Prior to working with Catapult, Matt has worked at North Melbourne FC as Rehab Coordinator / Strength & Conditioning Coach. He’s also a Strength and Conditioning Coach (Consultant) at Penleigh Essendon Grammar School and a senior strength & conditioning coach at Carlton football club.

Highlights of the episode:

  • Matt’s top tips for developing strength & conditioning coaches wanting to gain work experience in elite sport
  • Matt explains the use of tactical periodisation in AFL
  • Successful methods he used to get buy-in for athletes who don’t like the gym
  • His favorite acceleration drills for athletes
  • Tips and tricks to deliver a clear message during a presentation

People mentioned:

  • Paul Turk
  • Joel Hocking
  • Shane McCurry
  • Daniel Harris
  • Jona Segal
  • Dani Laidley
  • George Elias
  • David Buttifant
  • Ben Fletcher
  • David Bailey
  • Aaron Kellet
  • Nick Foot
  • Jeff Gieschen
  • Jordan Bannister
  • Leigh Fisher
  • Mark Fraser
  • Dan James
  • Alex Silvani
  • Stu Livingstone
  • James Sicily
  • Lachlan Hunter
  • Dan Jones
  • Matthew Turnbull
  • Steve Saunders
  • Dan Meehan
  • Ed Vicker Willis
  • Jamie Hepner
  • Adam White

#matthewpell #preparelikeapro #plplivechats #podcast #melbournestrengthcoach

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Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. My guest tonight is Matthew Pell. He’s the senior applied sports scientist at Catapult. Prior to working at Catapult, Matt has worked at the North Melbourne Football Club as a rehab coordinator and strength & conditioning coach. He’s also been a strength & conditioning consultant at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School and a senior strength & conditioning coach at the Carlton Football Club.

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

Welcome, Matt. Thanks for jumping on, mate.

Matthew: Thanks very much for the opportunity to come on, Jack. You’ve certainly grown this out to an amazing audience. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Jack: Looking forward to our chat tonight. And it’s tonight here in Australia. What time is it where you are, mate? 

Matthew: It’s relative. It’s not too bad. It’s 7:00 AM. So, we’re kinda the opposites, obviously.

Jack: Coffee in hand?

Matthew: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

Jack: Well, take us to the very beginning of your career, mate. At what age did you discover you were passionate about strength & conditioning? Obviously, you had an athletic pursuits as well, you had your athletic goals. At what point did you shift your focus from an athlete to a coach?

Matthew: I suppose like probably most S&Cs in Australia, to be honest, that have come through the pathway, they’ve obviously dabbled in football in some capacity or whether it’s cricket. Really going back to where it all began, my first real exposure was going through the Marable Strangers program up in the country. Like a Nathalian product up near Shepparton.

And I think I remember getting access to a training plan, honestly, that had some basic dumbbells and weights. And I was pretty remote back then, living in a little country town, but on a farm. And I genuinely think that was probably my first exposure to really any form of lifting. And then I suppose as, obviously, graduated and I had a couple of years at Assumption College and definitely had a little bit more exposure through my PE classes there in terms of weight training.

But it wasn’t probably until I decided to have a crack at playing some VFL football with the Melbourne Bullheads back then. And Adam White was their fitness coordinator. So, Whitey, really passionate guy, lovely guy was pretty hard on us, I suppose, back then, which was great. My first year in the VFL 2004 going into 2005 I actually had my ACL reconstruction. So, I genuinely think that stems my interest in, obviously, strength & conditioning.

And it was really a good kick in the backside as well to go and get some work experience. And I think from that, like being really proactive and trying to understand, obviously, the body at a little bit deeper level, I actually got on a call with a guy called Paul Turk, who was the performance manager at North Melbourne Footy Club at the time. And I had a good contact there, a guy called Shane McCurry, who’s now involved at Richmond Footy Club.

But I gave PT a call and said, ‘Hey, mate, I’ve literally just done my As. I’m studying sports science and sports management at uni. And I’m interested in getting some experience.’ And, thankfully, he was really open to it and invited me down for their preseason. And I literally hung around there for the rest of the year. So, that was my first intro to it.

