Having completed his Masters of Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning), Mike has been fortunate enough to work at many elite organizations in Australia and abroad including Melbourne Storm, AIS, VIS, Melbourne Demons, Essendon FC, and Shanghai Sports Institute.

Highlights of the episode:

  • How he balances his masters degree, trying different things and building his career
  • Tips for interview preparation
  • How to develop your professional network
  • His key pillars when he train athletes at MFP

People Mentioned:

  • Rob Jackson
  • Warren Young
  • Stu Cormack
  • John Quinn
  • Alex Corvo

#michaelcrichton #preparelikeapro #plplivechats #podcast #melbournestrengthcoach

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Listen: iTunes | Spotify

Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome to ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean and tonight my guest is Michael Crichton, the founder of Team MFP. Having completed his Master’s of Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning), Mark has been fortunate enough to work at an elite organizations in Australia and abroad, including Melbourne Storm, AIS, BIS, Melbourne Demons, Essendon Football Club and Shanghai Sport Institute.

Before we start tonight’s episode on the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, our mission here is to empower aspiring athletes and staff with practical knowledge from some of the industry’s most inspiring individuals and to strengthen the AFL community. If you like the show, please show support by following us on Instagram and subscribing to the podcast. We’re on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. Welcome back on, Mark. Thanks for jumping on.

Michael: Amazing, mate. Thanks for that intro. Just to clear up a couple of things. I didn’t work full-time at all of those places, but I always invested in my career as a coach at some of those organizations. So, you may not have seen me there full-time, but I definitely was influenced by the guys running those programs and involved in some really cool opportunities, to see them in all of their glory. It would be nice to say that was my complete resume, but it is what it is in this industry. We’re always out there doing internships and opportunities with observational work. Connecting and networking with the best is the way to learn.

Jack: A hundred percent. Well said, mate.

Michael: I’ve been fortunate to be able to go to some amazing places and work and see some of the best coaches in the country. 

Jack: And that’s part of why we want to have you on, mate. It’s to share that journey for developing strength & conditioning coaches, whether they want to work in elite sport, semi-professional sport, professional sport or private sector, you’ve worked in them all. And like you said, you’ve got to put in your time. So, no doubt, we’ll spend some time with all those chapters of those clubs, as well as some time in the private sector. But take us back to the very beginning. At what age did you discover you had a passion for the industry of fitness, strength & conditioning?

Michael: The first time when it really hit me, I was 15 years old, playing footy. At the time I was at Kiwi in Australia. So, I transitioned into playing AFL footy, and I just felt like I wasn’t able to be my best athlete. And so I ended up signing up to a local gym and I started my journey by just training in a gym.

There was a guy there. He did some bodybuilding training. He was an older guy from the school. Cave Miller his name was, actually, comes to mind. I used to just copy him and like, we’d go in each day, one day I bench press 60 killos. Next day I come in and tell someone I could bench 60, put 60 on the bar and I couldn’t bench it. And then I couldn’t actually get the rep back up because I didn’t understand what fatigue was, what terms was, what actual training was all about. And I thought you could just do the same thing day in, day out.

So, from that moment, it lit a light bulb in me, when I had let weights fall off the bar onto the floor, almost knocking another guy in the gym training, that there’s a lot more to this than I think of just coming in and throwing down some weights. And that’s when the fire was lit. And I really got a tasteful of the gym environment, and wanting to train and work with athletes.

And that’s when I decided that I was going to go to university to study human movement, exercise science at Ballarat, start the journey to become strength & conditioning or, now as we like to term it, athletic performance coach. Because I felt like that was definitely something that I could do for the rest of my life. I was like, ‘I could live and breathe and be in a gym. That’s me. That’s who I am.’ And to this day, I think that that’s still me and, hopefully, for many more years to come, I think, it will be as well.

So, that was the path, that was the light bulb moment. I was a decent athlete. Wasn’t going to make it to the top top, but knew that I had an interest in working in sports and then figured out that there was a way to work in the physical side from that moment. 

Jack: Awesome, mate. Thanks for sharing. That would resonate, I reckon, with a few coaches, the humble experiencing of dumbs for the first time. You mentioned being a copycat and practicing methods through seeing. While you were at university, what were some experiences that you look back on fondly in terms of cutting your teeth as a coach?

Michael: I was pretty fortunate, or not fortunate. I was actually one of those people that got to university. And my first six months of university was all about just being free and enjoying university life. But after that first six months I failed one subject. I decided I’m actually pretty studious. That’s not me. Let’s get after it. Let’s find out what we can do.

So, I got a gym job as soon as I could. I was harassing the lecturers Ray Breed and Warren Young, two guys that helped shape me through university. Getting involved in many projects at university, down in the science labs, out on the field, trying to get as much experience and knowledge as I could from the people at that environment.

