can lead to increased book sales and speaking engagements. In addition, social media provides an excellent platform for coaches to sell online courses and other digital products. By leveraging the power of social media, coaches can create a steady stream of passive income that will help them to achieve their financial goals.
Start a Blog, Newsletter, or Podcast
Starting a blog, email newsletter or podcast are all excellent ways for coaches to create passive income. By sharing their knowledge and experience with their audience, coaches can build a following of loyal fans who are eager to learn more from them.
What’s more, coaches can monetize their blog, newsletter, or podcast by selling advertising space, sponsorships or products. This passive income stream can provide a valuable source of revenue for coaches, helping them to grow their business and reach more people. So if you’re looking for ways to create passive income as a coach, be sure to start a blog, email newsletter, or podcast today.
As you can see, there are a number of ways that coaches can generate passive income. By diversifying their income sources, coaches can protect themselves against economic downturns and achieve financial stability. So if you’re looking to add a passive income stream to your business, be sure to consider the options discussed above.
If you’re looking for more guidance as an online AFL coach, get in touch with Prepare Like A Pro Academy. Our membership offers a range of services, including online coaching, that can help you to take you to the next level. Contact Prepare Like A Pro today to learn more.
Interested in a free 30-day trial? E-mail me and mention you read this blog post, and I will hook you up.
In light of the AFL Women’s (AFLW) rising popularity, a new and vital role has emerged in the world of Australian Rules Football – Athlete Development Coach. This article will explore the roles and responsibilities of Athlete Development Coaches, focusing on their importance to the development of AFLW players.
Watch highlights from the 2022 grand final:
What is the AFLW?
The AFLW is the national Australian rules football league for women. The league began in February 2017 with eight teams, expanded to 10 in 2019, and then 14 in 2020. The AFLW is the most attended women’s football competition in Australia and one of the most popular women’s football competitions in the world. Its record attendance of 53,034 for the 2019 AFL Women’s Grand Final between Adelaide and Carlton was the highest of any women’s sport in Australia.
The success and the reception of the AFLW have generated lots of interest amongst women in Australia who want to play the sport. This development has also given rise to the importance of Athlete Development Coaches. But what is an AFLW Athlete Development Coach anyway? Let’s find out.
What is an Athlete Development Coach?
An Athlete Development Coach is a coach specializing in the development of athletes. They work with athletes of all levels, from beginners to elite, and help them improve their skills and performance. Athlete Development Coaches—which you can find over at Prepare Like A Pro—are usually employed by sports clubs or organizations. Their job is to create training and development programs for the athletes they work with. Whether it’s AFLW strength & conditioning, AFLW fitness training, or an AFLW running program, Athlete Development Coaches have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help athletes improve.
So, what role do Athlete Development Coaches play in the development of AFLW players? Let’s take a look.
Check out our AFLW collaborative event:
The Roles of an Athlete Development Coach
Athlete Development Coaches have several roles and responsibilities. Let’s discuss what these are:
1) Help Players Improve Their Performance
Athlete development coaches play an important role in helping athletes improve their ability to perform on game day. They can identify areas where athletes need improvement through comprehensive evaluation and analysis. They then develop specific training programs that target these areas, using a variety of drills and exercises. In addition, athlete development coaches provide ongoing feedback and support to help athletes stay on track. Working closely with AFLW players can help them reach their full potential. As a result, athlete development coaches play a vital role in the success of any AFLW team.
2) Create Training and Development Programs for the Athletes They Work With
Athlete development coaches play an important role in helping athletes reach their full potential. They create training and development programs tailored to each athlete’s unique needs. In addition, they work with athletes to help them overcome obstacles and reach their goals. Athlete development coaches also have a deep understanding of the science of human performance. They use this knowledge to create programs designed to help athletes improve different AFLW fitness components like strength, power, and endurance. As a result, athlete development coaches play a key role in the success of an AFLW player.
3) Assist With The Design and Implementation of Applied Strength and Conditioning Programs for AFLW Players
Athlete development coaches are an essential part of the training and conditioning programs for athletes in any sport. These professionals work closely with athletes to assist them in achieving their performance goals by developing tailored training programs that address their specific needs and skill levels. In the case of Australian Football League Women (AFLW), athlete development coaches play a critical role in ensuring that the players have access to top-quality training and conditioning regimes.
At the heart of an effective AFLW athlete development coach is a strong understanding of athletic development principles, as well as stellar communication skills and expertise in assessing individual athletic abilities. These professionals collaborate closely with other members of the coaching staff, including strength coaches, nutrition specialists, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, and more. Together, they design and implement comprehensive programs that help AFLW players build strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and stamina.
As an elite professional football league focused on women’s sports, AFLW athletes must receive high-quality training that maximizes their potential both on and off the field. Athlete development coaches are key players in helping achieve this goal by providing targeted support to each player throughout her career. Whether you aspire to become an AFLW athlete or are already a part of the league, working with an experienced and qualified coach can make all the difference in your development as a player.
4) Work Closely With All Members of the Team and Organize, Plan, and Oversee Athletes and Coaches in a Team Environment
Athlete development coaches work to improve the performance of athletes and teams. They collaborate with all members of the team, including athletes, coaches, and support staff. They develop training and practice plans and oversee the execution of those plans. They also monitor the progress of athletes and the team and make adjustments as needed.
In addition, athlete development coaches provide guidance and support to athletes and coaches. They help athletes to develop their skills and abilities and coach them on how to best utilize those skills in AFLW competitions. They also allow coaches to create their strategies and methods for improving performance. By working closely with all team members, athlete development coaches play an essential role in helping athletes and the team reach their full potential.
5) Communicate With Other Members of the Team to Ensure that Everyone is on the Same Page
Athlete development coaches need to be able to communicate with all members of the team effectively. They must be able to convey information clearly and concisely. In addition, they need to be able to listen attentively and understand the perspectives of others.
It is also important for athlete development coaches to be able to build relationships with all members of the team. They need to be able to earn the trust and respect of those they work with. By developing strong relationships, athlete development coaches can create an environment where everyone is working together towards the same goal.
If you are looking for a way to improve your AFLW athleticism, or if you want to be a part of the development process of future AFLW athletes, then contact Prepare Like A Pro today. We have years of experience developing elite-level footballers, and we can help you take your game to the next level.
Jack: Next, we have Mark “Choco” Williams. He doesn’t need an introduction, obviously. He’s been well-known across the AFL industry as a player and a premiership coach, and now currently a head development coach at Melbourne Football Club with his elite kicking program, and creator of Precision Kicking. So, jump on, Choco. Thanks for coming on, mate.
Mark: So, I did invent this free and it’s got a line down the middle of it. If people want, we will have the links, I’m sure. But if you go to sherrin.com.au/precision or also Marketing Champion teams, there’s a whole lot of free videos there of all the things that I’ve taught over the years.
I’ve got Shaun Burgoyne doing this stuff. They call him “Silk”. He was doing this stuff when he was 18 and a lot of the Giants’ players were doing it. And it’s not like I ended it there. Every week I find something that probably motivates me. It interests me to find something else that doesn’t make it boring for players. And the fact is that doesn’t matter if you’re a young girl who’s first starting, parents get on and help them with it, because it starts with that actual demographic. And then it gets up to Dustin and me, kicking with Dustin Martin and showing him some kicks as well.
And Ben talked about it. Look at the champion, among winning champion teams. It talks about kicking in a bubble. And that’s all the things that happened in the game. Try and be consistent with the kicking, no matter what’s happening around you. Did you pick it up and kick it? Did you rip it off someone? Did the umpire give you a free kick? Was it stopped? Were you lying on the ground? All these things, but in the end you have to do the same thing. And it’s amazing.
In the lockdown I was with Werribee and I was doing some one-on-one coaching and I teach the same for 10-year-old kids as I do for the AFL footballers. I did the same drills. Obviously, we do it a bit faster and all that stuff. But AFL players who can’t kick properly, I bring them right back to what I show the first- day players in regards to handling the ball, making contact consistently in the same spot, hearing it and getting a real feel where it hit on the foot, get the feeling of it. And can you consistently hit the same spot? And if you can, then you can kick.
I’m very much of the idea do know how to kick first, and then we’ll do a thousand different types of kicks afterwards. But learning how to do the basic one first and get that right, and then progress from it. So, I just love the idea.
Now, since that time, that’s the basic kicking, then I’ll try and work on a decision-making kicking, what is some basic decision-making kicking the people and coaches need to introduce. Don’t bore the players. But if they’re not doing 10 or 15 minutes of kicking at the start of every training session, whether they are little kids or whether they are senior players, women, I don’t care who they are, they must be doing 10 or 15 minutes of kicking, every training station.
And Melbourne Football Club just won the Premiership. And we did it every week, every week with those footballers. So, I’m telling you, I’m not just making it up. Kicking percentage went from, versus our opposition on the same day, under the same conditions, we were 11th last year, we were fifth this year. When it comes to the finals against all these things, we were number one. And I’m very proud with the fact that we improved that and some of the kicks some of the players delivered, it was fantastic. So, I love it.
Can we then make it kicking under pressure, people chasing them? Can we have chaos of people going everywhere? All these sort of drills you need to invent. You need to watch what happens in the game. Stop it a little bit and say how many players are there and make a drill. And that’s probably my expertise, if you like, it’s to try and design drills that reflect the game, that took players in those situations.
So, it might be when they’re under fatigue, we’re going to do this drill. It might be we’re going flat out. So, our highest GPS that we’re getting in a game, we’re going to reflect it and we’re going to do it in this drill. And we’re only going to do it for four minutes, but we’re going to do it as fast as we can. And again, that puts them under pressure. And can they handle it? Once we can tell them to be calm, relax, see the target, then watch the ball, done. Finish, the opposition doesn’t touch the ball.
Josh: Yeah, Choco. When you said your kicking in percentages was through the roof. Did you find that their physical output was down? Didn’t have to run as much or chasing as much?
Mark: Yeah. Well, kicking more goals and all those things, say, in the end. So, I honestly can’t give you a definitive answer on that, but when you’re winning, you don’t run as much. So, that would be the case.
Jack: And when did your passion for specifically focusing on your kicking craft start, as a coach, or was it as a player? Or it’s been a journey of something you’ve always had a fascination with?
Mark: People might know, but my dad was a famous coach in the AFL Hall of Fame. And if you got to add that over, I have one of the grandstands named after him. Coached Port Adelaide for nine premierships and kept coaching South Australia and all that stuff.
So, he was into perfection, if you like, but I’m also a teacher, physio teacher. So, all this stuff that the sports scientists and the biomechanists, and the skill acquisition people, I learned for four years, I love learning from those guys. And I don’t gobble all of it up. But I add a little bit of here, ‘Yeah, I like that bit and I like that bit.’ In the end, that’s what we do. We borrow from everyone and make it your own.
And I’m delighted that Josh and Ben were using my balls. I saw Ben and I was like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ And he’s up in Queensland and he’s got my balls and he’s using my techniques. I couldn’t be more delighted, because I just want players to be able to kick better. And there’s no way that I can get to everyone. And that’s why I put all those things on for free on the internet. Good luck. It’s a delight.
One of the best stories I’ve got is this guy, he’s known as Beasyouare Baya and he came from Synegal. And someone rang me up and say, ‘Can I do some kicking with him?’ ‘Yeah, I get it.’ So, I turned up and he’s got big glasses on, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, if you remember him. He used to be playing basketball, he comes from Synegal, he’s a six foot nine, and he’s 18, and he’s never played football in his life. So, I had 20 of these one hour sessions with him. And after that he got drafted on Collingwood’s list this year. And it’s just wild! This guy has never ever kicked the ball before. And so we were showing him all the different things, but I got great delight out of it.
And then at the same time I was coaching a kid who was eight and all of a sudden he kicks better than half the team at Melbourne. And that’s how good he was. I could give him any of the drills and try and muck him up as quickly, as much as possible, amazing amount of pressure, and he could still deliver and hit the kicks. And I thought, ‘Well, I can’t wait for 10 years time to see this kid and where he gets to.’ And then I’m going to say, ‘Well, I remember you.’ I love those stories.
And to this day every player that I coach, I love to watch them. And if it’s a bad kick, it’s important for everyone to understand, everyone does bad kicks. I can’t stop them for four years. And a lot of times he does bad kicks, but he’s good enough to understand what happened. You have to recognize what you did wrong, and then let it go. That matures better the next time. That’s all you have to do. Don’t disregard it and say it doesn’t matter. Because what did you do wrong? You forgot to watch the ball at the end, or you forgot to run towards the target or your lip looked up early. There’s only about four or five things. And if you go on relying to those things that I said before, it’s got all those. If you do this, if it looks like this, this is what’s happened. So, I better teach parents, I better teach teachers and other coaches: these are the signs of things that muck up. So that you can get the answer straight away and not sit there and wait.
Vision is so important. I’m finding my pocket all the time at training and I take players doing stuff and just to show them, as he said, players and kids that I believe in, to actually show it, and then they’re onto it. And once they know that you’re there for them and you’re there not just to tell them off or tell them they’re wrong, but give them solutions, then you get great results.
Nathan: Yeah. Just what you said, which I absolutely loved from that. I forget how you worded it. Everything’s got a ripple effect. And where does the source of the issue, if it’s a consistent error, where does the source of the problem come from? And sometimes it’s not the ball drop, that might be, like you said, how your hips move, how your hands move, that shake you out of hand, which gets you out of rhythm, which gets you off line, which creates a hook on your kick?
And about always, is that what you’re saying is, where does it start to go wrong and fixing that problem can alleviate the end result being a problem. Because if it doesn’t go wrong early on, you don’t get out of control along the way, like people often say, ‘I hooked the ball, continue to hook my foot.’ And we’ve got a jewel there with Joshie to say, ‘Yeah, but if I put two metal poles right here, and tell you to throw the ball through it, I bet, you don’t hook it.’ And it’s like, they won’t, because they’ve got an injury, they’ll kick it and it’ll hurt their leg, right? So it’s not that they’ve got a hook for it. It’s just where they’re doing things to put the ball into the spot, to make you hook it. And that’s just the natural way.
Mark: That’s exactly right. I had a player that instead of kicking this way, his foot would go sideways. And I put him next to a curve and make sure, if he want to keep hooking it, he was gonna break his leg. So, all these strange little things to try and get them to commit to a movement going straight out rather than going sideways.
So, it is up to the coach to think through what he can come up with that might be able to help. And it might be the platform is on an angle when he got a kick, which turns your hips, which then makes the ball guy crazy. And it’s got nothing to do with anything, except get your platform straighter.
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely.
Jack: Over the years, Choco, you’ve worked in a few footy clubs. You’ve mentioned, Melbourne does 15 minutes every session. Is that in your mind, the standard now? Is that what every club should be doing for ultimate effectiveness?
Mark: Yeah. Kicking is the key to winning the game. So, you have to do that. You have to do some competition stuff. You have to be smart. Then you have to do some drills that have some decision-making in it. So, there’s three. And if you can’t run, you can’t play either. So, you have to have some sort of fitness or speed training. So, those are the four things that I think get people drafted.
Kick, run, smarts and competitive when one-on-ones, when you are in ball. So, when you decide, what am I going to do for training tonight? Make sure you’re covering all those things.
If you want to do one particular kicking, say decision-making kicking. You can do two people up this end, versus one in the middle, one guy’s to one side, kick it to the other bloke. Same at the other end. So, we’re kicking two on one as we’re running through. Then you can make it three on two, then you can make it four on three up there and two on three here. As you keep doing the same drills, but changing the numbers, it adds to the motivation and adds to the enthusiasm of the players, but you’re still covering the things off that are helping them.
And if you have too many people involved in the drill, only one person’s making decision and only one person’s kicking it. So, you have to break down the drills, have small numbers, usually uneven numbers of groups and you’ll get the best results. So, if you had 15 minutes of doing that, you might do a 10 minutes where you have just very small numbers. But then the last five minutes you might do with a full game-like thing.
Josh: What’s the decision-making drill people can do when they’re just with one other person?
Mark: Well, it’s difficult and, as being said, I certainly always say, ‘Bring me a dad, mother out there or sister, brother. Have someone there to help you.’ But in the videos again, if you watch, I often use the cricket net, so you don’t have to kick and then go and pick up the ball. And I have colored bits and just get someone to call a bit color and hit those things. So, that’s good enough. And you don’t have to chase the ball all the time. So, you can do it by yourself and not find an excuse for it.
Josh: I think that’s great. For some of my one-on-ones, I just have some agility pose. And then I either ‘Go like left or right.’ Or I just point, so they’ve got the visual. And then I might go down and I’ll go to one pole, and they have to then kick to the free pole.
It is hard, obviously, when you’ve only got a couple of people, but there are things that people can do when they’re by themselves or whatnot.
Mark: It’s certainly more difficult. Probably three, if you have, five people, it’s pretty damn good. It’s for sure.
Josh: Yeah, get your mates involved.
Jack: And what about when you get the camera out during training, what are some common mistakes you’ve seen over the years with footballers?
Mark: I showed them the hand on the ball stuff. Obviously, when this sort of ball is dropped, you can see it. It’s quite easy for players to then get direct feedback. And that’s the reason why we use this ball. Players adjust themselves because they like, ‘Yeah, I can see it’s not up straight.’ So, can I get the ball up straight? Because when the ball’s up straight, it spins violently and then it gets to the target. Some other people might look up, they want to check their kick. They’re not quite confident enough, so they stop and look up. Other people after they kick, they run off on an angle instead of running towards… If someone’s running to the left, you should kick it and run to the left as well, and then your hips, and the body, and the ball, all go in the same direction. So, it doesn’t tail off at the end and just fall short and all that sort of stuff.
So, that’s mainly it. Honestly, there’s only about four or five things that people do wrong. And not like they do them all wrong, but there’s one of those four or five things. And if you can fix those things and they are aware of it, but kicking is not easy and it takes a long time. And don’t think, if you’re listening tonight, you’ve got it fixed or you get out and practice it for a week. It won’t work, it’ll come back. You need to be very, very consistent with it. And it’s not an easy skill.
Jack: The last one, Choco. You mentioned you’ve given feedback with players during their training session. You’ve showed them the video. And they are now aware of an area that they’re working on. Are they just focusing on that at their next training session? Or do you give them craft drills that they’re supposed to do on their own time? How does it look?
Mark: They have those little balls a size one. And people probably know about it. Adult male’s a size five and female’s a size four. So, you can get size one. It’s a lot easier for people to hang on to. It makes them really have to attain to it. And it’s another drill that kind of interests the players that are pretty good. They want to be really good at a small ball as well. All of those things are good. It might be kicking a tennis ball on a string, so that you get a consistent hit on the same spot on your foot. It might be kick the ball and spin it in the air as you walk along.
There’s a whole lot of different things that if you’re poor at something, you have to go backwards. You can’t just keep going. Just stop it and say, ‘Right, I’m going to practice this way, way, way over the top. So that it becomes a natural thing and something that’s relearned.’ You have to really dump what you know and relearn again. That’s what happens.
Jack: Love it. Fantastic. Thanks, Choco. For those that want to get in touch with you, mate, you mentioned some one-on-one coaching and working with people of all ages to help them get drafted. Is that still happening or are you too busy at Melbourne?
Mark: Really, Kicking Consultant. Honestly, I haven’t got any time with Melbourne. It’s really busy. It’s really exciting. Pretty nice. You know, I might get fired next year and I’ll be looking for something to do. But I can see myself doing this for years to come. I know what I’m doing. And I know that they get great success out of it.
But as I said, the videos are free. You can get on and look at them, teach yourself, teach your kids. It’s like you get the same thrill like you taught your kid how to ride a bike. You teach your kid how to kick a footy, and you get that same thrill.
You know, the girls are getting into it now. I’ve gone out with Daisy Pearce. I’ve gone out and helped the girls at Melbourne. It’s a wonderful thing. And now you get such delight to have someone that knows a lot of stuff, and being around, and give them some help as well. I see the young girls coming through now. And they’re going to be so much better kicks in the original AFLW girls, because they just started younger and they’ve got better coaching. So, looking out for it in the future.
Nathan: I agree with you, Choco. I work with the Richmond Women’s team and, absolutely, the effort and the attention they put into the stuff, it is amazing. And there are some girls who legitimately keep so well and work on their craft and they’re sponges for information too. So, I totally agree with where that’s headed.
Jack: Next up, we have Christian Woodford, the owner and founder of Woodford Sports Science Consulting in Melbourne. His topic is brand awareness and how to stand out coaching athletes in a crowded industry. Woody, how are you doing, mate?
Christian: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate that. Now, before I start, for those who don’t know, the person next to me is Chris Chronis*, coach de Cronis*. The reason why I bring him on is he’s actually just got given an internship at Iowa in the football department. Do you want to explain to them? Just quickly tell them what you’ve got.
Chris: Yeah. So, Woody pretty much said to me that I only needed to take that next step. I was just too comfortable in the gym. Obviously, he’d been to America. So, I applied and went through the stages and now I got an internship at Iowa university. And, thankfully, he allowed me to come on. I just want to listen to you all and keep learning.
Christian: I just thought I’ll bring him on to help him keep developing, keep improving his communication skill set. Hopefully, that’s okay, Jack? I didn’t ask you beforehand…
Jack: You can tune him with the rest of the listeners.
Christian: I’ve got him sitting next to me. That’s the main thing.
Jack: That’s fine, mate. We’re all friendly here. Let’s dive into your first question, mate. What is your strategy and philosophy? And how has it evolved over the years from a brand awareness point of view?
Christian: Listen, I’ll be completely honest with you. I’ve really never had a strategy behind Woodford.
The main thing has always been being authentic. And I think a lot of kids who come at a uni, anyone in general, you’re always going to have someone who’d yell at us. And for me, that was DeFranco*. He was the man. When I started Woodford in 2012, there was really no one out there, but Durham, who was doing his thing at correct me if I’m wrong Bodyworld, I’m pretty sure. But in terms of heavy promotion, I mean, before I started Woodford, I was just doing it on Facebook. And I think the big thing that I wanted to get across was what I could offer athletes and non-athletes, so they would want to train with me.
I kind of wanted to give as much education, as much free information as possible, so they could actually use that and apply within their own training. And that comes back to just being as authentic as possible. Because people would look towards somebody and say, ‘This is the coach.’ He could be a leg coach. It doesn’t really matter what you are. Just being yourself. That’s the most important thing. I think a lot of people, especially when we have interns come to Woodford, a lot of the times they think that they have to be loud, they’re going to be like me where that’s definitely not the case. I don’t want another me.
I just want people to be themselves. That’s the most important thing, because people gravitate towards that. And I think that was my big thing. When I started Woodford, I was going to be myself. That was the first thing, regardless of what anyone said. I mean, so many people said, ‘You can’t act that way, you can’t swear that way.’ I didn’t mind fucking way. And I think that’s the one thing I’m very proud of, especially my self-worth in the brand. We’ve done it. I’ve done it my way. And that’s the most important thing. For everyone watching out there now, always be yourself. Don’t try and be someone that you’re not, because you will get found out.
I think that’s the biggest thing and that’s what I built the Woodford brand off. It’s authenticity and giving as much usable, applied information as possible. Because if people can relate to that and people can understand that, they’re going to come towards you. And I’ve even had athletes, Jack, who applied to Woodford for… They’ve even said 6, 7, 8 years. And they’ve been on their 8th year when they’ve actually decided to call me up or call Kerryn up and said, ‘Look, I want to come try to Woodford. How do we go from here?’ It’s taken eight years, but after that eighth year that finally happened. So, you got to stay consistent with your message and you’ve got to have, in my opinion, high-level training content.
Social media is such an important tool to use for your advantage.
Jack: That ties in well, mate. It makes a lot of sense. You mentioned how important it is to be authentic from the start.
Jack: And I can imagine if you’re authentic, it’s a lot easier to do that on a daily basis, which is what your last comment was about, the impact of being persistent and consistency.
Christian: Yeah. I mean, for me, you can look at videos from when I first started to now, it’s pretty much the same person. People always say to my mates, ‘What’s he like? Is he like that in real life?’ I’m exactly the same person. You know, you can ask him that, you can ask TV that, you can ask Jared that, I’m the same person in real life, regardless.
And I think that’s the most important thing. Even for me, when I met DeFranco, he’s exactly the same person in real life. And that’s what you want. You don’t want to be meeting someone you taught for eight to nine to 10 years and they’re being completely different.
So, it’s important. That authenticity and you being yourself.
Jack: And I think we were talking that you were going to follow a script, which doesn’t look like you are, but…
Christian: No, I’m not going to. I thought I should, but now I’m not going to.
Jack: No scripts. No scripts.
So, in terms of script-scheduling organization, things like that, how much of your week is planned and how much of it is off the cuff? On the fly?
Christian: Yeah, I’ve actually got my operations manager next to me. Listen, my personal opinion for everyone out there is to get someone who’s going to run the backend.
If you’re lucky enough to have enough money in your business, or find someone who cares about you so much that they’re willing to put their life on hold for you, definitely give that side of your business to that person, unless you’d love that backend and you’d love that side of the business. For me, I don’t like that.
I’m not the best at organization. I’m pretty much off the cuff with everything I do. I mean, I’ve done many presentations in front of what? 50 to 60, 70 people. And I haven’t planned anything. It’s come off the top of my head. I’m not saying that’s the best way to do it. I don’t think anyone should do it the way I do it. But that’s just what works for me. I’ve just come from the heart. So, in terms of planning, Kerryn* will plan my week for me. She’ll get in contact with my athletes. We’ll put up in terms of planning the whole week out. I’ve got podcasts. I’ve got other things I have to structure up. But for everyone out there listening, my suggestion is: if you don’t like that side of it, find someone who you can trust, who can structure your time. And that’s very important to understand, because time management is such a big thing.
I think I’ve wasted so many hours before I met Kerryn, just wasting it, just planning things. If you can get someone to do that side and you can pay them, definitely do that, Jack, because it saves a lot of time and you’re a lot more organized as well. Because Kerryn will just call me or message me and say, ‘You’ve got this show at 12, you’ve got these four athletes at this time, you’ve got these podcasts at this time.’ And it’s really good to structure my week.
Jack: Yeah, I can imagine. And it’s great advice. Like you mentioned, you’ve got to know your strengths and then know areas that you need assistance with. And we all have a team that helps us out to allow us to do what we do best.
How did you come to that? Was that DeFranco* that recommended that, like in terms of systems and delegating and building a team around you, or is that something that just built naturally?
Christian: I think that obviously I’ve had many conversations with Joe about backend and my business. He’s helped me a lot with it.