Jack: Fantastic. And what did that look like from an experience point of view? Were you doing a day, a week in the gym, on the field? Was it more than a day? What did the schedule look like for you?

Matthew: I was probably quite fortunate because I was living in Kensington, which is just literally down the road from North Melbourne and, obviously, going to Victoria University, which was a part of my degree. Half of it was out in Sunbury with the sports management course, but then it integrated over to grade campus with exercise science.

So, living there just enabled me to literally walk down the road and pretty much to the North Melbourne, to Arden Street. And I was there probably a couple of days a week, like when I could, obviously, outside of classes. Hassling the guys and just trying to observe as much as I could. It was everything from in the gym and out on the field as well.

I think I remember taking Daniel Harris through a rehab session. Literally, it was all prescribed out by PT and Johny Siegel at the time. And literally coaching him through that and I’d turn around and pinch myself a little bit. I’ve gone from first, second year uni student to literally being thrown in the deep end here.

But I definitely still saw it like, I suppose, just an introduction towards, obviously, what it’s all about. And there was nothing better because PT, which I’m forever grateful for, obviously, just gave me the exposure literally from that first conversation, which I wasn’t anticipating. 

Jack: Yeah, for sure. And you wouldn’t have been unfamiliar with the sport football, of course, playing at a high level. But I guess seeing it from a staff’s lens, were there some surprises in the high performance world for you as a student going in? 

Matthew: I think back then, and I speak like I’m one of the older ones now, but I genuinely think strength & conditioning and to a certain degree, obviously, sports science was still so, sports science in particular was still so infant in terms of where it was in the League.

I recall when Catapult first came out and they had 1Hz unit, which was literally the size of a brick, and the players literally doing back rolls out on the field and complaining that they’re having to wear these things. And that was a part of my internship.

But then at the same time, to have an exposure on game day and actually see what it was like in terms of the competitiveness. I’ve seen, obviously, the full operations of the high performance environment with Dean Laidley at the time as the head coach. And I suppose the pressure, no doubt, that come with that for high performance staff.

But what it did really teach me, as I mentioned before, to PT’s credit, was just the organization that’s required in the environment. And the detail. So, looking at that with regards to programming and organizing the players and scheduling and so forth. It was a real eye-opener.

But I genuinely think there’s takeaways there for any athlete, is to know what it looks like in terms of the environment and how you, obviously, have to prepare yourself to perform, to play the part.

Jack: Absolutely. And like you mentioned, you were completing your degree at VU. You were obviously spending some time at North Melbourne and being a bit of a sponge there, absorbing and helping out the program. How were you making ends meet? Was there another cap that you were wearing to bring some money in?

Matthew: Yeah, I was back then. I actually had an opportunity at a company called Jetty Surf, which was a sales opportunity. I was working there, obviously, around uni and then commitments with work experience. And to be honest, I started a personal training business, because when I was at the North Melbourne, I had a guy named Ben Fletcher from ‘Listen To Your Body’ personal training come down and give a presentation to us literally on protein supplementation one night.

And I was actually going to the YMCA there to do my rehab at the time and got to know Ben a little bit. And then I think that just the conversation started as I grew more interested in the industry and met up for a coffee and said, ‘Hey mate, I’m actually interested in training clients. And, obviously, I’m studying it.’ And basically said that, ‘I think my accreditation allows me to do it now. Is there an opportunity?’ And he said, ‘Yep, absolutely. Let’s get you involved.’

And I literally did that for about four and a half years and trying to juggle which was my first opportunity in the industry after North Melbourne for that year at Cricket Victoria with the women’s cricket program. So, that was an amazing journey to literally just come from couple of coffees and meeting up with some of my network. 

Jack: A trend that seems to be coming through at this early on in your career is your ability to be able to recognize people that are impactful people, that are going to hook you up, I guess you call it networking people, they’re going to get you a foot in the door somewhere.

Is that something that just came intuitively? ‘I think I’m going to call Ben or I’m going to call Shane, who’s got a contact at North Melbourne, and see where it goes’? Or did a mentor help you out in that space? Take us through your mindset in making those calls. 

