Podcasting is a way of distributing audio files via the Internet. A podcast is an audio file that can be downloaded from the Internet, often in MP3 format. Once a podcast has been downloaded, it can be listened to on a computer, or be transferred to a portable device such as an iPod or other Portable Media Player (PMP), a mobile phone, or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the Playertek GPS football tracking system. This is a platform that allows you to track your performance on the football field, as well as monitor your team’s progress in real-time. We’ll be looking at how the system works, its features, and how it can benefit players and coaches alike. So, if you’re interested in learning more about this innovative new product, read on!
What is Playertek GPS?
Playertek is a wearable GPS tracker that monitors your on-field performance and provides real-time data and analysis (Boothype, n.d.). The device attaches to your jersey and has a small display that shows your maximum speed, distance covered, number of hard efforts, and other statistics like work rate.
Playertek also has a companion app that provides more detailed information about your performance, including live data to monitor your training load as it happens. The app also allows you to set training goals and track your progress over time. Whether you’re a professional player looking to gain an edge on the competition, a casual player who just wants to improve your game, or a strength & conditioning coach sports scientist looking to monitor your team’s progress, Playertek is a valuable tool.
Proof of the platform’s effectiveness is its popularity among all the AFL clubs. There are a few top-tier teams that have adopted Playertek GPS as part of their training regime. It is also widely used in the English Premier League and the United States by college, high school, and even professional teams in the National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Major League Baseball.
Playertek has proven to be a crucial tool for AFL and AFLW strength & conditioning coaching staff, allowing them to monitor player fatigue, recovery, and form. It has also been used by coaches to help plan training drills specific to the way they want the team to play and track player progress. On the other hand, strength & conditioning coaches have used Playertek to monitor athletes’ progress and ensure they are meeting their training goals.
In short, there is a lot that Playertek GPS can do for players and coaches at all levels of the game. If you’re looking to take your performance to the next level or simply want to get a better understanding of your game to better prepare yourself during the pre-season.
How Does Playertek Work?
The device uses a combination of GPS and GLONASS satellite tracking to monitor your movement on the field (Playertek, n.d.). It then sends this data to the companion app via Bluetooth, which is processed and displayed in an easy-to-understand format.
One of the key features of Playertek is its ability to track player load. The system uses a proprietary algorithm to monitor players’ movements and calculate their level of load. This information is then displayed in the app, so coaches can decide when to substitute players, or adjust training programs accordingly.
Playertek is also able to provide detailed heat maps of players’ routes, as well as heart rate data. This information can be used to identify areas where players are struggling or pinpoint areas of the field where they are most effective.
Other metrics that Playertek can measure and monitor are:
Activity Chart (speed every 0.1 seconds)
5-minute breakdown (all metrics –great for reviewing performance within a game)
Season workload chart (view a player’s full season)
Player head-to-head comparison (same or another player, different periods or sessions, metrics, and heat maps)
Session Workload metrics – numbers and radar chart
Session Intensity metrics – numbers and radar chart
Daily Team charts –all selected players, all metrics in bar charts, and single-click PDF reports.
Monthly Team charts –all selected players, all metrics in bar charts, and single-click PDF reports
Field Coverage (Heat Maps)
Milestones and achievements (Maths, n.d.)
What are the Benefits of Having Playertek?
There are many benefits that come with having Playertek GPS. First, it provides coaches with valuable information about their players’ performance. This data can be used to decide on training programs, substitutions, and game strategies.
Additionally, Playertek is an excellent tool for player development. The platform can be used to track progress and identify areas of improvement. This information is valuable for coaches and players, as it can help tailor training programs and focus on specific areas.
Playertek is also a valuable tool for monitoring player fatigue. The system’s ability to track player movements and calculate work rate levels is an important tool for preventing injuries. By knowing when players are starting to feel fatigued, coaches can make decisions about when to substitute them or adjust training programs.
Finally, Playertek GPS is a great way to improve team communication. The platform’s ability to provide detailed heat maps and player routes is an invaluable tool for identifying areas of the field where players are struggling or finding success. This information can be used to make adjustments to game plans and strategies.
The Bottom Line
Playertek GPS is a powerful platform that can be used by coaches and players at all levels to improve performance. The system’s ability to track player movements, calculate work rate levels, and provide detailed heat maps is an invaluable tool for player development and game strategy. If you’re looking to take your game to the next level, Playertek is definitely worth considering.
Another way you can take your game to the next level is through Prepare Like A Pro. Whether you need personal attention or online training, Prepare Like A Pro can help Aussie Rule Football players prepare just like the pros do. Whether it’s through Melbourne strength training, online AFL coaching, or one-on-one sessions, we can help you take your game to the next level. Contact us today to learn more!
Justin has 15+ years as an S&C coach in the NCAA and NHL and is an expert in sports science, sports performance, nutrition, and recovery. Justin is now the Founder and CEO of Own It, a company dedicated to helping elite athletes and teams improve health and performance through the use of physiological data, behavioural science, and expert coaching. He’s also an author of 3 books.
Highlights of the episode:
How to develop buy-in for HRV
Duration for passive read of HRV for developing athletes
Leading HRV brands he trust for accurate readings
How to integrate HRV to a club and how to process the data from HRV
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host and tonight my guest is Justin Roethlingshoefer, founder of Own It. Justin has 15 years of experience as a strength & conditioning coach. He is the founder and CEO of Own It, a company dedicated to helping elite athletes and teams improve health and performance through the use of physiological data, behavioral science, and expert coaching. And he’s a publisher of three books. Really looking forward to tonight’s episode.
For those 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. If you like the show, please show support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We are on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
Welcome, Justin. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Justin: I appreciate you.
Jack: Let’s get into the start of your career. At what age did you discover you had a passion for high performance and working with athletes?
Justin: It’s a story I tell often. Like most kids growing up in Canada, I had a massive affinity for hockey. That was my come-to-Jesus moment, I think. I was 13 years old, 12 or 13, and I was playing with 16 year olds. My dad said to me, ‘Son, talent will get you noticed, but consistency will get you paid.’ And from that moment on, I was really trying to be the most consistent version of myself.
Like what does consistency mean? How do I garner consistency? How do I get there? And the more and more that you hear, you get into the personal development ranks today, or you talk about the personal development ranks, and you hear all of these people talk: it’s what you do consistently that creates your outcomes, what you do consistently that creates who you are, what you do consistently that creates your results.
And I learned that at a very young age. And so, for me, it became like what can I control? Controlling the controllables. And at 13–14, as I continued to dive into this stuff, I was reading medical journals and understood the glycemic index and understood the Krebs cycle and how sleep was the key to recovery and how different brain waves would operate.
I would read everything I could get my hands on, when everybody else was just reading comic books or playing outside. And that really fueled me and it, quite frankly, became an obsession of mine. Like, how can I take what I’m doing, what I’m looking at, and create a massive change in my life to get to be the most consistent version of myself?
And I think that was the pivotal moment that I knew right away that I had a massive interest in health and performance. I had a real obsession for it. It was something that you didn’t have to ask me to do. It was something that burned deep inside of me that became a massive, like I said, just a massive passion that I was really, really brought to and that I wanted to know more about all the time. And it led to my educational career. It had a big impact on my playing career and, obviously, has shaped my entrepreneurial career as well.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing that. And it gives us a good insight to your mindset. Pretty inspired. It started at such a young age. Apart from your father, who were some other strong influences in your career, as you were developing up the ranks?
Justin: There was a lot. My first internship was actually with Rajesh Patel at Quinnipiac. And he continued to fuel that fire, continued to instill those values and that need for education and need for wanting more. I remember, leaving there, going just like, ‘I need more. I want to figure out how I can be better and understand how to apply this at the greater level.’
One of my strength coaches that I had when I was 16, Carl McPhee back in Edmonton, again was one of those people that was more than a strength coach. He was somebody who was able to understand and really take health as something that lay underneath performance. And really shaped my mindset today that comes back to, and I say this all the time, is peak performance can’t be realized until health is optimized.
And knowing that health optimization is actually the key or prerequisite to peak performance. And so often we’re striving for this, this outcome of peak performance. We talk about this, it’s a buzzword. High performance, peak performance, the strength and performance, you name it. What is performance? And really, we can’t reach that unless our health is optimized, unless we’re truly healthy.
Bring in somebody who has the best long jump, can squat, is the fastest of the line, has the agility of a rabbit and put them in a game with a stomach ache, or put them in a game with three hour sleep, or put them in a game with food poisoning. They’re no longer at peak performance, even though you’ve trained them to be there. Health always underlines peak performance. And so, that was a big one as well.
And then Teena Murray at the University of Louisville. 2011 was when I was introduced to her and worked with her for just to shy four years. And it really changed my trajectory in terms of utilizing data and understanding data and its impact of health and health and performance, and learning how to create an integrated system, an integrated model where there’s your entire sports performance team is integrated and they’re working together, and allowed me to do that.
Like I said, at a young age, but almost 13 years ago, 12–13 years ago. And so, that was really what opened my eyes to that and was able to foster a lot of my own thoughts, beliefs, philosophies and use them in a practical setting.
Jack: On that topic of health and how impactful it is. And all it takes is as a reminder of, like you mentioned, if you are sick, you recognize pretty quickly how important health is when it’s taken away from you.
But when an athlete is feeling healthy, typically they’re at a younger age and they’re maybe in form and they’re feeling really good, but maybe you’re seeing some objective markers or you’re starting to hear things that they’re mentioning and that you can see signs that their health is starting to deteriorate, but they are still performing well at this point.
For the strength & conditioning coaches listening in, what are some tools that you’ve used in the past to develop buy-in from athletes that might be only focusing on those things that you’re talking about, the shiny performance side of things, and maybe disregarding their health?
Justin: It’s a great question. And anytime you can take something subjective and turn it more objective, it’s a big win, because that’s going to help with the whole buy-in factor. But the first thing it starts with is education. It starts with being able to have communication and conversations with your athletes about why health matters. And it’s not just giving stats. It’s not just regurgitating data. It’s being able to give practical and applied suggestions and information. Just like I just did.
Have an athlete recall a time that they had the flu, or recall a time that they had food poisoning, or recall a time that they were sleep deprived and they definitely were not performing at their best. And they were probably searching for like, ‘What is going on? Why can’t I..? Man, I feel terrible.’ No matter how well they prepared for that game or that practice or that tournament or whatever it was, they definitely don’t feel like they’re at their best. And when you can take that and turn it over into data, that’s where things really start to change.
And I did my postgraduate work in heart rate variability, sleep and recovery science, did a lot of work in the lab and then from the lab to practical application in real life settings at Miami. And then in Anaheim and San Diego. And being able to utilize heart rate variability as a metric of understanding how your body’s adapting to stress and strain is a great indicator of health optimization.
HRV is probably if not one of the most misunderstood metrics that we’re tracking in current day, in current, I guess, you can call it strength & conditioning or health monitoring. But when you look at it, at its core HRV is simply a language. It’s the language in which your body is communicating to you how it is adapting to stress and strain. That’s it.
It’s not a good metric. It’s not a bad metric. It’s not: my HRV is high, so that’s good; my HRV’s low, so that’s bad. It’s not a measure. It’s not heart rate. It is truly just a measure of how your body is adapting to stress and strain. And which part of your nervous system, the central or the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system, is being leaned on more.
And when we can understand that, we can lean back and go, ‘Oh, the body doesn’t know the difference between mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional stress.’ And since it doesn’t know that, we can now take an action step when we know what is actually working against us and how we can now start to create a little bit more change in that.
So, if we back up and we say, ‘Hey, I now have a metric that I can look at to understand how my health is being optimized. I know if I need to lean in a little harder, I need to know if I need to create a behavior change, I know if I need to create a different framework.’ That gives empowerment to our athletes and the moment you can empower them to make changes…
And it’s not just coach Justin or coach whoever, telling me that I have to go to sleep earlier, or I have to drink a certain amount of water, or I have to create a certain meditation or breathwork protocol, or I have to manage my stress in a better way, or I have to do anything that’s focused on that health optimization and for the health space, why should I buy in if I don’t understand why I’m doing it?
And yes, I understand that it’s quote, unquote “good for me”, but is there a way in which it can now be brought more to life? Something that I can actually feel, something I can actually see, something more quantifiable? And that’s heart rate variability. Because, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this is like the big connection point.
HRV is the language that our body communicates with us how our body’s managing stress and strain. Our body doesn’t know the difference between mental, physical, spiritual, emotional stress. And so, it brings awareness to us if we’re being honest with ourselves about where that stress and strain is coming from and what changes we truly have to make. Because awareness is the first thing to creating change.
And change requires choosing different. It requires making a different choice. And unless we are aware of what that choice is, we can’t make change. Otherwise, we’re just blindly going through and choosing something that somebody told us, rather than something we’re aware of. And so, awareness is such a big thing, that education and showing the correlation between heart rate variability and those metrics and stress and strain can truly create.
Jack: I love it, mate. I experimentally visited HRV company a couple years ago and bought one of their devices, the finger pulse, and definitely played around with it. It was quite interesting, actually, during the pandemic, because, like you mentioned, mental stress can have a huge effect on your HRV.
And at that time I’d lost my role, so there was a fair bit of mental stress going on with finding a new job. So, it was a good time to try and measure that compared to a stable six months prior to it. And sure enough, your sleep changes and because of that tool, you do have a gift of awareness. Where maybe if you don’t measure it, you don’t realize as much that day-to-day changes that can be going on.
With the athletes that are wearing that, have you used it with a large scale of group athletes and how have you found it from a practical point of view in terms of time and reliability?
Justin: Yeah. It’s something that we do with, oh God, close to 60 different NCAA programs now. And again, the big thing that it starts with is education. Because you don’t want to be like Big Brother. For forever we’ve invested in your GPS monitors, your heart rate monitors, your force plate data, your velocity based training metrics.
And what I call that is your in-facility testing, your power tracking, your internal-external loading metrics, whatever you want to call them, but it’s really only looking at how you are performing or how you’re measuring stress in facility. And you might be there for an hour, two, three tops a day.
What’s happening the other 21, 22, 23 hours of the day? Because that’s where the recovery happens. And your athletes are not overtrained 95% of the time. I’d even bet to say 99% of the time your athletes are not overtrained, they’re underrecovered. And we have to be able to understand what is actually happening outside of that.
Are they not getting the quality of sleep that they need? Is there a lot of emotional stress, mental stress that’s being tacked onto the physical stress that we’re putting them under, and that’s pushing them over the edge, that is not allowing the recovery to happen? Are they not getting the shutdown time or the relaxed time that they need throughout the day, because they’re continuing on the go?
And so, being able to have a way to track and monitor what’s happening the other times of the day. That’s again, not this Big Brother effect, but more so an educational tool for the athlete to make those conclusions themselves. That’s where the change happens. That’s where the buy-in happens. That’s where the true mental, emotional, and physical change occurs.
Because it’s not your coach continually saying, ‘Hey, I see this is happening. This is what I need you to do.’ It’s the athlete saying, ‘Oh, I notice this change is happening again. This is what I need to do.’
Jack: And you mentioned the power of storytelling and athletes having an experience. So, would you have an athlete that had a negative experience due to being sick or run down due to poor sleep, whatever it might be, and then you marry that up with the objective data, and then going forward, they can start to see science before they get to that point where they’re run down? Is that the goal for athletes to be able to be proactive?
Justin: Definitely. So, if you look at it from a couple of things. So, number one is when you’re looking at your power tracking. You’re looking at your GPS changes, you’re looking at your speed changes, you’re looking at your heart rate changes. Anything that you’re doing from, again, just let’s call it the power tracking protocol that you’re following. HRV and health changes will always proceed that by about two to seven days. So, if you’re seeing a downward trend in HRV, you’re probably not going to see a power tracking change through two to seven days outside of that.
And if our goal is to prevent physiological changes, why would we not want to look at something that, ultimately, is a cause and effect of that physiological change? So we can catch it right when it starts rather than seven days in, to having some type of physiological change where it hasn’t been yet expressed physically.
But now all of a sudden we haven’t been tracking anything. We haven’t been looking at anything and we start to see maybe a content loading change on our force plate jobs, or a drop in eccentric load availability. We know, if we’ve got all of a sudden an eccentric load availability drop, and we’re talking about a soccer player, the incidents of an ACL non-contact injury goes up. Well, that’s not preventing anything.
It’s just looking at data and saying, ‘Oh, interesting.’ And then that athlete tears their ACL. You look back at that and go, ‘Yep. There it was. We saw the drop.’ Okay, great. You just proved your own theory. We just proved what’s needed to be there rather than being proactive and preventative in this by creating sustainable base level habit change and buy-in. And the way that we do that is by looking at, again, heart rate variability and understanding habits that are occurring within an athlete’s life.
And, let’s face it, when they come to school, when they come to campus, when they are 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old, they are children. They are children, and a lot of these kids are living on their own for the very first time. They don’t understand how to create their own bed routine. They don’t know how to create their own environmental changes. They don’t know how to structure a schedule. They don’t know how to allow themselves a release of the pressure that’s there.
And because they don’t know how to do that they tend to go down very dark roads. And this is where a lot of the mental health component comes in because they feel pressures that they can’t escape from. And the only place that is providing structure for them is their sport that they’re playing. Whether it’s a football team, basketball team, the soccer team, the track and field team, whatever it is, that’s the only structure that they get in their day.
And so, that’s what they yield on. But because they yield on that, they don’t know who they are outside of their sport. And so, it continues to come back to this level of identities, that it’s, ‘Hey, I’m Justin and I’m a hockey player.’ Well, no, I’m Justin and I’m a human being first. And let’s figure out who that human being is, so that we have an identity, a purpose, a mission, a vision, a passion outside of hockey, outside of whatever that sport is. So that when things aren’t going well there, you have another pressure release to eliminate the stress, mental, emotional, and spiritually. So that, ultimately, what happens, we can create the balance that needs to occur within the stress and strain that’s being applied to you.
And we can see that through heart rate variability. We can identify that. So, when you talk about these issues that are coming up with the mental health of athletes, when you talk about being able to look at the base level health optimization of athletes, heart rate variability is the key. Heart rate variability is your first step in education, it is what makes it long term.
It’s not enough to just start tracking HRV and say, ‘Yeah, this is that and we know it.’ It’s all about education. It’s all about education of your athlete, of what you’re looking at. And two, it’s all about education of your coaching staff and your administration to know how to create relationship, to know how to create rapport, to know how to create buy-in, to know how to communicate with these athletes.
Because I’m not going to come up to you and say, ‘Jack, this is what I see in your data. And we’re going to have to create a change.’ No, it’s coming up and saying, ‘Jack, how are you today? How’s everything going? Tell me about school. How’s school going? Tell me about what you’re doing in your house. How’s your family?’ Like asking questions. And when we use data to ask better questions, we ultimately get better answers that get us better results.
And if we’re expecting data to give us the answers, we’re far mistaken. Because we will never be able to get context from data. Context can only be yielded by human beings, and human beings can only ever get that context through communication. But by using data to help us ask better questions of those around us, allow us then to get a greater understanding of what’s actually going on, make better conclusions and thus get better results.
Jack: You mentioned your research on HRV and consulting professional clubs. For athletes that are listening in, that are pretty invested, maybe it’s the first time they’ve heard of HRV, what would be a protocol that you would introduce with the developing athletes? Is it a daily morning readiness? Is it three times a week? What do you think’s a good place to start?
Justin: Anything you have, we’ll go back full circle, you’ve got to be consistent with it. So, every single morning trying to get the same time reading. Ultimately, you’re doing it passively.
Jack: What would be your favorite duration, do you think? Doesn’t necessarily have to be optimal.
Justin: When I say a passive reading, it would be a device that’s already pulling it and collecting it for you. So, you shouldn’t have to lay down and collect it actively. So, there shouldn’t be a 3, 5, 10 minute protocol. Whoop grabs HRV in a passive way, while you’re sleeping. You wake up, you’ve got your HRV score there. Oura does the same thing. Quite frankly, Apple Watch does the same thing. A lot of your wearable devices, I mean, Polar, Garmin, Biostrap, they all measure HRV over the course of the night.
But you want to get your HRV ideally during that last sleep stage, before you wake up. As that’s where you’re going to be most parasympathetic, you’re going to be most relaxed in that state. And so, it’s going to give us a really good indication of how our body’s adapting to the stress and strain that we’ve been under for the last 24 to 48 hours.
And the big thing to come back to here, and I stress this often, is there is no good or bad here. Your HRV could be down, no big deal. Your HRV could be up, no big deal. It is in a trend line. We do want to see it trending in the upward direction, but we have to understand that this is just our body’s way of communicating.
That’s what I mean by it’s not good, it’s not bad. Even though the goal is to be higher, it is not a good or bad thing. It is just simply communication that we can then take action off of. Now, what is not great is if we see a downward trend and we don’t make any changes. But if we see a downward trend, it’s no big deal, as long as we do make changes, so that we can see the changes that manifest in a positive way.
The other thing I come back to all the time is HRV is not a performance indicator. You can wake up with a low HRV and have the best game of your life that night. Just because you’ve got low HRV doesn’t mean that you’re going to perform poorly. What it is is it’s a way for us to understand: do I need to focus a little bit more on my recovery today? Do I need to focus a little bit more on getting a little bit more parasympathetic today? Do I need to come around and focus a little bit more on myself today? Eliminate some of the stressors that are there that otherwise I might not be thinking about?
And so it brings, again, things to the forefront. It brings awareness points forward, so that we can start thinking about these in a more practical, tactical and applicable way that is going to create real change.
Jack: And of the different stresses that you mentioned, do you find that it’s quite individual on what stress will be the dominant one to have a negative impact on a player’s recovery? For example, someone that generally has poor sleep hygiene or maybe sleep is their main one that affects them, when you do ask them, ‘Oh, what’s going on? How are you feeling?’, and they say their HRV was down. And then when you get to more investigating, there’s a bit of a trend where it seems to be sleep, where others might be nutrition, others it might be mental stress. Is there trends or is it more just humans, we’re all the same and all the things are important?
Justin: I’ve got eight controlables that we often talk about. The eight controlables that impact HRV. Think about them as eight levers. The eight controllables are exercise, sleep, hydration, nutrition, immune function, environment, self-care and mindset.
And when you look at those eight controllables, each one controls or impacts HRV on a very high level. And so, you can use that as a checks and balances. If you see your HRV dropping, you can come back to a controllable and under each controllable there’s about 30 habits that are fundamental and baseline to everybody that they should have engaged.
Everything from sleep, you’ve got like a three to one roll. No food three hours before bed. No heavy work or decision making two hours before bed. No blue light one hour before bed. And then activating your parasympathetic buffet or your night routine during that last hour block. Hydration — half your body weight in ounces throughout the day. Environment — seeing the sunlight first thing upon waking up and then watching the sunset at night. And then being aware of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and auditory, in the environment that you’re exposed to.
So, all of these have habits that are underneath them. And the reason that there’s habits and there’s these eight controllables is that every single morning when you wake up and you look: ‘Am I trending upwards or downwards over the last week to 10 days? What of my eight controllables have I been focused on and made priority, and which ones have I not?’ And immediately when you start to recognize that and understand that, you’ll be able to go through, it’s almost like a checklist.
Yep, exercise was great. Yep, nutrition’s on point. Yep, hydration’s there. Yep, immune function. Yep. Yep. Yep. And then you get to the end and you’re like, ‘Man, self-care. I’ve done nothing for myself the last week. No wonder, I’m trending downwards. Because stress management is off the chart. I haven’t given myself time for breathwork. I haven’t done meditation. I haven’t even given myself some reflection time or quiet time just to shut my brain off. I’ve just been go, go, go, go, go.
You know what? Today I should focus on at least two 20-minute blocks of self-care. I’m going to go sit in the sauna for 20 minutes. Do some breathwork, some meditation, sit in front of red light. And then this afternoon in between class and practice, I’m just going to go for a walk on campus, or I’m just going to go sit in a hammock and take a nap or listen to music, or lay in the athlete lounge and just get some shut-eye or something like that.’