Fortunately, that led me to get a job, which not many people know about, at North Ballarat Rooster’s VFL club. I was the strength coach. We won three premierships back to back to back. I can tell you now it wasn’t because of my program. Each year in the program I got more opportunities. I got to do some speed and agility. So, I was in charge of that in my second year. That led into the next year, and then also doing some of the basic rehab stuff for guys with hamstring strains, and small three- or four-week injuries, like a shoulder pain and things like this.

I got to work with the physios as well in that part of my role. And, obviously, that got me really excited about wanting to be a professional S&C or athletic performance coach. Because I’d had that exposure at a successful organization, winning three premierships and being close to the AFL, thinking I was ready, but then realizing quickly that there’s still so much to learn. And that’s one of the best things about university.

Although I think the curriculum needs a wake-up and I think we need a shake-up when it comes to the practical stuff that’s coming out of universities. And I’m big on really trying to change that. I think there’s a missing link between what we’re doing now in the real world setting and what’s coming out of university. And that’s obviously evident by a lot of the internships, mentorships, and opportunities that are presented for places like myself and other private industry facilities, is that university students need more time in the practical staff and a little less time on some of the theory that we do.

But the best thing about my university experience and that starting point was as much exposure to as many different realms as I could. I did research projects on stuff that I wasn’t that interest in, leading to my exposure to VO2 max, blood lab takes, all of that stuff. We did caffeine study, assistant stuff, where we took caffeine and looked at different elements of how that affects your mental performance.

Was really, really cool, because that’s what comes back later on. But I think also the practical and theoretical side of it was something that I’ve just tried to get as much exposure to it as quickly as possible. And to go through as many different opportunities as I could to learn.

Jack: You brought up a good point, mate. It’s one that I’d probably sit on the fence about. But I’d being interested to hear your opinion on it, especially in running a facility. So, how much of it is on the students? Like you said, you went out of your way to get that experience. And how much is it on the universities? Where do you reckon it sits? Best coaches are going to be the best coaches because they’re going to put in extra? Or do you think there’s some responsibility where unis do need to, like you said, shake it up a little bit? I guess, there’s placement, but do they still need to do more?

Michael: I’ve actually lectured at universities. So, I have exposure to the lecturing side of it. And we’ve now gone into this really bad competency-based learning model at a university level, where they’re trying to find it impossible to fail students, because they want to get them through to get the money and the funding. And at the end of the day, it’s about getting students passing units to get paid a lot of the time.

And I know there’s also like if you fail subjects, because past rates of your units look really good as lecturism thinks and people running units. But the actual way that we’re testing and assessing the students has gone more to a competency-based learning system than just straight your practical knowledge. And I’m talking about the practical stuff, because that’s where I’ve had the most. Obviously, you’re still going to pass it with theoretical tests, but I’m assuming a lot more online or open book. That’s the real world anyway.

So, that’s a bad thing because the information is out there. I have all the information I need in the palm of my hand daily, anything that I want. Allowing me to use that skillset and have the skillset to go find that info is great. But when it comes to practical skillset, you can’t fake that. And I think that’s what’s going wrong and it’s very rushed. So, we’re trying to learn some stuff really quickly that’s technical, and then, hopefully, expecting people to be able to go out and be really proficient at it, instead of spending more time on it.

And some of the stuff that we need coaches to come out of university with, to influence straightaway now, like speed agility training. It’s very technical. You can’t get proficient at that fast and you can’t have one exposure to it and hope that they’re going to be good at it or assess them on it. But that’s such a critical skill now. It’s one of the big things that we look for as a coach. You cannot be strength & conditioning or athletic performance coach without having skills to coach speed agility. You won’t last in the industry.

There are some specialists, strength coaches, that are just good at the lifts and they get athletes in just by lifting. Great. But the full kit and caboodle needs people that have the skillsets in speed agility training, mental mindset, skills in nutrition. We have to tick so many more boxes. Rehabilitation. It comes back to them getting more exposed to the key skills that they’re going to need.

So, I think we’re dropping the ball when it comes to how we’re educating prospective coaches without practical skillsets at that level. They’ve got to tick boxes, right? Curriculum at universities, it’s ticking boxes to pass courses because it’s curriculum-based learning. So, they have all these other things that they have to learn. And how much of it is actually going to be used by a lot of these people once they get out of university?