Matthew: I think, honestly, university gave me a pretty good, I suppose, grounding for that. I had Dr. George Elias, I remember having Colin Harushamal and who else? Dr. David Buttaphen even come in to give some presentations over time. And, obviously, I had them for my advanced resistance training courses.

But I generally think it’s a natural part of my personality as well. Maybe I get it from my mum a little bit. But just getting out of my comfort zone. And I think that’s something you need to really do early on in your career is knowing that you don’t know everything. And to be honest, I don’t today. And who is in your network and how can those people around you support the questions that you’re trying to ask. Which may potentially, from a work perspective, lead to an opportunity.

That definitely, I think, comes as part of my natural personality, but at the same time there was certainly some key takeaways from my studies at the time.

Jack: That’s a good gem for those developing S&Cs to definitely do that. Get out of your comfort zone and build your network base from early on in your career. It’s only going to pay dividends, for sure. And the fact that you were wearing these different hats, how did you go about building your PT business at that time? You mentioned you had sales experience at this point. Did that help with setting up some clients with your PT?

Matthew: Totally. It really did. I think that’s where a lot of my confidence did grow. In sales at the time, I remember, I think at Jetty Surf you had a target to hit $300 or whatever it was in a day. That was part of however you did that: it could be in shoes, it could be in clothes, whatever it was. So, I think that definitely did help, no doubt about it.

And then, obviously, the confidence that gave me to walk up to a new client, or potentially just chat to someone about training and their regimes and what they’re currently doing and potentially how you could help out.

But to the YMCA and to Ben Fletcher’s credit, back then he was building a really good brand and even today for where it’s at, because he’s definitely franchised that basically all over Australia now. But he had a lot of leads at the time and that certainly made our job pretty easy in terms of getting that. So, that definitely did help. 

Jack: Awesome. And going back to your career progression, what was the next step for you? Was it a paid role once you qualified your degree? 

Matthew: I think, looking back now, I was honestly pretty lucky to have the opportunity straight after North Melbourne, which was literally year after my internship.

I met the runner at the time at North Melbourne in Kent Hannam and he basically gave me a tap on the shoulder after a game, I think it was against Geelong, and said, ‘Hey, I’m working at Cricket Victoria also as an assistant coach and with a females program. And we want to try and bring in a fitness guy and work on our preseason.’

And as we know, cricket tends to start in the middle of the year and was getting to that point of time. I initially went through the interview process with David Bailey at the time with the Bushrangers. Cathryn Fitzpatrick was the head coach. And then, obviously, Kent Hannam and that basically evolved into a permanent part-time role.

Which essentially gave me really my first big opportunity at 22 to travel with, once you’re in cricket, these opportunities certainly do open up, but with the Australian national team. So, I got to go all around Australia. Back then I was very fortunate to head to Dubai and so forth, to play in South Africa and India.

And still today there’s a lot of certain Australian players that were involved in that team with Mitch Marsh and so forth. So, I was very lucky, I think, early on in my career to have that exposure.

Jack: And once you landed that role and you obviously must have interviewed well and presented well to convince the coaches that you were the right man for the job, once you were successful applicant, how did you go about preparing your first pre-season in that role? Was it leaning on research? Was it leaning on colleagues and picking their brain? Take us through your preparation.

Matthew: To be honest, to his full credit as well, David Bailey for me early on in my career was unbelievable as a resource. We had, certainly, Cricket Victoria at the time. Because I know that their facilities have changed now going across to the Junction Oval, but it was located in the MCG underneath the tunnel, which is amazing.

But basically we ran every Thursday morning a fitness session. And that was part of the commitment. I literally had to drive in on a Thursday morning for an hour, hour and a half. Obviously, train with the girls as well. And then go off and continue on with the rest of the day. So, that evolved into a couple of mornings or we backflipped it into a night and into a morning.

But I think from a running content perspective, but then also understanding the conditioning element, which then evolved into the application in the gym, definitely Bailey had a huge impact on me early on in my career. And I think in conjunction, no doubt, with PT at North Melbourne. Because I was just constantly bouncing ideas off those guys at the time and ended up even pinching a staff member in from one of the players at North Melbourne to come and help me as an assistant in Lee Harding.