Like that becomes actionable and practical. You can actually do something about that and you can know it. And that’s how this system, or that’s how this process allows us to now have some type of action step attached to the data that’s there. That’s not coach Justin telling you what to do. It’s not coach Jack telling you what to do. It’s you as an athlete saying, ‘I want to own this. I want to take this behavior on because I understand the impact and implication that it’s going to have on my performance, and more importantly, my health, not just today, but long term.’
Jack: And you mentioned the different tools. Pretty much majority of people listening would have a Garmin Watch, or an Apple Watch, or maybe they’ve invested in a Whoop. It’s pretty accessible technology, it’s not all that expensive these days. Are there ones that you prefer when you’re consulting with teams and athletes over others, like from a reliability point of view? Or are they all generally speaking pretty good these days?
Justin: When it comes back to HRV, there’s two companies that are leading the way, that do a great job. One is Whoop and the other is Oura, on grabbing passive heart rate variability. Now, the other thing becomes, as an athlete, do you want to be wearing a ring or do you want to be wearing a wrist strap? That’s pretty much your personal preference at that point. But both of those are leading the way in terms of data collection, in terms of accuracy, in terms of reliability. All the things that you want controlled in a research-based environment, they’re doing it. They’re definitely leading the way.
Jack: And for the coaches listening in that are interested to get their athletes, or maybe present at a club about investing in some technology in this space, from a practical point of view, are you looking at it at a certain time in a day because you’re getting all the athletes do it in the morning? So, 10AM every day you’re checking in over it. Or is it more something that you’re looking at more thoroughly on a monthly point of view, weekly point of view, for trends of that athlete? Like what’s your way of processing the data?
Justin: It’s a really great question. So, within Own It, actually, that’s how we consult and work with a lot of our teams, is that one, we provide education to their coaching staff. We’ve actually got a full curriculum that they go through.
Educate them on how do we communicate? How do we create a more integrated system through athletic training, nutrition, strength & conditioning, your sport coach, your administration? How do we create that integrated model that everybody now has a base level of communication, a common language that everybody can lean on? And then, ultimately, what are you looking at when you’re looking at the data? How do you create these changes? How do you use the eight controllables and heart rate variability to ultimately set up your program for success and do things differently?
Second, we’ve got a team of 38 HRV (heart rate variability) specialists, people that have been at the NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, NCAA, US military level. And we attach that person as a consultant for you that helps guide this. And then the dashboard and framework that we have is being able to not only recommend certain habits and controllables to athletes based upon their data. So, it’s, again, curated for them.
But the dashboard on the coache’s side is able to now see, ‘Hey, where’s the athlete A trending? Are we trending down over the last three or four days? Or are we trending up over the last three or four days? What controllables does this athlete have on? And what’s the habit adherence to these controllables and habits? Are we actually seeing positive changes in behavior change? Or are we seeing negative changes in behavior change?
Are we seeing a downward trend and we’re going to have to go have a conversation with that athlete?’ And, like I said, say, ‘Hey, how’s everything going from a family side? How’s everything going from a personal life side?’ And again, show them that you care because the moment that you’re able to lean in and really build this trust with the athlete, that’s where everything changes.
And so, that’s the best way to do it. Looking at HRV on a day-to-day basis can be very confusing, very difficult, because it’s a very variable metric. It can go high, it can go low. But what you’re worried about is the trend. Are we trending upwards? Are we trending downwards? For three days, five days, 10 days, two weeks, a month. We want to know where that trend is going.
Because again, we have to realize stress is necessary. We have to stress our bodies mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, in order to grow. The issue becomes when we’re stressing mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally all at once. And so, we’re stress stacking, which can break the system. Or when we’re stressing chronically, meaning chronic physical stress over the course of a month; chronic mental stress over the course of two weeks, three weeks, four weeks; chronic emotional stress over the course of a long period of time. That’s what causes the systems to break.
And so, when we’re starting to see these trend lines… And again, I’ve given this example. I’m somebody who’s struggled with mental health thing for a long time. My entire life, really. I talk about it in a couple of my books and where I’ve gone from. I’m usually this happy-go-lucky, life-of-the-party type of guy, but behind closed doors was dealing with deep, deep depression, suicidal thoughts through some of my younger years. And it’s not something that you ever get rid of. It’s something that you cope with, something that you understand better.
And in my life just recently, in the last month, actually, I had to step back in and create a focus point on my mental health. I was under a lot of stress chronically: through the business, through getting married, through my traveling, through the family. Like there was just a lot of things going on. And if you looked at my HRV trend, typically I’m up around 105–106 average, and for about two and a half weeks averaged about 47.
And again, nothing changed physically. I felt great, was training the same way, was still being able to output the same, wasn’t traveling any more or any less. But if I was to be honest, over the course of those two and a half weeks, I got a couple more coaches that I had to work with on the mental game, I went to see my therapist a couple more times, just was having difficulty coping with a few things.
And I had to take a step back from some of the things that were causing that stressor. And it all stemmed from for me that two and a half weeks was a hard mental health push. And by being able to recognize that, by knowing that I’m not broken, knowing that I’m not a bad person. It’s me being able to take data, be able to look at it, be able to understand it. And then be able to take action and, ultimately, put me in a much better place, a much greater operating place. And thus, was better for not only myself, but everybody else that I was serving. And, ultimately, that was closest to me.
Jack: Thanks for sharing. It’s great insight and the fact that we’re all on this journey, and it never ends, so you’re continually going to push the limits. And, obviously, we’re all growing, like you mentioned, in all these different facets, but you’re going to hit that ceiling. And then, once you’ve got this objective measure and that awareness through experiencing and growing as a human, you’re able to pull back before you really crash and burn, and get support around you. Like you mentioned, having a good team of coaching and then a therapist and expert to lean on.
Developing the tools, is that something that Own It works on with the coaches? You mentioned, consulting with clubs and working with the coaches. But is there workshops that people are doing to, once they’ve got the data and they’ve seen trends that they’re helping athletes, you mentioned how important education is on what to do with that data, so they can make decisions on that day and actually start actioning straight away?
Justin: Yeah, exactly. And this is something that we’ve been really trailblazing, is creating this new level of education, providing new education for not only the staffs, but then for the athletes. And it’s unique, it’s a little bit different.
So, with the staff, we’re focusing on understanding what the data is saying, understanding what HRV is, understanding how to communicate, how to create integrated teams. And then understanding what to do with the information once you have it. And how to build that integrated system and integrated team from your different coaches, how to have those conversations, how to make sure there’s a therapist team there.
So, like, how does the nutritionist, how does the athletic trainer, how does the strength coach, how does the sport coach, how does the administrator, and how does the mental health therapy team all work together, so that it’s not, ‘Oh, go see the therapist.’ It’s like, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to go see a therapist. Let me work through this first and understand that when I choose to go talk to somebody, it’s there.’
If we were all to put ourselves back in an 18, 19, 20-year-old’s shoes and somebody was to tell you, ‘Hey, you need to go see a therapist.’ What’s the first thing you would say?
Jack: Yeah. You’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.’
Justin: ‘Absolutely not. I don’t need to talk to anybody.’ And at no point was I mature enough, I don’t know if anybody else would agree, but at no point was I mature enough to go put my hand up and say, ‘Oh, I need to go talk to somebody.’
I just wanted to talk to somebody that I trusted. I wanted to talk to somebody that I had a relationship with. I wanted to talk to somebody about these things. Just talking. We know it gets a lot of the stress and pressure off. It’s like you’ve got a pressure cooker and it’s like you’re keeping it inside. And it’s just building and building, and building, and building, and building, and building. But the moment you release that pressure valve, everything goes away.
And it doesn’t solve it. It doesn’t create the solution you’re looking for. But by just being able to talk to somebody and get a lot of this stuff off your chest and be able to trust that person, which can be any one of those people in that space: your support coach, your athletic trainer, your strength coach, your nutritionist, your administration, whoever it is in that space that you’ve created a good solid relationship with, that can help lead and be the catalyst to going and speaking to that therapist and can be that guide. And so, that’s where we teach and educate the staff with.
And then, from the athlete side, it’s really unique because we focus more on human development, more on personal development, more on who you are, what your passion is, what your identity is. So, knowing yourself beyond the athlete, that your worth is beyond that athletic gift that you have. What’s your passion? What are you excited about? What do you truly want to do?
It was amazing. We were chatting with an athlete the other day. I see this nine times out ot ten. And I was sitting on the other side and I was like, ‘So, Jack, who are you?’ And the athlete would go, ‘Well, I’m a basketball player. And I work really hard and I’m a great teammate. Yeah, I’m a basketball player.’ And they went on for about five or six minutes very similar to that: talking all about their basketball skills, talking about all the things they do from the sense of a basketball team and a basketball player and a basketball court.
And at the end, I was like, ‘That’s amazing. You just told me so much about what you do. But I want to know who are you?’ And he could not answer the question. And it happens nine times out of ten. And that’s where a lot of this goes awry. Because imagine now that athlete gets hurt. Or imagine now it’s senior year and there’s no NBA draft for this player. All of a sudden basketball’s gone. Or three years into their academic career, they still don’t know who they are.
Thus they’re being asked all the time. They’re being asked the wrong question. It’s like, ‘What are you taking in school? What do you want to do?’ Well, how can I figure out what I want to do when I still don’t know who I am? I still don’t know what makes me tick. I still don’t know what my passion is. I still don’t know what any of these things are.
And by doing this and by educating the athlete on who they are, their identity, a lot of personal development, and then understanding base level habits and educating them on how to create this healthy environment for themselves, these healthy baseline habits, you are going to help them be a better human being. And it goes back to what I said: when you have great health, that’s the precursor to great performance; when you know who you are, and you’re a great human being, it’s a precursor to great performance. So, focusing on these things, all of a sudden creates a greater outcome.
Another example, like real life that manifested a week ago, was Oklahoma University, their softball team. Their coach, who has been trailblazing this, created a change in what their focus was. And it was a low pressure environment that focused on human development, focused on helping people identify who they were. And she actually made their starting shortstop the queen of softball. We’re talking like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa type stats from this individual, she’s national team player for softball.
She made her step away from the game of softball last year for three weeks to figure out who she was, to understand who she was outside of softball. She did a lot of internal work, a lot of struggle. It was hard, hardest work she’ll ever do, but most rewarding work she’ll ever do. Because she stepped away from the game. She figured that out. She had support. She had people there helping her. And when she came back, she was not only a better teammate, but a better player, mentally more aware, mentally more healthy, felt so much better.
And they just won the national championship. They’re the best team in college softball. And the reason I tell that story is you don’t have to choose human and health development over athletic success. They’re one and the same. And quite frankly, if you go down the health and human development side, you’re probably going to get a better athlete, a better team.
Jack: More sustainable, isn’t that? Sustainable success.
Justin: At the end of the day, a hundred percent. Because it’s a true culture shift.
Jack: And going back to your career journey for a second there as well. So, you spent over a decade in elite sport yourself. For the strength & conditioning coaches that are tuning in, what are some of your favorite ways to develop your own knowledge and not only from a science point of view, but also practical communication skills and programming application?
Justin: To be honest with you, a lot of the communication that I have is with my colleagues, with my mentors, speaking with people like Joel Jameson and Teena Murray on a regular basis that you can continue to keep checks and balances in that space.
But all my continuing education, all of my continuing development has all been, to be quite honest with you, and this might catch people by surprise, but it’s been getting out of strength & conditioning. Getting out of these little silos that we live in and understanding the personal development side. Going down and understanding the work of Steven Coulter and the way in which our bodies work, the way in which our minds work, the way in which we get into the zone.
Reading a lot of Dan Sullivan’s work on leadership and how to build organizations, how to build structure, how to build self-development. Getting deep into Tony’s work, Tony Robbins’s work, and Dean Graziosi and Dan Martell, and all of these guys that have found success. This is where I’ve been able to develop myself.
And people ask me all the time, like my priority of hierarchy. And it took me a long time to figure this out, but making sure that my priorities are: my faith — number one, myself — number two, my marriage — number three, my family — number four, my business — number five. And the key here is that priorities are not time.
By far I spend the most time on my business. But when I talk about priority, it’s I never miss date night. I’ll never miss a dinner with my wife. I’ll never miss reaching out and FaceTiming with my family on a special occasion or birthday. I’ll never miss the Sunday afternoon, our Zoom call with my mom. That’s a priority. Those are things that I do not negotiate with. I never miss my morning and prayer session and leaning on my faith at all times. Faith always wins.
By doing that and creating that structure has allowed me to make sure that I can develop myself in the best way possible, so that I can continue to serve, continue to create, continue to show up as the best version of me. And when I do that, I’m able to continually help develop people around me. And it goes right back to that understanding of self-development, human development, knowing who you are at the end of the day is the ultimate performance enhancer, health is the ultimate performance enhancer.
And if we can do that and we can educate on that, we can speak to that and we can talk to that, we are experiencing that our selves becomes true. It becomes realized, and it becomes real. And we talk all about living in alignment with what we’re preaching, what we’re talking about, what we’re educating on and how we’re guiding. It’s not just about eating the right things, getting the protein shakes in and training the right way and having our athletes see that.
But it’s like, no, are we valuing our sleep? Are we valuing our families? Are we showing up the right way for ourselves? Are we showing up the right way for our spouses, for our kids? Are we living life aligned with high values? Like, are we doing all these things?
And when we can say yes, wow, does that take a load of mental and emotional stress off of you, the coach, the practitioner. But also what an amazing role model, what an amazing coach, what an amazing mentor that you are able to be for those people that you’re wanting to coach and guide along the way.
Jack: And for the entrepreneurs or small business owners, those that have created their own startups, you founded Own It. I imagine you didn’t have 38 employees at the start. How did you go about juggling all the different hats of the current business owner in terms of online digital marketing, obviously, bringing new leads in, getting building, your sales experience and then also, obviously, a great product and a great service? So, at what point did you start delegating and bringing in a team around you? But for the early days, how did you go about managing all the different hats that you need?
Justin: That’s a great question. It’s one of those things that, again, a lot of people are not going to like the answers, but it comes back to patience. It comes back to being willing to sit in it, be so convicted in what you’re doing that you are willing to have patience. Because you know that you’re going to win at the end of the day, because what you’re doing is so needed, is so purposeful, is so intentional.
But if I was to create organization with my thoughts of what I’m trying to say here, is number one — focus on service. Make sure that what you are doing is providing massive value and focus on how you are serving your end customer. If there’s value there, if you’re truly providing value and a high-end service, you’re going to win at the end of the day. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.
Number two is make sure that it comes down to who and not how. You don’t have to understand how you’re going to get there. Understand who is in that seat, who does that better than you. To be honest with you, I don’t do a lot day-to-day within the business anymore, because there’s people that do it better than I do.
I create the vision. I create the strategy. I create the energy behind it. I have the master plan that I communicate with my team to, and everybody else helps to implement, everybody else helps to direct it. Everybody helps to do it because they do it better than me. That’s just straight up, the way that it happens. And when you know that, it takes a big load off.
The other thing is making sure that, you have to develop yourself, you have to develop the patience and willingness to stay in it. And you do not have to be better than the competition, you have to be different. I’ll say that once again: you do not have to be better than the competition, you have to be different.
I read a book. It was right when I was starting Own It. And first probably six–seven months, I was like: how can I stand out? Like, I know that we are doing things differently, but I don’t know how to break out from what we’re doing if that is truly being different. And when I read this book, it said two things are the keys to marketing.
One — you are first. So, you’re first in a category, like you are Starbucks. Starbucks was one of the first that did coffee that way. Well, Starbucks wasn’t the only coffee place. So, somebody else came after them. They didn’t make better coffee, they did it differently. And so, if you can do things different and you can show that you’re different, that’s where people are going to align to you and you’re providing massive service, you’re providing massive value.
And then changing your mindset on how long it’s going to take is another one. If I said to you, ‘Jack, you know what? You’re going to be successful. You’re going to win. But you’re going to have to fail 50 times before you get to where you want to be.’ What would you do when you got your first failure?
Jack: Keep going, so you get to the second.
Justin: Exactly. You’d want to fail faster. ‘Yes. All right, first one. All right, where’s my second one?’ You’re going to try something else. Somebody’s going to say no to you. ‘Amazing. Yes. Thank you. High five. You’re my second one. I’ve got 48 more.’
You go down, you talk to more people. You’re going to start creating more. You’re going to start doing more. You’re going to start taking more action. You’re going to start failing faster. You’re going to start having faith forward. I call it ‘faithing forward’, where you just have so much faith and belief in what you’re doing, that you’re going to win at the end of the day, because you are just consistent.
It goes back to what my dad said, ‘Talent will get you noticed, but consistency will get you paid.’ I don’t care what that payment is. If it’s personal fulfillment, if it’s financial, if it’s getting that spouse you’ve always looked for, I don’t care what it is. But being consistent will always get you to where you want to be.
And that’s the unique part about this is you stay in it long enough, you continue to do things day in and day out that lead to that championship mentality, and you are going to win.
Jack: That’s awesome. It’s a great framework. Thank you for sharing that. And in terms of highlights, going first with biggest challenge that you’ve had since being a business owner and what did you learn from it, and then we’ll go into highlights in terms of things that you’re proud of. But what’s been the biggest challenge so far in your career?
Justin: To be honest with you, it was this, a bit vulnerable here, but being able to have what I just talked about, have the patience to step back. I’m not a patient person by nature. I want everything yesterday.
Going right back to my athletic career, I wanted to make that AAA team. I made it, great. I wanted to be on that junior team. I made it, great. I wanted to get that scholarship. I got it. I want to play pro. Then all of a sudden going to my educational career. I want that undergrad degree. I want that Master’s degree. I want that certification. I want my massage therapy license. I want that nutrition certification. I want my doctoral research.
I always want to be five steps ahead of where I am. I’m a graduate assistant. I want to be a head strength coach. I want to be a director. I want to be in the NCAA. I want to be in the NHL. It was always like, ‘Okay, step forward, step forward, step forward.’ And never enjoying the journey, never enjoying the process.
And in one of my books, I talk about getting to the NHL was my ultimate failure, because I continued to have success with no fulfillment and I was not fulfilled in what I was doing. I wasn’t happy in what I was doing. I was successful on the outside. Looking in, everything was great. But because I wasn’t enjoying the process, I wasn’t there on the journey.
Jack: Always chasing your next step.
Justin: Yeah. The passion that I had for it dwindled because of that. And that, I think, is the hardest part for me. And I still battle with it every single day. To stay on the path, to be where your feet are. And, ultimately, when you do that, you can back up and understand that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. And that the whole excitement about everything is the process. The whole fulfilling part of it is the process.
It’s not exciting long term, when you sell your company for $10 million. It’s not exciting when you all of a sudden sign that NHL contract. It’s cool. It’s a milestone, but guess what? You’re going to wake up the next day the exact same person that you went to bed the night before. And you’re going to wake up in the morning and there’s going to be something new that you’re going to be looking for.
And it’s the journey that you’re on. It’s the process. It’s showing up and falling in love with the process that’s going to allow you to be successful long term. But more importantly, allow you to be fulfilled while on that journey to success. And you will never peek out. You’ll never reach the summit of your mountain.
The summit of your mountain ends when you die. Up until that point, you’re on a continual climb. And if you love that climb, if you love that journey, if you fall in love with that, and you continue to be consistent with your day-to-day pieces that you need to do, man, life will give back to you 100 hours.
Jack: I love that. And what about on the flip side, some highlights that you look back on fondly?
Justin: To be honest with you, the mentors and relationships that I’ve built along the way. If I did anything really, really well, that’s just a God-given talent, is building quality relationships. And I can’t replace those with anything. So, that’s probably number one.
And then number one B, I guess you could say, is now being able to run a company, run a business that’s global, that impacts millions of people, but doing it with my wife, who’s my best friend. And so, I think that’s a big aha moment, a big fulfilling moment. And something that is just really impactful and powerful.
Jack: And it would be remiss of me not to ask, how is it working with your wife? For those that are listening in, that might have the same dynamic where they’re working with their loved one. I imagine it has its fair sets of challenges, but also its rewards.
Justin: You’re a hundred percent correct. It was a learning curve. It took time to understand how to do it. Because, especially over the course of COVID, where you live together, you work together, you cohabitate together, you’re quarantined together, you’re isolated together. So, you really don’t escape anything.
But, to be honest with you, it’s amazing, because our lives are so intertwined. We’re invested in each other’s lives. It’s not, ‘Oh, how was your day? How was work?’ ‘Oh, it was good.’ ‘Okay, cool.’ No, like we know everything, so in depth about one another, it’s incredibly rewarding.
What we did have to do always create specific boundaries. And what I mean by that is making sure that once a week we have date night. Once a week and it’s non-negotiable, we have date night, it’s Thursday night. Whether we have friends in town, whether we have family in town, whether it’s a holiday, whatever, non-negotiable. Date night happens Thursday night. And it’s something that we don’t bring the dog with us. We don’t talk about work. It’s just about us and our relationship and the intimacy that’s there.
Once a quarter we have a staycation. So, I plan two a year, she plans two a year, where we have a completely work-free weekend. Saturday and Sunday. It usually starts around 10:00 AM noon on Saturday and goes until Sunday afternoon, evening. And so, it’s just, again, focusing on our relationship, focusing on us. And then twice a year we have a technology-free weekend, where we just focus on, again, each other, technology’s away.
And, if you see the pattern, it just gets a little bit deeper, a little bit more intimate, a little bit more focused on one another to be able to put these things in place. And during one of those tech-free ones, we set up our schedule for the following year, really, when it comes to our relationship. So, what did we accomplish this past year? How are we feeling? Where do we want to go? We do this for our business. So, why would we not do this for our relationship?
And that’s what’s kept it not just functionable or functioning, I guess you could say, at a very high level, but also what’s allowed it to thrive. And when I talk about it, it’s our relationship. Because it would be very easy for it to get lost in the business and lost in everything else that we’re doing. And that’s where I go back to what I talked about in terms of priority, it’s not about time spent.
If we talked about where we spend our most time, it’s on our business. We spend a lot of time on our business. But these priorities, these things, these weekly non-negotiables of having dinner together every night and having a date night every single Thursday, and these quarterly weekends and two weekends a year that we shut off completely and then plan for the following year, that shows that I value and cherish her, she values and cherishes me, and that this relationship is something that we want to keep on fire.
Now, was it perfect? Not by any means. But the reason that we have these frameworks is that we can go back to something when things get tough or things get hard, or we are not as consistent with saying the things that the other person needs. And it holds us accountable.
Jack: And from a leader’s point of view, managing a team, how often would you catch up with all your employees? I imagine it would have to be remote. If that’s the case, how often would you see everyone every year face-to-face? Talk us through meetings and how you guys stay connected.
Justin: Yeah, really good. So, creating culture in the company was something that we were really focused on, it was a high priority for us. Because again, the culture is what breeds everything.
And so, we do a weekly touchpoint every Monday morning with our entire team. It’s about 15 minutes long. Get everybody on the Zoom call, see how everybody’s weekend was. And it has nothing to do with business, actually. Everyone goes around, says one thing they’re grateful for, one highlight, and one thing they need help with. And we do that every Monday.
And then we’ve got a Slack channel that everybody’s communicating with on a regular basis. And then once a month we do an all-hands. And this one’s all business focused, making sure that we know what’s going on, we know where we’re going, we know where the growth is, we know where the opportunities are.
And then twice a year we will meet in person. And we usually do one around Christmas time. People will come either down to Miami and we’ll bring everybody in and do a weekend party type of thing, where one day is more fun and enjoyment, the other day is more business and vision. We’ll do that twice a year.