Jack: Yeah, well said. And going back to your career progression, you mentioned after three years the thought evolved, and three is still significant amount of time, especially if you’ve had a lot of success, that, ‘Okay, next step is going to be an AFL club’. There’d be, no doubt, some coaches that might be near to that phase and they’ve got those thoughts as well, and they’re full of confidence. But how did you start to recognize it? Was it interviewing and other jobs that you didn’t get? Was it speaking to older, more experienced practitioners? How did you start to recognize, ‘Jesus, a lot of good, more experienced practitioners out there, and I’ve got to still continue to strengthen myself as a coach and get more experience’? 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. I’ve been moved to Melbourne to take up the VIS one-year internship and then was able to be a coach in, obviously, a system that’s different to just one team, a holistic system with multitude of athletes for multitude of different sports. With senior staff in different roles to oversee the programs of these different sports and open up to new sports, because there’s a lot more out there once you start looking left and right, rather than just staying narrowed on one focus.

So, getting that role and I was doing research at the Essendon Footy Club with Stu Komack and then been able to go down and see what was happening at the next level and see what a professional program was and getting that little bit of exposure there. And just noticing the difference from what I was doing and exposed to at the VFL level even to the next level of AFL and what they were able to do.

And I think that’s just the nature of the beast. Like you’ve got semi-pro versus full-time athletes. Some of the guys might be as skillful as the others, but they just don’t have the time to invest in the physical side of it. So, you kind of develop the athlete the same way. You don’t have time to work on different elements of programming.

They had a pretty cool program down there at the time. So, I got to learn some cool stuff just from being involved in the research I was doing, but I was also able to shadow sessions down there. So, it worked really well. Also got to spend time with John Quinn down there, before actually. So, that was the two that I got to see. 

Jack: Yeah, great practitioners. And what was the research? 

Michael: We looked at jump variables and sprint performance of AFL footballers. So, I’m on that paper.

Jack: Yeah, I think I’ve seen it.

Michael: Published author. I was meant to write the thesis, but I never did. Because that’s not me. I’m not research.

Jack: You got the experience.

Michael: I was pushed the third on the list instead of being at the top. That’s okay.  

Jack: Is that how it works?

Michael: You have to be the one to actually write the whole thesis article, I think. And I decided that that just wasn’t for me, but that’s all right. That’s all part of the process. I wasn’t going to spend six months trying to do something that I didn’t want to do. So, I moved on to the next thing. And that’s getting the exposure to other sports. I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a lot more out here. I need to learn. I need to spend time with different sports, with different people, open my eyes up to more out there.’

And then I guess the next part of the story or whatever it may be, was just a little bit sad. I was so close to getting that next job, the assistant role at the top level. But missing out like five times because someone knew someone. I personally would have thought I was better than them at the time. Or someone I saw hired someone at the top and it’s just the nature of the beast.

And it made me realize how important your network is and the people you surround yourself with, to get to those levels at the right time. Because you can have two people that are equally as good. And there are many of us that are equally as good everywhere. But if I know this person and they know me through whatever relationship that may be, I’m probably going to get that job. It really comes back to networking as well. And it really opened my eyes up to being able to network, communicate and have relationships with people that are in position that you want to achieve to make it. So, that was that part. 

And then I left chasing that goal and found the private industry. And I’ve stuck my teeth in the private industry ever since. It’s now my passion. It’s where I want to be. And that’s where the next steps are, as I see it, in our industry. And the caliber of athletes that we are seeing come into facilities like ours around the country and the opportunities that present themselves for coaches and businesses to establish brands as athletic performance training companies. And I think it’s pretty exciting because having elite athletes come through your facility or trying to help athletes become elite, it is really, really invigorating and inspiring. Because you get the best of both worlds.

Jack: Absolutely. And you mentioned the importance of trying different things early on in your career, whether it be studying, applying practice at stately teams, going into different sports, going into research, even if you’re not passionate about it, but just to take yourself out of your comfort zone.

So, for a coach that’s in that early stage, maybe they’re doing their Bachelor of Sport Science, doing their Master’s or they’re cutting their teeth in a program, how do you get that balance right? Like how many of those would you want at one time? You know, you’re spending time at Essendon, but you’re working at BIS or you’re doing a bit of PT. Talk us through how do you get the balance right of making money while also climbing a ladder and then finishing a degree as well?

Michael: I guess this is where the balance is gone. So, time management and work ethic, really. It comes down to what do you want to achieve? And where do you want to be? And it’s like anything. It’s competitive out there. And those that are willing to put in the time, effort and energy and have that strong drive and willpower will be the ones that succeed in the long run, because it’s not easy at the start.

You do have to wear a lot of hats and you do have to take up a lot of small opportunities to get the right one that will come eventually. And look, it’s still now, even at the top, we’re still developing concepts, ideas and growth for the business to get to the next level. So, it’s never ending, you need more hats than you think. And I think it’s okay to be a bit more of a jack-of-all-trades-of-AFL, rather than a specialist in one area.