But I think Kerryn with a background, I’ve got to give her respect. And she’s right here. So, I should always give her respect anyway. But she has changed my life in terms of always being there for me, always structuring up and that’s her strength. I think what you were saying was that everyone’s going to have their strengths and weaknesses. That’s the same with my staff.
Me sending young Dereck out to go to Iowa and the football department is huge because when he comes back, I’m looking at kind of changing up a bit and him taking my position and me moving back a little bit more, which he does anyway. Because he’s so good at his job. I’m just going to help him grow and help get more strengths within the business.
Then you’ve got Jeremy who looks after all the members we’ve got. In terms of staff, we’ve got different strengths, different weaknesses, but everyone’s going to have a strength, everyone’s going to have a weakness.
It’s important that you fill the weaknesses that you have with strengths around you. So that’s one good thing that I think we’re building within Woodford. And I’ve got to thank Lock&Cow* as well. And I’ve always got to thank Lock&Cow*, because they helped when Pier and I went there, they opened their arms to us as well.
And Lock&Cow* are being brute towards us. We really do appreciate them and Athletes Authority, because they opened up and talked about how they struck sharp. And without plugging them too much, Jack, but Kerryn and I would do the immersion program, which, I think, every coach should do in terms of the backend.
Yeah. You can pay me later, Lock*, but I think it was brilliant, because we came back from it even more passionate, even more driven. It was fantastic. I don’t want to pump them up too much because they get enough. But they know how much I respect them.
Jack: Nah. And it’s awesome for guys like yourself later in the industry to go out and self-develop and do courses like that, which is at leadership, mate.
Christian: It was brilliant. They are just great people more than anything. Honestly, just good people. I had to put up with you for three days. That’s payment. That’s probably true. I can’t talk about them enough, how much I respect them. And we’ve got like kind of odd now, all of us, especially all these guys here. I spend time with Timmy as well.
Helping each other out, which is the important thing in this industry we should do, because when I started in 2012, I kind of felt a bit alone. I know, I had Durham as well, but now it’s kind of grown into this high-performance sector. I’ve talked a lot about this as well. It’s going to keep growing and growing, and growing. So, I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen to the private sector over the next, I’d say, five to 10 years.
Jack: Yep. And then the other part of your topic is standing out in a crowded industry. What are your top tips for coaches?
Christian: Listen, verse one, I can’t say this enough, is using social media as a means to get what you believe in out.
I think so many people don’t use social media enough. Let’s forget about the algorithm, all that stuff. Look at my good mate, Jamie Smith from Melbourne Street Culture. They’ve started a new podcast on YouTube and it’s been fantastic. That’s another area where we’re going to pick up again.
We’re going to start my Sargun. It’s that YouTube area, which so many people watch. It has so much reach within involved, because if you’re going to watch a long video, you’re going to go to YouTube. That’s why all these other social media means, like Instagram and Facebook, they’re chasing YouTube.
So, I think YouTube is a big one. Getting content out on YouTube is a big one. But it just pushes across a message. What do you believe in? Show you athletes training, show your passion, show what you believe in, show your knowledge. Don’t be afraid about giving away free information.
I’m bringing back 2012, when I first started, people used to say to me, ‘Don’t give away! You can’t give away free content. You don’t want to do that. People aren’t going to pay.’ I saw it differently that way. I was showing people my passion. I was showing people my knowledge.
If you train with me, this is what you’re going to get. These are the results you’re going to get. This is the focus in, this is how much I care. I think that that’s the first thing, showing through social media what you believe in. But I think the biggest thing is, and Chris and I, coach de Cronis* and I talked about this before, is showing that you care. I think that’s a big one in the industry, it’s showing that you actually do care and you do want to get the best results for your client athlete. That’s a very important thing. Showing you care. Cause there are a lot of people out there who don’t care about results.
They’re kind of just doing it for the money. All these guys here, for everyone out there, they actually do care. That’s why they’re at the pinnacle at the moment. And I think that you’ve got to really care about your clients and athletes, because they will pick up if you don’t. So, there are my two biggest tips. Show via social media in terms of what you stand for, what you believe in, your passion. And the second thing is that you actually really do care. That’s a big one.
Jack: Ah, fantastic, mate. Thanks so much for jumping on and sharing. And Chris as well, mate. Good luck at your internship. No doubt, you’ll get big things. And it sounds like you’ve got a step-up for him when he comes back. Is that right? There’s a development plan in place?
Christian: A big one, a full-time. When he comes back, he’ll be full-time at Woodford. So, hopefully, he can just take my role. I can just go into the sunset and do what I really want to do, which is go to America and just keep going with those big guys in America.
That’s where I believe I want to go. I know I’m going to get there. I just got to keep moving forward. So, I’ve got to find someone to take over my role and he’s the man. Thanks, guys. Thank you.
Sean is a strength and conditioning coach who has over a decade in the industry. He holds a master’s degree and Level 2 ASCA Accreditation, has worked with Elite, Semi-Elite and GrassRoots Athletes and Australian Rules Football has been his primary sport.
Highlights of the episode:
Advice for running a PT business and renting a gym
Jack: Welcome to Prepare Like a Pro Show, my name is Jack McLean, I’m your host. And tonight my guest is Sean Baker. He’s the founder of Peaq Performance Center based in Adelaide, a strength & conditioning coach with well over a decade of experience he’s completed his masters.
A strength & conditioning coach, who has over a decade in the industry holding a master’s degree and Australian strength conditioning association level two, worked with elite and semi elite grassroots athletes.
And specifically has worked with Australian rules football as his primary sport. Before we start tonight’s episode, our mission here of at Prepare Like a Pro is to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge from some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to strengthen the AFL community.
If you liked the show, please show support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast we’re on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. Welcome Sean. Thanks for jumping on mate, second time.
Sean: Jack mate thanks for having me on I’m pumped and ready to go. And one-on-one I’m feeling pretty special we’re ready.
Jack: I know the 10-minute, bite-size just didn’t do that to get you back on.
Sean: But no I really enjoyed it, mate and it credits you for putting that all together and, you know, great to hear from your load monitoring coaches around Australia and particularly a couple of guys there that I hadn’t really heard of before potentially you know, we’ll have a bit of inkling of, but didn’t really have a true sort of you know, in-depth understanding about what they’re about.
So to get to know those guys, a bit more, has been fantastic. So, you know, you’ve helped to develop those connections. Mate we appreciate what you’re doing.
Jack: Yeah. It was all found the same way. Yeah. Thanks man. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed it being at an S&C naffy but it was interesting like you have your Woodfords and lucky moments of guys in our sort of generation that have grown within the social media stream and then you got Tim Schleiger, Darren McInnis. Chris Bergano, you know, before social media setting were doing big things, great things, but it was before that time.
So it was interesting to share similarities across the different experiences amongst the group and what works and some learnings as well for the group. So for those that are listening in the podcast world, that if you miss that we do, we are releasing the episodes on the bite-size every Friday, but also you can watch the full presentation, which I would recommend on, on YouTube.
Take us back to the beginning of your career Sean, at what age did you discover you had a passion for strength and conditioning and also working with athletes?
Sean: Yeah, admittedly, to be honest with you, I fell into it, mate. So you know, I was always passionate about playing footy and you know, I’m sure there’s probably a lot of scenarios out there where there strength & conditioning coaches that maybe had a crack themselves and didn’t quite make it.
I like to call myself a bit of a pre-season specialist. So you know, I’d love the running and the strength work that was conducted you know, throughout the preseason and would probably, that would be my time to shine. But when it came to time to find that magical red pill on the weekend, maybe I wasn’t quite as successful as some of the other guys that you know in my team.
So I went to uni. To sort of study well, got applied for the double degree in human movement and teaching sort of thing. I was going to be a PE teacher again, probably another flooded market. I only got the TR for you know, exercise science itself. And when it got into the second year of a degree opportunities came out to get involved or a police apply for one of a number of internships.
So there was you know, Port Adelaide, Crows, I think LA United. So just shoved my hand in the ring and was fortunate enough to sort of you know, NAB one of the spots at the Crows. So 2011-2012, I did an internship under Nick Polis, particularly in the strength power program and Nick that year, I think it was that year, he might be one like aspect coach of the year. So super, super smart guy. It was his first year in AFL he’s going to, you know, background pretty heavily in rugby. I think rugby sevens in particular had been involved in and you know, one of the most valuable experiences of my career, I think I was pretty fortunate to have that reality show pretty, pretty quickly.
You know, it’s not all sort of glamorous and you know, it’s not just simply spending time in the gym with the boys all day. There’s a lot more to it. And you know, you let me know about that pretty, pretty quickly and you know, gave me a great scope and helped me to shape who I am. Once that was finished up, we had the opportunity to either stay there and do an honors or move on and do a master degree and potentially sort of maybe get a few other experiences.
I felt like at the time honors was just going to be probably another maybe year or so of some, you know, free research. So I decided to go the masters by content, through Edith Cowan University. And at the same time, just summarized my rounds, every sample club available. Only one out of the 10 got back to me.
We’ll go Science Footy free cups. So, you know, went out there and assisted their program for a while. And that sort of is in a sense it was where Peaq you know, it was born. So when I did go out there and I’m sure it’s probably the same in the VFL, for example, or I don’t really know the logistics, but in sample, S&C that there’s little to no money really involved.
And particularly at the time that I sort of got involved, I was a little bit late to the party. You know, that there was nothing to financially offer. They said, we’d love to have you around, but you know, as a bit of a trade off, did you want to do some private work out of our gym here, feel free to bring people through and and you can use it for free.
So that was, that was sort of the agreement that we can too. So I’ll do that on the side, you know, throughout the day and early mornings. And then in the hour, those are all be dedicated to helping the sample squat. At the end of 2014, an opportunity came along to take over the Western. Club program, which is, you know, Rob will do their best times so to go over their senior program.
And we’re fortunate enough to win the first league premier shipping in 32 years. So that was sort of pretty special. And the difference right now, as, as you would know there are many pieces that need to come together to, to sort of, to you know, Alyssa performance. I think I was fairly lucky that we had a few ex AFL guys coming back towards the end of their career.
So guys like Jason Porplyzia just being delisted from the Crows. Lachlan Wilmot who had had some experience with the power. Chris who’d been on an AFL list that we were sort of getting towards the end of their crazy and coming back. You know, just everything sort of seemed to come together.
That one instance and yeah, we some, some great success and don’t get me wrong that also that you get some great juniors coming up. I think that same year we had seven athletes get drafted. So, you know, talking about Will Snelling, Riley Bonner, Aaron Francis, Tom Keogh, John Beach. So we sorta got decimated a little bit and then went from winning the flag one year to, to struggling the next.
So we’ll probably, I was fortunate enough to sort of see both ends of the spectrum. From there, you know, a couple of opportunities came up just through where is now this morning cause a download. We created academy. So I got to travel overseas a few times to India to work with some of their state level athletes.
Sort of circled back around to the port Adelaide footy club, where we worked with father son and next generation academy athletes inside began starting to say some great talent come out of that. So when you know, we working with a 14 year old, you know, Jackson Meads and Tex Wanganeen that are, that are coming through in our body Fredericks those sorts of guys and Trent Burgoyne
So it was like a nice Nossal experience to give them their first little introduction to the long-term effort. At the end of 2018, you know, along this journey, you we’re talking about some really cool things that happened. All of it. We’re still part-time and all of it, we’re still, you know, very lowly paid.
So all of it was still subsidized by me doing private stuff on the side, you know, for the most part, I was doing it out of the facilities that I worked for. When I ended up going to the power, obviously you sort of can’t, you know, bring, you know, a general public sort of through their facility. So I was just contracting average gym down the road.
We sort of got to a bit of a fork in the road in the 2018. I was almost feeling like, you know, I’ve done this for a while now. I feel like there’s limited opportunities for me to, to grow and progress. Maybe we, we decided to take this, you know, this problem side of things be more seriously. So we decided to jump in the deep end and that’s sort of where, where Peaq really was born.
So I was fortunate enough to have developed a bit of a following in that private sector for a few years prior to I believe facilities. So it wasn’t just out of nowhere. And then that in turn has led to connections with Crows AFLW and now Australian Lacrosse as well. So yeah, it’s been a really cool journey, a lot of luck along the way.
You know, feel very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of good people. And I guess it’s just a matter and, you know, I think like you do just continue to put yourself out there continue to network as many coaches as possible and always try to put your best foot forward because you know, a good reputation shovel fast and bad ones travel faster.
So you’ve always got to make sure you don’t get complacent. Got a little long a bit there.
Jack: Nah it’s good. I love that story, like you said, at the start typical S&C someone who loves sport loves, loves the training side even more early days wanted to be a PE teacher. I think you tick every box of S&C mate. That’s awesome.
Sean: Absolutely. Is it like talking to the same person or what yeah.
Jack: You found your tribe that’s for sure. Take us back to that stage where you’re doing the internship, Nick Poulos and you sort of carving your way for those S&Cs that are at that stage of their career, you mentioned that he gave you some, you know, some open and honest sort of expectations about the industry. How important is it to see an environment like that early on in your career do you think?
Sean: I’m super grateful for it, and I guess I have that hindsight now, particularly because I do see a lot of you know, new graduate students coming through that maybe have a little bit of a warped sense of what the industry truly is, whether they think it is going to be all roses or potentially that they believe they’re going to walk out of their degree straight to a full-time role.
You know, having that experience prior to graduating I think was invaluable and I’d be a very different person today, I think if I didn’t have in there to sort of give me a reality check. I was talking to actually on another local podcasts today, actually. And they said to me, what was going through your head, you know, the first day that you crack into this internship and you start to see guys that you’ve been watching on TV for ages and you know, potentially some reasonably big names.
And I think for myself, one of the biggest realizations early, was just probably being a little more professional and understanding that that coach to athlete relationship. So I find him, you know, I think naturally for myself, a bit of a coping mechanism really is that when I come into an environment and potentially where I maybe am not as confident or I’m trying to establish myself or maybe just don’t know guys, now, Joe, I’ll go in there and go, what’s going on legend?
How are you fellow? What’s happening mate you know this sort of, you know, terms and the language I would use. And you know, a lot of senses that’s fine. But Nick sort of pulled me in pretty quickly in the first week and said, you know, guys like Dean Bailey, he’s not your mate. He’s not a legend, he’s not a big fellow.
You call him Dean you’re referred to him by that name. You know, you are over the yard, like yeah. To an extent. Well, yeah, it was, I did copy a couple of little works about professionalism and. You know, at the time for Jesus, this is, this is a bit rough, but, but I’m very grateful for that, you know, in the long-term.
Yeah. I look back now and I was just a Spud student who was a bit excited, you know, probably they’d probably seen it a million times before with every intern that comes through. But yeah, certainly I’m very glad that I had that experience for sure. Even though at the time I was thinking, oh, it’d be hard life.
Jack: Just going to build a vibe there.
Sean: Absolutely, exactly.
Jack: I love it mate but that’s yeah, that’s thanks for being open and honest and sharing that. I think it is invaluable for S&C is to, yeah. You know, have that moment where you sort of recognize, okay, how am I going to fit in this environment? What’s yeah, like you’ve mentioned, everyone’s a bit different in, in how they yeah the carry themselves in new environments. So being aware of that, and you can, you only can build that awareness by getting feedback, which is good, that you had a mentor Nick to, to give you that feedback, to build that awareness. And for, like you said, at the time, you didn’t feel like it was helping you, but in hindsight, now that you’re a mentor to other coaches, you can tell what he was doing.
For young coaches that are going through maybe a mentor that is being tough on him, or it might be someone else in their industry, but care for them that, and it’s with their best interests. What is the best way to start to try and handle that feedback? Is it are you a note taker. Do you absorb it you know, have some ways that if you sort of use them, make the most of mentors.
Sean: Yeah. Now that’s a good question, I think. Yeah, certainly take that feedback on board. No matter how harsh you do think that it might be at the time and yeah, I think that’s a good idea. I didn’t do that, but I can see the value in, for example, taking notes and sitting down and reflecting on it..
It’s good to get your thoughts out on paper and have it sitting there in front of your face. And I think we just, one of the big thing, things would be, try to critically evaluate the reason why you think maybe they’re giving you that feedback, you know, is this before, or is this with my best intentions in mind?
And most circumstances it is. I don’t think there’s many people out there, you know, at this stage it would be doing it just to, you know, for tall poppy syndrome to try to knock people down. I’m sure. You know, there’s there’s some sort of outcome that they’re trying to elicit out of providing that feedback.
And you know, potentially if you think that it is too harsh or you don’t think that you deserve that potentially, you know, talk to other people about that in another critical sense and be able to say, you know, what their ideas are, maybe some mixed experiences within the industry as well, reach out to your networks and say, you know, this is a scenario that was in this, the feedback that I’ve gotten, you know, do you think that is correct as well, but I think in most circumstances, you know, it hasn’t been too many times that I can reflect on now and think you know this bloke has given me feedback just to be a prick, you know, there was always some underlying message behind it. And and you know, the, the more and more that we get entrenched in the industry, the more and more that you sort of find yourself potentially in some sort of way, providing that same sort of feedback to those coming through as well.
You know, I’ve certainly had many times where I’ve talked to guys and just had to think more, just give them a bit of a reality check as to where they see in the industry. I knew like trying to do that. in a constructive manner. Certainly don’t try to you know, parade those coming through, but we have instances that I would have been the same way.
There’s these guys that maybe you know, still studying, for example, that maybe have had some experience in some success in the private industry, for example, which is certainly very different to the pro sector where you’re, you know, observed under a microscope, but a lot more closely and they potentially get a bit of a warped sense of where they may sit and you know, how good their abilities, you know, that all of a sudden think that they can’t do anything wrong and their program is perfect.
And, you know, they might’ve found one principle that they really abide by, and that’s what they stick to. So just saying, you know, look here’s a million other things that potentially that you would be judged by if you had a contract with a professional club, just remember that, you know you’ve had experience in this area, but maybe like lacking experiences in all these other areas as well.
And I was referred back to that Dunning Kruger effect. I’m sure you probably use that, that grab a few times where, you know, you’ve got the graph of knowledge versus time. And as soon as you get out of uni, your knowledge is right up here. And the more and more you do you just realize that that or actually, oh my God, on the fell off the pace, and actually the more you surround yourself with really knowledgeable coaches, the further off the pace that you realize.
Jack: I’m with you mate. It’s a long journey. Brett Johns and Fi Noggin are commenting on the chat. So Brett’s these are your mates, any better than sets and Brett’s, that’s when I think you’re talking about footy.
Sean: Yeah, so I need to give you a big shout out to those guys.
They’re out there. They’re Port Adelaide legends. So so I guess where, you know, I started my journey transitioning from being a Spud player to getting stuck in the industry was at the pullback football club. So essentially you know, probably I think, I can’t remember when I was there, whether it had just happened or whether it was in the process of you know, the magpies and the power amalgamating.
I’m not too sure how much of that you’re over at sort of over in in Vic, but you know, that that sort of happened, but
Jack: Super successful club
Sean: Yeah, absolutely. I think 36 premierships are they seven brand new ships and they had a bit of a golden era, you know, through the eighties and early nineties.
Particularly, probably just before I sort of really followed it, but Adrian Setry he had a bit of a legend in there multiple premiership player and really heavily involved in boxing and had a passion for strength & conditioning work. And one of the very good friends Brett John, Susan Australian record holder power lifter you know, they were doing a lot of work with the pies in both those areas.
And they sort of took me under their wings you know early on in the piece and I’ll let you know a massive amount from there. And it’s funny, you know. They’re completely honest in saying I don’t didn’t necessarily that I have exercise science degrees and all those sorts of things, but essentially, they just have a great deal of experience under their belts and a lot of the forcewheeels that they, you know, that they were pushing essentially in some sort of context is still applicable in today’s S&C as well.
So probably that they will be laughing about that. Look, I can’t see his comments about probably the biggest thing that they ever taught me is when I was a young I reckon 17 or 18 year old, I think I rocked up to one gym session and look, I’m so sorry to say this, but we’re rocked up to a gym session with a set of gloves on and they absolutely berated me.
He’s taken out of me and I can promise you, I never did that ever again in my entire life. And
absolutely. You know, it so that they will yeah, they’ll take a lot of credit for that, for sure. But now great life absolutely.
Jack: Yeah, that’s awesome. Valuable lessons. And the other side of that I took from that, that I think is invaluable for what you’re doing now, and you mentioned how you develop that, you know, in hindsight, you’re developing an audience, whether you knew it or not.
And then when you opened up that gym, it, it allowed you to really flourish. So throughout the time of getting your Australia conditioning experience across different sports, mainly AFL and cricket as well, but you’re also developing your business skills and, you know, not working outside the industry, but actually honing your coaching by running a personal training business whether it was with football clubs or renting a space.
For those coaches that are working in sport and they’re strength & conditioning coaches, but they haven’t built that. Or they haven’t taken that plunge, I guess, of running their own business. And then they’re making ends meet in another industry. But they want to take that plunge at what would be your advice for renting a gym or running a PT business?
Sean: Yeah, look, I think that the first thing is, and probably one that again is another common one that we come across is I’ve probably started the majority of the clientele that I was working with at middle league was, you know, some of the players partners, to be honest with you, just wanted to simply turn up a couple of Madhya similar sort of sporting golf triathlons and things like that as well.
But really I was at a stage in my life where to, to make ends meet. I just had to say yes to everybody and anybody. So I couldn’t really be selective in you know, who I trained with, and met some amazing people and actually found. We’re seeing a lot of gratitude for working with, with, with all sorts of people, as opposed to, you know, just sort of exclusively saying athletes.
And in saying that as well, we try to treat every opportunity, even though whether you’re working with a general punter or somebody who wants to, you know, get benefit default, you know, church, nimple on weekend, try to use every hour that you have with those people, with an opportunity to sharpen the tools up.
So, you know, If I’m working with Jane, who’s the mom of Johnny, who’s a sample player. And he said, oh, look my S&C coaches just doing some PT sessions down there. Can you get down supporting, you know, how can you add some for, you know, movement assessment to Jane? Can you potentially, in your movement prep, you know, adding maybe like a little marching through a loss, you know, a little, A-skip just to get her moving, say, standing here, Cornell, the schools are looking at how people move.
How can you start to still, you know, in our last podcast we talked about developing the big tenure. How can we hit as many of those young foundational members? That’s can we still get Jane, you know, the, the mother of 35 year old mum, can we get to squatting properly, hinging properly lunging properly, pushing, pulling in, in vertical and horizontal directions, bracing and rotating really well.
You know, if you can do that with somebody who maybe doesn’t have a great deal of confidence in their movement then it’s going to be easy. Once you get to somebody who’s a footballer. So if you are just starting out, don’t be selective. Just grab onto anybody is willing to pay you money to come and try and just imagine that they’re training for some sort of sport or, you know, I imagine it’s another opportunity to hone in those skills.
And then from there, you know, the busier that you get that usually become that comes from, you know, word of mouth from those people, it comes from you developing content from, you know, recording those people and saying, look, Jane, couldn’t squat 30 kilos when I first started but she’s squatting 45 now, like this can be you and you know, all those sorts of things.
So it’s just sort of ends up being a bit of a snowballing effect. People want to generally go to people that look busier as well. Cause it’s just a funny mentality we have is just as human beings. And then it’s, when you fill up your schedule, then you can start to hone in and be a bit more selective and then say, okay, look, if Jane was keep training and you know, maybe it’s a more premium price or potentially you know, you, you take the little trainer underneath you and you, here’s your opportunity and your Steve-O to have a crack and work on your skills.
I’ll take a little percentage of that, of that as well. So it’s just your, I take on as much as you can and always use it as an opportunity to learn and grow and that’s yeah. You know, that, that word of mouth and that social media will grow as well. So I think that’s, you know, there’s, there’s no better promotion and then, you know, getting your hands dirty in the industry.
And now we are fortunate enough to be reasonably selective with who we do work with. And every, everybody that doesn’t quite fit into that category you know, can jumping was one of the other amazing coaches that we do have as well.
Jack: Yeah, I love that, mate. That’s really sound advice. Whether you know, you’re trying to be the best coach that you can be, like you said, coaching is coaching whether you are coaching an Olympic athlete or coaching a mom, you’ve got a, they’re all got different movement competencies, and you still should go through your screenings and be as professional as you can and go through your processes for movement and don’t disregard anyone.
I think that’s a great message. But then also the business progressions as well, by doing a good job, getting results, it’s going to pay back later on for the future of your business. And it’s probably something that you’ve touched on. I know I felt that we don’t really know where we’re going with our career.
We keep doing a good job. Things start to fall into place like to have with yourself. So thanks for sharing your gratitude made it. It’s obviously good success leaves clues, and I think that’s a good notion for S&Cs is to get as much experience as you can, like you said early, and it starts to build momentum.
Sean: I’m not saying this to sort of blow wind up your ass. People will probably look at Jack I know, certainly I’ve talked to a few people recently where we talked about, you know, when, when we come on to your podcast and they go fuck far out, you know, Jack is really like, sort of exploded onto the scene and you know, the last few months by, I wonder, what’s he doing?
You know, but, but it’s, it’s you, you created that, you know, it’s the fruits of your hard work and the fruits of you putting yourself out there and the fruits of you contacting people and getting involved in, you know, making those strong connections as well. So you know, I would never look at somebody like you and say, Jesus, he’s lucky.
You know, you’ve, you’ve created that yourself as well.
Jack: I appreciate it. Yeah, it’s definitely like said if you, if you put in the work and, and you’re passionate about it, which I think you know, everyone who ends up staying in this industry for a long time, they have to have passion and that, and they have to work hard.
You, you mentioned we’ll go back to that notion as well. How your sort of full-time work isn’t that often in the industry, did you deliberately move different sports like you now in lacrosse. So, you know, feel based sports team-based sports, I’ve received stuck with those themes, but you’ve got some good experiences with, with different sports on the ability over the last decade.
Is that being an intention of yours or is that something that’s sort of just come on?
Sean: Yeah, good question. I think it’s something that actually has just sort of naturally occurred. Well, I know there’s certainly when I did have of set and, and being turned down from a thousand interviews, I’m sure I, and all I said, those are the instances where you get told they were more experienced or people with more diverse experience with you or you just missed out.
And one of the things that I do get pigeonholed with a bit earlier on in my career is that my experience wasn’t fast enough, which I completely agree with you for the first part in your internship with the Crows and then Center of Excellence and a system work with, and then running the, you know, the footy program of Port Adelaide was just like six years of football, for example, and didn’t really have much else to show.