And then we also have two retreats that we hold for clients and customers in different places. We’re doing one in September in Mexico. We just did one in February in Costa Rica. And we opened that up to our employees if they want to come, and our team, if they want to come, they’re more than welcome to. So, another opportunity to see in person.
But the weekly touch base. What are you grateful for? What happened over the weekend that you’re excited about and what do you need help with? And then a monthly all-hands, business focused. And then twice a year in person. And then the option for the retreats.
Oh, the other thing we do is twice a month, every other Tuesday at 10:00 AM, we do a live-streamed workout together. And somebody within the group, within our team leads it. And it’s just fun for us to work out together. We don’t make it at 7:00 AM where you have to get it done before. No, it’s in the middle of the workday, when everybody should be working, but we’re saying, ‘Hey, this every second Tuesday, at 10:00 AM, 10 to 11, this is a break for you to go and work out, and get active, and see each other virtually.’
We all have team jerseys, team uniforms, that we wear that day. And again, it’s just different things that we do for the culture that in a virtual environment you have to be a little bit more creative.
Jack: Absolutely. That’s great. And great touchpoints and themes. In terms of productivity, you can tell you get a lot done. Like you mentioned, over your career that’s something that you’ve always strived onto the next thing.
For someone who wants to improve their productivity throughout their day to help their business or performance with sport, whatever it might be, do you have a focus on each day, like maybe a Marketing Monday type of approach? Or do you schedule things throughout your day in your calendar? Do you have an assistant that does that for you in terms of your meetings? Talk us through how you allocate your days.
Justin: If you’re looking to become more productive, just become more consistent. That’s the number one thing is making sure that there’s a massive level of consistency. And when I go back to my hierarchy of faith, myself, my marriage, my family, my business, making sure that you put things on the calendar in that order.
I guess, everybody’s seen the YouTube video of the professor putting the big rocks into the cup first. And when you put the big rocks in first, there’s always room to put the pebbles in around it. And that’s what we end up talking about with the business. There’s always room for business, always. But making sure that there’s room for everything else first. And so, for me, I go back to also who not how, and making sure that the right people are in the right seats.
So, I have a pulse on what’s happening with marketing, but by no means do I spend energy on that. I invest my energy in places where I can really have impact. And that’s in speaking, doing podcasts like this, being exposed to people in garnering the mission, the vision, business development, things like that. That’s really where I spend and invest most of my time and energy. And making sure that the team is valued, feeling that passion and that they’re on the same page.
The unique part about it is that my days are extremely consistent. I’ll wake up every day around 6:15. And I’ll get up immediately. I’ll go spend time in the red lights. I’ll pray. I’ll meditate. I’ll go do a 30-minute zone 2 ride from there. I’ll get my workout in. I’ll go from there into a cold tub and the steam and sauna. I’ll come upstairs, I’ll shower. I’ll get an hour of deep work in. Deep work is a lot of my ideation time, my visioning time. I’ll grab a quick bite of breakfast.
Jack: Is that like you’re in a journal? The deep work, is that pen and paper?
Justin: No, it’s usually on my computer, but my deep work is planned out. So, I’ve got like a working list that I’ll create at the end of my day of like, ‘Hey, this is something that I want you to do during your deep work.’ It’s like figuring out what a new part of a curriculum might be, or ideating on something I heard in a podcast or one of the books that I read. And it’s like, ‘Hmm, this is great. I want to learn more about this. I want to really dive in and put more of this to work.’ And so, being able to continue to develop and create that space.
And then, to be honest with you, between usually like 10:30 and 5:00 is all used on business development, relationship building and having those types of meetings and conversations. And then at 5:30–6:00, I’m usually shutting everything down. I give myself a 30 minute brain dump window at the end of the day where I write down anything that I want to do in my deep work tomorrow.
Anything that I have like a to-do thing, any ideas that I have going on, so that I can leave them there and park them there. And when I go start making dinner and sitting down with Alyse at about 6:30–7:00, it’s just us at night and it doesn’t boil over and lean into everything else.
Jack: How long did it take you to get to that point of being disciplined?
Justin: To get to that level of structure and organization?
Jack: Yeah. And sticking to it. Like you talked about the importance of consistency. Like it could be so easy just to turn that 6:00 wind-down to 10:00 PM.
Justin: Yeah. To be honest with you, it’s always iterating in terms of what I do or what I want to add or change. But I think, to be quite frank, as soon as I made the decision that was aligned with my values of what I wanted to prioritize, it was really an overnight switch.
Because everybody talks about, and again, this is my auntie David Goggins talking, everyone talks about discipline. You’ve got to push beyond and just do it. And it’s like, no, that’s not sustainable. It’s not sustainable to continue to just drive and push willpower and discipline on everybody.
But if you act in accordance to your value system, there’s no decisions left to be made. Because if I say I value my faith, myself, my relationship, my family, and my business in that order, but yet I make my decisions with my business first, how am I living in alignment with what I say I am? And that’s where we run into this problem all the time, that there’s this misalignment of values and actions.
And when there’s misalignment in values and actions, that’s where you get that mental, emotional stress that comes on. That’s where you start to have these conflicts with your spouse. That’s where you start to have these conflicts with your kid. It’s where you have your conflicts with your coworkers and your athletes, and everybody that you’re working with.
Because you’re saying and preaching one thing, but you’re acting in accordance of something else. And when you can act in alignment with those values and you make decisions with that as the main lens, you can put your head on your pillow at night and feel good about it. You can make sure that everything is copacetic in your world.
And it’s not just the discipline factor that comes in. Being consistent all of a sudden becomes very simple in nature because every decision you make goes through that lens of what your values are. That’s why becoming so clear on those values is the first thing that you need to do. For it is the preface, it proceeds everything.
Jack: And for someone that’s thinking about that now, about prioritizing their values, and maybe it’s an athlete, so for them their whole identity, like you mentioned, the story before is the sport. And there was another athlete that took three weeks out and came back better person, better teammate, and then, obviously, in terms of performance success they won the championship. So, I can imagine a better athlete from the process as well. What would be advice for that young athlete to do? What activities do you need to do to work out your values and your priorities?
Justin: I’ve got a workbook that actually helps guide people through that. If it’s available on Amazon, it’s just called ‘Own It’. How to master your business and the relationships.
Jack: We can have the link in the show notes.
Justin: Yeah, but by simply sitting down and understanding and asking some simple questions. And, to be honest with you, it’s deep work. It is deep, deep work. And the first time I did this, I was 27 years old. And so, like eight years ago. And it wasn’t comfortable. It’s something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
And first time I did it, Mark Fitzgerald, who I worked with in Anaheim, gave it to me and just challenged me to lean in on it. And when I did it, it started to really open up my eyes because I never sat down and never answered the question: what do I value? I had never answered the question: what are the key characteristics that I value? I never sat down and said, ‘Where do I want to be in one year, three years, five years?’
And a lot of it was taken from, again, some other peoples that I’ve done is like Todd Durkin. I’ve learned a lot from Todd and in what he was doing and what he was valuing and how do we make sure that things are in alignment. What gives you energy? What takes energy away? What are your non-negotiables? Where do you see yourself in a family sense, and a relationship sense, and a business sense, and a financial sense? Where do you see yourself in these places and what action steps do you have in place to do this?
So often, especially as athletes, we do this. When we’re coming into an off-season or when we get to school or to our professional team, we set a goal, we get to set certain things, certain frameworks and certain milestones to know that we’re on pace or we’re not. And it’s so easy when we’re going through life that we just all of a sudden pick our head up and we’re like, ‘Man, how did we get here?’ Because we don’t have milestones, we don’t have these step points, we don’t have these value systems that put us in these places.
And again, I was talking with one of my mentors probably, I don’t know, six years ago, and he said something that really hit me in the face and just awoke me to this. It was: ‘If you’re standing in a river and you look down at your feet, all of a sudden you see the water rushing and it’s going fast, it’s going quickly.’ And that’s like, when we have milestones, right? That’s what it looks like when we’re present, when we know where we’re currently at.
But when you look all the way behind you downstream, you don’t even know the water’s moving anymore. When you look upstream far away, you don’t even know that the water’s moving anymore. So, when you’re always looking forward as to where you’re going, what are you doing, and pushing, or you’re looking back as where have I come from, what’s happened, you forget the time is continually moving. It doesn’t stop for anybody.
And being focused on where your feet are allows you to make better decisions, as long as you know what your value system is, as long as you know where you want to go, you can help direct that path.
Jack: Awesome. Well, thank you for everyone that’s stayed with us for the last 90 minutes. And if you tuned in halfway through, highly recommend listening to the very start. This will be for now on our YouTube channel, so you can watch it. And then the podcast recording will be next Tuesday.
Thank you so much, Justin, for jumping on and sharing with us your journey so far in the industry. Obviously, making a huge impact from being published author, over 10 years in elite sport and now running a successful company. So, thanks so much for sharing with us. Success leaves clues. So, not only as a business owner, but also as a person as well. I take a lot from it. And, no doubt, listeners have as well.
What’s on the horizon for you, mate, in terms of 2022? What are you excited about at the moment?
Justin: I’ve loved the direction of our business. We’ve got about six major contracts that are about to close. A lot of our strategic alignments have come into place here. So, from a business sense, continuing to be excited about the impact that we’re making. Going to speak to the National Athletic Directors Association. All 6,500 athletic directors will be in attendance at the end of June. In about a week, to be honest with you, in Vegas. So, by the time this comes out next Tuesday, actually it’s next Tuesday. So, the same day that this comes out, I will be speaking to them. So, really excited about that.
Alyse and I have our honeymoon that we’ve put on the calendar for October. So, going to go to Vietnam and spend two weeks off the grid. We’ve got our team in place to fully be able to operate everything without us for two weeks. So, that feels really good.
We’re just very blessed in where we’re going and the direction that we’re at. Like I said, it’s been an amazing journey and we’re exactly where we need to be. Everything’s exactly as it should be. And have The Big Guy upstairs to thank for that.
Jack: Well said. And for those that want to reach out and connect with you, where’s the best place?
Justin: Very active through social media. So, Instagram @justinroeth. And that’s actually my handle for everything, whether you’re on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, on all those platforms. And then Own It app or ownitcoaching.com.
Jack: Okay, awesome. For those that might be driving and listening to the podcast, we’ll add it in the show notes, guys, so you can click those links at the end of your drive. Thanks again, Justin. Really appreciate you coming on, mate.
Justin: Awesome, Jack. I appreciate you.
Jack: Thank you for everyone for tuning in, whether it’d be the YouTube or on podcast. Our next live chat will be with Danny Kennedy, the founder of DK Fitness. That’s at 4:00 PM Australian Eastern Standard Time, on the 1st of July. I’ll see you guys then.
Coffee is a staple for athletes all over the world, including AFL players, whether it’s for regular footy training or a crucial AFL game day. Caffeine is a stimulant and can help you feel more energised and alert, which can be helpful before a big game. Read on as we discuss the effect of caffeine on athletes and tips on how to use it on a game day.
Caffeine for Athletes’ Performance
Caffeine is one of the most well-studied ergogenic aids (substances, equipment, or practices that help people use, produce, or recover more energy) and is known to help athletes exercise harder and longer. Caffeine stimulates the brain, making it easier to think clearly and concentrate.
Caffeine has been studied for both stamina and short-term, high-intensity exercise in over 74 research studies. Caffeine enhances performance and makes the effort appear easy, according to the vast majority of research (by about six percent).
The average boost in performance is about 12%, with greater benefits seen during endurance exercise than shorter exercise (eight to twenty minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters. Athletes who rarely consume coffee and hence are not tolerant of its stimulating effect reap even more benefits.
Don’t assume that a caffeine boost would improve your performance because everyone reacts to caffeine differently. You may become queasy, experience “coffee stomach,” or experience caffeine jitters at a time when you are already nervous and concerned.
And so, how much coffee should an athlete consume to get that edge? 250 mg of caffeine per day is considered moderate. The amount of caffeine that improves performance in research studies ranges from 1.5 to 4 mg/lb body weight (3 to 9 mg/kg) given one hour before exercise. This equates to around 225 to 600 milligrams for a 150-pound person. It does not appear that more is better.
The majority of athletes receive their caffeine from coffee; others use caffeinated gels, Red Bull, or NoDoz tablets. Some sportsmen prefer products with specific doses because the quantity of caffeine in coffee varies so much.
If you are unsure how much you should ingest, it’s best to consult a sports doctor or sports dietitian. They should have the most up-to-date information on what is an appropriate dosage for you as an individual.
Tips for Athletes on Drinking Coffee During Game Day
Coffee is great for a quick pick-me-up but it’s important to know how your body will react. Here are some useful tips that you can use with regard to consuming caffeine during the game day:
1) Drink Coffee an Hour or Two Before the Game
Many people swear by coffee as a pre-game energy boost, and there is some science to back up this claim. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can improve focus and reaction time. However, it is important to note that everyone reacts to caffeine differently. Some people may find that coffee makes them jittery or anxious, while others may feel more alert and focused.
It is also important to remember that coffee takes about an hour to kick in, so it is best to drink it an hour or two before the game. This way, you can see how it affects you and make sure it doesn’t interfere with your performance. Ultimately, whether or not you choose to drink coffee before a game is a personal decision. But if you do decide to give it a try, make sure you do so with caution and be mindful of how it affects you.
2) Have a Small Cup (250ML) Of Black Coffee
Coffee is a popular beverage for many people, especially in the morning. It can help to wake you up and give you a boost of energy. However, too much milk and sugar in your coffee can actually make you feel more sluggish. When you’re trying to get energized for a game, it’s best to stick to black coffee.
The caffeine will help to give you a boost without weighing you down. In addition, black coffee is also calorie-free, so you won’t have to worry about adding any extra calories to your diet. So next time you’re gearing up for a big game, ditch the milk and sugar and reach for a small cup of black coffee instead.
3) Avoid Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach
It’s no secret that coffee can give you an energy boost. That’s why many people enjoy drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. However, if you drink coffee on an empty stomach, it can actually cause an upset stomach during the game. The acids in coffee can irritate the lining of your stomach, leading to cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
If you’re feeling especially sensitive, you might even experience vomiting. So, if you’re planning on consuming coffee before a big game, be sure to eat something first. A light snack or meal will help to buffer the acids in your coffee and reduce the risk of stomach problems.
4) Add Honey to Your Coffee
If you’re feeling tired, there’s no need to reach for a can of energy drink or a cup of coffee loaded with sugar. Instead, try a small cup of coffee with one teaspoon of honey. The honey will help to boost your energy levels, and the coffee will improve your focus and alertness.
Plus, the combination of the two ingredients will taste great and give you the perfect pick-me-up when you need it most. So next time you’re feeling fatigued, reach for a cup of coffee and a spoonful of honey instead your body will thank you for it.
5) Drink Plenty of Water Throughout the Day To Stay Hydrated
The big game has finally arrived and you’re nursing a red bull, thinking to yourself that this can be the edge that will push you and your team to victory. However, what you may not realize is that coffee can actually lead to dehydration.
That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you’re drinking coffee. Water helps to replenish the fluids in your body, and it’s essential for maintaining proper body function. So if you’re going to drink coffee on game day, make sure to also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Your body will thank you for it.
Caffeine can be a great way to improve your performance on game day. Just remember to consume it in moderation and be aware of how it affects you. And don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a successful game day!
If you need help getting that edge over your opponents, contact the AFL strength and conditioning coaches at Prepare Like A Pro. We can help you optimize your training regimen to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today to get started!
Jack: Welcome to ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean and I am the host for the podcast. Today my guest is Steve Kelly. He’s the high performance manager of the AFLW and Head of Development for Female Pathways.
If you are new to the podcast, before we start Steve’s intro, for those that are following us on Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn, Facebook, wherever you’re on the socials, our podcast is on all your favorite podcast directories. So, Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube. It’d be great if you give us a follow. We post new content every week.
Today, as I mentioned, our guest is Steve. Since being at Sydney Swans for the last 10 years, he’s had a range of different high performance roles and has also completed his PhD. So, we’ll be talking a fair bit on the science side of things, as well as the practical side and the art of coaching. So, really looking forward to the show. He’s completed, as I mentioned, PhD Research on ‘Junior Athlete Profiling Within AFL’, he’s an assistant strength and power coach, assistant conditioning coach, NEAFL game day, which is the reserves, for those new two AFL. Prior to the Sydney Swans, he also worked at the Sydney Roosters as rehab coach and completed a sports science internship.
So, let’s get straight into the show. Welcome, Steve. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Stephen: No worries. Thanks, Jack.
Jack: Let’s dive straight at the beginning of your career, mate. When did you discover you had a passion for strength & conditioning and working with athletes?
Stephen: I suppose I played at a reasonable level soccer and gaelic football back in Ireland where I’m from, had a lot of injuries, a lot of growth related injuries that I know now. Certainly, didn’t manage them as well as injuries I managed within the Pathway systems that I’ve worked with now. It was a long time ago.
So, fell out of love with sports to a degree through my late teens. Just because of the injuries and I had a bad hip fracture. Moved to Australia early twenties and decided to go back, educate into a sports science degree. Opportunities were probably bigger over here than back home for that. A lot of practitioners would go to England for their education.
Managed to walk my way through, I was a little bit older probably than your average. I was still early twenties, early mid-twenties, a little bit older than the average student. So, I was pretty keen, pretty in your face to the lecturers and tutors to push on. You know, opportunities. When you look at a classroom of 300 or 400 students, you know you need to be proactive.
So, in my education through UTS in Sydney (very good university, connections, practical based uni), I got an opportunity in my last year of undergrad to do an internship with the Sydney Roosters. Obviously, took that. Mainly sports science of GPS. And it was probably at its infancy. Some clubs were doing it better, others at that stage. So, it was a bit of playing around with data.
A couple of years, two years doing that. First year was the 2011 Grand Final that I got this. So, that was a great experience. Lost to the Dragons in that one, but it was good. And then I did with the NYC at the time on their twenties, I did a year doing rehab. So, I’ve got a good, diverse look at areas of S&C in sports science.
And then I managed to pick up the PhD with the Swans. It began as a joint role, so it was PhD and work. That was a good opportunity at the time. Myself and another guy assigned from UTS, we started at the same time. And then that evolved. So, two years doing the joint PhD and work, evolved into a full role there at the Swans.
I’ve been there for 10 years now. So, it says I’m either good, or they can’t get rid of me. One or the other, I suppose. The beauty about it is I’ve evolved into a couple of roles. It was a combined head of physical development in the Academy and the assistant strength & condition coach for eight years. So, I got a diverse range of skills within the senior program. I suppose, I’d be the generalist.
And that probably came against me when COVID came around. I was the one to go, but I pivoted over full-time into the Academy. Which I was very happy about it at the time in a sense that the senior role always would take priority. But my passion was certainly within that development space. And that’s where my PhD evolved into as well. I’ll touch on the PhD in a minute.
So, two years doing the Academy and then just now got a senior women’s program. And I was asked to come in and lead that program and also lead the pathways within the female side. So again, it’s different athletes, different opportunity, good experience. Diversifying again. And probably, as you move to your S&C career, sports science career, you look for those opportunities to hone your skills again, bring something new. So, very happy about pivoting at the moment into the female athlete space.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. There’s a fair bit to dive in there. I guess, we’ll go back to, you mentioned the Sydney Roosters role and how you were in that mindset, where looking around at UTS, there was plenty of students doing the same role, so you had to find an edge to get opportunity.
For those students that might be listening into the podcast and are in that same phase of their development, you mentioned picking brains from lecturers. How did you actually land that role at Sydney Roosters, that internship? How did you get that foot in the door, do you think?
Stephen: It was luck. Let’s be honest, it was luck. The guy that was doing sports science, strength and power role at the club at the time ended up getting sick, and they needed someone to come in and fill in, take portion of his workload. So, because I was in the tutor’s, lecture’s face asking for opportunity and marks and everything else were looking good, I was certainly putting the effort in in the degree, going above and beyond, I suppose, what your average student would do.
So, they were looking for someone to come in at no cost to the club, obviously, at that level. That’s where the opportunity really landed. It was certainly putting myself out there and then getting that opportunity based off that, really. And from there, I just took it and I put the hours in. I was still at the last year of undergrad, so I still had to get through that, but I’d be finishing at 10, 11 at night session. Once I was in there, just put the groundwork in and just put the hours in and just took it as an apprenticeship, really.
I have the pleasure now of teaching at UTS, so I’ve had plenty of interns come through the Academy. I use that as a source and I’m obviously looking to help and give a lot of people the opportunity. And again, my biggest advice to them is you’re not gonna come in at a certain level. If you need to come in and wash the bottles and be around the club, you need to do it. If you need to come in and put the cones out, you need to do it. You will get other opportunity to coach, but, realistically, it’s about opening your eyes, going in, seeing the opportunity that you have, and starting from there.
I suppose, even coming from, I did personal training and coaching on the background, but it is a different level when you come in professional sport and different skills are required. So, it’s been a little bit humble in that regard. And then just building your knowledge base from there. That’s probably the biggest.
Jack: Some great points, mate. I think what you touched on there, how important it is to actually help the program. Even if that is just assisting the person leading the program by setting up their cones for them or helping the strength and power coach with weights, however you can help out. And then that will build confidence in the department where you are stuck in, to then get more opportunity to help out with more significant roles. But if you go into that mindset, you’re probably going to get a lot out of it.
Stephen: For sure. Definitely agree.
Jack: And you mentioned the PhD, which we’ll go into a little bit more detail later on. But how much of your career, when you look back on it now, was planned in terms of getting that internship in rugby, you mentioned playing gaelic and soccer yourself, then now working in AFL? When you went to Australia, obviously, you were looking for that development, like you mentioned, because it was a little bit more accelerated to sports science. But were you also looking for elite pathways in that move? Or was it simply, have you taken it one step at a time, when an opportunity’s in front of you, and put yourself into that and just let your career take care itself?
Stephen: Yeah, for sure. Like, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had opportunity, and opportunity’s been there, I’ve then taken the opportunity.
So, initially, certainly, through those early stages of undergrad, and even prior to that, it was picking up little knowledge bases, doing your little short courses, doing the ACA, doing whatever it may be. Not just thinking, ‘Okay, I’ll get through my undergrad and then I’ll do it.’ It was certainly running them concurrently at the same time. It was getting the qualifications, as much of them done as you can, getting diversity.
And as you probably know yourself, Jack, that’s when you meet a lot of people in the industry. And you see them five years later and they’re in a good opportunity and they’re usually the practitioners that make it, or to a certain level. The guys that are educating and always thinking about what’s the next bit of education.
I suppose as well, when I got to uni and I got doing the undergrad, I did get a passion for research and reading research. That was probably the big one as well. It was, ‘Okay, where is this information coming from?’ And then digging a bit deeper and finding out and reading papers and probably going, ‘Well, maybe that’s not really, the practical application’s not really there in it. But it’s a nice paper or whatever it may be.’ So, looking at the science, but then looking at the practical skills that you pick up along the way as well. That’s probably it.
The professional side, it was, certainly, it was my aim. I had the drive to want to get in professional sport. But I did put the groundwork in a lot of personal training, a lot of just coaching, a lot of just ringing around and going working, putting cones out for semi-professional rugby teams, whatever it may be. I would just go at the weekend and help out.
I had no problem just making that cold call and going out and trying to help out wherever I could, with the semipro, amateur, it didn’t have to be professional. So, until you learn it, the knowledge base doesn’t just come. You need to put the groundwork in the foundation, for sure.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. Great advice. Take ownership over your career.
Stephen: Yeah, for sure.
Jack: What about support and mentors or influences when you think back to this stage of your career? Did you have people that you leant on during this phase, that you would pick their brain? Or what does mentorship mean to you, do you think, for developing S&Cs? You mentioned you’re giving back now through the pathway of the Academy with the UTS program. But what about for yourself? Is there anyone that was impactful?