Yes, some people can be specialists and there are opportunities to be specialists. But I think you’ve got to go and expose yourself to a lot of different facets of what we do and find where you want to be and spend most of your time there. Because there’s a lot of opportunities. And the quicker you can get involved in it and find your place and start opening up the network and doors, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Jack: And you mentioned something that I think is a good advice for anyone that’s trying to find their way in an industry. Once you felt that your passion wasn’t on that research paper to do another six months on it, you moved on to the next thing. How did you go about that decision? Did you lean on a mentor? Was it a gut instinct? Talk us through making that decision, because I imagine it wouldn’t have been an easy one with the work you’d already done at that point. 

Michael: I think this comes back to just all-around business and opportunities. Like not many people have an easy story. If you speak to successful people or people at the top somewhere, or people that are getting there, it’s rare that people have an easy story. A lot of the people are people who have had hard times. They’ve started businesses before that failed. They’ve done stuff before that didn’t work. There’s a lot of trial and error along the way. And that’s what life is. It’s about experiences, exposing yourself to the experiences of life, to help evolve you as a person and human to then gravitate to where you want to be.

So, yeah, I quit and failed my thesis and an honors year. But it was a great learning experience and opportunity. Something that then set me up for the future, for what I wanted to do. To get a Master’s, you still got to have the ability to read and utilize research, because you can’t pass those, the coursework’s associated with it. So, if I hadn’t had done that, I wouldn’t have been as well-versed to get through that part of my journey.

I think it’s just an important part of living. Trial and error, failures and success and exposing yourself to things. Going back now and learning new skills, like the age-old saying: never too young to learn something. It’s important to constantly be looking to evolve as a person, human, whatever that is. And you do stuff that you don’t realize how that actually then helps you as a coach or as a communicator, or puts you outside of your comfort zone. But you’ll find out other avenues that will assist you with what you’re trying to achieve later on. So, I think it’s important just to expose yourself to a lot of opportunities in life, no matter what it is. 

Jack: And like I mentioned in the intro, there was a good range of different sports, different experiences. So, clearly you had a good ability of putting yourself out there and getting opportunities during the interview processes. And there would have been a whole host of competition for those positions. For coaches that have had some setbacks, what are some of the most important things going into interview preparation? What are your top three tips for preparing yourself to be successful or putting your best foot forward? 

Michael: I think one thing that just goes without saying, it’s just natural confidence. And I think with our industry, like one thing that you can do that, it doesn’t matter how much you don’t know, is you can actually expose yourself to what we do. You can go train, you can go put time into the gym. You can go and do time on the track. You can go by our code, by our program, train at a facility, train with other people.

So, I think having confidence in knowing what athletes actually go through. No matter. When you’re getting to job interviews, you’ve had three to four years at university before that. It’s a great opportunity to expose yourself to the industry from the athlete’s side. Then when you get to these interviews, you’re going to feel a lot more confident in expressing yourself about your passion sport.

Because a lot of time when you’re young and you’re trying to get in somewhere or a job, it’s actually you as a person that will get the job, not your knowledge. So, if you can showcase that you live and breathe this lifestyle, then I think it’s going to help you a lot. It’s something that I see and gravitate towards instantly when I have interviews from young coaches coming through our facility in the past. Something that I can’t have enough, because it’s such a simple thing. It’s a choice that you can go and make for yourself. So, that’s one big one.

It’s okay to practice talking to yourself or talking out loud about stuff that might come up in an interview. And that sounds a bit cliché, I guess, but practicing the event of interviewing, speaking to a mirror, speaking into a microphone, a computer, a Zoom, whatever it may be. Make a list of 5 to 10 of the key questions. If you go on Google, type in ‘common interview questions’. You’ll find 10, give it to someone, get them to ask you. Practice being interviewed. It’s about getting your personality out there a lot of the times. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of your knowledge and base, that would evolve over time, but you want to get your personality across as much as you can.

The last one is making sure you know something about the people in the room or organization. It’s really simple to do a little bit of research into the place you’re going and the people that might be there. Because if you can at any moment refer back to something about them or the environment, they’re going to be onto it, light bulb, ‘This person’s keen. They’re interested in being here.’ And again, it shows that you’re invested in this industry.

Jack: Awesome, mate. Well done. That was a little impromptu question and you just nailed it straight off-the-cuff. 

Michael: Well, one of my special skills, if I’m honest. 

Jack: That’s awesome. Going back to your career journey. You mentioned Stu Komack, Warren Young, some big names in the industry. Building relationships with mentors, those who you look up to, how do you go about developing those relationships? You mentioned, midway through your career you recognized how important networks are, when you feel that you’re up against coaches that you’ve got just as much experience with, that you’re getting knocked back jobs, that you need to build that network base. For coaches that have that same goal in mind at the moment, what are some of your favorite ways to develop your network in a professional manner as well, that’s sustainable? 