The cricket opportunity simply came through a call and and our referral. So the guy that had the position prior to me had just moved to India to work in the RPL. He, it was also a physio who was sort of like a bit of a combined physio S&C at the time.
And they were looking to bring a bit more of a football ideology to they’re creating programs just because you know, traditionally cricketers had got to wide little bit with being quite school-based athletes and with more and more forms of the game available, and those forms were being shorter and sharper and more explosive, you know, the focus for S&C really ramped up.
So, you know, that was just a fortunate word of mouth call. The lacrosse that was pretty cool. That was exciting. When we first started with Peaq, you know, we, we had to vision our motto is closing the gap between local and elite. Yeah, we always just thought that it’ll be taken, you know, those pro football methodologies and principles and applying them and adapting them to, you know, your, your weekend worries is what we started to find it.
Something that we did naturally sort of anticipate is that there are lots of elite athletes from lowly funded sports coming to come and sort of search seek us out. So, you know, we know that sounds fine. So we had a chunk of Australian lacrosse athletes that a pro prior just been gone until I get a group training studio to again, on a 45 sort of set up but then wanted to train and be treated as they were elite athletes, even though they had to self-fund everything, same with ultimate Frisbee.
And you, I know when I certainly, when I first heard about that and you know, most people sort of, you know, snuggle a little bit. Oh, frisbee that’s cool. But probably during spring, you know, these dudes, you know, he’s take himself seriously and they’re representing the country and they’re pretty athletic units.
They train really hard and we’ve got some, you know, some women that play roller Derby as well. So all these sort of unique sports that are lowly funded, but people at the top of their game, even for, for example, this might not make as much sense to you, but in south Australia, like rugby or if league and union is, is really small, it’s barely heard of.
So, you know, some of the top south Australian rugby athletes would come and do us to say that they wanted maybe potentially make the moty in states. So we started to mingle with all these people that, you know, we’re high end, but we’re self-funded because there’s just no money in their sport. I was talking to a few of the lacrosse girls and essentially what had been happening with the Australian program up until probably late 2019 was they had just hit up a coach from an American college.
Obviously lacrosse is massive in the US there’s this sort of dialogue between them and most of the countries. And that would just give in a big PDF form, you know, with all the running and strength & conditioning drills on there, because there was a lot of issues with. First being, you know, like it sounds like a very simple, easy issue to, to transfer over, but, you know, athletes probably don’t, you know, don’t really want to spend that time and maybe don’t always have the capacity to sit down and go through about all of the programming was written in yards and pounds and you know, these athletes, blah, I don’t know what that means.
I’m going to give you a crack. And the foundations of the end of the exercise selection was really good, but some pretty complex stuff in there. So, you know, there was some, some claims as slang snatches, and it goes to saying, look, we’ve never done this before. Just don’t know how to do it. So as opposed to, you know, giving it a crack, they just weren’t doing it all.
So completion rates were very low. The other thing that we’re saying is that we’ve got contingence of athletes in WA, South Australia, Victoria, and then also over in the states as well. And by lumping them with that PDF program of conditioning, for example, depending on which part, stage of the season and what their covenants are like you had.
Athletes with loads that were all over the place. So in WA they might be in seasons so they got, you know, to, to get two trainings and a game. And now we’re doing their PDF conditioning on top of whatever they were doing. In South Australia, they might, you know, there might’ve been one training session per week, and now we’re doing the PDF stuff.
And then playing and Victoria, they might’ve been on lockdown for example. So they’re not doing anything except for that. So all of a sudden you’ve got some, some girls massively over training, some that are bang on and some that are massively under training and nothing in between. So they’ll find a lot of issues with that.
That led to an introduction to their coach. May we have a chat about, you know, ways that we would address those issues? One thing led to another, we were fortunate enough to take over there the women’s program. And then probably after about three or four months, I think that the men’s program there is perked up because they were doing something pretty similar and I’d seen a pretty sizable shift in their ideology and completion rates and just the language around this S&C stuff that goes programming. They organized a zoom meeting and all of a sudden we took on by program.
So yeah. So it’s been, yeah, it’s been awesome. They’ve been a really gracious community to work with. They’re not having those opportunities before. They’re pretty receptive to most things you say which is awesome. And again, this is by sheer luck you talk, you know, talking about that chance is that when we first took them one morning early 2020 you know, there wasn’t much going on with lacrosse and the discovery of two years, I’ve just been recognized by the IOC to be competing in the 2028 Olympic games.
So you’ve gone from like nothing to a thousand pretty quickly. So I’ll be heading over to Alabama in July with the crew to play in the world games, which is the, the second biggest multi-sport event on earth, which is essentially sort of like the, either those sports that are just on the cusp or maybe are in contention of making the Olympics as well.
So you, over there, it’s gonna be a lot more tired lacrosse, American football. Yeah. All those sort of just on the edge games that aren’t quite in the Olympics just yet. So really excited.
Jack: Yeah, that’s awesome mate, and another great gem for coaches listening that there’s nothing like good work that to create future work.
So that’s, you know, like you mentioned start, you know, you get that foot in the door and then you do your work. And it starts to pay dividends by starting with the women in our work and cross for the men’s as well. And I can imagine once you’ve got that momentum as well, the buy-ins just set from the men’s from the get go, because they’ve wanted you, they’ve seen you to be at that club.
So that’s, that’s super exciting mate and good timing both for yourself as well as Australian lacrosse. So bring on 28.
Sean: Yeah, absolutely. They’ll keep me around for that long anyway. Yeah. Yeah.
Jack: That’s true long-term athletic development, right? Looking back over your career and then we’ll get into the business side of opening Peaq, but throughout this stage of strength and conditioning is there a particular highlight of your career as an S&C that you look back on fondly?
Sean: Yeah, that’s really a hard question. I think it’s hard to go past those, any of the championships you’ve been involved with him no matter what level, I think, as we told you before, probably the most special one from our point of view, is that the sample premiership with the West Adelaide footy club, you know, being the first opportunity for me to take over the range and truly true, like I was, you know steering the ship, you know, for at least that aspect of the program.
In a sense it’s been a launching pad for a number of other opportunities that are, that have sort of followed on from then, you know, it was because of that, that the down and creed academy call and, you know, and then there’s floating to, you know, work with the parent, things like that too. So was, there’s been many highlights, but I would say probably that’s probably one to pinpoint it simply because I think it had such a great impact.
Jack: Yeah, it’s a massive achievement and it would have been so rewarding to be a part of that after 32 years.
Sean: We were just coming out of the woodworks. You would never seen before. I think we always joke. It’s funny cause it, and I love the club dealings still follow them. Unfortunately, you know, in these sense of being away from carbon, again, this is certainly not that didn’t do it, mate.
There’s a number of factors that we talked about in terms of, you know, athletes being drafted in and staff members moving on and all those sorts of things. Is that like a little bit about, we always joke and reel it back. It is that I don’t think that they were ready for us to win the flag. I don’t remember, you know, we were the big underdogs going into the grand final, even, you know, it was a surprise that we’d even made it that far.
You know, all of a sudden, you, you sort of fast forward into the game and we’ve won it and you sort of get instructed to go back to the club and we went back there for a big dinner and, you know, facing some of the worst food I’ve ever had in my life. Lucky. I just didn’t say that I’ll prepare any sense of the sloppiest new tools.
I think there was a vegetarian and I just literally picked up a bag of frozen veggies, checked them in my plate. Yeah. We’d never really cared cause everybody was thinking to be Sigrid bees anyway and celebrating. But yeah, that was a, yeah, some fond memories of some, about some terrible food.
Jack: And what about on the flip side of it mate? What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and what did you learn from it?
Sean: I think potentially I know I’ll be completely open. And honestly, there’s been two instances in my career that have probably been the most challenging. So number one, and these are both very similar instances. Number one was would that work at the power?
And I’ve talked about you know, us not, not saying, or having the opportunity to, to grow and, and sort of op opportunities drawing up from a professional sense. We’ve got to, you know, towards the end of 2018, I remember talking to the high-performance manager in McCowen at the time, we’ve still got a really great relationship with but he just had to sit down and on a chat and said, you know, we’ve loved the work you’ve done.
You know, it’s been an awesome experience for those young, those junior athletes coming through. And we really can’t bother you, but unfortunately the soft cap is tiny up and, you know, we don’t really have a space for your role moving forward, and we’re going to condense it down and split your role between other, you know other professionals.
It might be, you know option for you to start exploring other opportunities out there. So that was big gut-wrenching to be honest with you you know, it probably would have been even, it would have been easier to swallow if I’ve done something terribly wrong. And then fast forward again, through the gym facility, we had a few of the Crows AFLW girls coming down and doing their off season with us that led to a connection to the head coach and getting a call at one day to say that one of their staff members had moved on to GWS.
Would I be willing to jump in? So worked at the Crows AFLW for 18 months, which was an incredible experience. And that would wonderful people. We got to midway through the 2020 season. And you know, COVID struck pretty badly. I know there was a time when we were sort of joking about it. And I remember we got on a plane too, so we flew to Tazzy, for example, to, to play against the Roos.
And there was a family on, there was masks I like come on these guys are crazy like that. It’s like seriously. And then, you know, fast forward to a four and a half lighter and we’re playing in front of that crowd against GWS. It has to be a serious now and then fast forward another weekend. And the cop pulls everybody and says, there’s the season’s done, we’re finished.
So Jesus stuff, but then sort of, you know, I do a heap of prep to sort of try to keep the girls working through and send them your external programs and catch up with them out of parks and that sort of stuff. But then to be sat down against they’re looking at it. Has had a massive financial impact, you know, on on all of sport, including the, you know, the club we’re getting rid of that portion of our female only staff, and we’re going to be passing it back over to the men’s program.
And yeah, sort of, you’ve lost another opportunity, unfortunately, it’s time again, but no touch wood. You’re not as far as I’m aware and that they would never was made aware of any wrongdoing, but unfortunately just sort of the nature of the beast in two situations there you know, financial issues, impacting clubs cutting off, you know, the fringe guys like myself who potentially would try and get the resort to work their way up.
So certainly two challenges. But again, you know, I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason and still super grateful for the experiences we had at those clubs. And certainly, you know, no bad feelings from my end and still am very close with the other people that I had those conversations with.
Jack: Yup. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it. And it wouldn’t be an S&C that’s been an industry for 10 years. That experience I can only imagine. So I’ve certainly been in that situation and it’s definitely, like you said, if you did something wrong, it’d probably would be a little bit easier to swallow because at least there’s a learning there where trading that, where you put your heart and soul into something and it’s out of your control.
But I think it’s a good message nonetheless, to hear the things that work. And then also just the nature of the beast of the industry as well. Particularly now COVID, so that probably moves is a good segway to business and opening up a space. Take us through when did the light bulb moment happened when did you think of opening up a space? What was the situation?
Sean: Yeah, it all happened really quickly and probably something that I haven’t touched on too much was during that time, went out when I talked about, you know, when Mac has said explore some different options. I literally, I think jumped on sportspeople.com or the own the S website and was just flicking my email out to every situation available.
And there was a contact that we had sort of developed through some of that traveled to India and so on and so forth. Then I went through a few different processes and didn’t quite get quite through a one really. You know, when, when right to the end to, to sort of getting it happening. And again, with hindsight is a beautiful thing.
There was an opportunity in Beijing actually to go work with some basketball over there and a Glock would Daniel come back, he would come, come across sort of throughout the journey. And he was part of the interviewing and recruiting process. And essentially there was a big drop to get, I think, Western coaches over into, into the sort of Eastern S&C programs.
I think there had been a tendency to, because of their vast numbers of people. For example, in China, that S&C was probably under down a little bit. You know, that would just train and train and, and train and train and train. And if anybody brought it down, there was so many wedding in law that, that would bring those in.
But I sort of ran that timeframe. There was a push to get some Western S&C coaches over to get involved. And I was fortunate enough to get to go through the process and get offered a position over there. And this was right at the end of 2018, we sort of, all these things were happening. And, you know, at the time it was like, you know, this is my opportunity.
Let’s go, let’s, let’s make it happen. You know, this is going to be, this could be pretty cool, but from a family perspective, it wasn’t great timing. We were just about to get married on Easter for two or three months time. And probably I just didn’t have a solid enough I don’t know a set of evidence to suggest that’d be a great idea.
I reached out to a lot of that other S&C coaches that I’ve met in my journey that had been over to China and I heard really mixed reviews. Some of them really loved it. Some of them had some horror stories where you know, that clashed with head coach and maybe potentially didn’t get paid what they needed to be, or, you know, that were fired for no reason.
So I was like, yeah, it’s a big risk to head over there. You know, I was guessing that the work commitments were pretty intense and it’d be bringing my partner, Jamie over to a non-English speaking environment by herself, no family I’d be out outside for like, is this really worth it? And that was when we decided to take that plunge and go, okay, let’s meet up in a private facility instead, this sort of everything pointed towards it.
And, you know, thank God that we made that decision now that we know what’s happened over the course of the last three years. So we’re going to make this decision. Let’s just start, let’s just jump on real commercial and see what’s out there. We found this 400 square meter warehouse, just nice empty shell.
If that was a nice sort of balance of giving yourself some space and not putting ourselves into too much debt that was it was unachievable. Like, we didn’t really have an understanding, you know what, we’re just making it up from a business point of view, to be honest with you. We lent on my mother-in-law, who has a bit of managerial experience in recreation, but for the most part, you know, it was just dive in and go for it.
So reached out to recruitment companies and, and probably had a limited time to get it done, because we thought that timing was of the essence. We thought, particularly in this You know, in this nature of an environment, if we didn’t get hope in by January, but miss a big chunk of our market for pre seasons, you know, good weather news, resolutions.
So we pushed this out as we could work all the way through Christmas and new years didn’t really sleep very much in and managed to get open with a pretty like now look back around a pretty empty facility on January the sixth, 2019, and then, you know, the rest is history. And I know there’s probably a story I’ve told her to a few people, but one of the first instances, I really, really understood that I was a business owner and not a, just an S&C coach anymore.
It was the first weekend we were open, like back-to-back bookings. I was pumped up and ready to go. And so, you know what, I’m living the train. Now, this is it. I’ve done it. I’ve made it. We get through the first couple of sessions everything’s gone well. And one of those sessions was, it was a. Ran in through, you know, had the, the session perfectly sequenced down.
I thought, you know, this is, this is brilliant agribusiness. We finished up with Cindy and doing a bit of recording on the coach, hands up and he goes, where’s Emily. Well, I was thinking in my head who cares? You know, this is brilliant, but right now I’m on cloud nine realized a couple minutes later, Emily going to the bathroom.
And she feeling a bit sick from some of the conditioning. And she had vomited that tore completely. She disappeared all over the floor. I was at that point, I realized I had no cleaning products. Oh my God, what have I done? So first weekend I’ve got clients backing up. I don’t want to hands and knees with paper towel and a fan, just trying to claim spew off the grounds where this is not how I envisage it, but you know, it gives you a, it gives you a bit of perspective anyway.
Jack: A hundred percent. Yeah. Cleaning the gym. When you’re paying rent, you don’t have to worry about that. That’s absolutely
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. Talk us through Peaq performance. What happens in the center? What’s a typical day for you? How hands-on are you now that it’s been a couple of years? Well, three years Talk us through for those that haven’t been in the facility.
Sean: Yeah. So now I’m really, really fortunate that we’ve had a pretty sort of explosive growth over the last three years. Despite sort of everything that’s going on. I think that, yes probably the, point of difference, our niche a bit, and also just that community engagement has been able to help us through, but essentially Peaq you know, we’re a 24/ 7 performance facility we’ll have to sort of call ourselves.
So our members get 24/ 7 access to this wire key tag. Yeah, all of the S&C equipment that, that you really need to sort of facilitate you know, those principles that we talk about that we manipulate and depth, you know, adapt all the elite experience that we’ve had, we made an appropriate to everybody’s sort of circumstances.
The levels of sort of engaging or membership that we have we’ve sort of got our basic performance model where, you know, essentially you’ve got your program and you come in and you do it at your own time, at your own leisure and go for it. And we do run a few because there is demand for as well, a few generalized classes, we call those, but still with the scope of the periodization in it.
So we’ve got like a, a strength class of which we run in 10 week blocks. So the first three weeks will be a bit more volume in the next three weeks will be a bit more sort of like a, whether it’s a strength accumulation, or a strength integration, where it might be a bit more pyramid based training where we’re teaching them to how to add a load appropriately and then do a three week block of maximum.
So that, you know, might be, you know, doing some four by threes or, you know you know, five or five, those sorts of things. And then we work into it, you know strength testing in week 10, where there could be one at Max’s free RMS. We could do some force pipe work. And then we sort of, you know, repeat the cycle every 10 weeks. We’ve got conditioning classes, central thing, or endurance for the first three.
We’ve gotta be more sort of like in the work, the next three. And then we’ve sort of got like a bit of a semi basketball court area. We, we get out and do something change direction on there as well. So try to integrate those general classes into those, for those who want it. But generally most people come in and do their own team buildr programs.
The next step up is we do have a athletes academy as well. So that’s just another level of sort of individualization. So we’ve got set times where we’ve got three coaches out on the floor. You all up in a small group setting, you’ve each got your own team, but a program that you’re working through and you get coached in small groups you know, similar to sort of what you would see in like an athletes authority style set up. Just sort of like one come over there, have morning and aloe sessions from there.
And then we do have the opportunity to come and do one-on-one coaching, if people are really hungry to get that little extra you know, level of care and love with them as well. So those are the sort of the three options that we wrote through. We’re actually sort of in there in the midst of signing a at least for a bigger facility, which is exciting. We sort of looked at, you know, what is the expansion look like for us. We were probably at a capacity at the moment.
It gets really chaotic there in the arvo which is, you know, I love when you that Bobby’s up and it’s public, but we also don’t wanna make people feel, too uncomfortable if it is overwhelming as well. Not everybody loves to place to be burning. So we sort of thought, you know, what does that look like for us?
Is that multiple locations? We think that that probably just spreads you thin a little bit too much, and you lose your quality control. You know, we want to make, still, always have that facility where I can come in and, you know, say, get out to the members and interact with the community and sort of have a bit of an idea of what’s going on with everybody.
So at the moment, we’re in 400 squares, we’re in the process of negotiating 1,500. So it’s going to be a big step up, but our goal and our vision is to sort of, you know, almost be running that American private facility. So it would be a full-sized basketball court, potentially a bit of a, you know affective area, just a more extensive gym set up and those sorts of things too.
So that’s probably let’s be honest, like 12 months away because it is going to be a brand new build and things are being built quickly in the moment. I know another part of your questionnaire was in my involvement day to day. Certainly it’s being less and less coaching now and more and more development.
I still do pop out and coach your net. And we’ll do, you know, a couple of sessions, you know, every day or a couple of every couple of days. You know, it used to be back to back, try to squeezing eight to 10 hours of coaching everyday, but now sort of bob in and out and make sure that we’re developing those staff members.
We’ve got 19 staff members on board now, which is exciting and hopefully providing pathways for coaches that you have may didn’t have when we were coming through the ranks as well. We do provide you know at the moment, you know, we, we started with the classic subcontracting agreement for everybody that was on board, just because we didn’t have the resources.
We’ve now progressed that up to now casual employment for us with the view to turn that into, to permanent and full-time you know, in the next 12 months as well. So just taking those baby steps up to being financially viable and making sure that we, we nurture those great coaches coming through as well.
Jack: That’s fantastic mate. I love hearing that it sounds like a great space growth, both for coaches to develop, but also for athletes, like you said, that don’t have that access to elite coaching and programming and facility as well. They now do so. Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing to know. No surprise why you thrive in the last few years. One cause the demand, but also two, because all that hard work that you’ve done and now that people are coming out and grows to train with you and get involved.
So that’s awesome mate. In terms of the business side of things, who do you model of? How do you go about learning those sides of things? Like obviously as a coach, we do our degrees. We learn off our mentors and then suddenly, now you’re running a facility. Is that learning as you go, is it listening to podcasts? Is it speaking to mentors that are doing, like you mentioned, athletes authority, take us through for business owners, what’s the best to learn that side do you think? Yeah.
Sean: Probably a blend of all those things. Certainly at the start, it was just making it out to be honest with you. As I said, I was fortunate enough, so my mother-in-law, she worked as a manager at a swimming recreational facility for 20 years.
So there were certainly aspects of that, that she, we really leaned on her to sort of assist us with. But for the most part, you know, running a gym, we didn’t really know anybody at that time. That was, that was doing it. Just a great network of people in different professions. Yeah. One of my example athletes, his dad’s was involved in IT so I reached out to him and he set up our back end systems in our surveillance systems to allow us to be able to be 24/7 as well.
I was saying he’s been incredible and still is involved in the business to this day. We had you know, we talked about Adrian Setry and Brett Johns before. Adrian Setry, as well as being a Port Adelaide superstar. He runs a painting business. So, you know, he organized painting the walls for us. Another guy, you know, pretty much if you are involved in a footy club, there’s, there’s a good chance you know, every single trade when, you know, every single something you’ll, you’ll find a connection somewhere to assist, but, you know, from then as we started to become a little bit more established and be more balanced and had the opportunity. Definitely. It was the same tip to podcasts and some of those real strong, skilled business leaders. Probably are some of the cream on the top now.
So I’ve literally got, I probably hadn’t modeled too much off of Athletes Authority until we went over recently and went to the play let in Sydney a couple of months back now and I really, really liked their rehab model.
I think I’m feeling really confident in what we provide from a performance point of view, but what they showed us and what they’re doing in their integrative approach, you know, traditionally, and probably admittedly, what we had fallen into the trap of doing is that, you know, if the physio will have an athlete come to them, physio, work with them to a certain extent and then get to a point and they just hand it over and then we go for it from then, is there, there wasn’t too much of that sort of integrated approach.
So over the last six weeks we’ve been w we’ve sort of elicited the help of a guy called Nick Richardson as well, who worked at a sports injury rehab clinic in Ireland and sort of using both of those models to develop what we think will be best case scenario in South Korea. Even as recently as today, catching up with, you know, external sources to talk about referral pathways too.
And I think what she’s space in the, in the rehab model for south Australia, you will see a very, you know, I’ll have to restart, you know, very similar outlook as to what athletes are 30 yet, but just adapted appropriately to Sudan, mark, a little bit about our market a little bit more as well. So certain stages definitely, always try to be, you know, whether it’s being as an S&C coach or as, as a business person, always be a big funnel, you know, taking everything absorb as much as you can.
And then, you know, you’ll end product at the end is what you feel like you need to filter it out. And, and what you think is appropriate at the time. Just cause you know, there’s this, there are many ways of doing it. There’s no one way to go about it. If anybody tells you that there’s one way to go that business, or one way to go that isn’t C programming.
It’s time to run away as quickly as. Yeah.
Jack: Yeah. I love that. The funnel, it’s a good way to, to approach it because we’re all on our own path and you just take bits and pieces from different people along the way. And I think that was also a good thing to note is be honest with yourself and whether it be business or coaching about your chinks in your armor and working on those areas, whether you call them what you use this or whatever, but noticing, okay, that’s an area I need to work on, or whether it be finance, marketing, programming, what rehab, whatever it is.
So that’s awesome. But we’ll get into the lighter side of the podcast now that they get to know Sean
Sean: Baker this will
Jack: be a bit of fun, which, which movie or TV series has impacted the most and why?
Sean: Oh, that’s a, well, that’s a tough one. I’m a real documentary, like a Netflix documentary sort of brighter, you know, classic luck.
Yeah, last dance and all those sorts of things. I think a classic spot, which says the most impact you going to challenge me here or reckon. Cool. Now, look, I’m not, I’m not a hundred percent sure on which impact you guys. So you probably a lot of stuff that I do watch is, is very drastically different to anything that I’m doing in real life.
So potentially, you know, that’s the, the switch off you, you could say the last dance, but, you know, inspiration and those sorts of things. So I watch it and you know, this is probably sounds a bit like, you know, murder, docos and all that sort of stuff. I’m sure probably will be watching them. So I would like to say that none of those have actually had any impact tomorrow.
I’m going to let you, gentlemen, I’m sorry. I don’t, I don’t really put one that I can now, but yeah, definitely a, a documentary real life know Louis Farrow love his work. Just real life stuff that makes me think Jesus, I live a very sheltered life.
Jack: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a, Netflix is going to hate to them.
Isn’t it like the district rabbit hole. Some people are doing some crazy things. What about favorite? Inspirational quote and life?
Sean: Look, I like to, I’ve actually got this telling on my chest. I’ve got to tell you my chest a long time ago panties temporary glory is forever. I think a lot of transfer to that where they you take that in its literal term or, you know, metaphorical, you know, there’s been many circumstances that we’ve talked about even in today’s podcast where there’s been a short-term instance has provided a bit of pain, but everything happens for a reason or, you know, everything has its purpose.
And I think if you stick to the process and, and you know, don’t give up one on whatever it is you’re chasing, you know, if I’d give it up in those two circumstances where I’ve been told that, you know, they’re the soft cabs are up and we can’t be doing any more than, you know, we wouldn’t have a business or, you know, wouldn’t be pursuing these pretty exciting contracts we’ve got coming up as well from that from a pro point of view.
So, yeah, I think that’s the biggest one that we, that we bought a lot for sure. And what
Jack: about pet peeves in your work life? What makes you angry?
Sean: I think people that constantly gone about how busy they are, you know, I think, I think like, to an extent you, you a business owner, you’re an S&C coach and you’re a dad, you know, I’d never heard Jeff say, oh man, I’m so busy.
I’m so tired. I’m so busy. And you just get shit done. You’re sitting here on a Friday night you know, podcasting and making it happen. You know, you probably got bumps tucked up in bed and yeah, they do meet a lot of. People or here, a lot of people was that I don’t necessarily think , they might be, but you know, it can be a bit of a, you know, a, a mindset at the end of the day as well.
You know, we all get the same amount of time. And I know it’s a bit of a cliche. Everybody says, well, Oprah has the same amount of time as you, but just don’t, don’t be so busy telling everybody how busy you are. It’s not like it’s not a, it’s not a cool, it’s not a cool thing bug. I don’t think you’re a wonderful person because you’re super busy though.
Worry about that. Yeah.
Jack: And I reckon that resonates may matter. I can, I’m going to put that in the pit pave toolbox, just get on with it. And no one wants to hear that you’re busy. It’s
Sean: good. I love
Jack: it. W in a COVID free world, which we’re pretty much in now or a new norm anyway, once you find a way to spend your day off,
Sean: Look, I, I feel like most of our days you know In some sort of context, like socializing, you know, being out on the floor and coaching and, you know, being very Barbara never have asked.