Jack: Oh, awesome.

Matthew: Yeah, we continuously built that out. So, it was an amazing opportunity and I’m really grateful for it. 

Jack: And you were in the gym as well as running the running sessions? So, it was both your role? 

Matthew: Yeah, it was. And it was just because I was looking at the micro cycle in terms of how do we cater for non-professional athletes essentially. And you try to break down what is realistic, I suppose, for them in terms of strength & conditioning. And knowing that they’re probably, now there’s minimal effective dose, but there’s certainly some athletes that definitely want to do more. Which I absolutely gravitated and tried to construct a program that would allow for them to be able to do more.

But I think just the beauty about it was through the partnership, obviously, with Cricket Australia. We had a lot of guidance, particularly through Aaron Kellett. And the testing protocols that were coming down the line from a national perspective. That helps, I suppose, drive some of our buy-in, particularly with weight training and exposure.

If you’re getting assessed to go up into the international team from a pressing, pulling, squatting perspective, we know that we’re probably going to have to start investing in some of these key movements in the gym. And that probably stems some of the growth and, obviously, the application of strength training for where we’re heading from an athlete development perspective.

But knowing that, it still did have some constraints, unfortunately, because the girls were very time-poor back then. And knowing that they’ve only got X amount of time to go into a running session, then go into a lift session, you’ve got to be pretty organized and you’ve got to be pretty day on with your content that you’re going to give them. So, that’s only some considerations. 

Jack: Yeah, for sure. You’re juggling many things with them, living in a life outside of the demands of training. And you mentioned you brought Lee Harding on. I imagine that wasn’t a role that was previously in place with the club. So how did you go about convincing the club to invest in Lee? 

Matthew: I think with Turtle at the time, it was his nickname, he was definitely keen on looking at something post football. But clearly when you’re dealing with an experienced player like that, who’s played a hundred plus games in AFL football, he could bring a lot to the table, I think, from a leadership perspective, culture perspective as well.

And knowing that, particularly with me, if you’re out there taking the warm-up and you may have a rehab group over on the side and you’re trying to do, which we implemented, was hydration testing with urine sampling and so forth. And there’s all these other extra components, obviously, towards managing the program, you just need some form of assistance.

And I think the beauty about it was when Harding met up with the team, it was an easy conversation to be able to at least find something and certainly put it to work.

Jack: Okay, cool.

Matthew: Yeah, he added a lot of value. 

Jack: And what was your next role after working in cricket? 

Matthew: I had the football background, was definitely keen to get involved in football. And, obviously, outside of playing. But I knew that was probably coming towards an end as well in terms of where I was at athletically, as well as opportunity wise.

Jack: And so, you were still playing football at this stage?

Matthew: Yeah, was still dabbling in the VFL environment. I think the hardest bit, as clearly you know, is just the commitment level when you’re training three nights a week. And then, as you know, early on in your career with regards to strength & conditioning you’re trying to get an opportunity and you’re working nights and then you’re working mornings. It’s a really difficult thing to manage.

So, what I tried to do was just look at the whole broader picture in terms of how I was managing it. But then pulled back in particular areas and, unfortunately, football for me just had to give way. Hence why I ended up going up to the country to play a lot a football up there in order to manage my work schedule, which, obviously, was starting to grow in particular areas.

And that’s where I had an opportunity. It was actually through when I was personal training at the time, I had a come through on my university email at Lakeview Secondary College in Caroline Springs. They were looking to develop an athletic development program. And I remember just emailing the guy randomly, which was the head of PE, and basically said that, ‘I’m interested in your program that you’ve got. I’d love to find out some more information about it.’

So, emailed him, caught up with him. And then all of a sudden, honestly, it turned into nearly a permanent part-time role. And then he was also the assistant coach of the Western Jets Football Club. And, obviously, that conversation evolved and I ended up landing the head of performance in that football club through that opportunity. It just come out of nowhere, to be honest.