Michael: A real simple one to start now is college workshops events. That’s a really great place to start. It’s really casual, brings the environments down. And normally the place you go to, they’re willing to go above and beyond after you’ve been there and paid your money, to assist you. So, if you show something in that environment, they’re going to go above and beyond, if you ask them a question. Or remember you as a person, because you’ve invested in their company. So, I think that’s a really simple, easy one. A little bit of the investment there.

Trying to get exposure to the best people in our industry, you’ve got to look at where they are. And there are some really high level coaches that present at events and/or they help run workshops for ASCA and things too. So, going to those events and workshops, you can then network with the best coaches in industry. And they’re there, and they’re going to be a bit more of an open book in that environment, rather than just sliding in their DMs, hitting them on LinkedIn and spamming them with messages and emails.

If you do do that, though, which is not a bad thing, make sure that you can struck your sentences well. And you’re actually coming with something meaning. And not just say, ‘Oh, I want to see if I can use your time.’ Because they don’t have much time and they don’t want to give it to everyone. So, if you come in just asking them, ‘Can I ask you some questions?’, you’re probably going to get left unread. They are so busy. There’s a lot of this stuff coming their way. A lot of elite organizations have relationships with unions and things too. So, you have to stand out and come in with something meaningful and really well-constructed sentences, if you want to cold call to the top guys.

But the easy way is to invest a little bit of money into these events and workshops that they’re presenting at. You get an open book there. They’re more susceptible to network and communicate with you at those events, because you’ve now given them some money. So, as much as that’s not the only way, it’s a nice way.

And I think just leverage off the universities when you’re there, leverage off the people at the universities, because they have contacts. A lot of unions have great contacts nowadays and people they can reach out through. And if you harass the universities to go after these things, that’s okay. Because you’re paying them. So, I definitely think you’ve got to just put yourself out there in those environments. 

Jack: Awesome. Thanks for sharing, mate. That’s a great insight. And are there any mentors or strong influences in your career that you haven’t mentioned today? Before we move on to your next step, which as you mentioned, was the private sector.

Michael: I think when I reflect back, initially Warren Young, Ray Breed at university, first guys to come to mind. Stu Komack with the research and John Quinn. He was one person I was harassing a little bit, it’s the John Quinn. I did spend a bit of time harassing him on his last days at Essendon before he left off and went to the Giants, up that way.

So, I spent some time harassing those guys and they were really good. And then I was lucky when I was working at ESS performance to get exposed to Alex Cobar at the Melbourne Storm. They’ve had sustained success, and his program still was bleeding over for the years to come that he was setting up, because the guy who was under him came up at the top.

So, I got to spend a lot of time asking him some questions. And then Rob Jackson at the Mount Davis at the time. Those guys, good, key, influential guys at the higher level that I got to pick their brains, ask questions and spend time with. So, I’m very thankful for that.

And then just my colleagues over the years, the people that you spend the most time with, the people in the trenches with you. The people you’re bouncing all the ideas off or talking about all the stuff through daily. Like our team right now, it’s the constant evolution of finding the information to share with others that we think could be useful or beneficial.

So, the people that you surround yourself with the most are those people who you’re growing up with in the industry. And yeah, it’s cool to speak to the high level guys and see what they are doing, but where the real grunt work is, where the real development is, it’s with the people you spend the most time with and that’s your colleagues on day-to-day basis.

And I think I’ve been fortunate to have some really cool people that I’ve worked with, really driven and inspiring people in terms of their own career and development. And that’s led me to then continually evolve as a coach over the years. And even now.

You know, you’d ask me five years ago, how good my system was, I’d say amazing. You get this system that we’ve got right now up against coach Michael five years ago, the athletes that coach Mike coached five years ago are getting crushed by the athletes of the Team MFP system that we’ve developed now.

And I guarantee you in five years time again, the athletes on the old coach Team MFP system are going to get crushed by the athletes on the next level of the Team MFP system. It’s just our field is growing so much. You can’t stop the learning. It’s continually evolving. 

Jack: That resonates with me. It feels that way. There’s so much growth to be had. And like we’ve been talking here before, the power of social media now as well, where you can see behind the scenes of people, what they are doing, their preparation, during sessions, cooldowns and all their different philosophies. It’s a good time to be a coach. You’ve got to have a pretty good filter, but we’ve got lots of access to information.

Michael: Yeah, and some guys in athletics just make a new exercise every day for no reason.

Jack: There’re some creatives out there, let’s put it that way. Private sector, let’s get into it. So, where did you start in the private sector and what excited you about the opportunity to transfer from working with professionals to over in the private sector, where you’ve got to start to learn some business skills and start working with private athletes and general pop? 