So actually are really thoroughly enjoying days off, just very quiet or the bombing around home, or we’re pretty close to the beach down here, which is nice. I just go and jump in the water. I’m a terrible swimmer, but just, you know, just splashing around to keep myself in flights. I’m having a little bit dense, but but yeah, no, they’re very, very low key spending time with my two girls, my wife and my little, a two year old daughter and yeah, just just came a location and not being, having a little time.
I’m not like other about recharging, absolutely recharge your batteries. And then when it’s on the gym floor it’s Gaitan. Yup. Yup. Yup.
Jack: And then what about a favorite holiday destiny? Worldwide.
Sean: We have been fortunate enough to, to do a bit of travel before everything kicked off. Really loved it. And I was close to home, really loved Queenstown in New Zealand.
That was a beautiful place. And that’s actually where I proposed to my now wife, Jamie, very picturesque and lots of cool things through, you know, we went skydiving horse-riding and jet boating, all sorts of things that you do while you’re in Queenstown. Only thing I didn’t do was bunch of junk. So I thought, you know, if I jumped out of a plane with a dude strap my back, who wants to give himself a lot, like, I feel like that’s a bit safer than jumping off a bridge with a rope.
So yeah, I love that, but also like traditionally being too American and New York was pretty cool too. And, and watch the next versus is trailblazers at Madison square garden. So, you know, that was a pretty crazy atmosphere and pretty iconic as well. So that’d be.
Jack: But awesome. I had great experiences.
When we’re at the point, he ended the podcast. Thank you so much for jumping on and sharing with us, your journey made. And it’s only the very start. There’s some huge things that you’ve talked about that are really exciting, that that are coming up. And for anyone listening to podcast, coach or athlete, what’s the best way to get in contact with you?
Sean: Yeah. Look, guys do answer all of our Instagram, Facebook and emails. so it’s pea queue performance, Peaq performance on Instagram, or just PHQ on Facebook. Want to get out there. It’s not that I’m dyslexic. It is a little acronym for personalized evidence-based applied and qualified condition coaching.
So yeah, feel free to, you know, do that or feel free to email me at info at Peaq.
Jack: Well, I had those all in the show notes for those listening and what’s on the horizon for AMA for, for this year. Anyway, what are some big things that get to.
Sean: Yeah. So I think for the time being, I’m pretty laser focused on heading to the states in July, really excited for that.
I think there’s a lot that probably rides on that. If we can get a good performance in particularly in the net world gas point of view and SCC six competition, if potentially we get a metal pricing, I think that sends a strong message to the Institute of sport. And if you are considered to be a medal contender, and that’s generally where when funding will come, you know, being a metal contender can be the difference between money or no money, essentially.
So really trying to do everything that we can to, to be beneficial to that program and make sure that we leave no stone unturned and hopefully you know, the, the guys and girls both have a real red hook. Continuing to sort of solidify that the work in the background in regards to the new facility, we’re looking forward to being out to officially a net set, but just, you know, making sure that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed before it kicks off.
And then yeah, sort of say there’s, there’s probably there’s one or two other things that way we can’t talk about just yet, but, you know keep your eyes pure because it’s exciting. And we’re really grateful for the, for the support of everybody to, to elicit this.
Jack: Yeah, plenty happening in a, in a bigger space as well.
So it’s also my, all your, all your hard work paying off. And I’ll definitely be down there whenever I’m in Adelaide next to check out the, either the current space or the new space. But yeah, thanks again for your time. Thanks again for sharing. What we know what’s worked for you, your learnings mentors that you’ve had along the way, and all the different experiences across the string, the initiating industry, whether it be lacrosse cricket and a state league and professional football, and now also opening a space.
So you’ve done it all, mate. And thanks for sharing all your wisdom with
Sean: us. I see opportunity and keep doing that wonderful things in this industry. I’m looking forward to having a down and out, make sure we bring Bubs as well. We’ll just get them running around the basketball court or organized babysitter who pops to mind. Yes, that’s good.
Jack: And thank you, Ben brown. It’s tuned in. If, if you tuned in late, make sure you listened to the very start. Sean, I provide gems all the way through so you can watch that on our YouTube. We’re also gonna release it to our podcasts, which you can find on all your podcast directories next Tuesday.
So there’ll be the 12th of April for those listening in on YouTube for our next prepare like a pro live chat show. We’ve got Ben Stanley, the founder of enhanced football. You can tune in. There’ll be on the 15th of April next Friday. And at the same time, 8:30 PM. Australia is the 10 times. I’ll see you guys then.
Jack: So next up we have founder of Core Advantage located in Melbourne. Durham McInnis will be discussing increasing your surface area for luck. Welcome Durham, and thanks for jumping on mate.
Durham: Thanks for having me. Great to be part of such a crew.
Durham: So I have been incredibly lucky on my career, has been so many near misses where Core Advantage couldn’t have existed.
I think before you even talk about luck, you have to talk a little bit about survival bias, because the reason we’re all here on this panel is because our businesses didn’t die and there’s about five different times, mine cutoff. As I think it’s important to, for people thinking about starting a business, you only hear the success stories mostly.
So sometimes there is just luck that plays into keeping the business alive. We had a nasty situation about two and a half years into the business where if we hadn’t been given an overdraft but I’d probably be off doing something completely different at this point in time. So I think an in, I know quite a few of the guys stories here and is often an important stroke of luck, that comes unto it.
But I do think you can increase your surface area for luck. I think that’s an interesting thing to think about. Do you want me to just rattle on about it Jack or got questions?
Jack: Yeah. Let’s, I mean, trade. I think I know where you’re coming from, but yeah, just for those listening.
Jack: You talk us through from an athlete’s perspective and then also from a business point of view. What are some ways that you can increase your surface area for luck?
Durham: Okay. So from an athlete’s point of view it’s being, you know, if you’re a coachable athlete, if you’re ready to go, if you’re receptive to feedback if you’re putting in that extra work, you’re an opportunity is going to come along and you can just someone, you know, can go down with an injury and you can step into their spot, do amazingly, like, and perhaps more importantly, you can, as an athlete, attract really good mentors that are going to know that investing the time and effort in you really pays off.
So I think, it’s massive. Those coachable athletes, you know, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, there’s just certain people as coaches, you want to give more to those athletes you just want to help. And so I think that’s from an athlete point of view, that’s just making like, is, you know, your best abilities, your availabilities.
So it’s having that durable, robust body. But also just having that, the fact that you’re enjoyable to coach, because you put people at the hard work in, and it’s not just sort of pissing your time away. It’s a really worthwhile thing. So that’s from an athlete point of view.
And from a business and a coach point of view, I sort of think of it, there’s a couple of times of luck. There’s this what luck, which is just a little bit random. So what luck for instance, way 500 meters, I don’t remember the up the road from our gym. They building a brand new grass, athletic strap at the vert up the hall thing that line perfect irrigation, sprinklers and grass athletics.
And they did that in about a month after we decided we were going to start doing rehab for running stuff. And we’re just like, oh wait, can we go? Like, that’s just extraordinary what luck. Like, that’s just really good random luck. But there’s also who luck. And who luck is the people in your life that can make a huge difference to life.
And I think you can really, you can’t influence what luck much, but you can massively change who luck in your favor. And so for me, the most obvious example is probably my business partner, Jacob Tober, @vbtcoach on Instagram. Jacob had finished his internship and had actually no real need to do an internship with me at all.
But a mutual friend knew that we’d get along like a house on fire because of our sort of shared passion and ambitions put us together. And that piece of ended up being absolutely massive for me in my life. Because he’s great all the things I suck at, I’m great at all the things he sucks at. So there’s a really good element there, but you follow that chain through and that ends up leading to a whole bunch of other really good events for us as a business.
We wouldn’t be nearly as well known, if it wasn’t for the early work he put in with his vlogging for a long time. And you know, now we’re on the cusp of launching our Metric VBT our VBT app, which never in a million years where I’ve dreamt up, like, I’m just the guy saying, yes, you should hire your brother, he’s really smart, go do that.
But so that who luck open is huge. And the thing is, there are way you can cultivate insight. I think there’s fundamentally, just a couple of things that you can do that make a really big difference. The first is knowing your weaknesses. Like my ingoing position was, I know I’m actually, I’m as bad at a whole bunch of things as I am good at things like I really suck at quite a few different things.
I’ve got major weaknesses in knowing that I was always really hungry to build a team around me that was better than me. That is a good starting position rather than thinking, you know everything. Having a good vision you know, when I talked about what I wanted to do, I wanted to democratize high-performance for the private sector, which, you know, at that point in time, you know hadn’t really been sort of pushed much.
And yet what he was getting started, he was making a lot of waves and a lot of noise, but apart from him, it was, pretty quiet down here. And then I think there’s an element, so you got to have that vision, an element of generosity of spirit. So just, you know, being a good kind of citizen in the space and being positive and just people will tend to want to help you if you’re the kind of person that’s nice to them, even if you don’t need them.
And I don’t know why I succeeded that. Like, you know, sometimes in frustration you do the wrong thing. But I think if you do that and particularly in passion, like you’ve got to earn whether the passion is loud and, outspoken, or whether it’s the passion is expressed through attention to detail.
I’m not sure it matters, but that passion to actually do really good stuff. And so, yeah, I’ve found time and time again, that combo things has been really helpful. And so Jacob was, it was a good example of that. You know, another classic one, was Jack when I first met you. So Brit Smart dragged you down to our gym to say, because she knew you and I would get along.
And you mentioned, I’m not sure what it was called then, but is now the Melbourne Athletic Development Coaches Network. And I didn’t know that I was like, why, what are you talking about? I never heard of this thing. And he was like, hey I’ll get you on. And I found out about this great event where, you know where James Russell was hosting events bringing the community together.
And I reached out to him, said, hey, anytime you ever want to do it, feel free to do it at my place. We’d love to have you there. And I did it because he was just doing great thing and I wanted to find a way to support that. And that was great. And that ended up, we had Brett Bartholomew come and presented at our place, which was really cool, and that was great.
But then that also directly was a key lead into us forming a partnership with Iron Edge, which was a really huge thing for our business. And so some people would go, oh my God, these guys are so lucky. And it’s like, yeah, we were really lucky. And I certainly didn’t chase any outcome from that, but I just want it to be part of something that I thought was really cool.
And so there’s that sort of generosity element to it as well. And I reckon the last piece though, is, you know, the passion element and, you know, you’re like Lockie has done an incredible job with these plyometric. Like he’s really stamped his authority on that concept because people look at that and there are intellectual rigor that’s gone into it that they’re like, if he’s plyometric continuum, is that good?
How good must everything else be as well? Like I think there’s a real credibility marker you do with that. And I sort of did, a must lamer version of that without warmup. So I got a gig in 2006 with the Australian Sapphires and I felt very insecure. About getting this gig over a couple of AIS coaches that probably more deserving of the role.
And I said, I want to make the best warmup in the world. When we go into the world championships, I want the best warmup in the world. And so I put a truckload of work into this, a simple thing, like a warmer, but that still pays dividends to this day because people see that. And that’s a signal, it’s a signifier of your work that you do.
And then that generates more luck for you as well. So I think, you put those things together, and you’d be surprised that sort of compound interest on those things collectively.
Jack: Yeah, that’s just,
Durham: To further the monologue.
Jack: That was good. I was captivated even forgot that I was hosting something for a second here, but that was that did ring a bell, that I do remember Brittany Smart bringing me down and seeing your facility and yeah, just being able to meet you and seeing what was going on, which at that time I hadn’t been in a space that was doing that.
So it did open up my eyes. And it’s funny now, yeah, James, his partner passed the baton over to my partners who’s chatting on a little bit later on. It’s just funny how these things do work, but like you mentioned, let’s unpack the self-awareness aspect of it first out, like how you broke down passion as well.
I think that, ties in with what he was talking about, being authentic and not trying to be something you’re not. And you mentioned that you can be passionate and loud.
Durham: What are you so lucky that he’s authentic self is such an attention grabbing or thing? Cause I’m my authentic self, but I’m just a little bit dull and sort of now you can see it from both points here.
That’s not getting any play. I love how Woody’s authentic approach is also really captivating. I think it’s great. No. Sorry, go on.
Jack: Yeah. So, so self-awareness and knowing your weaknesses and your strengths, what are some activities or some processes, I guess, for, for coaches and athletes to develop that area?
Durham: I think one of the most important things, and it came to me later in life than it should have, was trying to cultivate an awareness of what the Me experience is for other people. Because so often, you know, we’re going around our life and we just experienced what’s coming in at us and how the situation is, whereas really having a thought of, okay, what’s the Me experience going to be like for other people?
So for instance, I’m pretty relaxed about me, because I’m not worried about me judging me because I’m pretty secure and chill. But interns coming into our place, were fucking terrified of me. Like people, you know, we had an intern once I was talking about today with that team. Athletes’ Authority did the thing where I have interns present at the end of the internship, which is a great idea.
We did that too. And we had one that had a panic attack that was so bad that she went blind. She couldn’t see. Like she literally lost visual cause she was so stressed about doing this great presentation. Like we had a really intimidating environment early on, because people thought, I thought they had to be perfect. And it took me quite a few, took me a lot, much longer than it should have to go actually.
I’m freaking people out a bit. I should be a bit more relaxed and allow them more room to make mistakes, so that self-awareness of what’s. And Jacob too, like he’s fully intimidating, because he’s crazy smart. And he doesn’t, he took him a while to realize that he wasn’t getting the best out of people because they were actually, they’re above that sort of peak arousal curve.
Like I have the wrong, the wrong spot of that to actually perform. So yeah, that’s, I think that’s step one. Yeah.
Jack: Yup. And then you mentioned passion and let’s delve into that a little bit more. So for those that are listening in and want to be passionate and showcase that in social media to build a brand or in their coaching for athlete rapport, whatever the purpose is.
What are some ways that you’ve worked out fairly on in your career that recognize am I going to be a loud coach? Am I going to be you know, attention to detail? And obviously the area.
Durham: Well, firstly, whatever you do, just do the exact opposite to what I do on social cause my socials weakest. But I think for me, I get very excited about the kind of the compounding effect of 1% is about doing these things where you start to add them together, people’s athletic ability gets better and better.
So getting the details in place so you can really get them faster, stronger, better. And what I think I’m good at is conveying my excitement at all around the future potential of the work they’re putting in now. Like if someone nails that trap bar deadlift, I’m really excited because I’m like this.
If we just kept going down this path, you are going to get really. So I think, and it’s, I look up I’m from a background as a lot of arts degrees in my family and a lot of teachers, and I love, I enjoy telling stories. So I’ll, you know, I’ll tell someone the story of, if you put a gun to my head and he said, you’re stealing my entire gym, but I can only get one piece of equipment.
That’s going to be the trap bar. I love it. It’s awesome. Here’s why it’s going to make you run fast, jump out, blah, blah, blah. And so I’m as passionate about, selling the thing, various stories I’m about doing it. And I think that helps too. Because you’re athletes, you don’t have to rev them up each week.
Cause you’ve kind of incepted them with why they should love being good at this thing. And I enjoy that as much as I enjoy the coaching. It’s the influence on them, to have them be as hungry for excellence on their trap bar deadlift.
Jack: Yeah, because, you know, they’re probably not going to know that about a trap bar deadlift the same as well, the panel.
But hearing that they’re going to jump higher and run faster. They probably will have some, it makes a lot of sense. What about from a like you mentioned with COVID hard times and how important it is to put in the work early to sort of set yourself up for success and increase the other topic.
So yeah, what you mentioned good values and knowing you know, how to do good work and that will sort of set yourself up wherever it leads you. You won’t necessarily know, but good things will come through that. Is that something that you’ve sort of had ingrained in you growing up? Is that something a mentor has helped you develop over time and you’ve trusted that concept. And then now you’re starting to see that it has paid off, or is it something that you,
Durham: I wish it was considered a really sickly, what it was I had, I’m a recovering perfectionist, like I actually had problematic kind of OCD level perfectionism straight that I had to really kind of bash out. Like I had to get rid of that.
And so that was just, it was just like, I would have trouble going half into a task. So when I was at the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL women’s national basketball league, I was getting paid 12K a year to do that gig, and you know three. And I was probably putting in a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of my time.
Cause I just couldn’t have. And that wasn’t some grand strategy that wasn’t some noble thing. It was just like, it would just drive me crazy to not do it properly. And it’s only, you know, like I’m 48 now. It’s only with, probably in my mid-forties that I actually being a perfectionist was crippling at progress as a business.
So it wasn’t, I think it was just a bit of in the same way that, you know, would he loves getting into a fight or an argument or, you know, getting up and around, like, that’s not a cultivated thing. That’s just kind of who he is. My sort of OCD tendencies were who I was. But now I’m definitely chasing being an awesomist rather than a perfectionist.
But fundamentally a perfectionist is a stupid strategy because you never get anything done. And so my brother’s a CEO, he yells at me about it. And Jacob yells at me about it a bit as well, and keeps me in line.
Jack: Awesome mate. Well, thank you for jumping on and sharing your wisdom with us in terms of like what you mentioned you were the first one that we seem to be aware of at this stage. Anyway doing it and grew up in Balaclava, so fully aware of the what was it?
Durham: Bodyworld Balaclava.
Jack: Yeah. The most school look in gym you’ll ever see. Yeah. But yeah, talk us through for athletes listening to the podcast, as well as coaches. It was a way to get in contact as well how you work at Core Advantage.
Durham: So yeah, so coreadvantage.com.au. It’s got all that info around training with us. And you can follow me @durham.mcinnis, m, c, i, double n, i, s, and core_advantage is our account. At least equally interesting, much more interesting is Jacob’s account, @vbtcoach. He’s putting out some great stuff that is really doing great with them.
Jack: Yeah. I’m loving your app as well, guys. It’s great.
Durham: Awesome. Thank you.
Jack: On the phone. And get the boys getting competitive with their velocity-based training so it’s a lot of fun.
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. I’m excited to welcome our panel of members for this month’s collaborative event ‘Australia’s Leading High-performance Facilities’. Our first guest for the show tonight is Lachlan Wilmort, the co-founder of Athletes Authority. And without further ado, his topic is going to be on managing a high-performance facility for athletes. So, welcome, Lach.
Lachlan: Thank you, Jack. Nice having you, mate.
Jack: We’ll dive straight into it, mate. Take us through from a coach’s perspective. You’ve worked in high-performance sport at the top level, as well as now in doing great things in the private sector. What are the pros and cons of the two?
Lachlan: I think when I was shifting across from pro to private, I thought the hours might’ve been a little bit better. But then when I moved over, I lost two of my coaches. We rolled into fires, we rolled into a blackout, we rolled into COVID. So, it’s been a good fun to use in the private sector, mate. So, I think my opinion is probably a little bit astute. But there’s no doubt for me, from a family point of view, the hours are significantly better, especially around the weekends and everything. So, the pros for private are probably a little bit more controllable with hours.
One of the big things people often ask me is, ‘Do I miss pro sport and stuff like that?’ And, to be honest, I think it’s a little bit like high school. I think once you graduate high school, you look back and you think, ‘Fuck, how good was high school.’ Socially you’re with your friends every day and stuff like that. You kind of forget all the assessments and all the annoying work and stuff you had to actually do. And I think pro sport’s a little bit like that. When I watch the games these days, that is something that I miss a lot, game day.
I think that feeling of game day, the preparation of game day, there really is nothing like it. And in spite of working with a lot of really good quality athletes across the private sector and preparing them for game day, it’s not the same when you’re not in the team and you’re not turning up on game day, ready to go.
So, that’s probably a big part. That’s very hard to replicate. But with all due respect, from that point of view, the culture and the community that we have at Athletes Authority is something that… For me the private sector is all about creating that team sport feel within the private community, that riding the wave of success of each of the athletes is certainly something that I love.
And I think that from a private setting it’s something that we can do. And I think maybe sometimes, you know, 10 years ago, probably too many people treated it just like a gym and people turned up and trained. They had their own individual things to do, and then they left. But I think, to be honest, with all the credit to CrossFit, CrossFit’s probably showed us what a community can be, regardless of what you think about CrossFit.
And everyone that’s on tonight manages a phenomenal facility and realistically has an amazing community, hence why they’re successful and where they are. And I think we can all attest that the private sector is starting to build some really strong athletic communities that people can be a part of.
And, to be honest, that’s what I loved about team sport and that’s what’s building in the private sector.
Jack: Yeah, I love that, mate. You mentioned community. Is that something that COVID has almost raised your awareness on, that facilities like yours do have an impact on the community, once you take it away?
Lachlan: I think it is. I think the COVID issue was something that… For example, let’s take Anytime Fitness. At the end of the day most Anytime Fitness franchises don’t really have a community. They’re all owned by very similar small business owners as it is now. They paid X amount for a franchise. They’re small business owners. They’re not the juggernaut that is Fitness First or Virgin Active that’s owned by a multinational corporation. They are small business owners. And when COVID hit, they shut down and guess what? No one was around to support them. No community was there to really back them, because they probably didn’t have the same communities that the people that are on now.
And I’m not an emotional person, but I must admit, when we got pushed into lockdown, our athletes made a video for us and so many got around us and supported us and stuff like that. And for me, that was unbelievable.
So, I think the community… I don’t necessarily think COVID created it, but it’s certainly probably identified the power of it and how strong our community is without actually realising it.
Jack: And you mentioned a little bit earlier, it’s something I’ve picked up on, was making an impact with the athletes. Now you miss game day, and that makes a lot of sense from a competitive point of view and everyone lean on game day performance that is hard to replicate. But from making an impact as a coach, do you feel like in the private sector you actually moved the needle a lot more with the athlete’s development?
Lachlan: Yeah, a hundred percent you do. In professional sport, us, strength & conditioning coaches, we probably have a percentage of athletes that we impact more than others. Typically when it comes to the superstars that are very talented, our influence on them can often be less. For the older athletes, often our influence can be sustaining careers for a little bit longer.
But, obviously, in the AFL was a classic example. We were getting athletes at seven, eight and nine months. To be able to influence them was really big. And that’s what we do in the private sector. We get these athletes, that’s sometimes as young as nine years of age, and we can have a huge influence on their routine, their habits, what they value, why they value it.
And I think as well, that’s what the private sector can be quite powerful with. That we can bring in these 10, 11-year-olds and they can look across the facility, especially, you know, I can only speak for ours, but I know a lot of the facilities on here are similar, that they’ll have a high-performing elite senior athlete that may be in the same sport, maybe even in the same position that these young athletes at, and they can look across the room and go, ‘Geez, that’s what I want to be like. That’s what I need to get to.’ And their value on strength & conditioning increases significantly. Versus that 10-year-old, 11-year-old going to a Fitness First or a Virgin Active and just doing weights.
I think they can start to see the process, the values. And that’s what you’re getting at pro sport. You get a 17, 18-year-old coming to your club. And they want to play mid-field and they see a 25, 26-year-old midfielder who might be bench pressing 120 kilos, or squatting, or jumping, or throwing med balls around. And they’re going, ‘That’s what I need to do to be that good.’
I think we can influence that in the private sector far more than your average gym. And, obviously, the people that are on here, you can see that the average gym is now changing, because these are performance facilities. These are the ones that are going to govern our young athletes and build them into something more.
Jack: Yeah, it’s exciting, mate. It’s something we’re talking about often here. When you look at this panel compared to 10 years ago in Australia Health, how fast we are catching the American culture with its private sector? Which is maybe something at the end of discussion, if we get time for, it would be good to hear everyone’s thoughts around that. And how fast we are gaining on the Americans in that space?
Lachlan: We’re not getting any more attractive, mate, but we’re certainly improving the performance, by the looks of it.
Jack: Too much time put in coaching, making everyone else looking better? What about from the coach’s perspective? Do you feel, from a development point of view, if you had to pick one to start with, would you prefer developing yourself in the high-performance sport realm or do you think private sector is a better place to start?
Lachlan: To be brutally honest, I think it’s six of one, and half a dozen of the other. I don’t think the category is the maker. It’s the coaches around you that will make it. If you’re in high-performance sport with terrible people, it’s not great. By the same token, if you’re in the private sector with terrible people, it’s not great.
I do believe, when it comes to a lot of young coaches at the moment, and, to be honest, I don’t think it’s going to change. I think, the shyniness of a pro sport logo is always going to be attractive to coaches. And that’s not to say it shouldn’t be, I think there’re a lot of amasing things in pro sport.
The experiences I had were phenomenal. But again, it depends who you’re with. I’ve got a young coach that works in my facility, that worked in the private sector and wanted to give pro sport a go, gave it a go, didn’t like it and now has come back.
And for me, that’s the powerful part. I would always prefer a coach that went to pro sport, didn’t like it and has come back, and has to rebuild a little bit, rather than a young coach that has always got that desire to go, ‘Oh, well, I want to give pro sport a go, but I’m not sure whether I’ll like it or not.’
I don’t think there is one or the other. I think it’s got to be based on the environment you’re going into and the coaches you’re with. So, whether it’s private, whether it’s pro, I think both have amazing positives and negatives in a certain extent, but realistically, it’s quality people. Again, referring back to the panel here, if you’re lucky enough to work with some of the people on this panel, well, amasing. It doesn’t necessarily mean pro sport’s going to be better. But, by the same token, if you get an opportunity in pro sport and there’s good quality people. One of my best mates, Simon Greta* is at Melbourne at the moment, but if you’ve got an opportunity to work in that environment with him, fantastic. I’d say, take it any day of the week.
But it’s probably down to the people and the community within the performance setting. So, the physios that are going to be working there, the strength & conditioning coaches, the high-performance manager, to an extent the head coach, what do they believe in? What do they want to push? And it’s the same with private setting. If you’ve got good quality people around, you can’t go wrong regardless.
Jack: Awesome mate. Thanks for shedding light on that. And then in terms of, for the coaches listening in, do you feel in your experience there’s personality traits and coaching skill sets that are more suited to private sector compared to high-performance sport, or do you think a good coach is a good coach?
Lachlan: Firstly, I think a good coach is a good coach. I’ve got Woody here trying to wrap me up, so, clearly, he’s used to the voice, it’s terrible, cause he’s trying to text it. But we can certainly think only from a private and a pro.
My strongest coaches are the ones that have had experience in team environments. Now, that’s not to put down anyone that works individually, but our environment is on a gym floor in group settings. So, my strongest coaches are the ones that have worked in group settings. That doesn’t mean it has to be pro, but it certainly has to be at a level where they have to control a team environment.
