In this bite-size episode, Lachlan discusses the pros and cons of managing a facility for athletes.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Pros and cons of working in the private sector vs pro sport
  • Which sector to start first if you want to develop yourself 
  • Personality traits and coaching skills that are more suited to private sector or pro sport
  • How to reach Athlete Authority and Lachlan




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Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. I’m excited to welcome our panel of members for this month’s collaborative event ‘Australia’s Leading High-performance Facilities’. Our first guest for the show tonight is Lachlan Wilmort, the co-founder of Athletes Authority. And without further ado, his topic is going to be on managing a high-performance facility for athletes. So, welcome, Lach.

Lachlan: Thank you, Jack. Nice having you, mate.

Jack: We’ll dive straight into it, mate. Take us through from a coach’s perspective. You’ve worked in high-performance sport at the top level, as well as now in doing great things in the private sector. What are the pros and cons of the two? 

Lachlan: I think when I was shifting across from pro to private, I thought the hours might’ve been a little bit better. But then when I moved over, I lost two of my coaches. We rolled into fires, we rolled into a blackout, we rolled into COVID. So, it’s been a good fun to use in the private sector, mate. So, I think my opinion is probably a little bit astute. But there’s no doubt for me, from a family point of view, the hours are significantly better, especially around the weekends and everything. So, the pros for private are probably a little bit more controllable with hours.

One of the big things people often ask me is, ‘Do I miss pro sport and stuff like that?’ And, to be honest, I think it’s a little bit like high school. I think once you graduate high school, you look back and you think, ‘Fuck, how good was high school.’ Socially you’re with your friends every day and stuff like that. You kind of forget all the assessments and all the annoying work and stuff you had to actually do. And I think pro sport’s a little bit like that. When I watch the games these days, that is something that I miss a lot, game day.

I think that feeling of game day, the preparation of game day, there really is nothing like it. And in spite of working with a lot of really good quality athletes across the private sector and preparing them for game day, it’s not the same when you’re not in the team and you’re not turning up on game day, ready to go.

So, that’s probably a big part. That’s very hard to replicate. But with all due respect, from that point of view, the culture and the community that we have at Athletes Authority is something that… For me the private sector is all about creating that team sport feel within the private community, that riding the wave of success of each of the athletes is certainly something that I love.

And I think that from a private setting it’s something that we can do. And I think maybe sometimes, you know, 10 years ago, probably too many people treated it just like a gym and people turned up and trained. They had their own individual things to do, and then they left. But I think, to be honest, with all the credit to CrossFit, CrossFit’s probably showed us what a community can be, regardless of what you think about CrossFit.

And everyone that’s on tonight manages a phenomenal facility and realistically has an amazing community, hence why they’re successful and where they are. And I think we can all attest that the private sector is starting to build some really strong athletic communities that people can be a part of.

And, to be honest, that’s what I loved about team sport and that’s what’s building in the private sector. 

Jack: Yeah, I love that, mate. You mentioned community. Is that something that COVID has almost raised your awareness on, that facilities like yours do have an impact on the community, once you take it away?

Lachlan: I think it is. I think the COVID issue was something that… For example, let’s take Anytime Fitness. At the end of the day most Anytime Fitness franchises don’t really have a community. They’re all owned by very similar small business owners as it is now. They paid X amount for a franchise. They’re small business owners. They’re not the juggernaut that is Fitness First or Virgin Active that’s owned by a multinational corporation. They are small business owners. And when COVID hit, they shut down and guess what? No one was around to support them. No community was there to really back them, because they probably didn’t have the same communities that the people that are on now.

And I’m not an emotional person, but I must admit, when we got pushed into lockdown, our athletes made a video for us and so many got around us and supported us and stuff like that. And for me, that was unbelievable.

So, I think the community… I don’t necessarily think COVID created it, but it’s certainly probably identified the power of it and how strong our community is without actually realising it.

Jack: And you mentioned a little bit earlier, it’s something I’ve picked up on, was making an impact with the athletes. Now you miss game day, and that makes a lot of sense from a competitive point of view and everyone lean on game day performance that is hard to replicate. But from making an impact as a coach, do you feel like in the private sector you actually moved the needle a lot more with the athlete’s development?

Lachlan: Yeah, a hundred percent you do. In professional sport, us, strength & conditioning coaches, we probably have a percentage of athletes that we impact more than others. Typically when it comes to the superstars that are very talented, our influence on them can often be less. For the older athletes, often our influence can be sustaining careers for a little bit longer.

But, obviously, in the AFL was a classic example. We were getting athletes at seven, eight and nine months. To be able to influence them was really big. And that’s what we do in the private sector. We get these athletes, that’s sometimes as young as nine years of age, and we can have a huge influence on their routine, their habits, what they value, why they value it.

And I think as well, that’s what the private sector can be quite powerful with. That we can bring in these 10, 11-year-olds and they can look across the facility, especially, you know, I can only speak for ours, but I know a lot of the facilities on here are similar, that they’ll have a high-performing elite senior athlete that may be in the same sport, maybe even in the same position that these young athletes at, and they can look across the room and go, ‘Geez, that’s what I want to be like. That’s what I need to get to.’ And their value on strength & conditioning increases significantly. Versus that 10-year-old, 11-year-old going to a Fitness First or a Virgin Active and just doing weights.

I think they can start to see the process, the values. And that’s what you’re getting at pro sport. You get a 17, 18-year-old coming to your club. And they want to play mid-field and they see a 25, 26-year-old midfielder who might be bench pressing 120 kilos, or squatting, or jumping, or throwing med balls around. And they’re going, ‘That’s what I need to do to be that good.’