Michael: Yeah, it’s a big change. I think the best thing is the variability, because we can have on the floor a netballer, a hockey player, a cross-player, a footy player, a rugby player, a swimmer, an ultra endurance athlete. We can have all of these people in the gym at the same time. And all of them working towards their own individual goals, but in our setting and team and culture. So, I think the big thing that drew me was that variability. And that was that slight exposure to the institute system at the VIS, that I was exposed to see that. And so, I was really excited by those ideas and concepts.

And I think also junior athletes was one at the time. I was really driven to wanting to help young athletes succeed and fulfill their potential. And it’s only happened, realistically, a handful of times that the athlete has fulfilled the potential and got to the level that we all aspire, like a pro contract or whatever it may be, or that debut game, or that world event that they competed in or something like that.

It’s not every athlete will. And that’s okay. As long as you’re still mindful of not every athlete you coach will become a world champion or Australian level athlete or get that pro contract. But if you can still give them the same energy and effort, if they’re giving that same energy and effort, I think that’s what really drew me into the private sector, to see if it’s possible to do what we do to help an athlete improve their physical attributes for a sport performance. And it is.

Jack: You mentioned the importance of learning speed and agility. When you move from getting contracts at big clubs to now, where you’re running your own business, where you’re getting paid by the gym, talk us through the business setup in the private sector.

Michael: So, initially I was working in a gym, in a shed, when we first started it. Before we moved to what was GW performance. I worked for a company before that, ESS performance, which is like an institute model where they had athletes on scholarship system set up, paying students as well. And we ran that, like it was sort of a high school type system. In terms of the business I was employed. So, I wasn’t really exposed to it there. Then going to my next role at GW, I was involved a little bit more on the business side and helping develop the program, price points, running the structure of classes, sessions, coaching, developing the system and program. 

And then from there, I got to a level where I felt like I could do it myself, which then led me to move to the west and open up MFP. That was five years ago. What started out as more of a general fitness facility, I’d say, it had that feel to it, has evolved into a fully-fledged, athletic performance and rehabilitation facility. And that’s really down to the type of people that we’ve got here now, like the coaches and the people that have stayed with us and just the evolution of the program over time.

And so, the backend side of business, we are constantly still evolving. And I’m not a specialist in this field of running and developing businesses, but I’m definitely learning a lot about what it takes when it comes to budgets, accounting, dealing with staff, putting staff on, bringing the right people in, facility management, cleanliness, all of the elements of running facilities that a lot of times you would have taken for granted when you were just employed and how much time and effort and energy goes into it.

So, it is quite a big thing. And the bigger you get, the more time and energy that’s required on running the actual back end of the company. I could go few years back, I would have told younger coach Mike to spend a bit more time learning about business systems and operations.

Jack: That’s interesting. And we talked about that a little bit earlier, in terms of preparing modern day coaches, and when you’re interviewing coaches now, you like to see how practically competent they are as a coach. Do you think that’s something that’s going to start to be pretty demanding? There’s only so much time that universities can equip young coaches, but do you think there’s some business, and put marketing in there, that needs to be in there? Or do you think we can leave that? 

Michael: Yeah, I think it needs to be separate, no chance. I think you’ve got to go off and that should be an adult, a jump to your degree. And it would be something you would come back later to do, I would expect. Or if you can find someone that has those skillsets, you just go into business with them and learn from them. It’s going to be a lot more helpful, I’d imagine. Or like what we’re doing now and hiring the businessmen. So, getting the nominees behind you that know the ins and outs of running a business properly.

Because there’s a lot more to it than just getting clients in and paying your coach to understand. And so, I think it’d be really hard to put into the degree. It can be an add-on or something that you might add, like summer units for students. It’s definitely an option, though, to develop it. Co-align some business mentorship program associated with coaches that maybe want to do this. But I also think that if you’re thinking about that as soon as you’re at university, you’re thinking about the wrong things. Because you need to go out there and work for five years before you worry about trying to open your own or start your own facility. 

Jack: Learn to trade first. 

Michael: Yeah. Go spend some time actually coaching and being a coach and working and learning from an organization, because you can learn a lot before you go down that path. And I think that as a curriculum or something out there, I think we’ll see over the next bit. There already are. There already are business internships, that sort of stuff, programs happening at the moment. I think we’ll see some more popping up. 

Jack: But how long have you guys started to consult outside of the building? It sounds like that you started with coaches and then you’ve brought on some, is it like consults or you’re doing a course to upskill yourself in that area?

Michael: No. Just like the constant evolution of what does the business need to succeed and to get to the next level. So, be foolish, listen and learn what others are doing and then go, ‘Okay, we probably need to do that because we’re missing XYZ.’ That’s where your network is a powerful thing where you’re learning from, who’s posting and what they’re sharing and paying attention, because there’s a lot of great information you can get from people. And just acknowledging that you won’t know everything. And if you’re in the position to hire people that know more than you, at the right time it’s super important.