I probably find that the people that go into the private setting need to have a far more sales-orientated influence, because at the end of the day they actually need to sell the service a little bit more. In an environment of professional, they don’t need to go out and get sales, but you still need to sell what you’re doing to the athlete.
They are very similar, but they’re also very different in nature. So, I’d probably say, if you want to go into the private setting, you’ve got to have a little bit of monger about you, about going out and getting leads and attracting people, attracting teams, attracting individuals. If you’re in the pro setting, you probably need to work out how you sell your program more than sell a company or get leads in.
So, I don’t think that really answers it very well for you, but I think it’s summary. There is no specific trait that I think is going to transfer better to pro, better to private. Because, like I said at the beginning, the facilities on here and my facility as well, our whole goal is to start to breed a performance mentality.
And that’s exactly what we do in the pro setting, exactly what you’re doing in the private setting. So, I think the carry-over and the crossover is way too familiar. But if you had to pick one nuance, it would probably be that when you’re in the private setting, you’ve got to try and sell the company more and get that name out there. In the pro setting you’ve probably got to sell your program a little bit more to the individuals.
Jack: Yeah. That makes sense. Like you said, similar goals in mind, but one’s commercial and then one’s more performance-based, but the traits are transferrable, which is probably the main thing for coaches listening in. You’re going to benefit development wise by being in a good environment, like you said, in both settings.
I love it, mate. Love your work. For those listening in, that are a coach or an athlete, where can we find Athletes Authority and what is the best place to get in contact with you, guys?
Lachlan: The old social support for the atheist* on Instagram, @athletesauthority. That’s an easy follow. And then I’m @performancecoach_wilmot. Feel free to follow both, but you probably get one or the other on one of them. So, go for it.
Jack: Beautiful. Thanks, mate.
Lachlan: Thanks, mate.
Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it would be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest.
If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at email@example.com. Thanks so much for tuning in.
Jack: Next we have Jarred Kay. He’s the founder of The Six Principle & Speed project, located in Melbourne. We’ll be discussing, or Jared will be discussing layering sprint training with gym training in the midst of training for sports. Welcome, Jared. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Jarrad: Thanks for having us, Jack. Looking forward to having a bit of a chat here.
Jack: We’ll jump straight into it, mate. So, in what circumstances do you adjust the training program for an athlete in a sports setting?
Jarrad: Well, I guess coming from here, we’ve got mostly coaches or allied health staff and athletes who were all playing. So, if you think about the average person’s week these days, whether they be school age, whether they be university age, or whether they be at the workforce, working full-time.
Time. That’s the one thing that’s probably the biggest barrier as a coach and what we can do for our athletes. There might be a sport training two or three times a week, they might have a high-performance club they’re associated with, whether it’s down here in Victoria playing nab* or private school, they might go to a public school where they’ve got a sports academy and then they might be trying to fit in recovery sessions, two times gym sessions and then their school.
Homework and/or work. So, time comes as the biggest constraint. I think, from an industry point of view, now we’ve gotten really good at strength & conditioning. And now what we found at the Speed project and why we started this business during COVID, mainly because our gyms were closed and we were locked out of them, was that speed was that necessary missing link to the total puzzle. And I’m going to talk about that puzzle analogy a little more because at the moment, I think, a lot of us are constrained by our facility size.
When I was over in America, I went to this gym for easy speed performance, and they had a 60-meter Mondotrack in their facility. So, I could hit some kind of top-speed work. For all of us size and space is a big limitation, especially down here in Melbourne. We’re lucky if we have 15, 20 meters of turf to access. So, acceleration is something that’s really well-worked into programs. But if we think about what our efforts are doing week in, week out, they’re just accelerating every time a training.
That’s what’s the main quality of sprinting that they’re going to continuously hit. So, max velocity becomes that missing piece of the puzzle and that’s where we say, ‘All right, how do we layer sprint training and how do we include max velocity that exposure these high-speed loads into an athlete’s program?’ And we’re battling all the barriers that are going against it, such as sport training and gym and everything else on top of it.
So, that’s the part of the puzzle that we’d like to explore. And we sit down with our athletes and work out how we can best do this.
Jack: You mentioned your time in America, is that where the penny dropped that there was a bit of a missing piece in Australia’s athlete’s development side of things?
Jarrad: Yeah. Athletics is such a big thing over there.
It’s such a big component of the junior athlete’s life. Most of them will be absolute track freaks. The Victorian state champion that runs a sub 12 here and under 16 isn’t coming close to their kids over there. Like they’ve got kids over there, 15, 16-year-olds already running 11 scratch. So, athletics is a big thing over there and it really builds what their total athlete comes from.
A lot of these athletes over there get exposure to high-quality sprint coaching. How many footballs, can you say, have been exposed to high-quality sprint coaching that come through these high-performance pathways from under 16 and above? I like to refer to these in a matter of, ‘Is it necessary?’
There’s outliers and there’s anomalies. Like we look at Dane Swan, everyone here would have watched Dane Swan play and marveled at the way that he could dominate a game. He probably had one of the most awkward running styles ever. I spoke to some staff about this, ‘Did you ever try to change it?’
No way. You’re not going to try to change Dane Swan. The guy won a Brownlow medal. But what can we do for the rest of the population that isn’t an anomaly and what can we do to help provide that missing link of speed training to our athletes? So, in America, I’ll take from a lot what they do. They’re the best nation in athletics in the world.
So, we’re trying to instill those principles that they implement over there into our youth athlete development programs over here. That long-term athlete development is a key concept that we’re really trying to build on.
Jack: Yup. And you mentioned the circumstances where you need to adjust the program and how you have a holistic approach taking into account their school, stress and sport, and having sports with school and other club football and all the different stresses they have.
Is that something that you do through athlete feedback? Is it wellness? Is it like catching up with them when they’re in the gym? Talk us through for the coaches here, how can we access that information with a young demographic.
Jarrad: So, a lot of it comes down to the feedback component. How the athlete’s feeling.
We want to monitor that. We know that they’re going to hit their acceleration efforts in training. And we can work that in the gym pretty easily. So, what we do is we try to encourage that when we can implement that max velocity exposure, so real high-speed running, is when we’re going to have a day previous that they’re off legs.
So, if they’ve got any recovery day. Monday morning is typically really good for those who are playing sport on a Saturday. If they’re not too sore or in this current pre-season preparation period. Or we look to develop sprinting qualities in the gym. So, this is another way that we can kind of implement exposure to qualities that are going to develop max speed in a junior environment.
A lot of it will come down to how the athlete’s feeling on the day. And the adaptability in a coach is probably one of the key strengths. And that’s why we’re all in this room tonight. We’re adaptable and we’ve probably faced many different challenges in athlete programs when you’ve got a kid who comes in with a cast on his arm, and you didn’t know, because he broke his arm yesterday. So, adaptability in a coach is a key skill.
Jack: And you mentioned the importance of getting the programming right. With the other stresses that they have, how do you go about it? Like, for the athletes listening that haven’t done track and field, and they’re interested to improve their speed development, what’s the way they can integrate the roar* athletes into your programming?
Jarrad: Yeah. We’re looking to start base and it’s looking to understand why we’re doing certain things. All the athletes would have done an ‘a march and a skip’. This is a classic exercise and it’s in all football warmups, but are they actually understanding why they’re doing it and what the purpose of the exercise is?
All right. We’re trying to drive force into the ground. We’re trying to point our toes more forwards than downwards. How can we make these things related to the athlete without telling them what to do? We don’t want to always be telling them what to do and giving them the answers. We want them to give us the answers.
So, starting from a base, understanding about why we’re doing certain drills, how it’s going to benefit them, how it’s going to help them. And then much like any kind of adaptation we’re trying to achieve, whether it be in the gym, whether it be running or sprinting, we look to start slow. You can’t just go blow out of the gate and start sprinting two or three times a week, because your body’s just not going to be able to handle it. It’s not going to be used to those demands, even though you think sprinting, and from an athlete’s point of view, a lot of them think, ‘Oh, sprinting’s something I do multiple times a week in every game and training I play.’ But are you actually sprinting with intent to get faster or are you just running fast?
So, that’s what we like to educate our athletes with early in the process, and really go through with them about the whys we’re doing things and make them to be able to understand, so they can get that learning effect from it.
Jack: And another one for the athletes. How important is the surface that you’re doing your speed development on?
Jarrad: We were really encouraged to develop casements in qualities on a track. If you don’t have access to a track, grass is fine as well. Obviously, the track’s going to give you this little extra benefit of foot stiffness. It’s more pliable surface than grass. Plus, you put a kid in a track environment as to a grass environment, they already start thinking, ‘All right, I’m at the track. This is where I watched the Olympics. I watched a 100-meter run*, you know what I’m going to do?’ It starts pointing them to their psychology. They’re actually going to start running with more intent and running faster and running harder when they’re doing it.
So, we try to just encourage them to implement the drills into their program when they can. And one of the biggest takeaways is: all right, if you can’t get to our sessions weekly, or you’re struggling to find time, get down the training half an hour earlier. Go through your mobility warmup, do your physical preparation stuff, do the necessary drills for what we’re looking to develop and go out and run two efforts.
And then the education on what sprint training actually is. All right, if you’re going to run a 50, 60, 70 meter effort, we want you to rest for 5, 6, 7 minutes afterwards. It’s not go out and run as hard and fast as you can for 60 meters, walk back and then do it again.
Because from physiological demands, we know that they’re not going to be able to replenish their energy system enough, so that the next effort is that high intensity that we want to see. If you’re training speed, you’ve got to be able to respect the energy systems and make sure that we’re getting sufficient rest, so that we’re actually hitting speed.
And it doesn’t become a conditioning session. Because conditioning sessions are very, very easy to run. A lot of us can do that. It’s the difference of how we actually implement proper rest periods, so that we can then go again.
Jack: Also, the education aspect and, like you said, understanding the purpose. The footballers may have come in and done the drills before, but you’re educating them on how to do them well, and with quality, and not only focus on your speed, but doing your training to improve your max speed, and how important intent is.
So, you mentioned some key pillars to focus on in terms of speed development. With the facility, what are some common mistakes that you see current athletes and specifically footballers, that seems to be your niche, making, and one of the best ways to correct it for us, coaches, listening in?
Jarrad: Oh, I don’t like to necessarily label them as mistakes. Cause everything has its place.
Like, if we look at a sled push rather than a sled pool, you could argue that a sled pool’s probably more contextual-based, because you get to use the arms. Does everyone have the availability of a sled that they can tow? And does everyone have the space that’s necessary to develop acceleration if we’re looking to do that in the gym, or is it going to be easier for us to implement a prowler or a sled and push and work on force through the ground and work on getting into those positions?
So, I think the key mistakes that you’re saying I referred to before, it’s just not respecting the rest periods that are native to be able to keep intensity up at the levels we want. We want to try and get our sprint efforts at a hundred percent each time. So, I think that’s the biggest thing.
And then it’s also respecting the field itself. A lot of us, we’ve got a very diverse set of skills. I would like to think that a lot of us are jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the high-performance kind of umbrella. But if you want to start actually understanding and implementing sprint coaching with your athletes or with a team that you work with, go in and learn from some of the best. Go ahead and do a sprint course, go out and do your athletes coaching course, so that you actually understand the basic principles and start to develop and build up in that way. So, that’s probably where I would leave it.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Final question for us. You decided to own an area in the field. Like you said, you felt like strength & conditioning was well-covered and speed was the missing link. For coaches and business owners listening in, how important was that from a marketing, commercial point of view, really owning your niche?
Jarrad: We just saw the gap in the market. And for Melbourne, a lot of people, like, I look around the room here, and there’re some of my biggest competitors and some of them are even starting to go our way.
And I thought, how can I set myself apart from what they’re doing? So, I try to go back to the relationships and the connections I had. And I asked some of these guys that are playing AFL, ‘Has anyone ever taught you how to sprint?’ ‘No, never.’ And I think that if I became an attractive for them in the realm that if they came to me and young kids are gonna look up to them and go, ‘Oh, this guy trains there, then maybe I should train there,’ I’ve got to be offering something different, something unique and be able to have a good relationship with them.
So, I guess COVID really forced our hand here. My business partner Ash Gudgeon, he was the sprint guy that I was picking his brand during COVID. We started meeting up at an old local oval and started going through some key principles of sprinting. And I said, ‘You know what all my athletes need? They need to learn how to run. They need to learn how to sprint.’ Speed training is something that isn’t necessarily done really well in a gym. It’s done well on a track or a field. So, I guess, COVID was a blessing in a way, as painful as it was. And we’re kind of just running with it now.
And I hope that all these guys in the room will just leave me to my thing.
Jack: Awesome, mate. And I think we will. You’re doing a good job. And I love the work you’re doing and the impact you’re having on the industry. So, thanks for jumping on again tonight and sharing your knowledge with us and your experiences for the coaches and athletes that are tuned in. Where’s the best place to find yourself and where is The Six Principle located as well?
Jarrad: So, The Six Principle’s in Moorabbin. We’re a little tucked-away gym. I have to take a leaf out of everyone’s books here and start building our social media presence a little more. But you can find us at The Six Principle. And we’ve got a great team of coaches there that are all starting to really make waves in the industry and pave their own paths.
The Speed Project, you can catch us at @speedproject email. And then my own personal one is @coach.jarradkay. So, that’s where all that information is in. I’m an open book, I’m always happy to chat to coaches and athletes alike and help them in any way I can.
Jack: Awesome. Thanks, Jarrad.
Jarrad: Thanks you.
Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it would be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest.
If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for tuning in.
Aaron has almost 20 years of experience in elite sport bringing a background in both strength and conditioning and sport science. Prior to his current role, Aaron has been in leadership positions at Tennis Australia and Western Bulldogs.
Highlights from the episode:
When he started his passion in strength & conditioning
Strong influencers who helped him along the way
How he earned leadership positions in different sports
Jack: Hi, I’m your host, Jack McLean. And today my guest is Aaron Kellett, the physical performance coach at Australia men’s cricket team. Aaron has spent almost 20 years of experience in elite sport, bringing a background in both strength & conditioning and sports science. Prior to his current role, Aaron has been in leadership positions at Tennis Australia and Western Bulldogs.
Highlights from this episode: we discuss the importance of athletes understanding how to practice mindfully, practical tips for strength & conditioning coaches wanting to progress their careers, and we discuss the importance of understanding how to serve your athletes and club, and how personal training and business skills can help you when you’re working in high performance sport.
Well, we start with this episode to connect with our guests, coaches, athletes, and fellow podcast listeners. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. It’d be great, if you could like, share and rate this episode. The support goes a long way in helping us grow and reach more people.
Let’s get into today’s episode with Aaron Kellet. Thanks for jumping on, Aaron.
Aaron: Pleasure, Jack. Thanks for inviting me.
Jack: Looking forward to our chat, mate. Let’s dive right at the beginning of your career. At what age did you discover you had a passion for strength & conditioning?
Aaron: I think, if I was to look back on where it all started, back in 1994, which is a long time ago, I was a member of the Victoria Institute of Sport Cricket Squad and still aspiring to wear the baggy green myself.
And as part of that scholarship program, it was my last year of high school, I’d have to travel three times a week into RMIT, where I did my weights program. And it was my first exposure to what is classically known as strength & conditioning. And again, Vern McMillan was there as a strength & conditioning coach for the Victorians sport team. I’d go in there as a 17-year-old, and I’d be training at 6:30 in the morning, and members of that awesome force would be there. Pack, Laney, White, and other really late athletes would be walking around the old RMIT gym in the city.
And I was amazed and blown away by what people could do. And for me, I was just really inspired. That was a way that I could improve myself. And so, experiencing that approach and really getting into my own physical preparation showed me that there was an industry or proficiency in behind that.
So, when I went through that sort of career development process, because I was in my final year of high school at the time, figuring out what I was going to do at uni, that was one of the platforms. And I was really into biology, I was really into chemistry and I was really into physical education.
That was the path I took with going into a Bachelor of Applied Science in what started as physical education and human movement. So, that was probably the first foray into realizing that there was a job and a profession out there that involved training people and training athletes to be elite performers.
Jack: Awesome. And it’s so important to see it, isn’t it? And feel it, and be in that environment. For the young coaches listening in that don’t have that ability right now to be in that environment, but they’re studying and they feel that there is a passion there, what would your recommendation be for being in that position? If you’re not lucky enough to be a talented athlete, I guess.
Aaron: One of the huge advantages and the big shifts today is that… I’ve just described what was my first exposure. I didn’t know there was anything like this out there, right? And that’s because the accessibility of information, it was just not the same. Whereas now, I think, the ability to understand and gather information and get insights into what it takes to be a top practitioner, a top performer is really easy to get hold of.
So, for young coaches, I think it’s very easy to get the information. It’s really easy to understand the X’s and O’s of what we do. The best piece of advice, and I’ve listened to some of your podcasts previously, and I think it’s a really consistent thing from some of us old cronies. You’ve got to get in the trenches and coach.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be a strength & conditioning coach. Some of the most impactful stuff for me early on was when I was couching young cricketers with private academy, teaching them on a Friday night how to do cover drives, land the ball on a cut surface. So, I think you have to get in the trenches as young coaches and learn how to organize human traffic and manage attention and communicate with people and elicit behavioral change.
Jack: And early on in your career, like as you mentioned Vern McMillan, who were some other strong influences that helped you along your way?
Aaron: The first person who gave me a shot was David Butterfield . I was in my final year of my undergrad degree and David Butterfield was it the North Melbourne Football Club at the time. And through some personal connections, through my cricket, he gave me a bit of a shot and it was the volunteer.
It was doing all of the bits and pieces work at the North Melbourne footy club, trying essentially to help David’s job to be a little bit easier. The resources at an AFL club in the late nineties were not the same as they are now. So, I was really lucky to A, get an opportunity, and B, because there was, you know, every man and his dog there, I was able to get a feel for all parts of the program.
So, he was a big influence in my stepping into this profession and certainly being able to get exposure to elite performance.
Jack: You mentioned something that I noted down. Your intention was to assist his role, because the resources were limited. And you were doing a little bit of everything. And so, same for the coaches that are listening, obviously it is challenging and it’s competitive and you’ve gotta be thinking about where you’re going and your career, of course, but how important is it to have that selfless mindset and be there to assist those that are in leadership positions?
Aaron: I think there’re two layers to it. One is the recognition that actually the job that we do as coaches is to serve others, to elevate others into being the best version they can be, to get them achieve their dreams, apologies for the cliché. So, that’s the first and foremost. Being in a service mindset is really important to succeed.
And secondly, it’s really difficult to forecast where you’re going to be at any given time in your career. So, what I’ve learned over time is that the best way to progress in your career is just to do a great job in the one you’re in right now. So, if you’re a sports science assistant and your job is to take you a series and put GPS units on players and make sure they come back. You know, some of the more menial tasks, just do a great job. And that’d be recognized because those are the things that actually make an impact. It’s just making everyone’s life easy, making sure that things are delivered really well, and that ultimately we’re helping the people around us be able to do what they do.
Jack: If any, forming good habits, just like an athlete. Like, if you’re treating those potentially smaller things that maybe are quite easy for someone else to do, and they don’t feel special or sexy, but if you’re treating them with the respect of the big things and the things that you’re trying to strive towards and to be able to make an impact with, but if you look after those little things, it’s going to put you in good stead later on when you’re in a position to make a big impact. And going on with influences and mentors, who are some other guys that helped you along the lane?
Aaron: Early on it was all about trying to be the best sort of technician and practitioner I could be. So, early on I would have moved out to Brisbane to work at Cree Australia after my AFL days. And I was able to get some exposure to the Queensland Academy of Sport and worked with people like Kieran Young and Suki Hobson and Michael Davey. These are high-level practitioners, really amazing at what they do, working across multiple sports. So, certainly from a technical perspective some of those influences from Julian Jones of the AIS, Dan Baker, these guys that have been in the game for long periods of time at the elite level, they were massive influences on my technical development.
And as I progressed in my career, then the coaching stuff becomes really interesting and integral. And so, that’s where the head coaches have been the biggest influence on me. Because as a performance coach, the head coach is essentially the wind in your sail. So, your ability to work closely with the head coach is crucial. In my time at tennis people like Simon Ray, Burnet Gerlits, Brent Luckrum, these people, amazing coaches, Ben Matthias, Josh Eagle, Pat Rafter, amazing at what they do. And then in cricket Darren Lehmann and, more recently, Justin Langer, these people are elite at managing programs and eliciting behavioral changes in athletes.
Jack: You mentioned developing the technical side. While a coach is going through that phase where they’re developing their philosophy and refining things and developing your technical side and, like you mentioned, your coaching, when you see something that’s done really, really well, when you want to bring that into your practice, how quick would you do it?
Is it first trying it on yourself? Is it first just sitting with it? Is it a slow burn? Or do you think, once you’ve made your mind up, it’s like, ‘Now I’ve seen that, I’m just going to transfer it straight over’? Or is it an off-season review and you’ll implant it into preseason? Take us through how you’ll implement new methods and philosophies.
Aaron: I think it’s all of the above. Certainly, personal experience is an important part of any research of a method and understanding the experience that a method or a principle entails is really important. You know, being able to walk the talk a little bit. But certainly making sure that you understand what is the evidence behind this, what is the science, what’s the research telling you, if there’s any there. And if not, what’s some of the practical, real world data that exists, if any. I think those are all of the levels of evidence that you want to try and pick off before you start rolling it out to an elite athlete cohort that are really sensitive to change.
Jack: I like that. It’s a balance between speaking to other practitioners that are in a similar position to yourself, as well as being up-to-date with the latest research as well. If there was a percentage split, how often would it be speaking to other colleagues opposed to reading and listening to podcasts or researching, reading books, that form of content?
Aaron: I wouldn’t want to put a numerical value on it. I value practical, real world evidence. And there’re some key people that I would turn to, or some key sectors that I might look to for some of that evidence. But, certainly, the information is always available.
Jack: Fantastic. Going back to your career progression. So, David Butterfield helped you out with a sort of informal internship role when you were getting some experience in different fields. Where did you go next in your career?
Aaron: At that stage I was still aspiring to represent Australia and standing on the MCG Boxing Day as a player. So, I actually went up to the UK and played some cricket over there. And when I came back, the opportunities in sport were just not there. So, I actually pivoted and went into general population and worked in council leisure centers and private gyms, ran a personal training business and looked after community rehab programs and worked on the gym floor, those types of things for five years.
Jack: And that’s actually something that has popped up a fair bit in experienced practitioners in elite sport. There are early days some experiencing coaching on the phone. You talked about the importance of learning coaching and the art of communication from head coaches. Running your business has a different skillset as well. And then also the one-on-one coaching. How have those skillsets transferred into now when you’re in leadership positions? Has it transferred over? And if so, what sort of traits?
Aaron: Yeah, definitely. I mean, from my perspective, the things that keep emerging are the ability to communicate with people. When you’re working on a gym floor, working in a community rehab program, or working as a personal trainer, you’re interfacing with a huge diversity of people, which just expands your ability to have conversations and ask meaningful questions and understand the drivers behind people’s behavior.
It’s a really key part of coaching. The ability to manage adults in a group dynamic is a really big part of what we do. So, to be able to do that with people of varying skill levels, varying competencies, varying capacities, those are the things that you get to experience when you’re working with general population clients. And so, those are invaluable for stepping into sport where the group tends to be a little bit more homogenous, but certainly got very varying degrees of capacities and capabilities, just the same. So, these are probably transferable skills.
And then, from a business perspective, you’ve touched upon that as well, understanding the commercial realities of the world, that’s important. Understanding what are the financial costs for a players injury I think is important. It gives you perspective and understanding about where some of the drivers are from different parts of the sporting business, for example. I think those are meaningful bits of knowledge that you can gain.
Jack: If you can, like you mentioned, understand that perspective, do you have a better ability to be able to connect with the greater sporting club, you feel, by having those experiences?
Aaron: Definitely. Because Australian cricket is a perfect example. There’s a huge base. You’ve got a variety of stakeholders, there’s a huge financial interest in the game. That’s a perfect example for understanding where a player appearances and commercial commitments for the team, these are realities that can impact your day-to-day. And without an understanding and a perspective about the value of it, and where that sits and why that’s important, I think it can be a real frustration. And if you don’t do that, it can actually be a detriment to the business.
Jack: And you mentioned that opportunities were slim at that period of time from a strength & conditioning point of view in sport and five years is a good stretch, no doubt. There’d be a few coaches listening with COVID, there’s been some cuts in sport and that sort of thing. They’ve gone into the personal training. Maybe they’re doing a bit of it and sport. Now they’re doing it full time.
What was your mindset at that time? Did you know you’re a hundred percent going back when the time is right? Did you think, you were just parking it, or were you doing some things behind the scene to stay actively in tune with those skillsets? Take us through your approach during those moments.
Aaron: I was still doing bits and pieces with local sporting clubs. My own cricket club at the time, we were doing more program delivery stuff into some netball teams. So, I still was doing bits and pieces here and there. And it was really informal and it was intermittent in nature. But looking back, like I said before, I was very much just trying to do a good job in the one I was in. And so, I wasn’t really thinking about how I get back into elite sport. I was enjoying what I was doing.
And it just happened that a contact, a personal connection again through my own sport, knew that I was doing bits and pieces, had used me to do some bits and pieces in some footy club, delivering sort of a pseudo pilates type session. He was at the Western Bulldogs and they were looking for a weights coach, a part-time weights coach. And I was able to fit it into my schedule while still doing personal training. So, that’s how I got back into elite sport as a part on weights coach of the Western Bulldogs back in 2005.
Jack: Like you mentioned earlier in the podcast, do a really good job of what you’re currently doing and almost trust that it will take care of you.
Aaron: That’s certainly served me. I’ve never been one to have the five-year plan. Maybe it’s just sort of self-serving in me, selling the strengths of that. But it’s certainly served me, just trying to do a good job in the one I’m in generally provided opportunities.
Jack: And something I’ve picked up as well speaking to people, is the importance of, if you want a long career in sport, work in many different sports. But on that note, what you’re saying there is that you took the opportunity as they presented themselves, and did a really good job within them.
So, it wasn’t the plan early days or a mentor didn’t say, ‘Aaron, you need to work across AFL, tennis, Cricket Australia, QIS, track and field Olympics.’ That’s sort of what organically happened, is that what you’re saying?