Stephen: Yeah, for sure. I don’t go chasing mentor. Sometimes I feel a bit like people want a mentor and they think automatically that’s going to give them a knowledge base. It doesn’t. It is working alongside them, seeing what they do, asking them questions, for sure. So, they invariably turn into a mentor.
I suppose early for me was Damien Austin, he’s up at the Lions now. Damien worked at the Roosters when I was there. Damien was very, very good practitioner. Science based, but also he was delivering his application, the practical side of it. So, I was very lucky in that regard.
And it was a smaller crew at the Roosters at the time and at the time the head of physical performance was Cherry Measures. He was the Next Player, played for West, and Cherry was just a great individual. Probably wasn’t as strong as Damien on the science from the practical side and the actual coaching and the art of coaching. Which I probably value more now that I think I’ve got a reasonable knowledge base. In the actual relationships and the coaching, probably, I haven’t seen anyone better than Cherry in that regard.
And he come from being the Next Player and he’d worked with the Tigers and they won the competition 2005, maybe. So, he had some experience. But probably the big thing I picked up from him, definitely, I’ve been very lucky, I’ve worked at a small group with the Swans, is they have no problem asking me my opinion. I work exactly the same in the Academy. It doesn’t matter where you are in it. I’ll get your opinion and we’ll make the decision based off that.
So, if I get the impression that someone’s really keen to learn, and they’re asking me a question and they might be going down on the wrong path, but they’re actually willing to go and try and find the information out. I’d rather that than wanting to be fed the information all the time or the knowledge. He’s actually going to search it. And if it’s maybe not relevant or practical, that’s fine. Then we’ll work it out and you’ll see what works for your group or your team. So, definitely Damien and Cherry early.
And then within the Swans, I got probably Rob Spurrs probably molding me the way he went about it. So, you soon realize when you’re a head of performance, you can’t cover every area. Micromanaging is not the way to go. You need to have confidence that staff working with you and under you are willing to be able to take it on. And Rob was certainly very good at, once he confides in you, you can cover areas and you nearly read what his thoughts are and what he needs to be done next, and you go and do it. And I suppose that develops over time as well.
So, Rob was massive influence. And then Damien was moved to the Swans. He was a strength coach, so I got to work with him again before I moved to Brisbane. That was great opportunity. We worked pretty close and he was on my research as well.
Mark Hill Galland came in then, so Mark’s not a good Irishman. He came over and probably from a knowledge base and an exercise knowledge and from a diversity in the program, but certainly target and ability to mold the program over season, Mark was probably a massive influence in that regard. So, program development, application, not scared to pivot and throw something in. Have your philosophies, have your lifts, have your key movements, whatever it may be, but certainly have a look at the program. How’s it evolving? What’s the injuries look like? Whatever it may be. Mark is really good on that.
And then we’ve had some really good practitioners from a medical side, Mattie Cameron as well. I suppose you’re very lucky when you get the opportunity to work with these practitioners. They’ve been here for a long time, worked in the industry a long time, so you take as much out as you can.
And then the current staff here, although I don’t work as close, obviously, with them, are very good, always open for conversations. Rob’s in it at the moment is and I see Rob as well. He’s very good at relationships and the way he goes about it with the players. And Shane Lehane is a strength and power coach.
So, that’s probably the area where I’m probably at now is that relationships and coaching, the art of coaching and getting athletes to do what you want them to do, really learning off those guys. But that takes time. You definitely need to get your foundation and your knowledge base and then you can develop those other softer skills, for sure.
Jack: As you mentioned in your intro, you’ve had a great experience at the Sydney Swans across a range of different roles in the gym, in the science and in the conditioning side of things. Is that something that you’ve had a bit to play with that, in the sense that you’ll help out in all areas, like you mentioned the fact of being a generalist, and that’s something that you try and do, if there’s an opportunity to help out in a department you’ll do that? Or is it something that there’s a hole in the program and a job offer has come in that place and therefore you’ve taken that opportunity and run with it?
Stephen: Well, I suppose, being the generalist, I’d have to help out on field conditioning. You’ve got a group of 47 athletes, you need to take a group for conditioning. You may need to help at the physio rehab. Haven’t done a lot in the rehab space, apart from back in the Roosters, that was early days for me, as well experience.
But you certainly need to chip in and help out where it needs be. Not more from training, coaching rather than a practical or a programming point of view. Gym, I suppose, that was a big area where I’d assist in gym, whether it was Damien or Mark. I picked up a lot of knowledge from those guys just from their programming and application and how they go about it.
And then GPS was probably a big thing when I was at the Roosters, but then through the pathway systems, it’s something you have to manage as well. So, I’ve managed to get back and I’m obviously managing it early now with the AFLW program. I’ve hit a lot of different areas, but it definitely helps when I’m in the position now where I need to cover all areas and have an understanding of where there may be a gap in a program or what needs to be covered. Because I’ve had that experience in the different areas.
So, I think particularly undergrads or people coming out, say they want to be in sports science. Okay, but what does that entail? Like sports science’s got a lot of different areas. I don’t think you can just solely go in that area. And if you do end up in a club where you’re doing GPS and its data, or you’re managing databases, look for the opportunity to go into the gym and help out in the gym.
Look for the opportunity to go on field. Ask why they’re doing those running blocks, what’s the load management, what’s the thought process behind it in the background. Don’t just sit there and download the units. Cut up the data, send it out. You need to proactively ask what’s the background. Like, why are we doing this? Why is the load management over?
But I think as well, once you do manage something like GPS, you get a good understanding from looking at the data about what’s happening. Okay, that week’s a bit bigger than that week and that next week, and then they’ve unloaded. So, it certainly helps. But if it just means putting out cones and setting up and watching pre-training, if it’s an injury prevention component or if it’s a speed component or whatever it may be, get involved in every area that you can.
Because then, if you do get the opportunity eventually and build your skill base, you will end up probably having to move into different areas and not solely be stuck in one area. Particularly now, it’s probably less staffing post COVID than it was before. So, you’re going to have to help out. It’s just the necessity. You can’t just think, ‘Okay, I’m just going to come in and just do load management within a team.’ You’re going to have to help out in other areas.
When I pivoted over from the Roosters, I was setting up training, helping the logistics guys, bringing the water bottles out. No problem doing it. You’ve got to start somewhere. And then you go in to help out with training. Ask, ‘Do you need a hand here?’ Because invariably, and I know it now, you’ll have 10 things to do with training.
So, don’t just stand there, be proactive and go, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ And guaranteed there will be something there that needs to be done. It’s just, the head of performance or whoever’s leading a session might not mention it to you because they’re thinking about another five things, they’re thinking ahead, what may happen. So, proactive, for sure.
Jack: I love that mate. And you mentioned briefly as well, personal training and coaching outside of sport. How important do you think that is on this topic, where coaches need to take ownership and develop themselves and be proactive? You’ve talked about the relationship side of things, but when you look back on personal training and running your own business, how important has that been to your career in coaching athletes?
Stephen: It was massive. At the end of the day, it’s like an athlete, they develop through kid, play sport, play amateur, whatever it may be. And then, if they’re good enough, they hone their skills, they get into professional.
If you are a coach and you think, ‘I’ll get my undergrad, I’ll have a bar job, I’ll have whatever.’ And then you just think you’re going to get in and have those skills honed. Not gonna happen. Like you can hone those soft skills, being a personal trainer. And you’re probably even better at times, because you’ve such a mix of clients: clients that don’t want to train, but they feel the need to, clients that are pretty keen. And so, you can certainly develop that.
But even probably the big thing for me was just the foundational exercises and programming and understanding. Like there’s less, obviously, on the line when you’re coaching at that level. But certainly it’s your ability to go, ‘Okay, am I overcoaching this exercise?’ We really need to go into this detail. Like, ‘Okay, there’s little fixes I can do here.’ Have an understanding of what I do and then get creative with programs as well.
I’m not just going to throw out this generic program. Be a little bit more creative. There’s so much information out there now, even probably when we started, there’s so much information. But just weed through the good stuff and the stuff that’s probably not so relevant. I would see it as your apprenticeship. It’s a no-brainer to start. It’s just coaching. You’re learning the foundations of exercise prescription, and you’re also learning your soft skills of dealing with people.
Jack: And what about, if you’re in a position, which I’m sure you’ve had, where you’re proactive and you’re doing everything you can. But at the end of the day, like you’ve mentioned, there’s a fair amount of knowledge and skill set that comes to being a coach working in this environment. And maybe at times you might be exposed in a position where you haven’t actually got experience on that skill set, whether it’d be GPS or a speed session or whatever it might be. For a coach finding himself in that position, obviously you’ll learn as you go, but what are some ways that you can learn to accelerate the learning process to make sure that you’re not failing in that environment, but you’re actually contributing?
Stephen: I suppose the big thing I picked up from Mark as well, Mark Galland was, ‘If you’re going to apply metrics in your programs, go and practice them.’ And certainly within the Academy and pathways kids are very much visual learners. So, your ability to demonstrate an exercise is going to have a big impact on the quality of what comes out at their end. So, certainly, simple things, just whatever lifts they are. You may not be very proficient at doing it, but certainly put the effort into doing it and understanding why you go about it. Because you will get to this stage where you will have to demo at times.
That’s certainly one element of it. It’s a hard one, I suppose. But if you’re putting something in your program, whether it’s speed, or agility, or acceleration work, whatever it may be, you need to go and find the information, go and find the exercises, go and get some technical information about those exercises. Maybe go down to the running track and have a chat with the track coach, whatever it may be.
It doesn’t always have to be in field sport. I’m in field sports, I’m doing speed session. Go and talk to the track coach, go and talk to the guys that do it for an hour rather than you who does it for 10 minutes. So, the people that have a bit more knowledge on it, that’s who I would like to seek out was people that actually probably do it a little bit more and have to deal with the athletes. That’s where you probably need to, like, if you start at a lower level, whether it’s kids pathway systems or personal training, if these are elements you think are useful within their program, put it in. Have a play around it.
I do it the same with the S&Cs. I get into the Academy, they’ll ask me about putting an exercise in. I’ll go, ‘Okay. Well, how have you progressed to that exercise? Have we created force development philosophy? Have they been exposed to get them here? Yeah. Okay. Well, put it in. Have a go, see if it works. If it doesn’t, we can take it out.’ It’s a forgiving environment. It’s not a win-loss environment. We’re in the pathways and it’s a development. It’s all about development. Getting people drafted.
That’s the way I look about it. So, put them in, have a try. If it works, good. And you’ve got to have the spectrum of athletes: obviously, good athletes – good force profile, some athletes – good velocity profile, whatever it may be. But certainly practice it. Implement it, put it in, practice yourself, put it in programs at the lower end. See how it looks and then, possibly, if you get that opportunity in professional sports, at least you’ve tried it.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. And on that note, we’ve asked a fair few questions for developing coaches, which I’m sure they’re appreciating. But for the footballers listening in, maybe they’re living rurally or remotely, or they’re in a program where there is no athlete development, strength & conditioning, what would be some key pillars that’s important for maybe a parent that’s listening for their child to start doing with them or a kid that needs to take it upon themselves? What are some key areas of focus?
Stephen: I suppose for me in the Academy it’s certainly like in any sport speed and power is seen as very important. But I feel as well, sometimes we can miss the boat of creating force development. So, strength. Your ability to actually turn that force or strength into a speed or power movement.
So, getting that foundational, we start to talk about building the movement and movement and movement. But don’t get too hung up on the movement either. Get them to do the movement, get them to do the movement on the load, see how it looks, get them to a proficient stage, move that in, get those force and power qualities in there as well. Because, ultimately, that’s where most successful or key movements are.
So, if you try and increase speed, go out and run fast. Go and get a running coach if you have to, for technical stuff. But certainly look at developing that speed component. There’s plenty of body weight, power exercise you can do, plyometrics. If you need to create a little bit more stiffness, wherever it may be, just go practice those plyometrics. But certainly don’t neglect the force development as well. So, increasing the strength profile and then from there certainly working into the power profile.
And each athlete’s going to develop at a different stage, for sure. I definitely see that. AFL, obviously. Most of our athletes have a pretty good aerobic profile, aerobic capacity, aerobic power. We talked in PhD, we are going into bit of detail on that, but certainly it’s not something where we need to put a lot of work in. But it’s a bell curve. We have some really strong, most sitting in the middle. And then there’s definitely the outliers, but they’re usually the better footballers sometimes.
So, it’s developing those other qualities, but also understanding it is a high-running demand sport. So, I might do all the speed and technical work, but when you’re getting fatigued and you haven’t done those movements, you may revert it back to type A, depending on your movement. So, certainly helps. Adding that diversity to the component.
But the big thing I would say is developing a movement quality, depending on what you want to do. There’s a certain thought process about, ‘Okay, what’s the injuries true to different stages?’ It’s a lot of load management in the pathway systems rather than soft tissues, from what I’ve encountered through the years. Definitely, a lot of load management, bone stress, big ones.
So, being conscious of that. But being conscious of that, you need to build aerobic capacity, particularly through younger mid-teens. They don’t have to run fast for those conditions, but certainly building some central adaptions. And then you can develop more to a higher end aerobic power, your repeat speed movements later.
My philosophy is: if I build that aerobic capacity earlier and they get some exposure to it, you don’t have to put a lot of work into it later and you can really work on the higher end aerobic power. So, shorter runs, 2–3 minutes, one and a half, whatever it may be, wherever you want to cut it. And then definitely repeat speed, speed endurance as well is obviously a big one.
But if you’ve developed that early capacity, it comes a bit easier. And lucky enough, most of the draftees that have come out of here, the feedback I get is they’re relatively good-conditioned. They’re probably able to handle a little bit more load than the average. And it is very much dependent. Certainly because I was exposed to the two programs, I was able to bridge that gap a little bit easier.
Jack: Yeah. You know it’s relevant.
Stephen: Yes. And I know where they have to be and what’s going to give them the best opportunity. Because, ultimately, you just want to give them most opportunity to do their skills. I don’t want to get them prepared to do more running. I want to get them prepared to do more skill drills. Rather than having the modifications and skill drills. Because that’s ultimately their bread and butter and what’s going to make them most successful. You can make the athlete as resilient as you can to get as much skills as they can. And I think you’re doing a good job through those pathways.
But, certainly, the big one over the years is managing those loads. So, build your capacity. But if you’re playing a number of sports, school, club, whatever it may be, it is really managing for the parents. I’d say that that’s probably the biggest one. Because again, we have kids miss a year or two years from 15, 16, 17 years. That’s skill development. I don’t think you can make that up. That could be the chance between being drafted or not.
Jack: It’s a sly thing. Rather ramping it up.
Stephen: I’m not concerned about they’ve missed the year or two in their conditioning. No issue there. It’s the skill development. That’s probably the big one they’ve lost. So, manage your loads, force development, strength, and then you can work into your more power and velocity side of the core of your profile.
Jack: And on that note, it’s a good one for the parents and even the kids listening in that, like you mentioned, club football, school sports. And then maybe they’re involved in an Academy or they’ve got maybe some representative footy, state level football. They’re getting pulled from all different directions.
When you are managing in an Academy, how do you guys manage that in-house? What are some tips for parents to maybe be aware of if maybe their child is showing signs of fatigue? And then therefore what could be a good guide to help prevent some of those bone stress injuries, like you mentioned?
Stephen: Yeah, it is a tricky one, mate. It’s a very tricky one. We do have some in-house measures. We’ve used load management documents, we’ve used currently, obviously, got smarter base in the pathways, which is very helpful.
Again, the challenge there is compliance, and within the athlete, but it is the parents. Parents are probably the biggest. Like I had those issues playing sport, so I have an understanding. Often didn’t manage them, the parents probably didn’t know at the time, but I had signs. I had soreness, prolonged soreness. I had times where I probably needed to have a bit of a deloaded period, but I didn’t, kept pushing.
I was a multiple sport athlete growing up, through teens as well. Multiple sport athletes, it’s going to be a risk. You can’t go 12 months in a year with load. So, there is going to have to be. It’s managing your body. So, it’s probably the signs, the prolonged soreness and the sights of your body, like where you’re sore. It is your ability just to go, ‘No, I’m actually going to sit out of this. I just can’t do.’
Because we do have athletes who will play with us and will say they can play. If they play Academy game, they shouldn’t play the weekend, they’ll play with the club. There’s pressures there to play it. I appreciate the pressures are there, but I just put it back on them and say, ‘Well, what’s your long term? What’s your long term goal?’ This is a risk. You may get away with it. You may not. But you’re increasing your risk.
So, get a diary, go manage, write down if you have soreness, whatever it may be, or just write down how you feel every session. ‘Feel okay. A bit sore today.’ Something where you can trigger you to, ‘Okay. Something’s happening here.’ And have those conversations as a parent. Because we usually have the conversations when the injury’s there, unfortunately, particularly with the bone stress ones.
The hard ones are nutrition and those components too. They obviously have a big factor as well. That can be the hard one for us to control. You just give them advice: sleep, eat, recovery. Give them methods. But again, most of it is external. They have to do it away from the club. And so, give them the resources and then keep asking how they’re doing it. So, having those conversations.
Probably the big key warning signs are, obviously, those plank soreness. ‘Is it affecting your sleeping, eating? How’s your sleep, eating going?’ And then just looking at your schedule and giving yourself window of a deload as well. We all probably did it through our teens and it’s just keep going, keep going, keep going, move from winter to summer sport. Different sports have different risks there as well. It’s just when there’s a window of opportunity, you may have to take it.
And from the parent’s point of view it is understanding the times through adolescence that are bigger risk as well. Okay, what are the risk period for a male or female athlete? When is it most at risk? What age group? And then you can make adjustments from there as well. So, we kind of play around them, but they are still different. You can’t prevent everything.
Jack: That’s a good segue for junior profiling, mate. Talk us through your motivation to do your PhD, for those practitioners that are thinking about it. Obviously, it’s no mean feat. So, how did you find that side of things? But then also, how did you come up with the topic with Sydney Swans? Was that something that they proposed? Did you come up with it? Talk us through that process.
Stephen: I suppose it’s quite a broad one. Like it’s not ground groundbreaking research by any means. But probably the beauty about it is I made changes based off that research before I’d finished the PhD. So, I managed to implement it.
When I took over the Academy, they had no-gym program. You had minimal S&C contact. It was a skill-based program, which was fine. Targeted New South Wales, Queensland was skill-based programs. But certainly an area we could look at developing. So, I come in, I saw a gap in the opening there. And lucky enough at the time Chris Miles was running the Academy and Paul Roos was the head coach. They were pretty keen to, ‘Yeah, let’s implement something. Let’s have a look.’ So, they gave me that opportunity.
It was pretty broad. I looked at strength profile, power profile, aerobic capacity profile, test as well. You probably need to look at repeat speed or game type movement and then GPS as well. What’s the game look like? The first study – just looking at the Academy and then I categorized the senior program into different groups as well. So, our development group, one to two or three year players, three to four, and then your plus seven. What’s the differences there?
We had no real difference in running capacity. We had very strong runners. Obviously, the profile’s pretty good, AFL athletes generally tend to be. It was that strength and power. So, pretty obvious. Different development times. But we know strength program. So, it was an easy sell. How we start a strength and power program? That’s where we started, the infancy of that. So, that was good. And then from there that’s developed over time as well for more access, more contact.
Then looked at the game base. Compared the Under 18s in a competition with our NEAFLs at the time, it’s VFL now, obviously, and the senior program, looking at the difference in variables there. What’s the big difference? The big one would be time. Simple one. They play more time if they’re in NEAFL. So, our Academy guys, the better end were lucky enough to play in the NEAFL team. They play more time, so they’re exposed to more high-intensity efforts, more accelerations, more decelerations and physicality from that point of view, which was harder to track, obviously.
But so, while the NAB league is, obviously, the goal standard for that youth program, if you can expose them to that bridge in having to do more repeat high speed efforts, more high speed running, bigger bodies, more physicality. If they can cope with it, obviously, depending on the athlete, and more game time, it’s got to be benefit.
So, play at the NAB league. Just have out there in front of the recruiters, but certainly get some exposure to some higher level competition. Or against athletes who are higher level, if you’re playing St. Johns or Brisbane at the time or Gold Coast Academy, their NEAFL teams. That was probably the big one.
The critics would probably say, ‘Yeah, we know that.’ But they all want to see the kids playing the NAB league anyway. So, that’s fine, but at least drop it in there: we need to expose the kids to this, because they’re going to hit these metrics and they’re going to see more high speed. That’s probably the most important factor they’re there.
Then I just looked at our first year profile within the senior program. What do we look like? What do we need to target there? What’s the main profile? Again, any study that I did was strength and power based. I came back to it in about three or four years. You’re kind of at that sweet spot of development for those areas. You have a big window between that one to three years coming out of youths programs for strength and power development.
And then after that, you plateau to a degree, I suppose. You might make small gains. And I’m just looking at pure numbers of strength testing and lifts, running capacity, whatever it may be. You hit your groove by that three or four years. So, I suppose for me it was: ‘Okay, if I can bridge that gap a little earlier, so if I can have the 16, 17, 18-year-olds somewhere in between a normal first year and a third year, it’s going to help.’ And that’s where I pitched the programs and development.
And then the study compared the Academy players who would get selected within our NEAFL team and the non-selected, looking at the profile. And there was certainly difference in strength and power and aerobic capacity. Like you could see there was a trend there of a better physical profile. So, their ability to actually cope with the bigger loads, that was a factor.
Then it’s, ‘Okay. So, how can we develop the bottom end of the Academy?’ I suppose, the age-old thing is: the small kid being given him enough time to develop, he may end up being the better-skilled, because he’s had opportunity and he’s had to fight all the way. So, are we missing someone?
And from a physical point of view, can we get them up to speed enough that they can get selected at a higher level and then maybe develop some skills that way? And then, I guess with any study PhD, you need to put an intervention in there. So, simple strength and power. Can I change the profile over a shorter window of time?
Yeah, certainly. So, from a group who weren’t exposed to the same type of gym program, and the difficulty of a study like that is it is very practical. Very hard to control a lot of factors, but I was able to control, like have a training program and a non-training group. And then just compare that profile after 12 weeks. And obviously, as you would imagine, the training group were able to develop even in that short window.
Very hard to get them published, because of the, I suppose, one is your subjects. You see one group of athletes. So, you start to delve into the research area, you start to see these issues that you encounter, your ability to control a lot of factors in the study. But from an actual practical point of view and the practicalities and what I was able to implement over my eight years, it was massive help to me.
Stuff you think is pretty obvious, but actual seeing it in hard numbers and facts and going, ‘Okay, we need to develop this physical quality. It’ll probably help them and then it’ll get them maybe selected for a better level. And we need to expose them to this better level, because it’s going to help them with a couple of qualities, whether it’s getting exposed to more high speed running and efforts or change of direction or the physicality of a higher level game.’
So, I really enjoyed it. Like I certainly said, it was a practical subject in that PhD and quite enjoyable. And probably the most enjoyable was being able to put those interventions in place within the Academy.
Jack: And on that, for the maybe the NAB league strength & conditioning coaches or those working in junior pathways, you mentioned there wasn’t access to it. Well, gym wasn’t part of the program and then that you brought that intervention in place to help develop the players to get stronger and more powerful and progress that transition to playing high level football. Or for those that got drafted, you saw progress in their ability to be able to be more resilient.
So, clearly there’s value in it, in lifting at younger age to accelerate that athlete development. What would your advice be? It sounds like you did a pretty good job selling it to Paul Roos. How did you go about doing that? Did you put a presentation together? Like for coaches that want to sell a program to a club level or junior pathways level that we need to upgrade our gym because it’s limiting the impact on the program. What would be some strategies they could use?
Stephen: Yeah, certainly. I did present at the time and found some research and some gaps in where I’d see. And even just doing a pilot study at the time. So, I started in there and I was able to do a quick pilot study and go this is where. Uultimately, it wasn’t on their radar, but when I mentioned it was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ Because they knew it added value to the program.
