Highlights of the episode:

  • Ways to accelerate your learning process
  • Strategies on how to sell a program to a club
  • Things to consider when introducing weights
  • Key areas of development for female athletes

People mentioned:

  • Damien Austin
  • Robb Spurs
  • Mark Kilgallon
  • Matt Cameron
  • Rob Inness
  • Shane Lehane
  • Paul Roos

#stephenkelly #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 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? 

Stephen: August.

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.

Stephen: No problem. Thanks, Jack.

Jack: Cheers, guys.

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