And that’s where I closed down PT business early on and I was just at the college working in cricket. And then, obviously, working with the Western Jets for that year in 2011–2012 and spent a year there. And I had a really good assistant in Jay Ellis, who I’ve definitely got to give bit of a shout-out too. He was just awesome for me at the time and I know him well, but great fella. We certainly learned a lot, I think, from each other back then.

I literally had a year there and that’s where really my first good opportunity came up in football. It was with the AFL Umpiring Department. That basically was a call from Jeff Gieschen back in the day and I spent literally three years there with the referees. And then that evolved, obviously, into my opportunities at Carlton and then North Melbourne.

Jack: It’s amazing. The move around that’s going on in your twenties, early on in your career. And you mentioned something that, no doubt, a lot of listening coaches are either currently going through or have been, where they’re juggling their athletic pursuits and their passion for playing sport and competing at the highest level they can, while still trying to grow, and it does conflict.

And I think you put it quite well, eventually. If you’re putting in hard work, your strength & conditioning pursuit will start to build momentum and you need to then strip back your other hobbies to support it. Was it something that was a no-brainer for you or was it something that you really struggled with and had to lean on some mentors on that decision making?

Matthew: I definitely wanted to continue playing. And going as long as I could at that particular level, I just knew it was unsustainable. And at the time, it was pretty early on, I met my now wife just after my 21st. And we were starting to talk about future at the time and buying a house and getting settled and so forth. And I think there was this reality moment around where are things going and what we’re trying to build.

And that’s certainly something that we just weighed up at the time. And I was like, ‘Well, I can’t continue to train three nights a week. Something’s got to pull back.’ Which worked out really well in hindsight. By pulling back in those areas, obviously, enabled me to really go more focused with regards to diving into the AFL Umpiring Department opportunity when it came up.

That was a lot of juggling. Obviously, when you’re starting to invest in things like property early on, it is a big arm-wrestle and you’re constantly thinking about those finances in the back of your head and how you’re going to support those people around you. And, honestly, couldn’t have done it without her and her support as well. 

Jack: And going into the AFL umpires, I’ve never worked with umpires before. What does the schedule look like for them from a periodization point of view? Does it follow a similar load with AFL footballers, in the sense that they have a preseason, building them up and then getting them ready for games? What does your role look like and how does that work with the umpires? I imagine it would have to be fairly remote sometimes as well.

Matthew: Yeah, it was. I did get to do a bit of traveling around to each of the states as part of the role as well. Which was amazing opportunity, but just to see how decentralized some of the umpires are. And I suppose particularly with the Victorian set-up, you do have majority of the umpires that re either move into state and come to that particular setting because it is a real hub for it.

But I just had such an appreciation for just how much running an athlete can handle. I think it was really my key takeaways about the time. To see these guys running five, six days a week on top of getting through the matches as well in some cases, because your boundary umpires can sometimes be doubling up on a weekend.

So, if they umpire on a Thursday night and they’re going potentially again on a Sunday back then or at least backing up as an assistant to someone, if they go down with a cough or whatever. The running volumes that these guys were getting through was just something that was eyeopening for me.

Because I think, coming from that cricket background of strength and power, and you are looking at those shorter, more explosive efforts because really you’ve got that one pure acceleration with maybe one change of direction point in cricket. Now to see just how much endurance these guys can handle. I think this really gave me a good, I suppose, inkling into running and, obviously, endurance training, particularly at the football environment. 

Jack: Was the squad similar to a football cricket squad in that you had your developing players and then you had your senior umpires? Were they all full-time dedicated to umpires in terms of they were professionally paid? Or was some of them still juggling a semi-professional athlete in the sense that they had other ways of making money? What it looked like from a finance point of view? 

Matthew: They weren’t, obviously, full-time back then, and I’m not actually sure where it is today. But there was a lot of talk that potentially they would be putting a small cohort of them on at some stage to go full-time. But certainly back then they weren’t. So, they were having to juggle a lot.

We did have a lot of teachers like with Matt Stevic and so forth, Nick Foot, those types of guys. And then outside of that, there was a lot in banking. So, they were constantly trying to juggle. Obviously, they were fitting in their running. And where I started out was based around just pure strength training.