Aaron: Very much so. I had no career aspiration to be the high performance manager of an AFL club, or to be the physical performance coach of the Australian Cricket Team. These are amazing opportunities that were presented to me along the way. And I like to think it’s because I’ve done a good job and I’ve been able to positively impact this performance environments I’ve been in. But, certainly, I’ve very much taken the opportunities that have been presented and that also represented the things that I felt important. Not necessarily just grabbing the first thing that presents, but certainly being aware of the things that are important and recognizing the environments that might meet those.
Jack: At this time you’re doing some personal training community rehab. As you mentioned, you’d started with a bit of pilates by accident, and then you’ve got a part-time role as a strength & pal coach at Western Bulldogs. Added the progression within the Western Bulldogs realm, what did the role look like while you were there?
Aaron: A guy named Justin Cordy hired me. Apologies earlier for people that I’ve missed. In reeling off names that have been influences on me, I’m sure I’ve missed 15 or 20 people that have been huge influences. Just shout out and apologies to those people. Hopefully, you know who you are.
But Justin Cordy hired me at the Western Bulldogs and at the back end of 2005 he actually took the job to work with the Australian Cricket Team. And through a variety of circumstances I ended up stepping into his shoes towards the back end of the preseason for the 2006 year and took on the physical performance manager role with the Western Bulldogs from there. So, I went from a part-time weighs coach and, hopefully, doing a reasonable job and making a positive impact, and I’ve been given the opportunity to step into Justin’s role when he moved on to Australian cricket.
Jack: That’s a huge growth in a new sport. What leadership qualities, do you think you need to have trust in yourself to be able to manage a program?
Aaron: I’m speculating, but I like to think that I was coaching well. I think I was delivering a reasonable product into performance department. I had good relationships with people. I had managed people through that five years I was out of sport. And I think they recognized that I wasn’t necessarily going to try and upset the apple cart with the plans and programs and systems that have been implemented.
So, I think it was maybe sort of a fortuitous event. Looking back, I think I did an okay job. We finished up pretty well that year, but I think I was a little not ready for that opportunity. Now there’s some stuff I look back on, and knowing what I know now, technically I would have done slightly different. But what a great opportunity! I couldn’t knock that back.
Jack: And you mentioned some management experience during the five years. For those that are in the private sector, what type of management work were you doing during that period? It wasn’t simply just doing a one-on-one business by the sounds of it?
Aaron: Not at all. Some of the stuff I was doing, I’d taken on a role of health and fitness manager for the Maribyrnong Council. I was managing a team of fitness staff essentially. So, gym staff, personal training team. And I also had someone who was looking after group fitness programs that reported to me. So, I had a team of people essentially working across the health and fitness programming for the council fitness center.
Jack: And then the next part that I wanted to open up a little bit to more detail. So, knowing what you know now, what would be some things that pop up to mind that you would do differently?
Aaron: I think I probably stuck a little too rigid to the original plan. I don’t think I adapted fast enough to some changes, to changing circumstances that occurred. We had some ACL injuries that meant our suite of players unavailable, where the place’s small, that changed their game style. So, I don’t think I adapted as early as I could. I kept some standalone speed and agility positions in the program a little too deep into the preseason and early season in hindsight, I think.
I think I could have adapted and responded. At the time you are delivering what you think is the best path forward for performance and things were sort of working. It’s just, I think we placed the plug a little bit towards the back half of the year that we needed to reverse. And, thankfully, we were able to do that with some assistance and some really good work collaboratively. But yeah, certainly in hindsight, there’s a lot of things I think we’d all do differently in the past with certain professional experiences.
Jack: Of course, every day. Did you bring someone in to replace yourself or what was the high-performance department like around 2005–2006?
Aaron: At the end of the 2006 year the club decided to bring in someone who would sit above me. It was a really challenging period, because we’d just finished sixth, we’d beaten Collingwood in the elimination final in front of 85,000 people. And we thought we’d had a really great year. There was progression the year before.
And a young guy, a young coach, a big, massive whack to the ego in many respects. And I don’t think I necessarily responded particularly well to that. Again, all in hindsight. And as you mature, you can recognize that there’re probably some lessons, that it took a little longer for me to learn. But yeah, the club made a decision to bring somebody in that I’ll report to. So, that was through this 2006– 2007 preseason.
Jack: For someone that has a similar experience to that early success, as you mentioned, as you’re maturing as a coach and a manager, what are some mature ways to respond to that when you have early success? What do you think now?
Aaron: I think being a little bit insightful into your own strengths and weaknesses, and particularly that there’s a lot to be learned from everyone around you. Those are things that I’d certainly advise. And certainly my experience was that I didn’t necessarily grasp the opportunity to learn as much as I could from the people that had been brought in, that the club had actually set up to help me with. In hindsight, there is a recognition that they brought some people in to actually help me, to recognize that I had done some things really well, but I needed some support in some other areas.
Jack: All that is issuing a scenario though. So, you weren’t a part of creating your new team, the club brought in your assistance. Am I reading that right?
Aaron: And also a direct report. So, essentially I was able to maintain a lot of coaching and the programming side of things, but there was more of a high-performance type of manager stepping into a role above me.
Jack: And it’s interesting. And they were a qualified strength & conditioning coach or they were a different background?
Aaron: Absolutely. The person that came in had come from another AFL club within the same assignment of the previous few years. So, it was someone who’d had some success at a big club and had done a really good job and certainly stepped in and did a great job with the Western Bulldogs.
Jack: And then what was the next step in your career after the Doggies?
Aaron: Well, from my perspective, like I said, in hindsight, I recognise that I probably didn’t necessarily manage that as well as I could, but what it did do, it gave me the impetus to look for other opportunities.
And that was when my first exposure to working in cricket happened in 2007. And again, ironically, it was Justin Cordy, who had been working with the Australian Cricket Team that created a role based out of Brisbane at what was the oldest Center of Excellence, which is now The National Cricket Center.
And it was essentially a full-time physical performance role that was looking after all of the Cricket Australia pathway programs, including what was the old AIS cricket program, which is a residential cricket academy program that ran through the winter, whilst Justin was touring with the Australian team.
Jack: And what were you feeling then? Because that’s something that you were experiencing as a 17-year-old, now you’re the practitioner on the flip side. Was it a bit of a pinch at the moment, that that’s where your career ended up?
Aaron: It was a little bit. The transition was relatively smooth because I knew the sport and I knew the culture of the sport, the terminology, some of the technical models and the frameworks around that. So, it was a really smooth transition for me to step into that. But it was a little bit of a ‘catch the moment’, in the sense that I recognized a few years prior to that that my own aspirations were over, right? So, to be actually up there, helping Mitchell Johnson and these young elite guys…
And part of my time was also to step in and cover for Justin. When he took some time off the road not long after I started in Brisbane, he actually resigned and headed back into AFL. So, all of a sudden I found myself on the road with the Australian team, with Ricky Ponting captaining and Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist. So, it was a little bit surreal.
Jack: Take us through that. What are the big differences between a high-performance manager in the AFL and their performance team, and then the high-performance manager in Cricket Australia and their performance team?
Aaron: So, if you want to use my current position, right? So, I’ve stepped and I’m there now, this is my second year in cricket. I started in 2016 and took on the role of physical performance coach with the team. The scope of my role is essentially to manage the physical performance program for the Australian team that’s on tour at any given time with specific reference to this Cricket Australia contracted player group.
Every year a certain number of players that are essentially contracted to Cricket Australia based on their previous years performances and likelihood to represent Australia in the coming year. So, they become the primary portfolio, but cricketers are picked out of state cricket, despite contract status or otherwise. So, as far as picking, we may have a leading period for that. My job is to understand. We have a monitoring group of players that are likely to be picked and we liaise and work closely with the Australian team selectors on who’s in that monitoring group. And we’re leading and guiding and influencing their preparation leading into a series. So, hopefully, that just gave you an insight.
In the past we would have a physical performance manager, Andrew Weller, who’s actually stepped into a slightly expanded role with a few bigger reports across both sports science and medicine. But he essentially sits across Australian cricket systems. Manages national standards program, testing across the country, communicating, database staff, managing national GPS integration, that type of stuff. So, we’ve got a direct coaching line. And then we have a system guide and influence and lead capacity to our role.
Jack: You mentioned collaboration off air and how critical that is with the core group. How often would you be in communication with strength & conditioning coaches managing the state side?
Aaron: I’m in communication with those guys weekly, sometimes it’s multiple times a week. And for some guys, if we don’t have any players coming out of one of the states, for example, then it may be a couple of weeks until I speak to them. But on average I’m speaking with these guys weekly, understanding player status.
Thankfully, we brought a centralized programming and load monitoring database that’s open source for us, to all be seeing from the same hymnbook, so to speak. So, I’ve got oversight on what’s going on. And I’m able to make changes and edits and communicate based on that. We’re tracking player status and trying to guide decision-making from week to week.
Jack: The contracted players given their own software and tech, and then do the state’s strength & conditioning coaches upload that data, so you have access to it all? Or do those state teams all have the same sort of technology that those are using?
Aaron: Yeah, Australian cricket invested many years ago. And in my initial foray in Australian cricket back in 2007 it was this way. We have an athlete management system that sits across all of Australian cricket. So, essentially all of the state high-performance departments have access to the same database. Every player has a unique ID and based on role, security, we can all get access to the same information if we’ve got a shared accountability on a players development.
Jack: You’ve worked across a world-class athletes and Australian rules football is at the top level. Is there a common sort of trend, either mindset or physical capacity, that you can recognize in young youth that have got a bright future ahead of themselves?
Aaron: There’re two parts to the question. I’ll give you two parts of the answer. One you mentioned was mindset. The thing that probably stands out from a mindset perspective with all of the greats across all the sports that I’ve worked in, is that they have a really clear understanding and idea about what it is they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Particularly when it comes to core business around their skills. So, this sort of notion of mindful practices is probably one of the things that stands out for me. They’re very clear on what they’re doing in a session. They’re very clear on what they’re working on, and they’re very clear on what success looks like at any given moment for themselves.
Jack: And is that something that’s developed within your environment with the practitioners, do you guys work on that intentionally? Or do you think that’s a talent that those successful players come in with and they’ve already got that clarity and purpose?
Aaron: I think it’s both. I think that the great, the true elite, those are attributes that they bring, there’s no doubt about that. But certainly the standards and the environment that you create as a program can help raise that within everyone that’s exposed to it. I don’t necessarily think that our environment at least tries to create changes, the way that Steve Smith goes about business.
I think that’s something he’s brought to the table. The environment has helped him in other ways and in other areas. But when it comes to the clarity of mindset around his preparation, that’s something he’s brought to the table. But I think he’s a unique individual and we see unique individuals across elite sport. But certainly the standards and the environment that you create can certainly raise that across the entire team, the entire squad or the entire system.
Jack: How different and how much variability would there be in preparation to a game from a mental and physical point of view within your core group?
Aaron: There’s high variation. Certainly, at our level now it’s really, really important that we understand that people are coming to the table with a very well-developed skillset and a very well-developed set of attributes. So, a lot of it is about making sure that we’re creating an environment that’s going to allow them to deliver on what they do best.
And I’ve spoken publicly about this, sometimes the best thing you do is actually nothing. That’s a skill in and of itself, to actually stay out of people’s way at certain times. And then it’s also about when you might intervene or when you may ask a meaningful question to try and redirect. Those are some of the nuanced things.
But certainly, in relation to your question, there’s high variation based on individual needs and individual preferences for preparation. And then from a physical perspective you’ve got different skillsets. For us you’ve got batters, bowlers, spinners, wicket-keepers. So, there’s high variation in their preparation, but even within the same subgroups different players will tend to want more volume, others will want less. Some will want certain exposure to certain drills, others will want a different one. So, there’s high variation at the top end.
Jack: In terms of support science and load management, what are some key pillars when it comes to managing cricketers? So, let’s go with the fast bowlers, I guess. What would be some big rocks to manage those fast bowlers?
Aaron: So, we have a GPS program, like most other elite sports and we’ve got our general movement variables that we’re looking at in terms of displacements. But the other part that we do look at is we have some proprietary algorithms that look at some of the specific elements of force with the fast bowlers that gives us an understanding of that play load and relative intensity. We’ve got the capacity to understand different velocity signatures at certain time points of the delivery and the run-up. There’s certainly some stuff that we’re looking at there that help us understand what a player is doing, what they’ve done and how they’re coping and how they’re presenting and what they’re putting out physically.
Jack: It’s probably naïve of me, but you’d said you’ve got your GPS. Is ball tracking still going on? And is that specific to the Ks per hour that they bowl? Is it almost like zones, if they’re bowling it, let’s say, they’re 150 K per hour bowler. Do you treat that like max speed for an AFL footballer in terms of percentages of how many balls they bowl at that pace?
Aaron: We’re certainly tracking and monitoring with radar guns speed of our bowlers. That’s one of the things that we know, and an element of their physical output is velocity. But we’re certainly looking at it from a GPS and an accelerometer perspective. We’re looking at some of the things that they’re doing to produce that output. So, an analogy would be: rather than just looking at displacement for a vertical jump, we’re going to use a force plate to understand some of the movements signature that’s occurring for how they’re producing a 65 centimeter vertical jump, for example.
So, similarly with the fast bowler we’ve got 148 kilometers an hour as a main speed for the match. But we’ve got some other stuff that sits behind it that might suggest: well, yeah, a player was able to maintain their speed across a match or across a series. But actually there’s a whole bunch of things that seem to be changing to maintain that output because, you know, humans are pretty clever. They’ll self-organize to find the best way to produce the outcome. And at the pointiest end of elite sport some of those high-end outputs can be maintained. It’s just that sometimes it comes at a cost.
Jack: What about for the batsman? What are the key areas to manage them?
Aaron: Managing their head generally is probably the best way to go. I’m slightly facetious here, but in reality part of it is making sure that they’re got a clear head and that their preparation has been able to be squared away prior to a game. We’re obviously tracking their distances, their speeds, their batting minutes, some of the high speed running loads, et cetera, they might be getting from either batting and/or fueling and understanding some of the directional change loads that are going on.
But the big rocks from a physical perspective, when it comes to cricket, are certainly a fast bowling group. They are the ones who are exposed to the highest physical load. And so, you have this underlying landscape of physicality with heavy cognitive demand, lots of time on task, those types of things, if they’re succeeding, that they need to sit above that.
So, you’ve got to square away some of the underlying landscape, but understand that there’s a need in a million cricket balls, right? You guys don’t get good without doing that. So, whilst you might have a low picture from a movement perspective that is really high, recognizing that it’s not just as easy to say, ‘Hey mate, I don’t think you should bat today.’ Because that’s not necessarily going to address the global performance requirements of a batter.
I’m probably going to be off on a bit of a tangent, but, hopefully, that describes the challenges of the different skill groups.
Jack: Yeah. A hundred percent. And, like you said, it’s so individual and it makes a lot of sense that for the bowlers it is quite physical. And then the main stressor for the batsman is the concentration aspect of the role. You get out, and the day’s over for a batsman. So, the mental side of things is the key pillar.
So, 2020 One Day Cricket and then Test cricket, and then obviously all the traveling and everything. Do you see future cricketers, being specialists, and it’s probably already started now, but they are purely going to be a 2020 cricketer and they’re identified early, 2020 is going to be your go and then Test cricketers with their personality type and their traits and strengths will morph themselves into a test, and then you might have a few that are in between that are at One Day and can play a bit of all three? Or do you see it that a good batsman will be able to adapt no matter what to all the three different forms of the game?
Aaron: We’re certainly seeing more specialists emerge for short format cricket. There’s no doubt about that. The opportunities across franchise cricket are presenting a real career path for people to specialize in that area. But the game still prioritizes the longest format. I think, certainly, here, in this country, we value and celebrate the longest version of the game. And I think that here, in this country, and observing the other major Test playing nations, players still aspire to play Test cricket for their country. So, I think that your point about the best batters will find the way, I think that’s definitely true.
But, that being said, the 2020 cricket is changing rapidly. The power game for batters is on another level than compared to some of the early days of the format. Bowling specialists, the impact of spinners, the mystery component of certain spinners… This is a rapidly changing format of the game. I think it’s going to be really interesting to follow its impact on what players can actually do out in the cricket field.
It’s already fascinating. You know, with Glenn Maxwell who can play 360 degrees. And he’s not the only one. There’s such a high diversity and array of highly skilled players out there now.
Jack: And for the best 17 that are contracted to the Australian team, and I know it’s hard to do percentage and stuff, but as a physical performance manager, is it majority of your time off season, pre-season preparing for Test cricket and then the 2020 campaigns and the One Day? How does it all fit in?
Aaron: In reality the classic paradigm of preseason into competitive season just doesn’t exist for the majority of the top players. It’s far more like tennis actually in many respects. Tennis players can get a shortened preseason for many of them.
But in reality you’re looking at preparation blocks more so, than classic extended preseason periods. And so, really what you are actually doing with the top guys is recognizing what the competitive landscape looks like in the short, medium and long-term, and then you’re trying to navigate a preparation path that looks to ensure that at the key time points of different format changes you’ve got your preparation right.
So, for fastballers, for example. Thankfully, the intensity profile doesn’t shift too much. But actually the thing we need to square away is the skill volume, so the number of balls that a player needs to be prepared to bowl. We need to square that away in preparation for long format cricket. And that’s sometimes difficult to do if you’ve got short format competition leading in. So, you’ve got to find ways to top up, so to speak, and make sure that you’re using this training day opportunities where you can build a more chronic resilience to the higher volumes over time.
Similar with the batters. You’ve got to make sure that you’re getting some of the higher intensity ability to change directions hard and fast for short format cricket in periods where you might be playing longer format cricket, where the higher, more rapid acceleration demands are just not necessarily as din.
So, those are things that you need to square away more in your preparation block leading into the competitive periods that are ahead of you.
Jack: Definitely super organized, I imagine.
Aaron: And super adaptable.
Jack: And going back to your career journey for a second. You’ve had a lot of leadership positions across different sports. Is that something that you’ve worked on a lot, the leadership, communication, performance meetings, all the things that come with being in a managerial position? Or is it something that you’ve learned through experience and by getting those jobs?
Aaron: It’s both. Fortunately, when you’re in positions of leadership, you get exposed to opportunities to develop more of those skills and you get opportunities to identify where some of your shortcomings and so your performance opportunities might lie. But certainly more recently an area that’s of great interest to me is how I can actually be a more effective leader, how can I be a more effective communicator. Constantly seeking feedback from people on what’s working, what’s not working. Those are things that are hugely valuable to me.
Jack: And so that will be with players, you mentioned coaches in the past. Who would you ask those questions to that feedback? Who would be your go-to?
Aaron: Yes, I now routinely ask three to four people every two to three months to give me one to three things that they think I’m doing well and one to three things that they think I can do better. And I’ll just change the cohort of people that I’ll ask. Of the three to four people I’m generally trying to ask at least one player, at least one coach, at least one stakeholder from within the state cricket system and, if I can, someone who’s close to me, that’s actually living the day-to-day experience with me. The team manager or a physiotherapist or a security manager. I’ll ask them to give me an idea about how I’m tracking.
And that’s something that I’ve learnt over time. I wasn’t very good at that early on. Looking back in hindsight, I wasn’t very good at going to seek that out and that’s something that over time I’ve learned is a hugely valuable resource for personal professional development. It’s actually the people around you, that you’re interfacing with every day and the people you’re actually trying to impact.
Jack: If you’re getting, let’s say, 10 different things. There’re a couple that line line up, 10 different things. How do you manage it? How do you filter that to action, those areas?
Aaron: I’ve talked about this. One of the things is that I’m trying to identify and prioritize those responses that are generally relatively consistent. You’ll always get 10 things. And there’ll be 10 different things. But in amongst the 10, you’ll find that there’s one to three things that generally are a consistent thing. So, I’ll prioritize those. But they also need to be understood in conjunction with your own personal analysis and insights to understanding how do I think I’m going? Where am I being effective? What’s not working? Okay, is there some common ground with the responses I’m getting from the people around me? And those are the things that I tend to attack first.
Jack: I love that. That’s great. I’m going to try and start implementing that. So, that’s what, once a month?
Aaron: I generally try and do it at least once every three months. I loosely call it the rule of three. Three people every three months, giving me three things. And I actually don’t know if I’ve stolen that from anyone, but if I have, I apologize for not referencing whoever put it out there, but this has become a thing for me.
Jack: It’s a good system. To get three things is really succinct. And then, like you said, every three months. So, what do you think, once you’ve been in the environment for a few years, people are going to come to expect it or do you vary the person so often that it stays pretty fresh?
Aaron: Not, I think by asking people and being really open about it, that’s done a couple of things. One is that it’s essentially giving permission for people to tell me how I might improve. And it’s taken away some of the fear of consequence. Because that’s one of the things that holds people back from giving you feedback. Because they’re worried about how you are going to respond. When you go and seek it out, it actually breaks that down, because people know that you want to hear the information.
And part of it is also recognizing that just because someone gives you some feedback, you’re not beholden to listen to it. You’re not beholden to change because of a piece of feedback. The best part of this, for want of a better term, contract of seeking feedback, is that there’s huge value. Because people, all of a sudden, now understand you’re looking to get better. And so, they’re happy to come and ‘Hey, you know, your session briefing the other day, I just reckon you spoke too much. I reckon you lost the group.’ And you’re like, ‘You know what? I did. I’ve got stuck. I didn’t prepare well enough. I was stuffing the detail. It wasn’t effective. Thanks for the feedback, mate.’
Jack: That’s awesome. Like you mentioned, you’re not sure if you got that from someone else, but it sounds like it came organically. How long have you been doing it for?
Aaron: I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now actively. And far more in a consistent, routine way over the course of the last eight years, I reckon. I’ve steadily become better at asking people for feedback, but I’m far more routine about trying to open the door for people to give me some insights in how I’m performing.
Jack: And as a by-product, has that created a more inclusive, you know, the stigma of the consequences, like you mentioned, is dropped and now practitioners in your team are asking for feedback and they’re more comfortable with feedback, do you think?
Aaron: I hope so. I feel like it’s increased my ability to get information. And I haven’t necessarily had to really go digging as hard as I might’ve had to five years ago.
Jack: And what about challenges? What has been a significant challenge in your career and what would be the learnings from it? How did you grow?
Aaron: I’ve touched upon one of them earlier. It was when essentially I felt like I’d had a demotion at the Western Bulldogs. That was the first professional challenge that I experienced, and again, I didn’t handle it particularly well. But the great thing was that these hardships give you opportunities to reflect. So, when I finally had distance and a little bit of maturity to maybe look back and think, how I could have made that situation better, that allowed me the opportunity to recognize, ‘Hey, you know what? Maybe you can recognize that other people have some real value. You don’t necessarily have to agree all the time, but there is valuing a different way of looking at things.’ There’s also a nice reinforcement for the things that I did stand up for at certain times. So, that was certainly one of the first challenges.
And, I might just say that, I think 2018, when the team faced a really significant challenge. Everything that we’ve done since has been hugely impactful. Our ability to navigate out of that as a collective and work together to recognize where we can do things a bit differently and a bit better and to achieve one of the goals, which regained some of the face and trust in the public. That’s hugely rewarding. Others have spoken far better than I have about that process. But alongside that the great reinforcement as well, as we’ve achieved some success on the field along the journey. And I think that’s a great reinforcement of what a values-led environment can achieve.
Jack: And on that note, what’s a highlight that you look back fondly of and proud of throughout your career?
Aaron: For me, it’s always nice to think back to those milestones on field performances. Seeing the guys win the T20 World Cup last year was hugely rewarding. It was a massive achievement for Australian cricket. That was hugely rewarding in a format that we hadn’t achieved that before.
But again, I hope it doesn’t sound cliché, but for me, the greatest fulfillment comes from thinking about the impact you’ve had on individuals along the journey. So, when I look back at the people that I’ve worked with or managed, and what they’re doing in their career. I caught up with a former intern of mine when I was in Hobart for a coffee. She’s just got married and she’s expecting a baby, and she’s an S&C coach at the Tasmanian Institute of Sport, and she’s doing great things. That’s hugely rewarding for me. Seeing players achieve some of their dreams on the field, that’s hugely rewarding. And some of the niceties around trophies and recognition are icing on the cake. But those are the things that you look back on, I think, and are truly meaningful.
Jack: Like you said earlier, we are to serve. So, when you see that the servings are working and you’ve helped people on their way, that makes a lot of sense. Well, we’ll go into the lighter side of the podcast, mate, this is a bit of fun with these questions. So, the first one’s, which movie or TV series, can be book as well, has impacted you the most and why?
Aaron: I love ‘Forrest Gump’. I loved ‘Forrest Gump’, when it came out. Just this joy in the simple things of life. There’s a lot of lessons. ‘Shawshank Redemption’, classic hero’s journey stuff, I love that. And that’s got nothing to do with professional, that’s just a human side. I love that stuff. I love a hero’s journey and I love something that touches on enjoying the simple things in life and the simple joys that can come from the most innocuous parts of your life.
Jack: And what about a favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Aaron: The thing I always find about quotes is, they’re very, very context specific. So, I think that different quotes will resonate at different times of your life. One of the things that have probably stuck with me is… And apologies for the war reference, I certainly don’t want to glorify the military environment at the current time. But certainly the quote ‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’, I think, holds a lot of resonance for me in what we do. I am a religious planner. I like to be well-planned, I like to be well-prepared. But it just reminds me that actually it’s really important to be adaptable, once you hit the trenches, because the reality is that the plan never goes to plan.
Jack: It reminds me of the Mike Tyson one, which I’ve forgotten about.
Aaron: That’s right. ‘Until they get punched in the face.’ It’s exactly right.
Jack: What about pet peeves? In your professional life what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves?
Aaron: When people are disorganized, that probably rubs me up the wrong way. Those are probably the things that get on my nerves a little bit, when people are disorganized, turn up unprepared for something.
Jack: And then favorite way to spend your day off?
Aaron: I’m a classic introvert, mate. So, on a day off I like to remove myself from people and it’ll generally involve some form of exercise, preferably in the outdoors. It will involve a lot of coffee. I’ll have some mental stimulation of some description, whether it’s reading a book or listening to a podcast. And it’ll invariably finish with a nice meal of some description.
The recharge day, love that.
Aaron: Very much.
Jack: And in a COVID free world, a favorite holiday destination and why?
Aaron: My partner and I went to Croatia in 2016, which feels like decades ago right now, after COVID and three kids under five. But that part of the Dalmatian Coast and Croatia, that was certainly a really fun time, really awesome experience.
Jack: Awesome. We’re at the end of the podcast, mate. Thank you so much for jumping on and sharing your experiences and helping us, developing strength & conditioning coaches, learn off yourself, as well as the athletes, to pick up some gems to help their game. What are you excited about for 2022, mate? What’s on the horizon for you?