Jack: And for the developing athletes that are listening in, what would be some of the key pillars when a new athlete walks into the facility Team MFP?

Michael: I wrote a couple of notes about a couple of key things to do, what athletes need to work on. And one of the big things that stuck out for me when I was going through that question, was I think it’s really important for an athlete to just understand about mental and mindset training and the capabilities of the human mind.

Because I feel like at the moment the ability to stay on task and to do simple things well is a skill that a lot of young people don’t have the capacity to do as much anymore. And I think it does come back a little bit to technology, social media and the fast-paced world that we’re living in, with the scrolling and so forth and not being able to be attentive to simple little things.

So, it’s definitely something that a lot of young athletes will need to be acknowledging, and parents potentially as well, that learning to be mindful and to have some form of mindset training involved. And I think a lot of the times we link it back to breathwork and breathing, and working in gratitude journals and these things. I think that we’re going to see that these things early on are going to be massive in the next 5 to 10 years.

It’s that attention span, ability to absorb information and retain it. Because that comes back to a lot of tactical and skill-based concepts that will be developed when you get to those next levels to have the capacities to work on those tools and to have the mental aptitude to be able to actually correspond at those moments when it’s needed.

Because a lot of times there’s a lot of good athletes that are hard workers that make it; there are a lot of really talented athletes that make it because of how talented they are, but they have a decent work ethic. And I think over time, we’ll see the talent of athletes will continue to rise, but the work ethic of the right athletes at the right time will push them up the tree a little bit more, because they’re going to close the gap, some of the talent and skill stuff.

So, it’s just something I think, if we can start to actually target it towards juniors rather than the top. Because a lot of time everything’s targeted at the top and then re-packaged properly for the younger athletes. So, something that I think we can look into in the future.

The other big one, when you mentioned that junior young athletes, that I wrote down was, and for parents too, is actually learning to train speed agility and running mechanics earlier than you think. It’s such a critical skill for a lot of sports. And I’m talking about sports that are on the feet, mainly footy in this case, because of the athletes you’re working with and that are probably listening in. 

You really need to take ownership on this and look into the development of your speed agility and running mechanics at a younger age than you think. Because having the ability to maneuver, change direction, maintain speed, accelerate, get away from the defender in a closed space in congestion, breakaway on a leave are all game-changing attributes that we see at the top that athletes need to have. 

So, if you can develop and harness those skills, and then at the next layer of, can you then perform the skill of your sport under fatigue and/or at these higher speeds or on these positions that are not this linear or easy, perform the skills to high standards in these positions too, and transfer them both together, that’s where you will excel as an athlete in football, in my opinion. And it goes without saying, it’s like high skill, high physical attributes, good work ethic goes together like anything. That’s what success is all about. 

Jack: Like you mentioned earlier, there’s a whole range of different sports and athletes that are training in your facility. What’s something that you’ve learnt from the best of the best athletes? That doesn’t have to be from a specific sport, but something that is really noticeable, that over years as a coach you’ve noticed. It doesn’t matter what the sport, but what you can see in a high-performing athletes?

Michael: I think that the big one is that they’re always willing to learn. Great athletes, high-level athletes, they’re always willing to learn from others. They’re always willing to take the time to expose themselves to opportunities to be better. Because they see and sense that there’s information out there that they need from other people who are specialists in those areas, that they can then harness and utilize.

But I think the best athletes are always, you can just see they’re always willing to learn and then execute and do. So, they’ll learn, listen, and then they’ll execute and do. It’s a big thing. Like just your capacity to want to learn, first and foremost. And then your ability to actually retain and utilize information that you are learning. Critical concept for a lot of the athletes.

And it goes without saying, they’ve all got a little bit of spark or flair or something about them, that just separates them from the normal athlete or the semi-pro. They’ve got a little bit of a skill or ability to do something that others just can’t. And if you do have that, it’s about nurturing it and harnessing it.

And I think a lot of the elite athletes know they have something and they know how to use it. So, when you’ve got a little special power, understanding what it is and how to use it, I think, that’s what separates a lot of the elite from the semi-elite athletes. 

Jack: Fantastic. Well said, mate. We’ll dive into the next section of the podcast, which is the get-to-know-coach-Mike section. It’s a bit of fun, these questions. So, let’s get into it. The first one: which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why? It doesn’t have to be S&C specifically, of course.

Michael: It’d be remiss, if I didn’t mention Marvel, Cinematic Universe of Marvel. I’ve talked about that with people many times. Just how impactful, I guess, the idea of superheroes and being good people are, how that relates back to what you do for others in the world. I think this is something that’s underlying, amazing from a lot of those movies. You know, the good old saying of ‘good guys win, but it’s not without cost’. So, you’re going to win if you do the right things, but sometimes it is going to be costly, and whatever that may be. So, be prepared for that.