I think we can influence that in the private sector far more than your average gym. And, obviously, the people that are on here, you can see that the average gym is now changing, because these are performance facilities. These are the ones that are going to govern our young athletes and build them into something more.

Jack: Yeah, it’s exciting, mate. It’s something we’re talking about often here. When you look at this panel compared to 10 years ago in Australia Health, how fast we are catching the American culture with its private sector? Which is maybe something at the end of discussion, if we get time for, it would be good to hear everyone’s thoughts around that. And how fast we are gaining on the Americans in that space?

Lachlan: We’re not getting any more attractive, mate, but we’re certainly improving the performance, by the looks of it.

Jack: Too much time put in coaching, making everyone else looking better? What about from the coach’s perspective? Do you feel, from a development point of view, if you had to pick one to start with, would you prefer developing yourself in the high-performance sport realm or do you think private sector is a better place to start?

Lachlan: To be brutally honest, I think it’s six of one, and half a dozen of the other. I don’t think the category is the maker. It’s the coaches around you that will make it. If you’re in high-performance sport with terrible people, it’s not great. By the same token, if you’re in the private sector with terrible people, it’s not great.

I do believe, when it comes to a lot of young coaches at the moment, and, to be honest, I don’t think it’s going to change. I think, the shyniness of a pro sport logo is always going to be attractive to coaches. And that’s not to say it shouldn’t be, I think there’re a lot of amasing things in pro sport.

The experiences I had were phenomenal. But again, it depends who you’re with. I’ve got a young coach that works in my facility, that worked in the private sector and wanted to give pro sport a go, gave it a go, didn’t like it and now has come back.

And for me, that’s the powerful part. I would always prefer a coach that went to pro sport, didn’t like it and has come back, and has to rebuild a little bit, rather than a young coach that has always got that desire to go, ‘Oh, well, I want to give pro sport a go, but I’m not sure whether I’ll like it or not.’

I don’t think there is one or the other. I think it’s got to be based on the environment you’re going into and the coaches you’re with. So, whether it’s private, whether it’s pro, I think both have amazing positives and negatives in a certain extent, but realistically, it’s quality people. Again, referring back to the panel here, if you’re lucky enough to work with some of the people on this panel, well, amasing. It doesn’t necessarily mean pro sport’s going to be better. But, by the same token, if you get an opportunity in pro sport and there’s good quality people. One of my best mates, Simon Greta* is at Melbourne at the moment, but if you’ve got an opportunity to work in that environment with him, fantastic. I’d say, take it any day of the week.

But it’s probably down to the people and the community within the performance setting. So, the physios that are going to be working there, the strength & conditioning coaches, the high-performance manager, to an extent the head coach, what do they believe in? What do they want to push? And it’s the same with private setting. If you’ve got good quality people around, you can’t go wrong regardless. 

Jack: Awesome mate. Thanks for shedding light on that. And then in terms of, for the coaches listening in, do you feel in your experience there’s personality traits and coaching skill sets that are more suited to private sector compared to high-performance sport, or do you think a good coach is a good coach?

Lachlan: Firstly, I think a good coach is a good coach. I’ve got Woody here trying to wrap me up, so, clearly, he’s used to the voice, it’s terrible, cause he’s trying to text it. But we can certainly think only from a private and a pro.

My strongest coaches are the ones that have had experience in team environments. Now, that’s not to put down anyone that works individually, but our environment is on a gym floor in group settings. So, my strongest coaches are the ones that have worked in group settings. That doesn’t mean it has to be pro, but it certainly has to be at a level where they have to control a team environment.

I probably find that the people that go into the private setting need to have a far more sales-orientated influence, because at the end of the day they actually need to sell the service a little bit more. In an environment of professional, they don’t need to go out and get sales, but you still need to sell what you’re doing to the athlete.

They are very similar, but they’re also very different in nature. So, I’d probably say, if you want to go into the private setting, you’ve got to have a little bit of monger about you, about going out and getting leads and attracting people, attracting teams, attracting individuals. If you’re in the pro setting, you probably need to work out how you sell your program more than sell a company or get leads in.

So, I don’t think that really answers it very well for you, but I think it’s summary. There is no specific trait that I think is going to transfer better to pro, better to private. Because, like I said at the beginning, the facilities on here and my facility as well, our whole goal is to start to breed a performance mentality.

And that’s exactly what we do in the pro setting, exactly what you’re doing in the private setting. So, I think the carry-over and the crossover is way too familiar. But if you had to pick one nuance, it would probably be that when you’re in the private setting, you’ve got to try and sell the company more and get that name out there. In the pro setting you’ve probably got to sell your program a little bit more to the individuals.

Jack: Yeah. That makes sense. Like you said, similar goals in mind, but one’s commercial and then one’s more performance-based, but the traits are transferrable, which is probably the main thing for coaches listening in. You’re going to benefit development wise by being in a good environment, like you said, in both settings.

I love it, mate. Love your work. For those listening in, that are a coach or an athlete, where can we find Athletes Authority and what is the best place to get in contact with you, guys?

Lachlan: The old social support for the atheist* on Instagram, @athletesauthority. That’s an easy follow. And then I’m @performancecoach_wilmot. Feel free to follow both, but you probably get one or the other on one of them. So, go for it. 

Jack: Beautiful. Thanks, mate.

Lachlan: Thanks, mate. 


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