Aaron: I’ve learned that most of my happiness comes from unmet expectations. I’m trying not to have too many. But I spoke to you off-air that I’ve got some time off the road. I’ve taken some time away from touring to recharge and spend some time with family, which has been really important. And to be able to do that in the environment that’s starting to open up and is a bit more like our normal life, I’m really looking forward to that. I’m enjoying that right now. Being able to live our lives as close to normal as is possible in the current times, with the family, that’s something I’m really looking forward to in the short term.
And then we’re scheduled to go to Sri Lanka in the middle of the year. We haven’t been there for the better part of it will be six years pretty much by that stage. So, I’m really excited that we can get back to Sri Lanka. It’s a great place to tour, and they’re amazing people. And it’d be really exciting. I think by that stage I’ll be jumping out on a skin to get back on the road and get back to doing what we do.
Jack: And for those that want to get in contact with you? Where’s the best place?
Aaron: I’ll probably spend more time on a personal level on Instagram. But certainly I’m trying to spend more time and do more sharing of my learning and insights on LinkedIn. So, reach out to me on LinkedIn from a professional perspective. That’s probably the best place to catch me, and also, hopefully, somewhere I can add some value to my network.
Jack: Absolutely. We’ll add the links in the show notes. Well, thanks again, Aaron. Thank you for jumping on the podcast and thank you for everyone listening in live. If you joined on a little bit later on, you can watch the recording on our YouTube channel. And then in the next couple of weeks we’ll post the podcast recording, which you can watch on any of our directories, the Spotify, iTunes. And we’ll upload that on Instagram when it releases. Thanks again, Aaron, for jumping on.
Our next live chat will be with Darryl Griffiths, the founder of KODA Nutrition. And that will be next Thursday at 8:30 PM.
Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it’d be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest.
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Rob is an expert in the design, monitoring and interpretation of training and training load in athletes built over two decades as an applied sport scientist and coach.
He is currently a Sport scientist at Track and Professor of Sport Science at Victoria University. Prior to Track he worked at Western Bulldogs for 7 years and has supervised over 15 PhD students to successful completions, and has over 80 publications
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host. And tonight I have Robert Aughey on the show as our guest.
Rob is an expert in the design, monitoring and interpretation of training and training load in athletes built over two decades as an applied sport scientist and coach. Is currently a sport scientist at Track and professor of sport science at Victoria University. Prior to Track, he worked at the Western Bulldogs for seven years and has supervised 15 PhD students and also over 80 publications.
So, really looking forward to our chat. We’ll talk about the science side of things, but then also Rob’s got that balance between application as well. So, for all the coaches listening in, make sure to get your notebook out.
Before we start tonight’s episode, for those that are new to the podcast, our mission here at ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ is to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge from some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to strengthen the AFL community. If you like the show, please show support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
Welcome, Rob. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Robert: Thanks, Jack. Thanks for having me.
Jack: We’ll start at the very beginning of your career, mate. At what age did you discover you had a passion for sport science?
Robert: There’s a short answer and a long answer for that one, I guess. I think sport was prominent from a very early age. I knew pretty early on that working in sport was something that I’d really liked to chase. And it’s probably as early as first year of the university. Showing my age a little bit, but there were no sport science degrees available back when I studied.
So, I started in 1990, for example, my undergraduate education. I did a physical education teaching degree. And I don’t know if it was that sport was the thing that became really attractive or the teaching was really unattractive in some ways, like teaching high school kids or primary school kids. Love them, love being involved with them. Don’t want it as my job and no offense at all to the teachers out there. I know for some it’s a calling, it just wasn’t mine.
I had some family influences as well. Training was something that we talked about a lot. My dad’s a runner. He’s been a runner all his life, basically still competing at 85 years of age in athletics. And his side of the family were all involved in harness racing, the training of horses for competition. So, there were always discussions around training. And that was the thing that I was probably most interested in, the training of athletes, whether they were horses or people or whatever it was.
And I think that with a little bit of knowledge gained early in the undergrad, that was the time. So, it was first or second year of my undergraduate degree. It was like working in sport is where I want to be. I don’t want to be a teacher. But I want to get the knowledge from this course that I could then apply in a different way. So, that was the genesis of it for me.
Jack: In the household. That’s amazing. And I have to ask, what’s your father still competing in? What events?
Robert: A whole range of events. They run at different distances in Masters Athletics. There’s 60 meter sprint, for example, there’s 600, there’s 1,500 et cetera. He was always kind of a middle-distance steeplechaser, or up to steeplechase a little and still doing it.
And my mum started athletics. I think it was about four, maybe five years ago. She’s turning 80 this year. Apologies, mum, for giving your age away. But she should be proud of it. She’d never competed in any sport at all her entire life and took up athletics at around 75 years of age and she’s won state championships in the last couple of years. I do tell her it’s because everyone else is no longer alive in her age group. And she’s sort of lived long enough to be successful, but no, that’s not true.
They’re an inspiration, I think, to my children as well. It’s great for my kids to see that their grandparents are actually competing in sport. It’s nice to come from that background where it’s normal, I guess. And a lot of kids don’t have that, which I think is probably a global problem and beyond the scope of today’s conversation.
Jack: I’d love to know the dynamic, with all your knowledge of load monitoring, do you get involved with your parents?
Robert: Oh, no!
Jack: They’d be too old school to understand?
Robert: Yeah. Maybe I’m a lot like my father, but I think he thinks he knows it all. We stay right out of that side.
Jack: But they’re still competing at 85 and the results that your mum’s got as well, so I think it’s working.
Robert: Yeah. It’s not all doom and gloom with their training, that’s for sure.
Jack: And what about the horses side of things? Is that ever something that you’ve had interest with? Because, I imagine, for horses you can’t have any subjective, it’s all objective.
Robert: It actually isn’t. I think it was always there. So, my dad’s cousins were heavily involved as trainers in harness racing. For me it was very interesting to process, but I’m a bit scared of horses. They’re 600 kilograms of animal with their own brain that might decide one day that they don’t like you very much. So, I stayed well away from them, so it was more just in the periphery there.
Once a week, when I was a child, so 10 years of age, we’d go out to the farm, which was in Deer Park, in Melbourne, sort of right at the entrance to Caroline Springs these days. And over there, past where the farm used to be, my dad would help train the horses on a Saturday morning just because they loved it. And that was his release of getting out with the horses. And my brother and I were just hanging around, driving the car around the paddock and stuff like that, just listening and absorbing, I guess.
And again, I think that those conversations around training become normal conversations. They’re just something you’re exposed to all the time. It’s not a concept that, you know, as a university student, you suddenly start to hear around periodizing training. It’s just something that was always there. Talking about horses needing to freshen up, or this one needs a little bit more work than some of the others for it to response better. So, we were talking about individual responses of athletes without knowing we were talking about individual responses of athletes. So, it was just there and accessible, which was great.
Jack: And for the students listening in, that maybe they’ve entered into a degree and it’s not quite resonating with them, like you mentioned, teaching just wasn’t quite flowing for you and you knew there was something in sport. What was your step at that point? Did you catch up with someone who was working in sport? Did you do a bit of your own personal research? Take us through how you approached that crossroads times.
Robert: It’s an interesting one. It was around some of the staff. Some of the staff at the university were involved in sport, at least on the periphery and probably more on the coaching side, to be honest. And then there were just, again, conversations. There were some students who were a few years ahead of me that I had a lot of respect for. Once I’d finished my undergraduate degree, I commenced the Master’s at the same university. Didn’t complete it, but that’s when I really got to know Stuart Cormack and Russell Jarrett really well, for example.
And they were certainly two of the really early influences on just having a really firm philosophy of training and what they were doing. They were working at St. Kilda Football Club at the time, or had been. And it was just that: now, we’re doing it this way because, here’s why we’re training in this way, and here’s why we don’t do that. So, really confident in what they knew and what they didn’t know, that was one of the big ones for me.
Then I was finding my way in. So, I was teaching in gym instructor type courses. It was called Vic-Fit back in the day. But then also teaching in level one strength & conditioning coach courses, the level two course, I think I taught in cycling coaching level one courses. So, just having a bit of physiology knowledge that could then be applied in those settings just broadens your network over time.
It wasn’t a clear path that I could see, that’s for sure. And it took a long time for that path to become clear. And I think these days, it’s probably easier, with the wide range of placements that are available to students, both at undergraduate and Master’s level. I think that the industry connections that nearly all universities who are active in this space, especially in Australia, have partnerships with the industry in sport.
None of that was really there when I was studying. So, it was a longer burn, but the passion was there and the interest was there. So, in second year of uni, I also started helping out with some of the resistance training teaching. They needed access to a gym, and I just happened to be working in a gym and could get them access at a local gym and they said, ‘Want to help out with some of the practical stuff?’ ‘Okay. Happy to help out.’
So, again, getting some practical experience of teaching adults, if you like, young adults definitely, and some of them were okay athletes as well. But just being in and around, showing them some things helped a lot as well with the passion. And like you potentially, and like many others, that strength & conditioning seem to be the path that I was most interested in. Just had no idea how to follow it at that stage.
Jack: So, you just jump at as many opportunities as you can and build your network base.
Jack: So, there is, like you said, with Pescara and there’s plenty of other specific courses that you can do to meet people and hone your craft. And you mentioned Stu and Russell. What about some other strong influences in your career early days?
Robert: It was probably two of the lecturing staff who stood out. Paul Ford being one, who had different ideas on training to what I’d been exposed to up until that stage. So, he was quite challenging in a lot of ways, and probably still is, actually, probably still challenges a few. But for me it was really good to get a different perspective on training and really functional type training that can be done.
And then I had an exercise physiology lecturer Mark Forbrio. For those that know professor Mark Forbrio, you’ll know him as a brilliant medical researcher these days, but back then he was probably still dabbling in some triathlon. He’d been quite a successful age group triathlete in his time. And so, lots of conversations with him around training. And back then he was dead certain that he knew everything about training. I’m sure he’s softened over the years, as we all have. So, there were some really interesting conversations and perhaps even heated arguments that Stu and Russell and I would have with Mark around training. ‘You shouldn’t be doing it this way.’ ‘Well, why?’
I think that is as valuable as finding someone that their ideas resonate with you. I think that finding someone who has different beliefs is probably your biggest opportunity to actually grow and learn, because it forces you to actually think about your own position a lot more than you would have if someone just said, ‘Yeah, that sounds good. You’re doing the right thing.’ So, am I?
So, they were two at our MIT, where I did my undergrad and started the Master’s, that were pretty early ones that just got me thinking and in a really positive way as well. So, that was pleasant.
And then it wasn’t until later on, when I got a job at Victoria University, but not anywhere near fitness or sport or anything like that. It was in a recreation leadership course. So, on the back of the job that I’d taken, when I decided that teaching wasn’t for me, after I’d finished my undergrad degree, I was employed at Northern TAFE in Melbourne basically managing two gyms, they had two gyms on different campuses, but also helping run on-campus activities for students. Trips away for students, all the fun stuff for TAFE students.
I didn’t think it was a dead end job at the time, but I certainly didn’t think it was going to lead anywhere worthwhile. But it ended up being the one that got me the job at VU, which enabled me to maneuver myself into where I wanted to be at VU. And that was the beginnings of conversations with my then head of school. He said, ‘Well, you need to do a PhD. You’re employed here at the moment. You’re lucky to be employed without a PhD. You need to get one. Go and talk to some of that other staff and see if you can find a supervisor and get started on that journey as soon as you can.’ Which was great advice. Very, very good advice.
And so I did, I started talking to some of the other staff. And with physiology being probably more of my interest, that led me to a few conversations. And one with professor Mike McKenna, who ended up being my PhD supervisor. He’s one of the leaders in knowledge on sodium potassium pumps in muscle, around the excitation-contraction coupling process in muscle. The way I recall our first conversation is that it went through for about 18 months, and it was Mike telling me everything I didn’t know about sodium potassium pumps. I’m sure that wasn’t the conversation, but that’s as I recall it.
And it was around ideas for studies and it was all the things that he’d like to do around sodium potassium pumps basically. And I’m just, ‘Aha, what are these things? How do they work? How do you measure them? What do you do?’ And so, it was literally starting at ground zero with my knowledge. And then right at the end of the conversation he dropped just this little thing, right in front of me, which was, ‘Ah, and the AIS wants to do some study on altitude and look at sodium pumps.’ And bang! That’s the one. Just perfect opportunity at the perfect time.
So, I begrudgingly studied around sodium potassium pumps for the link into the AIS. And that’s where the real heavy sport science influence started for me. Because Mike’s not a sport scientist, he’d never claimed to be one, but our project just dovetailed beautifully into the altitude work that the AIS had been working on. So, Alan Harn and Chris Gore being the two prominent ones, that just got taken under their wings. David Pyne was involved on the periphery. David Martin was involved on the periphery as well. So, just to have these brilliant sports scientists literally at your disposal.
And for those that know Dave Martin, for example, you can just wind him up and listen to him talk for a few days. David Pyne, quieter and more considerate, but just as knowledgeable. Alan Harn, just literally one of the fathers of sports science in Australia, pioneering work at the AIS. And Chris Gore different again, but very passionate about altitude, but also the quality of data that you’re collecting. Because Chris was running the lab standards, accreditation scheme as his day job, if you like, while being a brilliant altitude researcher on the side. So, he had crazy mind versus all the things known about sports science and physiology up until that point and rigorous data collection. And John Holly was the other one involved in the project as well.
So, a different perspective again, incredible high-class research team, that were, so, Mike my official supervisor, but each of the others unofficial supervisors for me during my PhD. I can’t even begin to think how much I learned over those few years, that I got to spend working closely with them and then collaborating with especially Chris on later projects as well. They were the ones that sparked ‘Yeah, sports science is the career that I want.’ Because I get to study and understand training in a depth that I’ll never have done as a practitioner, I don’t think. And I love the process. I really enjoy the process of questions asked, and then the process to try and answer it.
And at the beginning you might have a bit of an idea of where it’s going to go, but you really don’t know. It’s original research, it’s new information by its nature. And that’s exciting. That discovery of new knowledge, whether it’s incremental progression or whether it’s some quantum leap, don’t actually see in sport, but ok, some large leap, if you like, in knowledge or an area. It’s just exciting. So, yeah, that was the one. And if you’re not going to be inspired by that team, you’re in the wrong career, guaranteed.
Jack: You’ve done well to put yourself in another great environment. Like you mentioned, your upbringing was influential, but, like you said, with timing and how hard you worked to get to that point, of course, and then you made the most of it.
And in that environment, is that where you started to see Australia start to shift, where we started to be world-renowned for sports science?
Robert: I think we were probably already there. So, that was around 1998. So, the beginning of me being up at the AIS and then the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. We were running a major altitude study in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. So, just being in and around the AIS, because I’d spent weeks there at a time when we were running the study, was just an incredible place to be. And then it wasn’t just the physiology staff, of course. You’ve got the biomechanics staff, you’ve got the coaches that are coming through, the athletes that are coming through various training camps and testing in the lab space.
The way that it used to work in that department is that you’re absolved into the department as a staff member effectively. So, yes, you’re running your project and you’re doing your stuff, but you’re actually asked your opinion on things in a legitimate way and able to give an opinion, if you feel like you’ve got something to add. And I think that that was almost certainly Alan’s influence on the whole department, just genuinely caring man, that was really just interested in learning and interested in mentoring people, so that they could grow as well. So, just super exciting place to be.
Jack: And from a workload point of view, for those interested in doing their PhD in elite sport, how do you manage that? Like you mentioned, obviously it’s a great opportunity to get that work experience and for people to ask about how to apply the science and helping out the environment for performance. But obviously that’s also taking your time and energy away from your research. So, how did you get that, I guess, balance is probably the wrong word, but how did you manage?
Robert: Some would argue I didn’t manage it particularly well and that my PhD took longer than perhaps it should have. And as a supervisor now, I could understand the frustration of my supervisors at the time.
Jack: Would it be about double, do you think? Have you seen those done in high-performance sport?
Robert: Doesn’t have to be. I’ve supervised some that have been able to finish on time or even slightly early, would you believe? Whether they’re part-time on their thesis and they get it done in full-time equivalent, if you like. So, instead of having three years, you’ve got six years, if you’re part-time. Or those that managed to study full-time and work full-time, whilst they were doing it.
Matthew Ennis is a great example of the Western Bulldogs, that managed to get his PhD done on time, whilst working full-time and being a dad to a couple of kids. There’re ways of doing it.
And Stu Cormack, to go back to one of the early influences on me, did his PhD whilst working full-time and decided to have another crack at judo after having some time out and dropped a couple of weight divisions, I believe, to fight at nationals, whilst working full-time at West Coast while doing his PhD. That’s crazy.
Jack: How many hours do they have in a day?
Robert: How many months in the day, I think, for some of these people? It’s the ultimate reality check when you think you’re busy and then you meet someone and you go, ‘No, I’m not busy. I could fit a lot more in.’
It’s really hard. The way that our industry based PhDs work is that we typically want them to have some servicing role in the sport or the team that they’re engaged with. One is that they’re going to understand their data a whole lot better. They’re going to understand the questions of coaches a whole lot better. Directly going to be able to feedback to coaches and get more coach buy-in, which is critical, if you’re running research projects in an applied setting. And it just makes it more valuable for both partners. So, whether it’s the VIS or whether it’s a sport at the VIS or at one professional team or a league or whatever it is, you have to add value and PhDs can be a slow burn sometimes. So, for them to be able to give daily value becomes critical to that relationship working.
There’s no great answer on it. I think that you need a really good person at the industry end, who understands at least somewhat the process of a PhD, whether they’ve done one themselves or not, they at least understand the process. They understand there’s going to be busy times on the student from the research end. But it’s just managing that whole interaction. And I think we’re getting better at it as well, as a lot of people in Australia now have been involved with having a PhD student at their club or in their environment. So, they’re more used to the ebbs and flows of activity and how it can work.
You have to speak the language of sport. You have to be kind of invisible there. You don’t want to be the one sticking your head up above the parapet and offering more than you should. Know your place and know your role as the student and have good industry support for it as well. And a good industry understanding of what’s realistic and what’s not.
Jack: And from Matthew and Stu, what did you draw on those guys to increase your productivity? What was some sort of standout?
Robert: Well, Matty was well after I’d finished mine. I think it’s just seeing the work ethic and seeing them challenge themselves in ways that aren’t quite normal. Like Stu dropping weight to fight in a lower weight division, whilst still actually being active and his brain working properly and being able to do his day job. Just how they actually day-to-day do that and manage that.
So, Matty was inspirational in that… And I don’t think he’d mind me saying that, he’s not necessarily a natural student. He’s very, very much in the applied camp. But he engaged with the PhD process and just worked his butt off with it. He really, really put the effort in. And if you’re organized and you put the effort in as a PhD student, you’re two-thirds of the way there, really.
There’re certainly things, that just watching how they just continue to focus on achieving that goal, is impressive. And that’s certainly something that I’ve tried to apply in various forms in life.
Jack: You’ve helped successfully complete 15 PhD students. So, obviously work ethic is huge and making the most of every day. And, like you said, it can help from a motivation point of view by having another purpose outside of the PhD to help with the monotony. But you also mentioned support and how important that is from the workforce and, I guess, having empathy, because they’ve done it before.
Is it something that you think students need to communicate on how they’re going with their support team? Or is it more on the support staff to have the awareness that he’s doing his PhD, she’s doing her PhD, and to check in with them and have a formal weekly meeting or monthly check-in, whatever it might be?
Robert: I think it probably depends on the personalities of the people actually in each of those roles. But certainly it’s like working with athletes. You want those conversations on how your athlete is coping with the load, right? That’s one of the most important conversations that you can have with your athlete. It’s the same with people that work for you in a team setting or whether it’s a PhD student that you’re supervising.
I don’t think I’ve always got that balance right. I think there’s been times where students have been scared to come forward and say they’re struggling. Until things become obvious that they’re struggling and then it becomes, ‘All right. Let’s put this back together. And try and put things in place and try and get it back on track.’ And that’s a natural thing for, I think, pretty much every PhD student who has ever done one, but there’s times when it looks like the wheels are falling off, things aren’t working.
In my own PhD, it was doing biochemical analysis on muscle samples with no biochemistry formal training in anywhere in my undergrad or anywhere else. So, starting from scratch effectively in that, and then things not working literally sometimes for months. So, months of troubleshooting on one essay to measure one thing in muscle, that we actually never got working properly and it didn’t feature in my PhD at all in the end. And to this day, I still think it was probably the most exciting part. It was around calcium regulation in muscle. But we just couldn’t get there. And then, unfortunately, we had that catastrophic failure and lost the samples. So, the samples are gone. Can never be got again, unless we replicate the study, which I don’t think we’ll be doing that.
There’re certainly times when things go horribly wrong, like in any work setting. Sometimes you’re running a project and things just go wrong. So, having that open conversation with people around you that can help, is just critical. And I’d like to think I’ve got better at that. I can be a hard taskmaster at times, I think so. Hopefully, I’ve softened a little bit in my old age.
Jack: No doubt, mate. To help that many people to get such a hard feat. And it is a hard challenge to take on, like you said. Like an athlete trying to pursue high performance and being in that peak condition, no different to someone trying to peak that feat from an academic point of view.
Going back to your career when you were at the AIS. You were seeing the applied side of things and you’ve done some coaching, which we’ll get into in a second. But did you know at that point that being a professor was something in the cards for you, that you were wanting to work towards?
Robert: No. I’m not sure anyone who starts in academia thinks that they’re going to be a professor one day. I think that’s a little bit like my mum and her athletics. If you live long enough, you’ll eventually get there, working in academia.
No, for me it was around that applied things still. I actually started coaching cyclist, whilst doing my PhD. So, having that exposure to really good quality athletes that we had as participants, there was one that I jelled with quite well. And we sort of just kept having conversations around training. And it got to the point when he’d finished in the project, and it was like, ‘Well, would you like to coach me?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve never coached a cyclist before. I’m happy to have a go.’
And we started then. I think we worked really well together and he was a great responder to altitude training, which I think really helped. And it was something that we were able to go back to a few times. I don’t know how many mistakes I made in the coaching of him as an athlete. But I reckon I learned as much from him as he did from me. And we’re still on good terms today, which is a good sign.
So, that was Christians Norrison. And he was a really great one to work with, because he’d ask questions, but he’d also follow the training. So, once we agreed on the training, he’d follow it. He was diligent with it. He’d give feedback on how it felt or what he thought was missing in and so on. So, that was a really enjoyable process for me. And he’s had some success. And when one athlete has some success that you’re coaching that often brings others that want to be coached as well. And it kind of snowballed for a while.
I liked coaching a guy called Rob Young, who was quite entrepreneurial and still is actually. And, in fact, I’ve gone back to coaching Roberts. He was a master athlete, perhaps he’s a master coach these days, I don’t know. He was looking at starting a professional cycling team, which he did. And so, he had a professional cycling team. I think they were Australia’s first professionally registered continental team. Before the National Road Series existed in Australia, where there’s a bunch of teams these days.
And we won the Oceania UCI Championship in our first year there and had some brilliant riders. Rob McLachlan, Barcelona Olympian who hung the bike up for a number of years and decided to come back to cycling strong as an ox and could climb, when he shouldn’t have been able to with the size of him. Just an incredible athlete. Second at Australian National Championships behind Robbie McEwen, green jersey winner at the Tour de France. A select group of four riders at the end, which included a guy called Cadel Evans who got dropped from that group.
Things like that were just really exciting. I actually thought cycling coaching was probably the path I was going to go down. And I did apply for a job at a state Institute of Sport as a cycling coach and got down to the last two. Didn’t get it in the end, which is fine. That happens. It happens a lot. That’s probably another good message for people. Don’t be too put off when you miss out on jobs, because you can only control the process that you put into applying for that job. You can’t control the quality of the other people that are applying and you certainly can’t control the decision that’s made. So, that was an early learning there.
And then I just kept going with coaching. And there was an opportunity to coach in South Korea for a short period of time, which nearly again led to full-time employment over there. But I was at a point where I needed a full-time secure gig and the academic jobs were the ones that I landed. So, I sort of simultaneously landed one at Trinity College in Dublin of all places. Just a beautiful, beautiful old university and, of course, a beautiful town. But also at University of Canberra at the same time.
I took the Australian option, which was a better fit with family life and other things at the time. So, I guess that one out at the time. And then it was ways of trying to integrate the two. So, using the academic role and cycling coaching as a consultancy type proposition for the university and so on. Which I continued to do until I got the job at the Bulldogs. And that was the end of the cycling coaching for a few years.
Jack: Thanks for sharing. It goes to show that in our industry it’s helpful to have a few different experiences to lean on, like that happened for you early on. And you continued taking on these opportunities. And, obviously, there’s a lot of work that goes into that, but it’s the thing that helped you, like, when you said, from a personal point of view, you needed a full-time work and when it wasn’t flying your way with high-performance sport at that particular time due to competition, you could lean on your academic side, which is, if you didn’t have that, it makes things quite stressful.
Robert: Yeah, very.
Jack: Is that one of the reasons why you’re quite strong on PhD students getting work experience as well and getting involved?
Robert: It’s critical for them. But it’s partly because I want to help mentor people that are working directly in sport, because the passion for me is still direct in high-performance sport. So, I get to live vicariously through PhD students and projects that we do these days, rather than that hands-on side necessarily. Although, I have recommenced coaching cyclists. So, it’s probably a function of wanting to do that, but also just the projects that I’m interested in.
I want to do projects that actually have an application. So, I’m certainly not a bench top scientist, if you like, that’s into knowledge discovery for the sake of the knowledge. For me seeing it applied and applied as soon as possible in the professional or the elite sporting environment, that’s the bit that’s enjoyable to me. I guess that’s where I see the value added to coaches and others, or people like me in that sports science role. That’s what we’re striving to do, is to make the process a little bit better, to get better results, ultimately. So, I get to do that across multiple sports these days, which is nice.
Jack: And on that for a second, understanding both perspectives. What do commonly those that are coaches get wrong with the science and then, conversely, what are the scientists that haven’t had experience in sport potentially get wrong with understanding the coaching side of things?
Robert: Oh, ‘wrong’ is a hard word, Jack. Maybe, some room for improvement, things they could work on. So, I think some of the things that I’ve seen with coaches and that’s having been, as I said, working on the periphery through supervising students across pretty much all the football codes, not Gaelic or NFL, but certainly in Australia all the football codes, there’re coaches who don’t want to know. So, they won’t allow the science to actually influence their day-to-day running of things.