Sometimes you can be restricted by, they might think, ‘Well, where are we going to find the time for it?’ But I sold it that we could fit it in around the program. I sold it that it would add to the program. And I suppose I was lucky enough that, say, Paul and Chris, they’ve been around footy, so they know it’s part of senior programs anyway, so they could see the benefit in that regard.
Probably the main thing is just selling it. Also have a bit of an idea about, ‘Okay, how am I gonna develop it from a 15, 16, 17, 18? So, how are you going to develop that program?’ You don’t have to have detail graphs and charts and sets and reps and so on, but a bit of, ‘Okay, they’ll start here. This will be the basis. So, it’ll be a movement based and then it’ll be a force or quality strength based. And then we’ll start to implement that strength and power.’
Jack: To sell the big picture.
Stephen: Yeah. So, like, ‘I’m trying to develop these qualities and this is how I’ll go about it.’ A bit of a builder block phase. It wasn’t a hard sell in that regard. It was more I find within these problems is, because you’re restricted by time, is then how can you fit it in with time? But we tacked an extra hour onto training based off it. And now it’s just part and parcel of the program. So, now it’s just what they do.
And I suppose we’re lucky enough these days that most kids have access, whether it’s through schools. Most of the schools, at least a lot my athletes go to, there are high level practitioners in there as well. The level of S&C practitioners is very strong these days, you would say. So, they’re exposed to more complex lifts than what it might have been. It might have been just a very basic program maybe 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago. Whereas now they do have that quality. They can progress. This athlete – maybe not. So, the ability then to work within even the bigger groups and pick the better athletes and not just hold them back with the other. So, being able to develop.
So, it’s definitely sell it. You will probably need to sell it, but first of all, find some research that shows it’s worked. Talk about the program itself, how we can fit it in, sell it. It’s just part and parcel of senior programs now anyway, and the ability to accelerate these kids’ development based off building their strength base, building their power base, building aerobic base is obviously going to help them as well.
Ultimately, we’re in the business and trying to get them drafted through the pathways. So, it’s not about win-loss during the NAB League or whatever, for me anyway. Obviously, games, but it’s always about the big picture. It’s always the big development picture. How can I develop from 15 to 18? What’s the stages we’re going to go? Presentation’s very good in that regard. Very powerful.
Jack: And what about in your experience, what are some of your favorite lifts to develop strength in those age groups? The 15, 16, 17? What are your favorite key lifts?
Stephen: From practical point of view, certainly, I guess squat would be a big lift. Front squad would be probably the main one. If kids can develop, and we do progress to some Olympic lifts as they’re going into a senior program, obviously, a component of that front squad position, but that’s long term. But also just limit the load they put on there a bit to a degree and you can get a good look at the movement profile. And I find it a little bit safer where they can just tip the bar off or add it on their back. So, it’s a bit of a safety element.
A bit of a long term, if we are going to put some power lifts in there from the Olympic lift point of view, at least they’re doing a front squat, so that catch position. And also I just think it probably limits initially what they load that they’ll add to the bar. So, lower body, certainly big lift. Trap bar would be probably what I’ve moved on to now. It was based off actual equipment at the time, but I just think a trap bar as well, it’s an easy lift to teach. You can load it up. And certainly if it’s done properly and you coach it properly, it is pretty safe. So, probably prefer that there.
A lot of accessory lifts around the program. So, I do usually a floor press just for shoulders, just a little bit nice on the shoulders. Particularly in AFL shoulders can get beat up. So, that’d be big upper body. Bench pull as well, because you can load up chin-ups. Like you weight your chin-ups well as a strength test. So, I have a big key and then a lot of accessory lower body. So, groin, hamstring. A little nordic will do it in a knee and a hip, an RDL.
The female side of it now, definitely more quad based as well. That’s probably the injury, I see a lot more in the female side of it. So, working on the quads a bit more, not so much in the men. I have my theory of why that might be, to a degree. So, I try to cover off a lot of bases lower body. Probably when they get the program, they’re a bit like, it’s not as exciting for them. And then if they are able to progress… Step-up as well, I like a step-up, the movement profile of it. And then add some movement complexity to them as well as you go.
So, have your key lift for strength and then add your lifts that you can add a bit of movement complexity as you move along. Definitely very much lower body targeted. I have my big key upper body lifts and rocks, some positional rotational work with that as well, or anti-rotation, whatever it may be, to try to create the variation in their program. But certainly big accessory lower body for injury and try to cover off as much as you can, whether it’s some isometrics, isotonics.
Again, the research is there and there’s research for and against. But from a practical point of view, is it going to affect them? Is it going to affect the program? Have I got the time to put it in? Okay, I’ll put it in and see. And that’s the beauty with S&C, you can get caught up with this person agrees, this person disagrees. Put it in, have a look. Does it affect the athlete? No. What’s your injury rate? Be forensic about what’s going on in your program. And it may not work, but at least you had a try. Put it in there and you can pivot and move to the next thing.
Core point of view. A lot of antirotation, more bracing. So, ability to be able to absorb contact, not being pushed out of position. That’s probably the main element of the core side of it. But then you do some flex extension as well. I mix it up. Like you do create the variation, but I certainly don’t create variation for variation sake. I try to keep basic, really basic within the Academy. But I’m not going to hold the kid back, if they have a strong force profile. I’ll certainly work on the power side and the velocity side with them more if they’ve developed that. So, they will get that variation.
And I think if you can set developing that young enough, 15, 16, by the time they’re 17, 18, you can provide that variation in the program. And essentially for me, it’s like the first year senior program. If I’ve developed them through their 15, 16, 17 years, by the time they’re in their 18 or draft year 19, their program looks a lot more like the first year players. Reps might be a little bit higher or might be still a bit more cautious on the load of the lifting, depending on the athlete, but certainly comparing to what the first or second year athletes can do.
They usually lift in pretty similar weight, if not more at times. Just because they’ve had that time to develop it. So, keep it simple, but certainly if you see avenues to develop different qualities, when it’s a movement-based, power or velocity, or even strength, if it has to be, put it in there as well. Everyone’s program certainly doesn’t have to be the same.
Jack: Thanks, mate. Thanks for sharing in such great detail and giving us a good insight on your philosophy. What about power development? You mentioned Olympic lifting, you mentioned that you do it with younger athletes. Once they’ve earned their right, they’re doing power work, they’re doing speed work as well. Are there certain scores that you’d like to see or movement competency that you’d like to see before they start doing a clean? Or is it more just case by case on how they look and their technique and how strong they are? How objective are your decision makings to progress? And how much is it subjective or age based?
Stephen: It’s definitely age based. Like it won’t be till they’re at that last year. Now, warmups, we will try in progressions, regressions of a lift. We’ll throw elements in, it can be a lift off.
Jack: Skill development.
Stephen: Yeah. I use it as skill development. I’m not turning them into Olympic lifters and I know people are for and against it as well. Sometimes if they have earned the right, as you said, they’re strong, definitely it’s got a strength element to it from me, competency elements of if they’re front squatting at a reasonable weight. But I suppose from a practical point of view and quality within the program, load of jumps. That would be the one where I’d love to get a good transfer. But then the Olympic lift is more of a skill development, a bit of an air and the right. Let’s get some variation in your program. From 17–18 years put them in as part of the warmup.
Jack: So, they’re ready, when they’re going into the Sydney Swans program. You’ve taught them the competency, basically, but you’re not loading them up. Like you mentioned, like in a squat jumps you focus on velocity.
Stephen: And not all the coaches would do it anyway within the senior programs. And so, a lot of time I do try and align my program here, so when they go into the senior program, that can be challenging when you get a change of S&C and they’ve got the new philosophy. But generally, the power profile or the force profile’s tracking in the positive direction, anyway.
So, I’m certainly not obsessed about, I need to get these perfect Olympic lifters. It’s usually a small cohort within the group that are competent because they have the strength base to do it. And it does take a fair bit of teaching. But they’ll have plyometrics in the program, they’ll have loaded jumps, just for a simpler lift to be able to create that velocity.
And beauty here, we have the gym awareness as well, so we can give them that feedback, so they can have a look at their profile. We’re lucky off here to be able to give them that feedback as they go.
Jack: Awesome, mate. I’m mindful of time. So, we’ll move into the last couple of questions. Over your career to date, what has been a major challenge that you’ve overcome and what did you learn from it?
Stephen: I suppose the COVID was probably the big one.
Jack: Yeah. It’s a popular choice. That was the curve ball.
Stephen: Yeah. So, in one sense, it was kind of like: okay, being the generalist, I was the far guy. But also now having the position I’m in, the role I’m in, as I said, it’s probably helped me, because I know what needs to be done in programs and the areas that may need to be covered. So, certainly being good at something is helpful.
But having an understanding, like realistically, when you become a head of performance within whatever program it is, it’s probably your relationship thing. That’s where I see Rob Spurrs, Rob is very strong the way they run programs. You may not be doing prescription, or you may not be coaching as much hands-on. You’re dealing with a program, you’re dealing with the skill side, you’re dealing with the player’s side of it.
The skills coaches, the players, the other elements to the program. Players need to go and do whatever media. You’re trying to juggle everything. So, your ability to build relationships that way, but still understand why. Okay, why is the strength coach doing that? Why are we doing that on? Why these other elements happen?
So, COVID was probably the biggest one. I had a pretty decent trajectory along the way. And then that came in. And then I got the full-time Academy role. I was very happy with that, because I felt like I could actually put my time into this. I could concentrate and focus on doing that program. It was a challenge, but then you can get a bit comfortable as well, I suppose.
I’m very lucky. Like 10 years is not normal for being in a team. There’s plenty of people that could do my job out there that aren’t doing it. I’ve just been lucky enough in that sense. And then that probably was, ‘Okay, what do I need to do? Where do I need to pivot? Am I doing enough for my own career? Is there anything else I need to do?’ So, in one sense it was a negative, but then it certainly turns into a positive.
Jack: And what about on the flip side? What’s a positive highlight that you look back on fondly?
Stephen: I suppose working in the development space is having the draftees come true. That probably gives me the most. Like we’ve had some really good draftees come through the program here. When they give you a text or a phone call on draft night and say, ‘Thanks for your efforts.’ I’m not looking for it, but it’s certainly seeing them fulfill that, putting their effort in, that’s great.
I’ve worked with some high level senior players in the Swans program for the last 10 years, but the players getting drafted from the Academy is probably the biggest kick I get out of working in it, for sure. It’s like you’ve had a small little impact, you’ve helped them a little bit along the way, and you’ve seen them bear the fruit. And then, hopefully, they’re able to kick on for themselves.
A couple of grand finals, since I’ve been here. We’ve lost them, lost them all. I came in after the back end, when they were Swan’s 1:1. But again, great experience just being around footy clubs when they’re being involved in that. Definitely the pathways and players fulfilling their dream, getting drafted, probably has been the biggest.
Jack: Super successful club and great systems in place, and you’ve been involved in all senior men’s development and senior women’s with the new role that you’re in. We’ve spent a fair bit of time on development. You’re now working with female athletes. For the female athletes listening in, or parents of female athletes, or coaches with female athletes, you mentioned the importance of quad development for preventing knee injuries. What are some other things that are key pillars of your focus from athlete development point of view?
Stephen: Yeah, it’s definitely different profile in the female space. Certainly a lot of the training problem would be similar and be crossover. I suppose the big thing that tends to hit the media now and then about the women is, obviously, injuries and knees and so on.
But the way I look at it is I’ve got a four-year-old and she does gymnastics. My eight-year-old boy couldn’t do what she does in gymnastics. When I watch the women out in the field, they don’t move quite the same as the men do. It is different. And I’m not sure if that could be, but they take up the game a bit later. It’s very multifactorial.
So, certainly having an understanding about the game and how it looks and how they move. And then you’re still developing speed and power and change of direction. My big rocks in the men’s program is speed and acceleration. Whereas in women’s program, I work a bit more on pivoting and change of direction and adding that element to it. Certainly, increasing their power and force profile.
From my experience of just even doing plyos and power-based exercises, it obviously doesn’t look the same as the men do. And that doesn’t have to look the same. But if it’s an area, where it’s rate of force development, there’s some area that you can work on. Just because they may not have had the gym experience. Like I have worked in the Academy, the female program, the last two years and the 16–17-year girls, they don’t have the gym exposure. They’re not doing it. They’re not creating that physical profile at a younger age.
So, you’re having to play catch-up to a degree. But it’s good. Like it’s what we do. We look at areas, how can we improve different areas in the program? So, that’s probably the biggest one. I’ll keep it pretty simple. Okay, I need to improve the force profile, the ability to increase the muscle contraction, more muscle fibers, whatever it may be. And then I can start looking at power and velocity and increasing that area too.
But certainly in the female athlete space, it’s very enjoyable. They do ask why a lot. Why are we doing this? What’s this? How does this help? From a practitioner’s point of view, it’s good, because it keeps you on your toes as well. And it means you need to know your stuff and have an understanding about why you’re implementing or prescribing.
But I guess it’s again looking at needs and what’s the training history, playing history to a degree, what’s the demands. Different demands, different games, 16 aside, 18–19 minute quarters. Okay. Physically, from a running capacity, what they got to do. And then from an actual physical development point of view, where do you see them? Like you can’t look at, say, male and female, and go, ‘Okay. The boy’s game’s like this. So, I need to get the female.’ It’s different. It’s a different game in that regard.
So, from a physical point of view, probably track similar, but there’s different areas you might look at from an injury point of view. Obviously, they tend to get different injuries than men to a degree, but they’re difficult. It’s not an easy, simple thing to go. Programs need to be better. Programs are very good. I’ve talked to guys in the AFLW programs, the high level practitioners, it’s a different athlete. You’re dealing with a multifactorial elements, different things, it is difficult to manage.
Jack: It takes time.
Stephen: It takes time. It’s an understanding about it. You’re going to cut the injuries. You’ve got this soft tissues probably in the male program more, just because of the speed of the game, the velocities. Whereas in the women’s you’re probably getting more joint injuries, bone injuries. So, how can you limit them? You’re never going to get rid of them. But what can you do to limit them? And let’s be honest, from everyone I’ve talked to, we’re all trying. Everyone’s trying.
Jack: And we talked about some details, some strength areas for athletes to follow and the importance of the developing the front squad early on from a technique point of view, and to transfer to other lifts, and trap bar deadlift for force development. What about for rate of force development? For the girls listening in and boys, but they want to work on that thing and start a bit younger. What are some of your favorite drills to start feeding in when the athlete’s ready?
Stephen: I like them to do even what we’d see as a force lift fast. Like central components extension. I like to see them fast, I just think it is key. Most of your key movements are velocity or speed-based on field. Some of it is aerobic, endurance in those sports that go for longer, your ability to tolerate. But certainly your ability to repeat speed in a game is important and key, because they’re generally when the key moments arrive.
So, doing those lifts at speed. Sometimes it’s going to have to be loaded and heavy to get the strength profile. But where you can get windows, even the trap bar, doing your trap bar jump. Just deloading and getting the velocity element to it. Your squat jump. Or you can do movements and loading them as well. They’re obviously simpler to do. We can put a gym wear on it, give them that feedback. Quite quick, quite easy. I do like to give them as much feedback as I can, breed competition as well, which is always a good thing.
Also, I’ll have the velocity-based lifts and then I’ll work around with plyometric as well. Just trying to work on the spring, particularly the lower body as well. And as you know, it can be challenging in footy because of tendon issues and calf and injuries and so on. So, you’ve just got to be conscious of that as well. But I generally go hand-in-hand with the plyos. So, working on the spring and working on the velocity.
And what I’ve found is just educating on, ‘Okay, you’re doing this movement for velocity. You’re not doing it for force.’ I find particularly young athletes just want to keep loading weight on, weight on, weigh on. They think that’s okay, now we need to do this. Okay, your Olympic lifts are obviously high load. You’re trying to lift quick. So, you’re trying to get the velocity element, but you know you’re resisted by your load. But sometimes you do a lift. I want to see the velocity side of it, not the force side of it.
So, have an understanding about it. Have your exercises where you’re chasing the velocity, have your exercises where you’re chasing the force. And then plyometrics, I think, are good, they compliment the program. They’d give you a bit of variety there as well. So, there’s a lot of plyometrics, a lot of simple ones out there. Grab a skip and rope. Go and grab a skip and rope, start from there.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Well, we’re at the last part of the podcast. The get-to-know-Steve stage. So, just a couple of somewhat personal questions. First one is, which movie or TV series, can be a book as well, has impacted you the most and why?
Stephen: Don’t watch much TV, to be honest, mate. Too much going on. Geez, nothing’s really impacted me in that regard. Not career wise, anyway. I tend to like to switch off, so I’ll read. Rather than reading textbooks I read a lot of journals, to be honest with you. I like to chase the primary size, so I’m a bit of a nerd in that regard. I just switch off and watch something totally different, from a movie point of view. So, it’s more probably cultural. I’ll show my age, back in the days, like ‘Train spot’ in Ireland. All cultural type movies back in the 90s and 2000s. So, nothing related to footy or sport, really.
Jack: And what about in your work life, what are your pet peeves? What makes you angry?
Stephen: I love working in S&C. I’ve been lucky enough to work in some great environments and reach out and touch base with a lot of great practitioners. I do probably don’t like the ego in the industry, to be honest. I don’t like the way it seems to be like you can’t be wrong. You need to be seen as knowing everything. Like I certainly don’t know everything. I certainly make mistakes. I certainly ask everyone in the room their opinion. Sometimes I have to make the final say, whatever it may be, depending on where you’re in the program. But probably that element, I think we could certainly be better at that.
And I think it is getting better. I think we are reaching out and being a bit better. But I think it is the understanding that you’re never going to know everything. Your program’s good. It’s probably the same as the next person’s, with some slight variations. You could probably do things better. But probably as an industry we could probably be a little bit better in that regard.
So, that’s probably part the ego a little bit. And let’s just help each other, because I know it’s tied for jobs and everyone wants to get in there, but probably not by tearing someone down. Because, ultimately, I’ve been exposed to some really great programs with some really great people and it’s not what they’re chasing from a character point of view. So, let’s just get around each other, I think.
Jack: That’s a good one. What about your favorite way to spend your day off?
Stephen: Day off? Get on the bike, go for a long ride. Go for a fish as well if I can. Get out and go for a fish. If I get a bit of time and the kayak, I suppose is probably do three. If I can get out and get outside and do something, certainly something active, anyway.
Jack: Awesome. Thanks, mate. And final question. What are you excited for the rest of 2022? Sounds like you’ve got a pretty exciting campaign ahead of you.
Stephen: I’m very excited about this new program. It’s a lot to learn. But even just moving into that female athlete space, I’m very excited. I think as well, one thing I would say is, definitely look for challenges in your career as you go along. You’re going to get knocked, you’re going to get setbacks. You may be lucky enough to get into professional team, you’ll get knocked out of it.
I think we’re probably good in this industry. We’re not taking it personally. We move on and we go again. Because, ultimately, everyone has a high level skill base. We may just need to work on, depending on how your relationships go, your ability to do that. And then, whatever it may be, you need to then get in and take the setback as an opportunity. What we’re doing? What can we do better?
But yeah, I’m really excited about working in the female space and the new program. So, we’ll see how girls will be a challenge, I imagine. A new team, but an exciting challenge.
Jack: They’re lucky to have you, mate. They’re in good hands and, no doubt, you guys will have a successful year for 2023. When is it starting, actually?
Jack: August? It’s not far away. 2022.
Stephen: 10 weeks.
Jack: Awesome. Well, thank you for everyone that’s tuned in as well live. If you tuned in halfway through or three quarters through, highly recommend listening to the start. Steve’s dropped gems for developing practitioners, as well as developing athletes, even parents will get something out of this podcast, so you can listen. It’s on our YouTube channel. And then for those that like to listen to the audio, the podcast will be released next Tuesday.
Our next ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ life chat show will be with Danny Kennedy, the founder of DK Fitness, at 4:00 PM on July, 1st. I’ll see you guys then.
Thanks again so much, Steve. Really appreciate you coming on and sharing your journey with us.
Considered to be one of the more naturally-talented footballers in the 2022 AFL draft, Harry Sheezel is a name that will be well-known to most footy fans by the end of the season. The 18-year-old from Melbourne has already shown he has what it takes to compete at the top level, having been named in the 2022 NAB AFL Academy – Australia U18 Team that took on Collingwood’s VFL team last month.
Sheezel is a powerful and athletic midfielder who is capable of playing both inside and outside. He has good speed and agility and is known for his hard work and determination. Sheezel is also a very good kick, which will no doubt be a valuable asset at the next level.
Sheezel is expected to be one of the first players—a surefire 10 draft pick—taken in the 2022 AFL draft, and he will no doubt be a big part of whatever team he ends up playing for. It will be exciting to see what he can do at the highest level, and footy fans should keep an eye on this young star in the making.
He is a full-time member of the Sandringham Dragons, and has made the most of his opportunity this season. Sheezel has set his claim as a rotating midfielder and has significant upside as a player who can win matches with his own boot after scoring 14 goals in six games, including bags of four and six goals.
Sheezel’s goal-kicking ability is well-known at this point, as seen by the aforementioned NAB League statistics. The deft medium type was also a standout in his lone Vic Metro appearance against the Young Guns, where he was thrust into the AFL Academy’s midfield late in the game on a day when his team’s forwards struggled. If his 28 disposals and six goals against Tasmania were a breakthrough game, his 37 touches against Northern in Round 9 served as the ideal audition for a permanent midfielder spot.
An Inspiration to the Jewish Community
Sheezel was only 16 when he experienced playing at the senior level, suiting up for his club Ajax in Victoria’s amateurs’ tournament last year. He earned the right, having emerged from the juniors program as the clear-cut best and brightest. During his debut, he kicked four goals from full-forward against Fitzroy at Brunswick Street Oval, including one goal that he described as “pretty good”.
“I had a bit of a day out,” Sheezel said in an article on AFL.com.au. “Playing juniors with Ajax was massive my whole life and it was so much fun to play with people from the community in the senior side as well.”
It was also during that time when Sheezel began feeling an immense outpouring of support for his football journey from the Jewish community. It also helped a great deal that Ajax is based in Melbourne’s inner south-eastern suburbs and is the country’s only Jewish football club.
With Jewish representation in the AFL historically low, Sheezel figures to be a role model for aspiring Jewish footballers not just in Melbourne, but also around the country. He is an AFL player of the future that the community can rally behind and one that could potentially inspire the next generation of Jewish footballers. To date, only Todd Goldstein (North Melbourne), Ezra Poyas (Richmond and Melbourne), and Julian Kirzner (Essendon, Carlton, and North Melbourne) have made it to the big stage of the AFL.
“There haven’t been as many Jewish footballers lately to make it into the AFL, so it’s kind of special to hopefully be the first one [drafted] in a while. Everyone has been so supportive and living it with me, in a sense,” Sheezel said.
“I hope to be pretty inspiring for younger kids as well because I feel like the Jewish community is really into the sport as well, they love their footy, so hopefully I can inspire a few more kids to hopefully go down the same path.
“Along the way you see how much it means to people in the community. I never really thought of it until I’ve started to be in the media a little bit more and everyone is all over it now. It’s pretty cool. And at school it’s kind of new for them, they don’t really know how to act and neither do I so I just embrace it.”
Shezeel currently attends Mount Scopus—one of Australia’s foremost Jewish schools. It was there where he really got to learn more about his culture and faith, something that he is extremely proud of. Being at Mount Scopus has also given Sheezel the opportunity to focus on playing for the Dragons in the NAB League.
Sheezel has already shown that he is more than capable of shouldering the responsibility that comes with being a potential AFL footballer and an inspiration to the Jewish community. With his undeniable talent and character, there is no doubt that Harry Sheezel has what it takes to be a successful AFL player. All that’s left now is for him to take that next step and fulfill his dream.