Being good in this world goes a long way, I think, as a person. And just like overarching concepts of there are amazing people in the world out there doing amazing things and we should uplift them and get behind them. I think that’s something that as humans we naturally want to do, we want to follow people that are amazing. So, I think they really packaged it well in those movies. 

Jack: And favorite inspirational quote or life motto? 

Michael: I’ve actually made one up myself recently. And I love that. It was: ‘A champion’s mindset is forged from intense hard training that they put themselves into and are exposed to. And the champion is then made, on the flip side, from the people who support, surround them and build them up to be the best they can be.’

So, just the FOs of team and the FOs of your work ethic for me is just something massive that I like strive to be and strive to be involved with. We call it Team MFP, because we are a team. It’s all of us. No one’s bigger than anyone here. We work together, striving for greatness for the athletes that come and want to be a part of our facility.

So, team ethics, team culture, team environment’s something for me that sort of reaches. And I think in the champion mindset, like you listened to the Tom Bradys of the world and the Michael Jordans, LeBron Jameses, a lot of it is forged from what they do. Their mind is so powerful from what they’ve exposed themselves to, to get to where they are. 

Jack: And then what about a day off? Do you have a favorite way to spend a day off? 

Michael: It changes. I’m a cyclical person where I’ll do different things. So, more recently, I wanted to learn some new skills and started doing some gymnastics training and learning to backflip. That’s transitioned to a little bit of boxing and then in the right time some mountain biking. Whatever fun events, things are out there to go do, I want to do a bit of action and expose myself to some skill-based training out there. So, I’m still doing something that’s physical, but exploring the world, exploring what’s out there. A bit of surfing when it was warm, urban surf.

Jack: How did it go?

Michael: I need to get better at that stuff. It’s hard. It’s hard out in the ocean, but it’s easier up there. 

Jack: For sure. Consistent. Well, thank you so much for jumping on, Mike. And I know we had you on for the collaborative high-performance facility event, which you were fantastic to share your knowledge on there. But even better to have you on and dive into your journey and share your story in the strength & conditioning. Like you said, there’s a long career ahead for you, but it was good to share the part that you’ve done so far for the industry.

You mentioned networking and it’d be remiss of me not to mention the group that you’re managing on Facebook as well for strength & conditioning coaches, that post. You talked about workshops and events. And then we’ll also talk about some places that people can find you and MFP. But in terms of the Facebook group for strength & conditioning coaches, talk us through about how that group works and the perks involved.

Michael: The Victorian Athletic Performance Coaches group. It wasn’t started by me, but it’s just been recently, it’s more of the last year that I’ve been managing it. And it’s a great place for people to be able to… I’m actually looking for a little change. So, there are a lot of great coaches in there that do want, and they are doing some amazing things, but it’s never been about sharing events and workspaces.

But I look at it as a way that will allow people to share something. So, a once a month post where everyone can post in the comments or something they can share to me before, and I can post all of the events that are coming up. I’m looking at something that will allow people to expose people to what they’re doing. Because it’d be remiss not to try and help people in the space and let others know what others are doing.

But it’s essentially a great place to find out about roles, opportunities, jobs, and sometimes people’s postdoc topics and things to learn about. So, I will be looking at a few other cool things to do with that group. It’s just, it’s a nonprofit. So, we’re just trying to manage the cool, amazing people that we have in it.

Jack: Awesome, mate. Very good. And for those that want to get in contact with you, where’s the best place to find you?

Michael: Instagram @coachmike_mfp or @melbfitperformance. They’re the best spots to see what’s happening. Got a great team, go check them out. Some amazing content put out daily from our team. So, definitely get on Instagram and see what’s happening at Melbourne Fitness & Performance. 

Jack: Fantastic. Well, thanks again, mate. We’ll add all the links in the show notes, guys. For those listening in to the podcast, who might be walking the dog or driving, don’t worry, you can copy and paste from the show notes.

And thank you for everyone that’s tuned into this live YouTube show as well. If you had tuned in halfway through or three-quarters through, make sure to tune in at the very start. There was no mucking around, we dived straight into the good stuff and Mark’s been providing gems all the way through to the last hour. So, make sure to listen in. That will be on our YouTube channel and we’ll post the podcast next Tuesday as well. So, stay tuned.

And for those that want to listen to the podcast, our next ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show will be with AFLW athletes on May 20th at 1:00 PM. The link will be on our Instagram channel. So, you can head over there. Thanks for everyone tuning in. I’ll see you guys on the next one. 

Michael: Awesome, Jack. And let me just say one thing, mate. Keep up the great work you’re doing. Keep pushing forward with what you’re doing. It’s really good for the industry. I love it.

Jack: I appreciate it.

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