And that’s not necessarily the fault of the coach. There’re incredibly knowledgeable coaches out there that do know from doing and that the science is going to add maybe a tiny bit to what they do, but it might interrupt the way that they think or the way that they operate too much for them to be able to implement it. So, just having an idea on something that could be done differently that might work doesn’t mean that it’s actually feasible to introduce it into an environment.
So, I think the coaches who aren’t willing to embrace an idea and, I guess, take a risk. And that also is understandable because it’s not usually the sport scientist that gets sacked with a win-loss record. It’s the head coach that would get sacked. There’s more skin in the game for them in a lot of ways with the whole process. So, that is the frustrating one at times, where you just think,’Oh, if only we could do this, that and that, I think it would be a lot better and we’d get better outcomes.’
But again, as sport scientists, we only know our area, right? We are not going in there and, especially when I’m working in football, I’m not going there as a football expert by any stretch of the imagination. So, to assume that I know better, I think, is a really dangerous thing. I certainly know my area better than anyone else at the club and rightly so, that’s fine, they employed me. But to think that I know better than all of the others involved in putting the program together, I think, is a pretty arrogant view. And that probably answers your second one around sports scientists, is that arrogance that you think that you know everything around the sport and that you could do the whole thing and those that crossover into becoming the coach when they shouldn’t.
And I’ve certainly seen examples of that happening. It’s the same old thing. You don’t know what you don’t know. So, just be very careful with that. Play your role certainly and have challenging conversations, but have them in a respectful way in the right environment at the right time. A challenging conversation with a coach around a process is not one that’s held in front of players, for example. Or even other coaches. You know, it’s a one-on-one and it’s a, ‘Hey, how about?..’ So, how you approach it, where you do it and when you do it.
And I think that it’s natural, when you enter an environment like that as a young person, that has some expertise, because you wouldn’t get your foot in the door otherwise, you think you can add a lot of value by pushing, pushing, pushing. And I think a lot of the time you’re actually much better off doing the bit that you’re meant to do. And in the background, knock yourself out, work on the data any way you want and look for patterns and look for ways that things could be done better. But until that idea is concrete in your mind, it stays in your mind. It’s not one that’s shared with others.
Jack: Yeah, hold on for a period of time. And in your experience in those situations, do you, like you said, give it a bit of time and let it digest within yourself and then would you go to a colleague and talk shop for a bit? Or do you feel, once you’ve digested it and you’ve filtered what’s relevant, and then you would chat with the coach?
Robert: Certainly in my experience in the AFL my relationship was closest with the high-performance manager. The way that it was structured in the time that I was there is that I’m working directly with the high-performance team, if you like. So, it was a conversation with them.
And I had a variety of people that I got to work with in my time at the Bulldogs. So, Aaron Kellett was in the role initially, for example, then in Cricket Australia now for a number of years. Cam Falloon was next and you’ve had Cam on the podcast, body fit training these days.
Jack: Aaron’s coming on in a couple of weeks as well.
Robert: Excellent. Getting the band back together. And then post-Cam was Bill Gavrin who came in with a non-football group background in a lot of ways and challenged a few things. And certainly challenged me with simple questions, which can be the most dangerous ones sometimes. So, I think that just having those people that you can talk to directly at the right time, again, in the right way. And, hopefully, they’ve got an open mind as well, and they’re happy to be challenged and happy and open to have discussions about it as well.
Which isn’t always the case. Like you can have arrogant sport scientists, you can have arrogant high-performance managers, who’s like, ‘You know, that is my program. We’re doing it my way. Here’s the report.’ And I’m not saying those people I’ve mentioned are like that, by the way. So, it’s a tricky one. It’s a really tricky one. But that would be my first port of call, it was always high-performance manager. And early on we had a sports science committee where we had some assistant coaches on it as well.
And again, in my experience in AFL, the development coaches were the ones most interested in the application of science and had the most open minds as well. It was a really interesting, just viewing, I guess, the AFL community. There were often people that weren’t long out of playing. They’ve got those development roles, which was interesting in itself. I know it’s good to have some knowledge and some currency of players that are just out of the game at your club, but I don’t think it necessarily makes them a development coach, which is very much a teaching role, as I see it.
And then others who really were more of that teaching mindset. So, Brad Gotch was one early and then Simon Dalrymple, both of the Bulldogs. They were the ones that I think I had the best sport science conversations with. Some of the other assistant coaches early on. Chris Bond was another really good one, for example. They were really prepared to dig into it and listen and try to absolve. And they just challenged a little bit themselves, even Leon Cameron when he was at Bulldogs as well.
So, there was kind of a structure and a hierarchy of ways of doing it. And early on, it was Rodney Eade as head coach and things got to rocket army, if we really thought it was something worthwhile.
Jack: It is a unique working environment and for new sport scientists going into that environment for the first time, you mentioned the importance of understanding when to speak to the coach and understand the hierarchy of where you sit in things and who to communicate with. Is it a matter of, going back to what you’ve mentioned before, don’t just react straightaway when an idea comes to your mind, just sit with it for a little bit longer? Do you think that’s important?
Robert: Really important, so that you’re actually clear in your own thoughts. And the worst-case scenario is when you’re asked a direct question by someone that perhaps you should be speaking directly with, perhaps you need to share your opinion with others in the first place.
So, as I say, I worked closest with the high-performance staff. So, if I was asked a question around performance, that was a conversation that they had to be in, because that’s their role more so than mine even. So, it was really important not to overstep and throw them under the bus inadvertently or whatever. It’s fine to disagree with them behind closed doors and come out with a united voice, but really tricky one.
Coaches aren’t even the worst ones at the football club. And no offense to all the board members at football clubs, but they are by far the worst ones to ask you questions. Because they are highly successful people usually in their own fields. They’re not used to someone saying no to them, for a start. They’re used to having quick answers on things and they’re madly passionate supporters.
So, when you pour all of that together, it is an absolute recipe for disaster engaging with a board member in the stairwell or whatever. Best avoided at all costs and not always easy as well. Just do not engage. Deflect at every opportunity. Cost someone their livelihood by answering a simple question.
Jack: On that with challenges, what has been a challenge that stands out or comes first to mind that you had the biggest personal or professional growth from?
Robert: Probably even as recent as the work we’re doing with FIFA. So, I worked with FIFA around the accuracy of athlete tracking systems broadly. There’s been so many challenges in that pathway from literally the day that we started that I think it’s really made us as a group, and I’m just one part of the group there, that we’re really good at troubleshooting on the spot. We almost have in the back of out minds now things that could go wrong and partly that’s from experience.
But when you’re taking a laboratory equipment out into the field in bright sunshine with Vicon cameras and having a 30 by 30 meter test area with 40 cameras and people running around outdoors on the ground, who’s about to turn sprinklers on, ordering you off the pitch. Often the work’s done in another country where you don’t speak the language, so you’re trying to communicate with the participants that you’ve got. They need to run in a certain way in certain drills, whether it’s a circuit or a 2v2 or a 5v5, you need them to go fast at times, just being able to communicate. And, thankfully, we have some Spanish speakers in our team where we’ve done some of our work in Spain. But just all of those things coming together.
We were the one that was selected by FIFA to get the gig, but the first challenge was actually getting there and pitching to them. So, the process as it worked was I got an email from someone at FIFA and Nicolas Evans, who we’ve got a really great working relationship with now. And it was, ‘Would you be interested in putting a proposal in, if we went down the path of trying to do a stadium-based tracking system test?’ ‘Yeah, of course.’ He said, ‘You’ve been recommended to us by a couple of members of our expert panel.’ One of whom I’d met before, one of whom I’d only conversed with once or twice indirectly through potentially some other projects.
So, that was nice, but then I flew to Zurich. And one of my colleagues, Fabio, that we spoke off-air about briefly earlier, he was on Sabbatical in Italy. So, he drove up with his wife and young child and met me in Zurich. And we pitched to FIFA for five hours getting absolutely grilled on what we’ve put together. And part of what we were pitching was the ideas that Sam Robinson had brought at the last minute. So, we were making changes to our presentation. Sam wasn’t available, so we couldn’t even speak to him directly to answer some of the more detailed questions.
So, thinking on your feet confidently enough, when you’re not that confident, was probably the biggest challenge in an environment where we thought, ‘Okay, this is a pretty big stage now.’ My initial thought was, ‘If we can land this, we can keep doing this work and it’s going to lead to a lot of other work for us as well.’ But yeah, the scope of it became clear pretty quickly, that the solution that we pitched, we actually had no idea if it was going to work or not, really, because we’d never tried it on that scale.
And FIFA recognized that, thankfully. And we were able to put in a pilot testing phase, which we did at Melbourne’s what’s now Marvel Stadium, before doing a proper test event there. But that was the ultimate challenge in terms of pitching. It’s really a business case, you’re almost a startup in a room with investors, if you like. And Pete pitching a half-assed idea that you think is going to work, and it sounds like it should work, but we actually don’t know if it’s going to work.
So, I didn’t get much sleep on the plane, worked pretty much the whole way over and was awake at 3:00 AM before pitching to them at 9:00 AM for five hours. And Steve Palmer who worked at the English Premier League was one of the members of the panel. They’re deciding and, apparently, I’d said a number of times, ‘Oh, we’re confident this will work.’ He didn’t say a word for the first three hours. And then he said, ‘Right, Rob.’ And he locked his gaze on me and he can burn holes through you with his gaze.
He’s a very smart guy, a former player, Oxford educated, I think it’s Oxford, but might be Cambridge. Apologies, Steve, if you’re listening. But just a very clever guy. And he’d been taking every single word in when I’m stuttering over things, trying to go through the presentation, because I was only half awake at that stage. ‘So, you’re confident this will work? Oh, so you think this will be okay?’ And it’s just, when I walked out of there and I said to Fabio, ‘I don’t know. I think we might’ve blown it.’
And I had a plane out of Zurich that afternoon, so it was literally a one night in Zurich trip. So, they’d asked the whole load of questions and part of, I guess, that work ethic bit really kicked in. We had our head of school, a crazy Spanish guy, Alfonzo, who was brilliant for us for a short period of time at the VU. And I remember him saying to me in conversation that when you’re working with industry, you’ve got 48 hours to get back to them on something or else you’re done. Just done. Don’t even bother, if you’re later than 48 hours. You’re dead to them. They’ve moved on. They found someone else who can do it.
And so, a whole bunch of questions that FIFA had asked us and quite rightly so, because our idea was, it was out there in terms of what we were pitching to them. But then their brief demanded that that was our response to it. We’ve since worked out that the brief wasn’t the right brief, but it was the one they needed at the time to work out where we’ve got to now.
And so, I basically worked and I had some email on the plane on the way home. I was sending emails to all the boys at home in the team, asking them questions, trying to get papers to support what we were saying. And so, FIFA had a 10 page response to questions asked within 48 hours, basically. So, say, Friday afternoon I left Zurich, by Monday morning Melbourne time they had a 10 page response to questions asked.
And I think that showed to them that we’re actually quite serious about this, that we do know our stuff, we can respond, we’ll do things in a timely fashion. And you get one chance at that first impression. And especially with an organization that big, with that reach of 200 plus member associations and running the World Cup amongst other things.
So, work ethic got us through rather than brains on that occasion, I think. Brains probably got us in the door and our reputation, but it was the ability to actually respond and for FIFA to say, ‘You know what? You’re the only people that actually met the brief.’ Such was their crazy brief of doing it in a stadium with full games and tracking every player simultaneously to get some sort of a gold standard. It’s actually impossible. But we pitched them something that was a good first step, which led to the rest of our work with them.
And that was just one of the challenges. First time in Spain doing a test event at a FC Barcelona. And half of our equipment didn’t get released from customs. So, we had to come up with plans B, C, D, E, F, G on the ground on the spot. Literally going around Barcelona, purchasing new equipment on the work credit card, hoping that the limit was satisfactory, that that would be achievable. And again, we made it work somehow.
I think it was the strength of the applied nature of the team. So, Grant Toughy, Kevin Ball, Sam Robinson, myself, are used to being in that high pressure sport environment where you have to think quick and you have to respond. And for the next three days, we’d go back to the hotel about 10:30 at night, have dinner and literally debrief for about three hours, working through solutions to the problems of that day. And we had five days of testing, and I think probably by the afternoon of the fourth day we were happy with where it was at.
But it just took an enormous effort and brilliant applied minds in that setting. It’s not just enough to be a good scientist. You have to be able to apply that in a stadium environment, which is not easy to do. Those challenges, I think you get there on adrenaline, but also having a bit of calmness around the group. That you don’t panic necessarily, you can be stressed, but you don’t panic and you work through it and find a solution.
Jack: Wow, that’s an impressive feat that you guys went through. You’ll be mates for the rest of your life, no doubt, sharing these stories that you guys shared on this journey.
Robert: If you buy the Spanish wine shared over the journey as well, that helps.
Jack: Absolutely. And how is the project going now? It’s five years in, is that right?
Robert: Yeah. So, we’re the Test Institute for FIFA at the accuracy of athlete tracking systems. So, that’s the main project that we’re involved with. We’re also doing some testing around virtual offside line that FIFA want to use in the World Cup this year. And I think we’re as of today about 37 days away from our next test event where we actually test the accuracy of that as well.
So, that’s optical-based systems that can do limb tracking. Because, obviously, they’re the scoring parts of the body in football or soccer, as we know it probably more so in Australia. And so, any scoring part of the body, you need to know the position of that relative to the second last offender and when the ball was kicked to determine offside.
And at the moment, if you need to go to the video referee, the process takes too long. So, they want an almost real-time solution, which some of the optical product providers may well be able to do for FIFA with enough accuracy that it’s actually worthwhile. So, that’s the next challenge really for us.
Jack: How automatic do you think it will be? Is it something within five seconds?
Robert: Yeah, it is. It’s quick enough that, the idea is that the ref would then get some communication on the watch or the headset or whatever it was, that, ‘Oh, no, that was offside’. Or ‘That wasn’t offside.’ Or whatever the case may be. So they’ll let play go. And if it’s offside, they can bring it back.
But it needs to be written into the rules of the game as well. So, the testing and the change of the rules of the game needs to happen before the World Cup this year, or else they won’t be able to use it. So, there’s again a bit more pressure coming.
Jack: Literal game changer.
Robert: Yeah. So, there’s a whole bunch of projects that we’re now working on with FIFA that came from delivering early on those first ones.
Some other’s around what normal player behavior looks like. So, looking at match event and tracking data. Trying to get literally seasons’ worth of data from some professional leagues to try and come up with a template of what football actually looks like. That’s one that can be used in all variety of ways down the track. So, that’s a nice big project, that’s just been on hold a little bit during the pandemic. Just access to data and other things that we’re trying to ramp up concurrently with the other stuff that we’re doing as well.
Jack: Just to throw another challenge in.
Robert: Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.
Jack: That’s impressive work. So, once the test is done in 37-days time, is that the final screening or is there another one?
Robert: That’ll be it, but our results will take a little bit longer than a day or so. Actually, we haven’t agreed on a timeline yet. So, I’d better not say how long it would take. I might be wrong, but the pressure will be on to get it done quickly.
And partly because we’ve got another test event for the accuracy of tracking systems. The generic type project we’ve been doing with them for a number of years scheduled for the end of May in Spain as well. So, we need to get the virtual offside line one finished before we move on to the one at the end of May. So, there’s a constant stream of things, which is nice.
Jack: And with the current climate of the world, if ever, do you have to consult remotely to be able to get some of this project off its feet?
Robert: Yeah. So, the first phase of the virtual offside line testing last year was done in Manchester. We weren’t able to travel, so that data was collected for us. There’s just a whole lot of things that need to be done absolutely perfectly in that outdoor environment with Vicon cameras. Some little things weren’t done as we probably would have done them. And we did have a full playbook on this, exactly how it should be done. But you have people on site, that make changes as they need to, and as they’re experienced in doing on site, so that’s created some problems at the analysis end for us.
So, that was the first one. And then the second one was the performance tests of the accuracy of tracking systems, which was done in Sevilla in August, I think. Yes, August. And that’s the one that we’ve literally just finished. Again, contracted out the Vicon capture. So, the three-dimensional motion capture systems were used and just, again, the data’s not quite as we would have had it. Which then means that our processes on the exact way that we collect it and then process it is, well, quite reasonably streamlined, still incredibly labor-intensive. But it’s just ended up being a lot more labor-intensive than the normal.
Us and FIFA, I think, have realized that it’s not ideal to subcontract that part out. It’s actually better and cheaper in the long run to actually fly us over and we do it, than have someone else that’s based in Europe do it, at this stage at least. So, yeah, we tried, it didn’t quite work. But we got there as good as we could, with what we had to work with. And so, yeah, we move on.
Jack: And the relationships that Victoria University has with these high-performance sporting clubs like Western Bulldogs. Why do you think other clubs don’t have that relationship? Clearly, it’s been successful for Western Bulldogs with their premiership success, once the program had started. And, speaking to students that have done the cadetship, they get a lot from it. So, it seems like everyone’s winning with that partnership.
Robert: I think most teams have some sort of a partnership with a university, probably not to the depth and breadth of the Bulldogs to VU one. I think that most clubs have access to something, from whether it’s one or multiple universities. Well, professor Mike McKenna, who was my PhD supervisor, as I mentioned earlier, was actually a former Bulldogs player as well.
So, there was a passion there on the VU side of really driving it at our end. Which then drives it up through the hierarchy of the university and ultimately having the vice chancellor as someone who recognized our strength in sport, but also the potential of a local partnership that could really cement that Footscray region. They’re the things that need to be in place.
As a university we’re a small university compared to a lot, we’re not a Group of Eight university. We’re not University of Melbourne that has strength and expertise across a whole range of different areas. We have defined areas of research, strength and sport being one of them for VU. One I say, not the only one. So, it just fitted really well with us.
We also had a chancellor who was the former board member of the Western Bulldogs. So, there was top down, as well as bottom up and hitting in the middle somewhere, I think, made it work really well. And then, again, work ethic and people like Cam Falloon being open, because Aaron wasn’t really there long enough for us to put a lot of things into a play. But Cam being there for a couple of years was probably where we really accelerated what we were doing, which was really nice.
So, it’s people at all levels, having that connection and wanting it to succeed. And our vice chancellor famously declared that the Bulldogs premiership year would be a premiership well before that time as well. So, there was pressure on, I think, to deliver.
Jack: Very timely. We’ll move into the personal side of the podcast, mate. It’s a bit lighter, a bit of fun. The first one is which movie or TV series, can be a book, has impacted you the most and why?
Robert: Okay. To narrow it to one, I think I’d probably go with the TV series. And ‘ The West Wing’ is one that I’ve gone back to many, many times.
Well, partly I think it’s because I do enjoy the insight into politics. I know it’s fictional, of course. But just watching how they worked, how the group dynamic worked, how the hierarchy of decision-making worked and how people worked together. Sometimes when they disagreed with each other really strongly on things, but were still able to come together.
I think that that’s a big part of the interest there. The dialogue is so well-written as well, and so well-acted that it’s enjoyable to watch, but that was one that I really enjoyed. And I think I’ve watched the series, there are seven seasons and I’ve probably watched them four times or more. Just keep going back to them periodically.
So, that one’s just around the way the groups interact and work. And then they’ve got experts coming in at all different angles all the time on things, for them it was military experts or experts in pollution or whatever. And how that then went up the decision-making tree and how decisions were made. And they won ones, they lost some. It’s a bit like sport, you know why.
Jack: Yeah. I was thinking that as you were explaining the dynamics, people respectfully challenging each other. That’s awesome. I’ll check that one out. What about a favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Robert: I’m not sure if it’s inspirational or not, but why not? I used to say this to my cyclists when I was coaching a few times. ‘If it didn’t kill you, it probably nearly did.’ And it’s a light-hearted way of saying that that was a really hard session that you just did. So, it’s a reinforcement of work ethic by them, it’s partly building belief as well. It’s, ‘You know what? You’ve actually just done something that was really, really hard.’
If you can do that in training, two things. One, your opposition might not have been doing that today, so you’re ahead of the game by doing that session. And remember in races, when you think it’s hard, remember back to tonight and nothing in races is going to be that hard ever again. This is the hardest training or event stuff you’ve ever done.
So, it didn’t kill you. It probably nearly did, but it didn’t kill you. And you got there by working hard. And I think, who knows how many talented athletes are out there? There’s truckloads of them in every sport. There’s a lot fewer talented athletes that work really hard consistently. And so, that I think should always be, you can choose how hard you work. You can’t choose how much talent you’ve got.
And I think that’s true in any walk of life. So, that same kind of fits into the academic world as well. Don’t have to be or try to be the smartest person in the room all the time, but you can choose to be the hardest worker in the room. And that’s gonna get you a long way in life, I think.
Jack: A hundred percent. I’m going to try and steal that one. When an athlete’s looking a bit down after a hard workout, that’s a mental win. A good reference point. Awesome. These last two revolve more around COVID-free world, let’s call it. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off?
Robert: It’s pretty simple things. So, in the COVID-free world, if it’s a day off on a weekend, it probably involves kids activities of some sorts. Engaging with them in those is always enjoyable. In fact, my daughter had her first ever football training under twelves. Today she’s decided in the last few days she wants to play footy. So, ‘Okay, let’s do that.’ So, that was fun.
But for me it would also mean getting some physical activity for myself. Riding would be one of the key things that I just try and fit into my day, because it energizes me. And my wife disagrees a bit. She says I get tired and grumpy, but I like to feel like I’m energized by training myself. And partly that’s to play around with ideas that I could then implement on others as well.
So, some sort of physical activity, engaging with the kids in some way, and the dog gets a walk in the mix there somewhere along the line as well. So, really simple things.
Jack: And you mentioned getting back into coaching and playing around with some methods, is that something that you think is quite effective for coaches to play around with applying the methods on yourself and treat yourself as a bit of a lab?
Robert: Yeah. Within the limitations of your own physical ability, of course. There’re sessions that I can give cyclists that I can’t do, for example. But just knowing a little bit about progressions within a session or between sessions and how it might feel, you’ve got at least a point of reference there somewhere.
It’s harder if you’re a swimming coach, who’s not a good swimmer, for example. But at least as a cycling coach, I can ride a bike. Not to the level that the people I’m coaching can, but I can ride a bike. I think that does give you a little bit more insight into how things feel at the other end, because otherwise you’re relying on that feedback from your athletes. Some are good at giving it, some are a little bit shy.
Jack: That makes sense. And what about favorite holiday destination and why?
Robert: Again, it’s a pretty simple one. I could say parts of Spain, just because I love going there. But I haven’t been there for a holiday, I’ve only been there for work so far.
So, for me it’s a place called Cape Paterson. Not far from Inverloch in Gippsland. We’ve got a caravan, so we do a week or two down there every January. And to me it just feels, I just relax when I get there. We’ve got a beautiful beach right at the doorstep of the caravan and good riding roads for me as well. And there’s good food options, wine options. And then it’s just a nice, relaxed, quiet caravan park. So, for me, it’s Cape Paterson in Gippsland.
Jack: Recharge and get grounded. And this one is in terms of your work life, what are your pet peeves? What makes you angry?
Robert: I have to be careful here. It’s just you never know who’s listening. Look, we work in a big organization, so part of the peeves are the layers of management that are imposed. And I think universities are particularly good at imposing layers or bad at imposing layers, depending on your perspective. There just seems to be an incredible bureaucracy to get simple decisions made and access to information that you could then make business decisions yourself on.
I view what we do as a business. So, when we’re running a project that is externally funded, we’re getting paid to deliver on a project. Just having information at hand. If I want to employ more research assistants, well, what’s my current budget sitting at? Can I just look that up myself or do I need to go to someone and ask and then wait and so on? Getting contacts done is always a really lengthy, painful process, when perhaps it shouldn’t be so.
It’s support mechanisms or systems not really supporting is probably the biggest pet peeve that I have in the work life, because it just creates work. And you have to micromanage the whole process. That’s no fun for me. And it’s certainly no fun for the people that I’m repeatedly emailing or calling either.
Jack: I can understand that, that would frustrate the hell out of me. Especially when you’ve got timelines to get things done.
Robert: Yeah. It’s painful.
Jack: Well, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast, Rob. Really got a lot out of it and it’s been a full episode of understanding the academic side, high-performance sport background and your journey, and how important it is to, like you said, network, get experiences early and, of course, work hard and persist with what you want to do. We’ll wrap it up with the last question. What are you excited about for 2022? We’re now in February, what about the other part of the year?
Robert: Well, a number of things. International travel for work is one thing to be excited about. But I’m just commencing coaching a young cyclist that has enormous potential. And I’m really excited about how we can try and help him realize some of that potential. That has really got me energized and charged about what we can do to help this kid who could be anything with the right pathway. It’s exciting.
Jack: With that, just so we get an idea of how your week works, like with the role that you have with the FIFA program, how do you have time? You’ve got family as well, but how do you have time to coach someone at that level? Is it something you’re doing four days a week? Is it very remote and you’re doing the programming, sort of consulting side of things? What does that dynamic look like?
Robert: It’s different. I’ve got some cyclists who are based in London, for example, that I’m coaching, so that’s done remotely and it’s occasional Zoom calls and so on. But with this young kid, he lives locally, so that’ll be a lot more hands-on and time. And part of the life of an academic is that your time is flexible to a point. I’m not engaged in any teaching at the university, so I’m not beholden to a timetable.
Getting the job done becomes important. You work when you need to work, basically. You fit it in, because you choose to fit it in. For me it’s very much a passion project, going back to coaching because I love it. Once a coach, always a coach, I think. I think you just find time and make it work.
Jack: That’s fantastic. Well, thank you, mate. Thanks again for jumping on. And the last one. If people want to find you and get in touch, where’s the best place to get in contact?
Robert: Email is probably best. So, firstname.lastname@example.org is probably the simplest one to remember. And that’ll certainly get through to me. I’m happy to chat on LinkedIn or Twitter or wherever you need to find me.
Jack: I’ll add those three in the show notes for those listening in to get in touch. Thank you for listening, guys. No doubt, you enjoyed this episode. Make sure, if you tuned in late, to watch the YouTube recording and we’ll post the podcast episode in the next coming weeks.
Our next ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show will be a collaborative event with eight facility owners around the country, high-performance sports or those working with athletes in the private sector. And there’ll be bite-sized discussions. So, 10 minutes from each guest. Make sure to tune in. That will be on the 24th of February at 8:30 PM Australian Eastern Standard Time. I’ll see you guys then.
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