“There’s still a long way to go and a lot of important games to be played. I don’t want to look too far ahead and just focus on each game and each month at a time, because the last two years have shown us that you just have to be present and do the best you can when you play because the next week and the future aren’t guaranteed,” Sheezel said.
“But I think about the draft every second. My life is oriented around it and footy. Everything I do I try to better myself to put myself in the best position I can.”
Sheezel is also one of the ambassadors of Prepare Like A Pro, an organization that helps young footballers with difficulties improve their athleticism, by teaching them sustainable lifestyle tips with a personalized program.
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean and tonight my guest is Simon Ata. He’s the founder of Simoster Strength, a calisthenics expert and physio therapist.
Simoster is a world leader in bodyweight training. Starting gymnastics at an early age, he became passionate about mastering control of the body and immersed himself in the world of bodyweight strength training. Expanding his skillset with training in martial arts, circus, and breakdance, his movements and teachings reflect a mixture of knowledge from each of these disciplines.
Really looking forward to this episode. For those new to the show, 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. If you liked the show, please show support by finding us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We are on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.
Welcome, Simon. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Simon: Thanks for having me.
Jack: Let’s dive straight into the beginning of your career as a strength coach and a calisthenics expert. At what age did you recognize that you wanted to help people with their fitness goals?
Simon: I think that’s something that developed quite late. I’ve always been passionate about calisthenics and kind of the high-level motor control exercises you see in circus, breakdancing, gymnastics. And then as I got older, I thought I wanted to be a physio. And I still am a physio, but now I predominantly work with performance. And rather than injury prevention it’s mostly about people getting the most out of their calisthenics training or strength training.
Jack: Awesome. And what about yourself? In the bio, the intro is gymnastics or something. You started at a young age. What did a typical week look like? And what age did you start gymnastics?
Simon: I started gymnastics really young. My parents got me into gymnastics probably when I was seven or eight. I had an injury there. I ran into some parallel bars and I split my open and I quit for a few years. And they got me back into that when I was a little bit older, about 11 or 12, I think. And I always liked gymnastics. I liked the gymnastics skills, but I didn’t really like how structured it was and how rigid the syllabus was.
They also taught breakdancing at the same room I did gymnastics at. And I went along to a breakdancing class and I much preferred that. I liked a lot of those skills and I liked the freedom you had with breakdancing. To me, it’s ultimately gymnastics, but you can take it whichever direction you want to. It’s just floor gymnastics, but you can do whatever you want.
So, that’s where I made the switch and always did calisthenics to help with my breakdancing performance.
Jack: Interesting. So, the calisthenics was accessory work for you and your goal was breakdancing. For those new to the gymnastics, calisthenics and breakdancing world, what would a typical day’s training involve? Is that a lot of volume? Is that long duration or is it an AM session and a PM session? Take us through a typical day.
Simon: As a junior gymnast, you probably do a few sessions a week, maybe two or three sessions a week, maybe two hours. An elite gymnast train a lot more, all the way up to a full-time training schedule. But as a junior gymnast, you generally do it two hours. You do a warmup, you do some skill-specific work on each apparatus, and then you do your last 30 minutes as a kind of strength and conditioning circuit.
With breakdancing, it was just one breakdancing lesson a week, where you’d learn technique and skills. Then you’d be on your own, to do the rest of your training on your own. So, what I would do is, as I found that I wanted to do that more and more, I would see other classes and just try and get a lift with people when I could or catch a train out to Prahran, to go to a few classes throughout the week.
So, once I made the switch to breakdancing, it was generally about two or three breakdancing lessons a week. And then I would just train at home in my room for about an hour of really skill-specific work.
Jack: Right. And is that stuff that you were asking friends? Was there a coach? Did you have some influences or were you self-practicing different drills at home practice?
Simon: There was a little bit of coaching, but a lot of it was self-directed. Because you’d have one lesson a week where you’d have a coach who would teach you something and then you’d practice those drills at home.
Breakdancing is fairly new, though, and there’s always new developments with it, new skills being invented in it. Once you’ve been doing it for a few years, you’re often working on things that the coaches haven’t done or can’t do, or aren’t sure about. So, you and your friends just try and work it out together and break down a skill and think about how you progressed towards that.
Jack: And you mentioned in your journey into the industry physiotherapy was an area of education that you undertook. Was that because you had an injury yourself? Or were there clients that you were thinking at that time to potentially open up a clinic? Take us through the thought process for physiotherapy.
Simon: My first exposure to physio was when I was probably 13 or so. I injured my wrist. So, I was doing a lot of breakdancing, a lot of handstands. I got a sore wrist and I saw a physiotherapist. And my mom’s a GP, so she’s a doctor. She recommended I see a physio.
And I was really impressed. I thought he had a really thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology and managing injuries. I thought that would be a really fun career. I didn’t really have any idea of what I wanted to do at that age. And I also thought, a bit of a selfish reason, but I also thought that’d be really good knowledge to have with what I love to do, with breakdancing and with calisthenics training. And that’s what took me there. I didn’t really have a goal to open a clinic or anything like that in mind.
And then, once I got into the industry, started working as physio a lot of it isn’t that kind of work. Even if you work in musculoskeletal physiotherapy in a private practice, a lot of what you see is not athletes trying to return to high-level function. It’s more the general public, trying to be able to have a day without pain. And it’s not as much of an exact science, as a naïve 13-year-old Simon thought it was.
Jack: Yeah. You got to try these things out. I think that a large part of people listening to the podcast is exploring different things through this journey. And it’s probably one element of the fitness, these findings that we can all learn off each other in different domains. And you mentioned trying calisthenics, gymnastics and how that’s evolved into your philosophy, which we’ll talk about in a second, but is physiotherapy part of that, or the injury prevention side of things part of your programming?
Simon: I think rather than thinking of them as separate disciplines, I think there’s a lot of overlap. Physiotherapy and strength & conditioning, especially at the low level, when it comes to rehabilitation.
But the physio is something that I’m really happy that I learned. I think it’s helped a lot with my training, a lot with my understanding, a lot with being able to pick apart BS on the internet about this is how you need to do something, don’t do this because you’ll get injured. Having that understanding of anatomy, physiology helps a lot to decipher what’s the substance and what’s just a gimmick.
Jack: Yeah. Have a good filter. That’s a pretty important thing for a coach.
And exploring, you mentioned, the fun element and being able to learn new movements and break down skills. If you try to get your first chin-up or any goal, pushups, dips of the basic level of body weight calisthenics before progressing the skills of development, how important is it to develop strength for, let’s just say, using dumbbells and barbell and how important is it to put time into learning balance and coordination and the skill, sort of the motor learning component of it?
Simon: I think that there’s not really a one-size-fits-all answer and it’s really dependent on the skill you’re trying to pursue.
I think most of the skills you mentioned, I’d consider them to have a really low technical component. I know a lot of people mentioned that squats are really technical exercise and in the world of powerlifting and lifting weights it’s fairly technical, compared to something like a leg extension. But if you’ve tried skateboarding, handbalancing, breakdancing, gymnastics, it pales in comparison to something like trying to balance on one hand or trying to spin on your head or trying to coordinate a back flip with a twist in it.
And I think when it comes to the really highly technical skills, you really need to address the motor learning component. But when it comes to something like a chin-up or a pushup, as it’s quite a simple motor pattern, I think some specific work is important, but it often does come down to just being able to generate raw force output. And a lot of that you can achieve with really basic exercises. You can often unlock your chin-up with just building strength through things like lat pull-downs, pushups with any kind of general upper limb strengthening work should help you get there.
Jack: And let’s talk about the business side for a second. Simonster was a brand that, like my partner being in the yoga world and then myself, at the time I was CrossFitting, put those two words together and were aware of the work you would do in that space, calisthenics. And that would have been about five or six years ago. At what point of your career did you find out about the power of the online world, social media, YouTube, and start putting yourself out there? How did that come about?
Simon: I started putting myself out there online fairly early, once I had a camera and was uploading things. I would often get inspiration from breakdancers and power movers, seeing what they could do on the internet, before YouTube was even around. So, when I could afford one, I bought a camera and started just filming my training and uploading some stuff. And there were a few breakdancing websites where you could see things from other people around the world and get ideas and get inspired. And that’s how it started. But I don’t think I really understood the power of it until quite recently, and especially through COVID, when the world just went online.
Jack: That’s interesting. So, it was more from your own training development was the focus. Sharing videos was part of that community in breakdancing.
Simon: Yeah. When I was younger, my main interest was just trying to push the limits with what I could do and in the world of breakdancing, tricking bodyweight movement basically. Trying to see what I could do on one hand, how many times I could spin on my head, could I do a flip with a twist in it into another skill, all of those sorts of things.
And as I’ve gotten a little bit older, my focus has shifted a lot more to teaching. And I think part of that is that breakdancing is very much a young man’s sport. It’s very hard to do things like headspins indefinitely. But still very much enjoy training. So, my training shifted from the more explosive things and the things that are a lot more stressful on your joints to more traditional strength training, but in the form of bodyweight exercises. Because I’ve always really liked the skill component of bodyweight exercises.
And then another thing I’ve always enjoyed is teaching and breaking things down and trying to have a really deep understanding of the things I do. So, now that’s predominantly what I do is apply strength science to bodyweight training or calisthenics.
Jack: That’s a good segue for the coaches listening in. But you mentioned that the motor learning, the complexity of these drills is higher from a movement competency point of view, compared to the basic movement patterns that we typically do, like squats, pushups, grip pinch and pulling. Because of that what cues do you use with when you’re giving feedback for some of these movements? Is it more external cues? Is it a feel thing? Is it a video analysis? What’s your favorite way to give feedback when you’re trying to progress an athlete that you’re working with?
Simon: As the goal of what I do tends to be performance, I generally don’t like internal cues. I think there’s a time and a place for them, but when it comes to performance, I think there’s a lot of evidence that external cues lead to better performance and also a lot of evidence that that can lead to better strength outcomes.
And I’ve found that when people dwell on internal cues, it might work really well for one person, but I don’t think it’s really generalizable. And I think part of the reason for that is everybody understands things in a slightly different way. Everyone feels things in a slightly different way. And you can’t say, ‘In your deadlift, you should be feeling your posterior chain activating.’ And I would say, in your deadlift, if you’re picking the weight up and standing up and fulfilling the requirements of a deadlift, it doesn’t matter if you feel things activating or not. As long as you’re making making progress.
So, generally, I like to keep things really simple, focus on external cues, focus on concrete outcomes. I do really like video analysis and video feedback, especially for calisthenics. A lot of the things are really technical. And when people are trying to refine their technique or their alignment, it’s really good to just elucidate points and say, ‘If we pause this video here, we can draw some lines on it. And you can see where or when your center of mass is falling outside your base of support, where you’re losing balance, and break down why certain things are happening.’
Jack: That’s great. And if there’s any listeners in that are either trying to get their first chin-up or trying to develop that maximum force production, like you mentioned, does it change for the simple cues of simple tasks or does the process stay very similar?
Simon: The way I generally break down all skills, just to give a general principle, is I think every single skill or every single exercise requires some level of skill, a technique or motor control, just to define what I’m talking about there, and some level of force output.
So, something as simple as reaching for a glass and picking it up requires a level of skill and competency to be accurate with that and move your hand in the right direction, grip the glass and lift it up. And then some level of force output. And we generally don’t even think of that, because it’s such a small level of force output and requires such little skill. Everyone can already do that, unless you look at a toddler or you look at a stroke patient.
And what I like to do is then break down the strength or the force output and the motor learning requirements, and think about what do I need to focus on. So, often with a pushup, it really is a matter of raw force output. And just to make the point with something even simpler than a pushup, something like an isolated bicep leg extension that really is just a function of force output.
Almost everyone can coordinate straightening their knee and raw force output will just basically come down to how much muscle mass you have in your quads. So, the way to improve that is just build more muscle. You could do a bit of specific high-intensity work, but generally that’ll scale really well with muscle mass. So, I think muscle mass is your ability to produce raw force. And then it’s the motor learning component that allows you to put that force into more complex movement patterns, or motor patterns.
So, something like a pushup, relatively easy, people should do pretty well with some pushup regressions and just building some extra muscle in the pecs, shoulders and triceps. Something like a handstand pushup becomes a little bit more challenging. You can have somebody, who can overhead press their body weight or close to their body weight. They’ve clearly got the the force output to do so, but they can’t balance a handstand. So, where do you go there? And that’s when you would have a lot more work on just balancing a handstand.
Then you have these people in the middle who can balance a handstand. They can do a handstand pushup against a wall, but they can’t do a freestanding handstand pushup. And in that case, they’ve got the force output requirements, they can do it against a wall; they’ve got the balance to do a handstand. But it’s really this specific motor learning and lots of really high-level specific practice of that skill of the handstand pushup. I know that’s too specific to your question.
Jack: No, that’s great. You can see you’re a coach. The different clients that are probably popping up and how you pull it all together, and progress someone. How do people typically work with you currently in the business? Is it group coaching? Is it face-to-face? Is it online?
Simon: Most of what I do now is put programs out into the world. I do a few workshops and I coach a few clients, but not very many. And most of is remote, people in other countries, it’s basically all online with video review and Zoom calls and that sort of thing.
Jack: And who would be the typical client? Is it those folks on calisthenics? Is it gymnasts that are wanting to explore outside of gymnastics?
Simon: It’s generally people focused on calisthenics, from all levels. I get a few people that say, ‘I’ve been working for a long time, trying to unlock the chin-up. I’m getting some conflicting information online.’ And other people who really want to hone in on a skill like the planche pushup, things like that.
Jack: And in your experience over the last, how long have you been in the industry for now, would you say, in calisthenics?
Simon: I would say a long time, 10–15 years, but probably 5 years coaching continually.
Jack: Had it a huge spike with home practice, because of lockdowns and COVID? Has that increased the awareness?
Simon: Oh, sorry, with the online thing. With the online thing, I’ve probably been in five years or so. And yeah, there’s a huge spike during COVID.
Jack: Okay. And then now that things are going back to normal and gyms are open, is it that people continue their practice? Or are they getting hooked into the sport and the methodology?
Simon: If anything, I’ve seen the opposite. I’ve seen a lot of people who move to calisthenics purely because they didn’t have access to a gym, especially here in Oz, where you had these really strict lockdowns. A lot of people were trying to just maintain muscle with calisthenics, but I think a lot of those people also enjoyed going to the gym. If I wanted to build muscle and didn’t love calisthenics, I’d probably go with the weights option. That’s easier. It’s easier to scale. It’s easier to target specific muscles.
So, I think a lot of people made the switch as they were forced to, just to have a way of doing resistance training from home. And now that they have access to a gym again, they’re going with the option they prefer more. That being said, there’s a few people who fell in love with it, and they’re now doing a lot more calisthenics.
Jack: And in this context would be massive with any of these type of questions, but you mentioned planche and developing some of these more complex skills. How long does it take? Talk us through maybe your top three movements that you get requested outside of the basic ones of chin-up and pushup, but more on the complex skills. How long does it typically take someone who’s pretty dedicated to give it everything they’ve got and they follow your program? How long does it take to learn some of these skills?
Simon: It depends on the skill. I think something like the muscle-up is relatively easy. If you can do a chin-up and dip or a few chin-ups and dips through a good range of motion, you can probably unlock the muscle up in a matter of a month or two months, for most people. Something like the planche, that’s a really long road and a lot of people who even trained for the planche never achieve a full planche.
I think a good analogy for the planche is probably like how long will it take me to squat 200 kilos. And for some people, they’re a little bit more anatomically designed to be able to squat more. They’re bigger, they’re heavier. They can squat more. You see parallels with calisthenics, like someone who’s 7′ is probably never going to hold a full planche. Whereas the smaller guys will get a lot quicker. Some people will work towards it a lot over the course of years and get close and hold the straddle planche, but never unlock the full planche.
But just for a ballpark figure, I generally say if you’re coming from a good foundation of bodyweight strength, like 10 to 15 chin-ups, 15 to 20 dips, the planche is probably something like two years away. The front lever probably a year to 18 months away. And the muscle up you can unlock really quickly.
Jack: Thanks for sharing. And you mentioned five years ago is when you made that shift to online and then started doing online programming. For those that are thinking about developing an online coaching business, maybe they’re doing personal training full time, or they’re doing group training, but everything’s face-to-face, and they lost all the work during lockdowns and they don’t want to experience that again. Or maybe they just want a more resilient business model. What were some of your early challenges and how did you overcome them when you shifted to more online?
Simon: I’ve actually been really fortunate and I’m probably not the best person to ask that question to, because I wasn’t forced to make that shift. The way that came about for me, was I had a full-time gig performing, I really enjoyed teaching, breaking skills down and I was creating a lot of tutorials, just as a hobby. And then in response to that, I had some people reach out about coaching and how can I learn this skill. And there is also a pretty small pool of coaches that specialize in calisthenics. So, I was very fortunate in that regard. Unfortunately, I don’t have any right advice.
Jack: I think that’s good advice. Like success leaves clues. And tutorials is a valuable thing that you were giving away. Like you mentioned, it was a hobby project, but people were obviously getting something from it and then wanting more and seeking your services. So, is that something that was pretty instant once you started the tutorials or did you have free content for awhile?
Simon: I gave away free content for a while and it’s something that built. But then again, the goal wasn’t really to get clients. I just really enjoy doing it. I liked trying to explain how to learn skills in a simple and concise manner.
And I thought it’s a gap in the fitness industry. So, if I wanted to learn about how to improve my bench press, there’s endless resources online. And a lot of great people, even a lot of research around that area. But if I want to learn how to planche, no one. It’s like the blind leading the blind, or five years ago, 10 years ago it was. You had a few resources, but I didn’t actually think they were great.
So, I created a guide about how to planche, some tutorials about how to planche. And the more I created, the more interest I got about coaching and one-to-one paid business in that area.
Jack: Awesome. And when working with your favorite client, what capabilities and talents do they have from a physical and mental side? Like when do you recognize from maybe your first consultation that you think you’re going to see some pretty special things from this person?
Simon: I’m never really sure on a first consultation, because people can say they’re really motivated and that they’ll train really hard. But generally if somebody reached out to me about coaching, paid for a service, they do commit. I’ve been lucky to have good clients, who’ve trained really hard. And generally, it’s hard to just see how far someone would go straightaway and what their potential is. But over the course of the next few months, you can get an idea of what they’ll achieve.
I’ve coached some people from just kicking up to a handstand to handstand pushups. A few of the guys are doing straddle planche pushups now. One of the guys in his forties is doing ring muscle-ups, band muscle-ups, holding a flag for 10 seconds. But you see a lot of variation. The same with strength. You can have someone who’s just extremely gifted, can just lift a lot. They get under a bar and no matter what they do there, they lift up. And you have other people have to work a lot harder for it.
Jack: And does lifestyle come in to it as well? If they’ve got a certain goal, do you say, ‘Well, you know, dropping five kilos is going to significantly help that goal’? Or is that something that doesn’t come up that often, usually people come to you and they’re already in pretty good shape?
Simon: They’re generally in pretty good shape. I haven’t had anyone that I’ve said, ‘You really should lose weight to achieve this goal.’ Not that I don’t think it’s important in certain circumstances. But generally it’s just been quite specific work. A lot of people have been in the fitness industry or coaching themselves and really just want to hone in on the calisthenic skills.
And that’s the way I like to coach is rather than saying, ‘Here’s your program. This is what you have to do,’ it comes down to, obviously, it comes down a lot to people’s preferences and a lot of it is talking about the why behind things. So, this is why we’re doing this exercise. This is why we’re doing this intensity, this volume, this order. And discussing concepts along the way. And I think that’s really useful because I think that the goal of coaching or part of the goal of coaching isn’t just to get someone stronger, it’s to empower them with the knowledge that they can get stronger indefinitely.
So, a lot of my coaching relationships are, I might coach somebody for say a year and then I’ll no longer coach them, but every now and then they’ll reach out with a question and say, ‘Hey, can you take a look at this? Here’s my progress since I spoke to you,’ or just send me a message and say, ‘Hey, just wanted to show you where my flag is now,’ that sort of thing. And that’s really nice to see.
Jack: Yeah. It’s amazing what we can do with video now. And you can pretty much, like you mentioned, you work with a lot of people all over the world. The fact that you can have the capacity to do that, it’s pretty awesome. For the business owners and coaches out there, do you use Excel? Is it Google Sheets or is there an app that you use? Take us through the programming side of things.
Simon: When I put a template or a general program out into the world, if I’m coaching somebody one-on-one, I generally will send them a questionnaire and do a Zoom consult, get a history, preferences, goals, those sorts of things. And then I generally write up a program with their input on Excel or Google Sheets and make amendments to that over a training block.
Jack: Cool. And then you would catch up with them on Zoom, is that a monthly thing or are they just booking as they go?
Simon: It depends. I think with calisthenics it’s a lot more useful to have more frequent feedback. So, I’ll often do video feedback weekly. But it’s very individual. It depends on the person. I think one issue with a lot of coaches is giving too much feedback. So, I try not to do that and just give feedback where necessary and just try to guide them in the right direction.
Jack: That’s an interesting point you make. Let’s dive into that a little bit. Where can that go wrong, if you’re giving too much feedback, from the client’s point of view, do you think?
Simon: I think you see this a lot. If you just take the handstand for an example, I think a lot of coaches make the mistake of giving feedback every rep. And the point I generally use to show that this isn’t helpful is I’ll just say to that coach, ‘Well, okay, just stand on one hand now.’ and they won’t be able to do it. And they might have all the answers and all the tips and they’ll know exactly what they’re doing wrong, but they can’t balance someone out.
And it just goes to show that no matter what you say, it’s not necessarily helping. So, for example, if I try and kick up and bounce on my left arm, I’m going to fall over. If I have a coach there saying, ‘Simon, you bent your elbow. Simon, you fell to your left. Simon, you did this.’ I’m like, ‘I know. I’m trying to balance. It’s not helping. I just need hours and hours of practice to refine these small, precise movements to be able to correct my balance.’
And it’s not to say that coaching isn’t helpful. I think it is extremely helpful. And a coach is really valuable to point somebody in the right direction. I just think that too much feedback is redundant, not helpful. And I think it often demeans how important repetition and high-quality practice is.
Jack: It’s such a great point that you make, both for the athletes listening, but also coaches. Because I’ve definitely fallen in that trap before. Especially if you’re booking a one-on-one and you know you’re not going to see this person for another week, you feel like you’ve got to give them the most amount of value and the most amount of help.
And like you said, exploring and self-learning is so important and taking ownership of your practice. But also athletes are going to have awareness themselves, they’re giving themselves feedback. So, if you’re adding more feedback on top of that, it can make it more complex, opposed to the simple philosophy. And you talk about trying to just keep it simple. And then there’s that, like you mentioned, you’re just steering the ship from time to time and keeping them on track and being a soundboard, but not overdoing it.
Simon: I think like capacity takes time to build as well. Like, if you look at my bench press technique, there’s nothing you can tell me that’s going to make me bench press 200 kilos. Or 150 kilos, something that’s achievable. But it would take a long time to get there. And a lot of that is just coming down to consistent hard work.
And another thing I’ll add to that is that what I’ve found is that I tend to give relatively little feedback to other coaches, because I think there’s a lot of value in just building capacity. So, if you see something like an arched back in the handstand pushup, I think a lot of that is just due to weakness. Somebody can’t push out in the hand. The thing of the planche or the 90-degree push-ups, you’re moving down to horizontal, just to make the point a little bit clearer.
So, if somebody’s arching their back in the 90-degree pushup and says, ‘Simon, I can’t not arch my back.’ If they’ve only got one rep, a lot of that just comes down to building capacity. It’s likely that they’re arching their back because they don’t have the strength to do it with a straight back, because that lengthens the lever arm of the body and demands more force from the shoulders.
So, you can assess them and see what their motor control of their trunk’s like and whether they can maintain straight body alignment with easier skills, with band assistance, that sort of thing. But quite often, it’s just like, ‘Okay, well, let’s get you to three reps and then reevaluate.’ And if you’re going to do three reps with an arched back, you can probably do one with a straight body, assuming that you have the motor control to maintain straight body alignment.
And I think a lot of the time coaches will chime in too soon and often make errors, like, ‘We need to work on your core.’ And it’s like, ‘No, we just need to build shoulder capacity. And when you’re stronger, you’ll be able to do it with a straight back.’
Jack: So, you’ve got to give it time.
Simon: Yeah. I think a lot of things correct themselves. And, as I said, it’s more like a compass to direct somebody to a point than an exact map of how to go.
Jack: And going back to the basic movement patterns again, you mentioned off-air the controversial topic of using bands for movements like developing your first chin-up. Do you want to elaborate on that topic, that can be controversial in the industry?
Simon: I’d love to. So, I think the time you see this is when you have a beginner, who’s trying to learn a chin-up. And you’ll see a lot of people online, a lot of well-respected coaches slam band-assisted chin-ups or pull-ups and say, ‘This is a stupid exercise, or a useless exercise, or an unhelpful exercise, because the assistance that you receive means that the resistance of the movement doesn’t match the strength curve of the chin-up.’
So, generally people are strong at the bottom of a chin-up, they’re weaker at the top, and a band will assist more at the bottom and less at the top. And when I hear this, I totally agree with their point about the strength curves, but I think it’s a little bit more nuanced than that. But I think, okay, if somebody is working toward their first chin-up, they probably have a lot of new beginnings to make and no matter what they do, they should make reasonable progress. And you don’t need to make things too complicated and you certainly don’t need to make them fear an exercise and think that an exercise is useless.
And I think you actually do a lot more harm by telling them that band exercises are stupid and kind of paralysis by analysis. They’re putting in work and if they have just directed that effort, if you just put in hard work and you’re doing something challenging and you’re making progress, you will achieve your first chin-up. Your training doesn’t need to be as intelligent as an elite athlete’s who’s close to their ceiling. You can kind of just do anything and it should work. Just do something hard and test your capacity. And if it’s improving over time, what you’re doing is working.
And I think even with a really, really detailed understanding of strength curves and of exercise science and principles of building strength and hypertrophy, I still think it’s a really useful exercise. So, the first point I made is just, it’s not good to discourage people saying this exercise is bad or stupid. And it’s certainly not dangerous. You just want to encourage, you just want to build character as somebody who’s starting to train. You know, work hard, push yourself through or close to failure and increase the difficulty over time. And if you adhere to those principles, that’s most of what you need to do.
But even with a good understanding of calisthenics and exercise science, I still think it’s useful exercise. And the reason is, firstly, you don’t have to pick one exercise. So, if somebody is comparing negatives dimensionals, it’s like there’s great things about both of them and why not do both. They’re not in conflict.
Another thing is you don’t have to match strength to build strength. And I think a lot of people who slam band chin-ups, don’t acknowledge that the resistance in a barbell squat or a barbell bench press don’t match the strength curve of the exercise. So, nobody says barbell squats are dumb and stupid, and it doesn’t match the strength. You need to do banded or chain squats to build strength.
Everyone knows that squats build strength. And when it comes to improving your 1RM, what’s better than the specific exercise of the squat? And a lot of people don’t acknowledge that accommodating resistance isn’t actually superior and it can go wrong in the squat, if you’re just doing band or chain assisted work. So, you can add too much weight with the chains and you won’t be challenging yourself at the bottom of the squat adequately.
An exercise doesn’t need to be perfect to be effective. Band chin-ups can still improve a lot of other things, they can improve rate of force development. So, even if it’s not really challenging at the bottom, you can just use a lighter band and just use all the power from the bottom to help you get to the top. It’s easy to scale. It’s simple. You don’t need a lat pull-down machine. You don’t need to hang any fancy equipment or make a harness system. It’s better than having somebody spot you, because you can actually get a consistent amount of assistance each rep. You can progress to thinner bands. If you do an extra rep, you know it’s because you got stronger, not because your coach helps you more, or the band helped you. It provides the same assistance each time.
And if you eliminate band assisted chin-ups, it’s like: what are you left with that’s simple to add a lot of volume? And you could say, ‘I’ve been through lat pull-downs.’ But if you’re training at home, it’s something that’s really simple that you can do at higher reps. And if you’re just doing negatives, you’re leaving that higher reps work out, and probably progress. You’re not going to build as much muscle doing singles, as you will doing more reps. You’re not going to get as much skill practice of actually doing the chin-ups if you’re just doing negatives.
So, I think my main problem with it is that it can be really discouraging to a beginner. But I also don’t think exercises need to be perfect to be effective. And I think a lot of people who slam particular exercises have some cognitive dissonance or double standards when it comes to other exercises.
Jack: That makes a lot of sense, mate. And, I guess, common sense isn’t that common sometimes. It’s like we talked about before, like everything needs a skill at the end of the day, even if it is a simple one. So, if you’re not getting the actual movement pattern, how are you expecting to get better at it?
Simon: Yeah. I’ll actually just make one extra point. I kind of headed in that direction, but didn’t complete this train of thought.
I mentioned that accommodating resistance can actually be harmful. Take the example of improving your one rep max squat. Accommodating resistance isn’t really better for improving your one rep max squat, because you’re still challenging the sticking point of the squat to the same degree. So, the sticking point of the squad is relatively close to the bottom. Chains are just going to build superfluous strength higher up in range and not challenge that point more than a standard squat.
And, in fact, if you mess the accommodating resistance up a little bit, you mess the weight on the chains up a little bit, you won’t be challenging that portion as much. So, let’s say the challenging part or your max squat out of the whole is like a hundred kilos. But you can squat like 150 for a quarter squat and you just put a ton of weight on with chains, it’s all chains. And at the bottom of the squat, you’re only doing 80. It doesn’t have the same stimulus for strength gains at that point as just doing a hundred kilos.
And I think this is something that people neglect to realize when it comes to band assisted chin-ups. Because if the part that you’re failing with is the top, the band assisted chin-ups is great. Because even though this part’s easy, there’s going to be less assistance and therefore it’s going to be challenging that sticking point, the part we really need to build strength. And if you had assistance that worked in the other direction and you had not much assistance at the bottom and it was really hard, and then too much assistance at the top and it was really easy, you’re going to build superfluous strength down the bottom, and you’re not going to adequately challenge the top part where you need it to unlock your first chin-up.
Jack: But you do see a bit of that with people’s first chin-ups. Getting that actual chin above the bar can take some time.
Simon: Exactly. And a band chin-up is great, because even if this part is easy, it’s still challenging that portion. As long as it’s challenging, that’s going to be probably the hardest part. So, just back to that point, a lot of people would just make one point that might sound intelligent at face value, but when you dig a little bit deeper, you realize that, things don’t need to be perfect to be effective.
Jack: And what about in your own journey? What are some of your favorite ways to develop your philosophy over your time? Is it reading books, reading research, listening to podcasts, YouTubing, or speaking to other practitioners, workshops? Talk us through that.
Simon: I think probably my favorite resource, I get no endorsement from them, I just use their resource and I find it really valuable, is MASS, so “Monthly Applications in Strength Sport”. So, Greg Nuckols and Co. are doing that. I find that really valuable, so I subscribed and I try to use that to keep up to date with the strength science research.
I like to read generally more academic articles and resources. So, occasionally I’ll read articles outside of that, things that friends send me, things that pop up on social media, that I want to dig a little bit deeper in. But probably the main thing, the most consistent thing is that MASS resources.
Jack: We’ll add a link for those listening in potentially to a podcast. We’ll add a link in the show notes, so you can refer to that later on. But we’re coming to the close now, mate. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and your philosophy with calisthenics development and coaching, as well as your own training and what’s worked well for you. We’ll go into the personal side of the podcast, the get-to-know-Simon segments. So, the first one is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? We can throw books in there as well.
Simon: Books? Okay, I can tell you books. I would say, when it comes to books, ‘FreeWill’ by Sam Harris was probably my favorite. I don’t know if you’ve read that, but that can cause a little bit of distress for some people. But I found it really valuable and I think it’s got really useful moral implications. Another book of his is ‘The Moral Landscape’, that’s really good.
For movies, none come to mind. But I like Tarantino movies. I like ‘Fight Club’. When you mentioned that question, the first thing that came to mind with TV shows, the one that’s impacted me the most would be the ‘Game of Thrones’ because I thought the ending was terrible. And I was just so gutted that I’d made such a huge investment watching the show for so long and it felt so let-down at the end.
Jack: It is a big investment. That’s a good point. I actually have forgotten the ending now, it feels like a while ago. It’s been a Netflix series. There is a feeling of there must be another series coming or something.
Simon: Yeah. What’s your favorite movie or TV show? A book?
Jack: I would say recently the Michael Jordan documentary was pretty good on Netflix. That was pretty impressive. And I always loved like ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Gladiator’ type, feel-good, inspiring movies as well. So, that’d probably be my favorite couple that spring to mind. Favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Simon: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head in terms of, I’m not a big quotes person. I actually heard, just to follow on from what we were talking about earlier, I heard, I don’t know where that term originated or if it originated with him, but I heard on Greg Nuckols podcast, ‘The Stronger By Science’ podcast, I heard him talking about ‘not chasing the ghost of optimal, because you’ll never really know where optimal will be’. And if you’ve ever got there, you wouldn’t actually know that you’ve achieved optimal. So, you’d be better off kind of chasing progress or chasing improvement rather than perfection. And I think that’s a really good point. It’s related to the things that we’ve been talking about.
Simon: Otherwise, I think simplicity is a really good value, something Occam’s razor, which is: if something’s simple, adequately explained, choose the simplest path, rather than adding extra assumptions in. I’ve butchered that razor, but it makes the general point.
Jack: Okay. And then what about in your work life, what are your pet peeves? What makes you angry? Like clients?
Simon: No, not much. I think I’ve been pretty lucky in my work life. Everyone’s pretty good and pretty upfront when they don’t do something or can’t do something. What about you? I’m going to throw the same questions back at you. Give me a quote and give me your pet peeves.
Jack: I think as I’m getting longer working in the gym world, I think not putting your gear away at first didn’t really seem to bother me. But I think I do see that as a pet peeve now, if you don’t put your own equipment back.
Simon: Yeah. I think that’s a very much a written and an unwritten rule. You’re right. Get your weights
Jack: Yeah, get your weights. I think, that’s probably one that springs to mind. And that probably is just showing respect for others. Favorite holiday destination in the COVID-free world?
Simon: I really like Japan. Tokyo, Osaka. I love the culture there. The people there.
Jack: And what about, also in a COVID-free world, which we’re pretty much in now, favorite way to spend your day off?
Simon: I really like training. Training with friends. Some of my best memories are training with friends.
Jack: Well, thank you so much, Simon, for jumping on and sharing with us your journey. But for those interested in finding out a little bit more and/or maybe hitting up with the question, where can people find you?
Simon: The website is simonsterstrength.com. And the same handle on social media or Instagram.
Jack: We’ll add them in the show notes, guys. And what’s on for the rest of the year, mate? What are you excited about for the rest of 2022?
Simon: I’m going to head to Vegas for a few months.
Jack: You were saying you were performing there last year, was it?
Simon: Yeah, before COVID. And then later in the year I’ll be teaching workshop in Nirvana Strength in Bali. There’ll be a workshop with some other calisthenics guys. So, that should be a lot of fun.
Jack: It’s good to hear Bali’s back on the map for Australians again. People going over there. That will be awesome. Is that booked out or can people still book in for it?
Simon: I’m not sure if they’ve even announced it yet, but I think it’s confirmed and they should announce it soon. So, that should be in October. And you will be able to find details about that through Nirvana Strength. So, their website, social media.
Jack: Okay. We’ll add all the links, guys, that we’ve mentioned in the show notes. Thank you for everyone that’s tuned into this live show as well. If you tuned in late, it will live on our YouTube channel. So, you can and I definitely recommend watching it from the very start. Simon’s kindly offered us some good gems all the way through from the very beginning. And if you prefer to listen in the podcasting world, this will be related next Tuesday on our podcast. You can listen in your favorite podcast directory.
And our next live chat will be next Friday, the 17th of June. And that will be with Stephen Kelly, who’s head of development at the Sydney Swans Academy. I’ll see you guys then.
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.
Jack: Next we have Mitch Greaves, the co-owner of the Melbourne Fitness & Performance. His topic will be placing a premium on speed, agility and quickness training for AFLW players. Welcome, Mitch. Thanks for jumping on mate.
Mitch: Thanks for having me. It’s been a great night so far.
Jack: It has. Fully entrenched in our conversations. It’s been really good. So happy to be in the audience seat and hosting this great show with all you guys and sharing your experiences and knowledge. We’ll dive straight into your topic. Why is speed agility and quickness important for AFLW players?
Mitch: In terms of that question, mate, there’s probably two layers to it. I think if we look at speed, agility, quickness training globally, it’s important for all athletes, but it’s particularly important for AFLW athletes. We look at it kind of having two sides of the coin. It has got both performance benefits, as well as injury preventative benefits.
And then, if we dive into the performance side of things, AFLW as a game, they are shorter games with less players on the ground, so there’s more space. So, the quickest and most dynamic teams, they can do the most damage in the shortest amount of time. They’re the ones that win. You look at sites like Adelaide, you look at Brisbane this year.
Brisbane had rapid outside players that. You know, if you’ve got good inside midfielders, they can get ball outside and then into space and get it to those electric players. You can do some really good damage in a really short amount of time. And I think we saw that in Assad, like Brisbane kicking the most amount of points in an AFLW game ever.
I think the game in general is moving more and more towards an aggressive and quicker game. And compared to the men’s game, I think, speed, agility, quickness has a little bit higher emphasis than something like conditioning. Although conditioning is still super important.
And then, if we look at KPIs that we traditionally associate with speed, such as a 10–20 minute split or 20 minute sprint time. I think those are really nice metrics. And I think testing and recording athletes from a competitive standpoint is really important to drive standard and competition for those athletes to want to improve.
I think it’s probably too focused on and what we kind of neglect from this training is things like driving down injury rates. Which leads to increased player availability and improving things, like running efficiency and in turn running economy, which goes hand-in-hand with being a well-conditioned site. Running efficiency and running economy are two massive markers that we place a great emphasis on at Carlton, having good movers and developing good movers.
And therefore from agility point of view, if you can have a site that is full of better decision-makers, which is a key component of agility, as we know. Things like how to attack defense space, ignoring irrelevant information and choosing right decisions, focusing on task at hand, along with things like teamwork.
Those are the things that I think we traditionally neglect when it comes to speed, agility, quickness training. And we get bogged down in improving your first five meters or things like that, even though those things are important.
And then, if we’re looking at the second layer, which for these individual athletes it’s kind of like diving in what it means to them. We can look at things like, what’s their position? How do I buy into their story? As a key forward, what does speed look like to me? That means that once I actually create space off my defender, can I maximize and really capitalize on the space that I’ve just created from my offender, by bursting away from them and hitting a bullet speed, versus a midfielder that might look like being able to re-position yourself quicker than you’re opposing midfielder to get the ball quicker or exit stoppage quicker?
You can also look at things like the career time point. So, you’ve got the older players. If you talk to them about improving their first five meters of speed, they switch off, or they laugh at you. For them it’s more about maintaining or holding onto not what little speed they have, but to what speed they have. Because as we know, like aging players, it’s one of the first things to go.
Whereas you’ve got also personal strengths and weaknesses as well. So, rapid athletes, are we looking to improve your speed, or your agility, or quickness? Or are we taking on more of an injury prevention role, where we want you to break the rules that we’re teaching you, but we also want to teach you really safe positions to hit as well as expose your tissues and joints to a variety of positions that you might find yourself in on game day?
Jack: And on that point, from the biomechanical point of view, as a coach, when working with a group of athletes. And you work with individual athletes as well in your facility. Let’s start with a group dynamic. What’s some of your favorite ways to improve efficiency of running technique?
Mitch: I think it comes back to, in terms of having a group versus an individual. An individual, to be honest, at the private level even, we don’t have access to individuals in one-on-one environment that often, because we don’t really believe in that model. We want to be able to service a lot of athletes. And we can’t do that in a one-on-one model. So, a lot of the time, it is in a smaller group setting.
So, having said that, even in a smaller group thing, there is an ability to individualize it a little bit more than there is in a big group environment at AFLW level. In terms of sessions design, it gives you a little bit more flexibility around what you’re programming for your athletes that come to you in a private or a semi-private setting versus an AFLW group.
Where AFLW group is really relying on the staffing that you have available. Whether you’re running a session by yourself or whether you’re lucky to have someone like Stevie Mordava to help you out and take half a group. It really comes down to context, but in terms of developing efficient movers in AFLW players and in a group environment, partnering up is a really great tool to allow an athlete to model off another really good mover.
And then as a group as well, I think this is where it comes down to, as a coach, if you can demonstrate really well. Then that’s going to give your athletes, who are most likely visual learners, a really good platform to attempt the movement that you’re trying to teach them or improve. And allow them to then go and have more confidence in expressing or trying what you’re trying to get across, if that makes sense.
Jack: Mitch Shafter* has just written in from YouTube. Should you do any agility exercises before a game?
Mitch: Great question, Mitchie.
Jack: You know Mitch?
Mitch: Yeah. He’s actually from my local football club, Knox Footy Club. He’s a youngster, or not anymore.
Yes, Michie, you can include some agility exercises in your warmup. Warmup is one of the coach’s most effective tools in terms of it’s the most frequent time that you have available with your athletes. So, implementing agility exercises within your warmup usually gives you a good bang for your buck.
And then some athletes really enjoy incorporating some more dynamic preparation work prior to a game. So, depends on your athlete. If it’s something that you like to do, absolutely go for it. Just get plenty of rest in between, and don’t cook yourself before you get out on the field, mate.
Jack: And you mentioned the decision-making element, which I think is a good one to dive into a little bit more detail. Like you said, warmups are a great opportunity for strength & conditioning coaches to work on these athlete development areas. How often would you change the stimulus when it comes to decision-making in your agility drills? Do you do like a fortnightly block or change it every week to drill heaps of variation? Talk us through that.
Mitch: I think it depends on the skill that you’re trying to develop. And, obviously, the phase that you’re in. So, you might be trying to develop a particular skill that might be attacking space as a team. And so, within the drill that you are doing with the team, you might vary that quite frequently. But then the rest of the speed session that you’re building around that to support that might stay really similar. Because we can’t underestimate the cognitive load that comes with attempting decision-making drills and decision-making agility drills.
So, to answer your question, it really depends on what you’re trying to do. I really like Jamie Smith’s and Frans Bosch’s rep-by-rep approach in certain contexts. So, when you’re trying to develop a skill, particularly with more intermediate or advanced athletes, once you’ve built a really good understanding of how we want you to execute a movement, then we want to get to the stage where we’re challenging you rep to rep or set to set with different decision-making stimuluses or different constraints, that, hopefully, lead you to better decision-making outcomes and better movement in general.
Jack: And what about from the quickness point of view, what are some of your top tips for, let’s start with strength & conditioning coaches, to focus on to help athletes become quicker?
Mitch: Quickness as a term, I think, is a little bit of a gray area. And I think it comes back to your philosophy as a coach. So, if we just zoom back out for a second, in terms of developing speed, agility, quickness, and in particular quickness, as a coach, we really want to have a mindset that speed grows like a tree. It’s not a short-term quality that you’re looking to build in an 8-week or 12-week timeframe.
If you ask someone like Knowles or someone like Benny Frith, who has a group for three to five years, hopefully, you want to adopt a mindset where if you are placing speed, agility, quickness as an important quality or emphasis that you want the group to improve on, well, then it’s something that you’ve got to consistently prep up week to week, month to month, year to year, in order to actually get the benefits long-term. I think that’s a really important concept: that it needs time, it needs consistency and it needs nurturing.
And then it’s not just about what you’re actually doing from a speed, agility, quickness point of view, but everything that goes around it as well. So, it comes back to your strength and power program, comes down to your warmup, your mobility prep, all that sort of things. As well as how good your decision-making is from a medical and performance staffing point of view, as well as to when to pull certain players out of that training and when to put them back in and then modifying sessions as well.
And then dialing back in or zooming back in terms of quickness, you really look in a drive-up, I suppose, neural output in some players. So, the ones that are kind of like middle of the run, you’re trying to get them to be able to be a little bit more alert to scenarios and react quicker and reposition themselves quicker. And then you’ve got the clumsy or awkward players. You’re trying to get them a little bit more coordinated, trying to get them to be able to dance. They’re usually pretty horrible on the dance floor.
This is where things like agility ladders, which get such a bad rep, are actually fantastic tools, freshly getting athletes more generally coordinated. Of course, they’re not specific. You’re an idiot if you think they’re specific. But that’s fine, no one’s arguing that. But the tools like that, small box drills, a lot of Lee Taft series around quick hips and being able to reposition yourself really quickly, are useful tools in order to get back to acceleration or sprinting quicker. And, hopefully, the scenario that you want to quicker.
And then in terms of the wired or more elastic athletes, that you’ve already got on your group or on your team, the quickness training is actually allowing them to express an ability that they’re really good at. And they’re usually the athletes that don’t like the gym. So, when it comes to these athletes, they’re actually able to enjoy an element of their training that they’re doing week to week, month to month, year to year. Just like the strong athletes were able to enjoy the gym.
So, I don’t think we can take away the enjoyment factor that comes from speed, agility, quickness training, and allowing athletes to be athletes away from things like small-sided games and the seriousness of football development. Again, it comes back to placing a premium on developing these qualities and finding space and time to put them into your session plans.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Thank you so much for sharing. And for those that want to get in contact with you, give us a quick intro of Team MFP and how to get in contact with yourself.
Mitch: So, the gym Melbourne Fitness and Performance is in West Footscray. So, you can just type in ‘Team MFP’ on Instagram.
In terms of myself, I’m just @mitchgreaves8 on Instagram. That’s where my personal content will be. So, if you want examples of kinds of methods that I do utilize, there’s plenty on there.
And then in terms of Twitter or content that I just reshare, jump on Twitter. I’m just literally @MitchGreaves. I reshare a lot of other coaches’ good work and not much of my own, because there’s way more smart people on there than there is on Instagram.
Jack: I’m with you on that. I’m still trying to work out the Twitter.
Mitch: I think the fact that it’s called ‘the Twitter’, probably says it all.
Jack: And last but not least, we have Steve Moore on the show. He’ll be discussing a full-time approach in a part-time program. He’s a strength & conditioning coordinator at the Carlton Football Club. Welcome, Steve. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Steve: Thanks, Jack. Thanks for having me on. As Mitch said before, it’s been a great night so far.
Jack: Looking forward to you wrapping it up for us, mate. Let’s get straight into your topic. What does it mean to have a full-time approach in a part-time program?
Steve: Essentially, what we’re looking to achieve here is the ideal. And I think, in AFLW world in its current status, whilst we would love it to be full-time, we’re dealing with the part-time approach. And essentially, what we’re looking to do is to take everything that you’d get out of a full-time elite sport environment and then filter through all the stuff, and take a bit of a holistic approach and filter through the fluff and apply that to that part-time approach as best you can.
Obviously, time constraints are the biggest staff limiting factor in that regard. But I think what we do or what we look to do a fair bit is try to look for windows of opportunities. And Jordy’s spoken about it tonight already, and so has Ben, about where we can actually microdose some of this work and get little bits of work in over the week, so it takes the pressure off other nights or those training sessions or your lifting session at a certain stage. So, where can you look at those little windows of opportunity to take what you need and really get some good quality work in at the same time?
Jack: And on that note, if you’re leading a meeting for all those, whether they work in sport or not, but if you’re facilitating the meeting, how important is it to prepare what you want to cover in the meeting? And then how important is it to make sure that what comes up in that meeting is an action?
Steve: I think, like anything, it just comes back down to that time management. And making sure that in a meeting sense, where you’re going to be dealing with multiple different key stakeholders in that instance, and each person’s obviously try and pinch as much time as they can, and just getting your key points across, and a bit of education to different areas on why your time is important and why you should be allocated that certain amount of time is really important.
But I think from a realistic and a whole program point of view, making sure that having a schedule set, so that you know when you are going to get your time. Now, we all know working in sport that coaches and professionals don’t stick to those timelines very well. And the nights blow out pretty quickly, and things don’t go to plan. But at least if we know, we can plan as best we can going into those sessions, then we can scale back if we need to, if things push over time or whatever it may be.
Jack: And from the athlete’s perspective, that maybe they’re not in the semi-professional program yet, but they’re working hard to get in there. How often do you think they should be training? I know it’s a really broad question, but, let’s say, they’ve got two footy sessions a week and then game day. As they’re sort of weak at the moment, how much extra work craft, and in the weights room, on the field, do you think they should be doing?
Steve: As you said, it is quite broad from that regard. It’s going to depend on a lot of different things and weather, particularly in development pathways and things like that, if they are offering strength & conditioning as a part of the program or do they need to go and outsource that.
How many suggestions along that lines? I mean, as long as they’re probably looking to get at least one to two good quality sessions in, and then the link to those sessions can be determined on the program that they’re in and the time that they may have available and the rest of the factors that go on outside of their life, from school or university, or work, whatever that may be, and trying to work things in.
So, I think coming back to that scheduling point of view, as I spoke about before, if we can get those at least probably two quality strength sessions in a week and really look at, I suppose, it’s probably almost a reverse engineering what the training sessions look like themselves. So, if you can reverse engineer and almost pick apart: okay, what am I getting from that program or that time at the club? And then look to try and find other avenues throughout the week to tick off those factors.
Jack: Awesome. Thanks, mate. That’s great. And then for those two gym sessions, typically what should some of them be focusing more on? On strength or is it more speed-based stuff? What’s the upper body lower body split? Let’s say, for a 16-year-old developing female footballer.
Steve: Again, I think you’re probably trying to cover all those things if you can. And again, time is going to be the biggest factor. Whether you do have the time in the week outside of trainings and everything like that, to be able to fit it all in.
But if you’re getting at least, as Mitch was saying before, from a speed and agility and an on-field perspective, from a movement capacity side of things, if you’re really trying to focus in on one particular aspect and hitting that for a period of time before moving on to the next one, and then blending that in like you would in your normal strength program and filtering it down from the top into your main call list for the session.
And then, depending on what the athlete particularly needs, filtering that out with a little bit more accessory work in one session. But if you’re getting an aspect of that speed or that athletic development component from your club, you might put more time and effort into your strength & conditioning or your strength and power stuff away from the club by working in a private sector facility or hiring a coach.
Jack: And for the strength & conditioning coaches that are listening in to the podcast, or maybe live as well, take us through your role. It sounds like there’s a fair bit going on. And football certainly has changed over the last few years now. And it seems like you’re involved with the men’s program and women’s program, is that right?
Steve: Yeah, it’s a little bit messy. There’s a bit going on. It’s a bit all encompassing in a way. But the variety is what I enjoy within that role. So, from the AFLW component, we also have the strength and power components, and I suppose a lot of the stuff that Mitch has just spoken about before. Big shoes to fill since he’s moved on. Pretty stressful times there.
Helping out with the men’s program two to three days a week when I can, and then looking after the Carlton College Sport Program. My role is quite seasonal. The one program will run and then it will finish, and then something else will pick up and then the other one will drop off.
It’s good from a time management point of view. I don’t have too many clashes, which is nice. But the variety of exposure to all different types of athletes and all different types of levels, then for a coach, it’s a great way to develop and learn and build on that.
Jack: Ben mentioned that there is rumors that the season is changing it, the release date for the next four to five weeks. But, effectively, we can see where footy is going. It’s going to be all year round now, where it’ll be in the papers. So, for your role, how do you manage that prospect where there’s not really enough season, I guess?
Steve: It’s a tough one. And I think we’re all sitting here and patiently waiting for potential start date and things like that. But it’s one of those things. Like in previous years, the off-season was too long. I think you can get lost in that situation, where you’ve probably got all these ideas and you have too much time to be able to put things in place. And you’re trying to find that right balance between giving the athletes a break and then also bringing them back refreshed, but still get that good work in over the off-season.
Whereas at the moment it’s been quite good off on finding our athletes are quite motivated and quite excited by the season coming up. Like they’ve had their little three to four week break, where we have said, ‘Look, you’re going away from doing your structured work. Go on holiday. Go do something different. Exercise for leisure sort of thing. And then be able to come back in, let’s say, end of June, or wherever we may be starting, and work back a month from there and start to provide a little bit more structure as we’re building.’
So, I think that factor that I spoke about previously in regards to the burnout, the factor of being present early in the preseason or later in the preseason, hopefully, might be there this year. Because I’ll be keen to just keep rolling, since I’ve had a little bit of a break.
Jack: And what are the common misconceptions with the part-time program, do you think, from the athletes or coaches perspective?
Steve: I spoke about time as being a bit of a limitation before. But I think time is a bit of a cheap, easy option out. I think what you get and give in regards to your training sessions and the hours within the club, that’s what it is. So, I think being able to be creative around that and actually get a little bit smarter around it and work out, as I said before, where are these little windows of opportunity.
And we spoke about it before, and Jordy touched on it as well. We split out our lifts pre and post training. So, they’ll do half their gym session pre training. And then they come off the track and therefore there’s only their lower body and accessory work to do there. So, right there and then, rather than going, ‘Oh, we have only got 20 minutes for gym post training,’ we’re doing 20–25 minutes pre training as well. All of a sudden, they’ve got 40–45 minute hit two or three times a week and being able to build on that.
So, that’s probably one of the things. And I think at the end of the day everyone’s going to have their reservations, whether it’s the athletes themselves or the coaches, on the importance of the gym and the athletic development stuff and everything that we do as coaches. But again, as it’s been a bit of a common theme tonight through the whole presentation, talking about that education factor. Being able to solely go, ‘Okay, if we’re going to roll something out to these athletes or within our program, we’re educating the people involved on what we are trying to do or why we need that time for it.’
Again, we microdose that. From an education point of view, it might be a 10-minute hit of an education theme before the coaches get into their meeting. This is why we’re doing this thing, this strength stuff, or this is why we’re doing this, when we get down onto the ground, whatever it may be. And, hopefully, over time, we’ve felt that the players have bought into it because they understand it a bit more.
Jack: And then take us through, how does that flow? So, if the players start in the gym, do they then go into team meeting for a training meeting and then go on the field? Or if they had that team meeting before the gym session and it’s all just bang, bang, bang, all the physical stuff in a row.
Steve: I think because the players are obviously doing quite a vast range of things throughout the day, it impacts on their time that they can get to the club. Some are at university or doing other things. They may be working in the morning, so they’re free earlier and might get in a bit earlier than other athletes. They’re utilizing a good hour and a half prior to team meetings kicking off, to go on and do things like strength, go get treatment or do anything else that they need to do from a prep point of view.
Whereas some other athletes, they might be getting there at 5:15 or 5:30 for a 6:00 start. But we, hopefully, try and allow enough time and talk to those athletes. We talk about being able to offset their days in a way, so that if they, again, I keep coming back to it, those little windows that we can go, ‘All right, where can we get this working for you that suits your time management? So you don’t feel rushed, stressed when you arrive at the club.’ And therefore go and impact the way they train.
Jack: Awesome. Fantastic, mate. Well, thank you so much for jumping on the show and sharing with us your knowledge and expertise. For those that want to get in contact and pick your brain some more, where’s the best place to get in contact?
Steve: Not Twitter, mate. I’m not really on there.
Jack: The Twitter. Hopefully, they create a new app.
Steve: Yeah, I think Elon might rebrand it now. So, just Instagram, mate. Click on @coachstevemoore. That’s probably the easiest way.
Jack: Fantastic. Awesome. Well, like I said earlier, guys, we’ll add them all in the show notes.
Well, that’s it for tonight’s show. I’ll pop one question in to you, guys. I know it happened throughout the year with the AFLW season, essentially a bit of stick with injuries. The ACL gets popped up all the time. There’s always a bit of media, unfortunately, in our industry as well, which tend to put pressure on ourselves, and people make comments when they probably don’t have a place to, with not having experience. Does anyone want to talk up on that topic and help shedding some light on injuries and some of the things that do get popped up in the media?
Ben: Oh, I guess I’ll just say that I think some of you know Nemphis, is it how you say her last name? She’s got some pretty good articles on it. It’s a hugely complex topic. There’s a lot of misconceptions around it. If you’re able to have water heats and all that stuff, like that’s just bullshit. It’s been shown to not really have a factor. Footwear, the hardness of grounds. Like these are all you’re majoring in the minor, looking at that stuff.
Women’s footy is so new. The pathways, whilst they’re coming in, we haven’t had young girls playing footy since five, coming through to the pathway yet, and spend 5, 6, 7, 8 years playing AFLW footy. I’ll wager, once everything goes full-time and the pathways are a bit more equal, it’ll regress to the rates that we see in some other sports.
It’s a hugely complex topic. It’s not just as simple as some people in the media or even within the S&C community make it out to be. Girls aren’t getting the same opportunities or haven’t for a very long time had the same opportunities as their male counterparts, coming through the system. And I don’t think we can really accurately quantify the effects that that has on them coming into AFL system.
I think coach Sean Potter, he made public some data around his Tassie Devils preseason. They’re doing 4 to 6k sessions. Jumped straight into, bring an 18-year-old straight into an AFLW preseason. It’s a relatively short preseason compared to the boys’ too. They got from doing 4 to 6k sessions. That might be the smallest session they do all preseason in AFLW program. The demands are just that much higher. It’s going to take time. That’s my two cents on it. I really recommend reading Sophie Nemphis’s articles. I think they’ve nailed him.
Jack: You could send me the link.
Mitch: It’s about access and opportunity, doesn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, absolutely.
Mitch: It’ll be very interesting to see once all things being equal in terms of access and opportunity for 10 or 20 year period, what the statistics will be.
Jack: Awesome. Well said, guys. And is there any other topic that we want to wrap up the show with, in regards to athlete development in AFLW? We covered a fair bit.
Mitch: I think just going back to your previous point, Jack. I think sticking up for the coaches that are currently in the AFLW system is a big one after coping with a bit of flack or what is perceived to be flack. It’s less of a quality of coach point of view and more of a time and resources that those coaches have available to them with those athletes point of view.
Jack: A hundred percent. Well said, mate. Like Ben said, it’s so complex that you could spend hours on hours just analyzing one particular injury, let alone trying to find trends.
Ben: I think we’ve all spent time doing that. I mean, I know I do. I spend hours and hours looking at vision. There’s some really interesting people to follow on Twitter. This guy from Clemson, can’t remember his name off the top of my head. He’s a sport science guy from Clemson, who’s doing some really interesting studies or just making them a bit more public. It’s certainly what I’m discovering. And a guy called Rich Clarke. I think it’s like Rich Clarke Agility or something. A couple of really good guys there. I can’t remember his name, I wish I could remember his name, the guy from Clemson.
There’s evidence suggesting that vision is now a huge contributing factor to ACLs now. So, being able to actually pick up cues, if you’ve got deficit in a certain part of your vision that that may place you at a high risk. I don’t think we’ve really scratched the surface on ACL side. They’re so complex. They’re gone in 50 milliseconds. That’s not enough time to consciously contract a muscle to stop it. It’s going to take time to sum up Mitch’s point. It’s going to take a lot of time.
Hopefully, the research can delve into some of that context stuff in, when we talk about agility, what separates someone that’s a good mover in an open, chaotic field from someone who’s not. Hopefully, the research can start to weed that out, so we can try to train that into the people that aren’t as good, without a better way of defining it, I guess.
Jack: It’s your colleague, Mitch. Is that the name?
Ben: Potentially. I mean, he’s pretty good, Mitch. So, I’m going to back him in there.
Jack: We’ll back him in. There you go, Mitch. Thank you. We should add Mitch down there as well.
Ben: Maybe another time.
Jack: We’ll do an AFLW strength and power one. So, stay tuned. Well, thank you, guys. Thank you for jumping on and sharing with us. It’s been awesome. I know I’ve got a lot out of it, learned heaps. And it’s been great to connect as well.
For those that have tuned onto the live show late, make sure to listen from the very start. You can watch it now on our YouTube channel. And then we’ll post a bite-size episode of everyone’s discussion from tonight, 15 minutes segment on our podcast on a Friday for the next five to six weeks. So, stay tuned on our socials.
Our next ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show will be with the director of West Coast Health And High Performance, Chris Perkin. He’s a therapist, who’s worked with West Coast Eagles for over a decade, and he’s now running the facility out there that’s next to the West Coast facility. So, make sure to tune in 8:30 PM, May 6th, live on our YouTube channel. I’ll see you guys then. Cheers.
Jack: Next we have Liv Knowles, the high performance manager of the Hawthorn Football Club. Her topic will be how the menstrual cycle can affect athletes, training, and performance. Thanks for jumping on, Liv.
Liv: Thanks, Jack.
Jack: Let’s dive straight into it. Talk us through, how does the menstrual cycle function, firstly, as a bit of an intro?
Liv: Yeah, probably a good context for the rest of the chat. The menstrual cycle, if we talk about a 28-day cycle, knowing that a normal cycle can last from anywhere between 21 and 35 days. But if we talk about a 28-day cycle, just for this context, we step right into two phases.
The first is the follicular phase, which will last about 14 days. And the second is the luteal phase, which will last that second 14 days. And you have ovulation in the middle there and the bleeding at the start of the follicular phase. So, those are the two phases that we’re working with.
Like I said, there obviously is a lot of variability in cycle length. We also know that most of that variability comes about from the follicular phase. So most women will actually have about a 14–15 day luteal phase. That’s pretty consistent. So, you can actually count back from the start of your cycle and work out when you ovulated in the previous cycle by counting that 14 days back.
And so, if you have a short cycle, you know that your follicular phase is probably shorter. Or if you have a long cycle, it’s because that follicular phase is longer. And then obviously, as I said, characterized by those different features. So, the bleeding in the follicular phase and the ovulation at the start of the luteal phase.
Jack: And if your cycle has changed from 35 one month, can it go drastically the next month to a 28 days? Or does your body tend to have a routine with your days?
Liv: It’s a good point. A lot of women don’t have a consistent cycle. And it’s great if you do. Sometimes one of the reasons why women go on the pill, just so they have consistency in their cycle and things like that. But yeah, your cycle absolutely can fluctuate. And it’s one of the great things about tracking your cycle, so that you can see if there is a pattern to the way your cycle does fluctuate. So, yeah, it does certainly happen.
And we also know that not everyone has a normally or naturally functioning menstrual cycle. We have women who are what we call an amenorrheic. They don’t have a normal menstrual cycle. They might not bleed in that 21 to 35 days period. They might bleed every three months, six months, things like that. So, it is very individual.
Jack: And from a training perspective, how does it change when you’re in the first sort of 15 days of your cycle to the second phase of your cycle?
Liv: From a training perspective, I guess I want to preface this by saying that a lot of the data at the moment coming out in the research isn’t that strong yet. And so, a lot of the recommendations need to be taken with a lot of caution and you really should be working out what works for you individually.
But based on the research that has come out we think that performance might have a trivial decrease during the early follicular phase. That bleedy phase. So, performance might be decreased during that phase, but at the same time there’s evidence that shows that sprint performance is increased during that phase. So again, it’s about working out what works for you.
In comparison to that, we’ve seen some pretty good evidence coming out that strengths might be increased during the ovulation phase or the late follicular phase. So, in the middle of your cycle, that’s when you might have raise of strength.
But at the same time, we know that ligaments have greater laxity during that ovulation phase. So, you might be prone to more ligament-based injuries. We think there might be a link between ACLs and cycle phase and things like that. There’s certainly a need to watch this phase type of situation with the research still coming out. And endurance as well. Endurance might increase during the late follicular phase too.
Jack: Well, that’s interesting. So, you’re stronger, your aerobic capacity is higher, but you’ve got more laxity. That’s not ideal for injury anyway. Obviously, for some performance, if you’ve got good stability. To be on the positive side for athletes listening and not to freak them out, you’re going to be stronger and have better capacity as well. But for the ligaments sake, you are producing more force and you’re able to cover more distance.
Liv: But at the same time, the menstrual cycle we don’t think has an effect on things like your oxygen consumption, your energy expenditure, your spiritual rates. There’s mixed results about RPE. So, it’s very different for individual people, I think.
Jack: And then you mentioned monitoring your cycle. What would be your recommended approach? How much time should you be spending? Is it a daily ritual? Is it weekly? What would be your recommendation for young athletes?
Liv: To start with it probably needs to be daily. Just if you’re trying to work out how each different phase affects you. If you just want to know when you’re going to get your cycle, you can just do it monthly, that’s fine. But if you want to really have a solid understanding of how each phase and the way your body changes across those phases affects your training, your mood, your sleep, all of those sorts of things you are covering, you’re best to do it daily.
There’s some really great apps out there. FitrWoman is one of the better ones and really athletes specific. You can go in on there and log each day: one, whether you’ve got your period or not; but two, your different symptoms. So, it might be whether you’ve got headaches or if you’re having mood swings or you’ve got soreness or extra fatigue, all sorts of things. You can just click a little button that has little pictures come up and you can just easily click the one that fits for you. And then it just records that and you’re done in 30 seconds.
If you can do that daily, and if you can do that over a couple of months and build up a really good log of data, you can start to potentially see if there’s any patterns with your training as well. In that particular app, you can also input what your training intensity has been that day as well. So, if you’ve had a high intensity session or a low duration session, for example, you can input that too. So, you can start to match the data with your symptoms and your cycle a little bit too.
Jack: So it can act a bit like a monitoring tool.
Liv: Yeah, absolutely.
Jack: And on that topic, it might be happening already, I’m not sure. But strength & conditioning coaches in terms of individualization, is it too hard to be able to use it as a monitoring tool and adjust loads? Or is it more empowering athletes to have that awareness and to be able to communicate with a coach or their manager about where they’re at and what trends they have with their cycle?
Liv: I think it’s probably the latter at this stage, just based on where the research is at. I think the current stat is that 70% of the current research is considered low quality. So, it’s probably not strong enough to be making group changes from a coaching perspective. It’s hard in a football sense anyway. You’ve got 30 girls on a list. It’s not very likely that they’re all cycling at the same time. It’s really hard from that perspective.
But I think, as you said, empowering and educating from an individual level and being able to create conversations with coaches as well, between your coach and your athlete. So, the athlete can say, ‘Look, I’m not feeling right because I’m in this phase. This might be why.’ And then you can discuss that with the coach, with the doctor, whatever it might be. Maybe you need to be eating more during that particular phase of your cycle to supplement your lack of energy or things like that. So, it’s just a good way for you to be able to understand your body better. And that’s what being an elite athlete’s about, right?
Jack: Yeah, a hundred percent. Well, I think in that sense, males, we don’t have that direct feedback as such. You’ve still got to have good body awareness, but it could be a strength in the sense that, once you’ve worked out what your trends are as an individual athlete, you’ve got this tool that can give you some feedback.
On that topic of nutrition, recovery, preparation as well, in the wake of strength & conditioning. Once you’ve worked out your cycle and what works well for you, what would be some success stories that you’ve seen with athletes in some decisions they make due to their menstrual cycle?
Liv: I think, as I said before, it’s just being able to have those conversations. But I think some of the players that I’ve worked with have understood when they sleep better and what they need to do around their sleep particularly. Women often report poor sleep when they’re about to get their period. So, putting strategies around this phase.
For example, during that stage that might be just doing some extra mindfulness before they sleep, so that they can get to sleep, things like that. Or making sure they’re having really consistent bedtimes during that phase. Because we know that’s one of the best ways to improve athlete’s sleep: consistent bedtime and awake time.
So, they implement that around specific phases. It’s probably the biggest success I’ve had. But at the same time it’s also educating your athletes that even if you have seen a pattern and you might feel like you lack energy during a particular phase, we also know that medals are won and records are broken at all stages of the cycle. We don’t get to change competitions just because you’ve got your period.
So, at the same time you kind of have to suck it up a little bit too. It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword. You want to be aware of it and have that indication and knowledge and be empowered by that, but you also need to be able to put that to the side and say, ‘I’ve trained for this. I can execute this performance regardless of what my body is telling me from a bleeding or hormone perspective.’
Jack: I love that. It’s like a long-term future self. You’re using it to make smart decisions, but at the end of the day, on the game day, focus on the task.
Liv: Yeah, spot on.
Jack: What about common misconceptions from athletes or coaches? What’s out there that pops up?
Liv: I think probably that this is a female-only space. I think there’s probably a lot of taboo around talking about menstrual cycles and things like that, particularly from male coaches and things like that. And I think it’s something that we can do better at opening up.
It doesn’t mean that we all have to deep dive on the topic and things like that. But it’s just about being able to have conversations with your athletes regardless of your gender. I think that’s one of the biggest things. Just being able to have conversations with your athletes about how they’re feeling. Because that’s how you build trust and buy into a program as well.
Jack: I can’t remember where I heard it, but I’ve heard, that if females have been long enough with each other, their cycles do connect. Is that a myth?
Liv: I don’t know if there’s actual research on it. But I think we have all heard that, that cycles tend to match. But I haven’t seen any proof of it.
Jack: You can potentially periodize for performance. Maybe if you find out your calendar, you have your fixture…
Liv: Yeah, potentially. But, I mean, if you want to control your cycle, that’s what contraceptives are for as well. A lot of our athletes are also using things like the pill or NID, so they can control their symptoms. If they have a really bad period pain, for example, they can speak to their club’s doctor and potentially use a contraceptive that will help with those symptoms.
And the research also shows that your performance doesn’t really change on the pill either. I think there’s evidence that there might be a small detriment to performance compared to naturally cycling women. But if you’re alleviating symptoms, it outweighs that performance detriment.
Jack: There’s assistance there, that’s great. And for the developing footballers, again, what would be some of your top tips to have better awareness around your menstrual cycle? So, you mentioned journaling and the importance of lifestyle tips. What about from a physical training point of view? What are some important things that you’d like to see athletes are doing as a high performance manager?
Liv: Just listening to their bodies. And we try and use a bit of a regulation method in terms of our training. We know, for example, that 1 RM changes on a daily basis. And that’s the same and that can fluctuate with your sleep, and that can also fluctuate with the menstrual cycle and things like that. So, being able to regulate your training, knowing when you can really push and when you might need to pull back a bit and listen to your body, so that you can recover better, potentially for the game on the weekend.
So, it’s just really about, like we said throughout this whole chat, knowing your body and having that understanding. But also that education piece. There’s a lot of great pages out there, resources. There’s a lot of podcasts, and Instagram pages. One, periodoftheperiod is really athlete focused. So, I can chuck that to you, so you can chuck it in the show notes. But yeah, there are great resources out there.
Jack: Fantastic. We’ll definitely add that in the show notes and on that, thank you so much for jumping on. And like you said, it’s important we normalize the topic and look after athletes by considering their menstrual cycle and sleep and nutrition and training in the gym. It’s an important factor for training and performance, and health. For those that want to pick your brain a little bit more, where’s the best place to connect with you, Liv?
Liv: Probably Twitter. I don’t use Instagram for work really. So, Twitter is the best place to find me. I think my handle’s @LivKnowles1.
Jack: Fantastic. We’ll add that in the show notes. Thank you.