So, in the gym, to compliment what they were doing out on the field, we had as our head of fitness Peter Mulkearns, who was, again, really, really good to me. He was big on all things running volumes and gave the guys a really good insight towards his experience at the AFL level from a running perspective. And really trying to mirror the game demands as to what they need to do to not only condition the guys, but then also running patterns that were involved.

But then how we loaded them in the gym, I think, was something for me personally that we had to really think through. Because when you’re dealing with those sorts of running volumes and how much can they actually handle from a strength perspective was a really interesting task that I was keen to dive into it.

Jack: And so, what would be a typical AFL game, roughly speaking, in distance and high speed running?

Matthew: I was seeing some outputs with the guys back then. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of GPS units, but we had Paul Turk as a consultant to the AFL referees and he was able to lend us basically a few GPS units from football club at the time. And so, in the tracking that we were able to do back then, on our central umpires we were seeing around 14–15 kilometers plus and potentially depending on where they were, being central theater or so forth. But then boundary umpires were doing 16–17.

Jack: Oh, they were doing more.

Matthew: Yeah, but their high speed running was 3,000 or 4,000 kilometers.

Jack: Geez.

Matthew: So, it just to have that appreciation for that sub maximal running component, I think, was something that really did tickle interest, I suppose, back then. Because they can handle a lot of high speed running tempo based work.

Jack: And hence why they needed so much volume in their week to be able to handle that. That’s cool. 

Matthew: And then, obviously, from a strength perspective, really what we tried to do, I suppose, was just, knowing that the guys are pretty sensitive towards any change, as any athlete is, was really just think about the movements that they’re required to do. Keep it really simple, but implement a really movement competency based system in order to build that up potentially with some mode over time. But just trying to establish some buy-in.

Because the culture back then wasn’t great in terms of strength training, so that you’ve really got to think about how you can get the group involved in it. And then educating the group on the importance of it as well, to really try and protect their careers and potentially create some longevity in their careers as well. 

Jack: It’s a good point you make with the buy-in factor. No doubt, at any time in your career, as a strength & conditioning coach, you’re going to face a population or a few athletes in a squad that don’t love the gym. They love the sport they play, but don’t necessarily love the gym. And you mentioned education. What were some successful methods that you’ve used in the past to, I guess with these umpires in this scenario, to get buy-in from the guys that don’t love the gym? 

Matthew: I think, back then, we tried to lean on just some of the endurance research, to be honest. I’d started my Master’s through Edith Cowan University. And I remember looking at a lot of the endurance training, the strength training for endurance training back then.

But also leaning on Paul Turk at the time with regards to what the AFL guys were doing as a consultant. I think that’s the beauty about having a consultant come in and providing a second set of eyes to educate the group, but also work with us as practitioners.

Like looking at just the role of strength training in terms of running economy and running efficiency and so forth, once we established some buy-in with simple exercises. And I’m talking so simple, like a basic body weight squat, an in line lunge, an RDL, a calf raise, for under time or tention. Keep it so simple or at body weight. And then eventually we’ll start to add some.

And clearly there was some really good guys in there that enjoyed lifting. I’ll give you a shout-out to Brennan Hosking and Nick Foot. But these guys were really keen to invest in their strength training, because they genuinely think it did help them. And that probably leveraged the conversation amongst the group a little bit further.

Jordan Bannister, coming from his AFL background, and Lee Fisher definitely did help to get that buy-in further because they’d had exposure. So, you literally are trying to hit it from as many angles as you possibly can in order to get that buy-in with your group.

Jack: That makes a lot of sense. From what I gather what you’re saying, you’ve got to lean on the whole team: the consultant as well as staff that you’re working with. So, it’s a team message that’s consistent. And then you are not stretching the players too much where you’re going to lose them. You are keeping the exercises simple and having consistency with that, so they’re not going to feel like they’re hurting themselves. You’re sort of building up their confidence and they’re feeling comfortable with that, which would naturally build trust, I imagine. Was that your thinking there?

Matthew: Yeah, absolutely. And then from an injury perspective as well. Knowing, as we mentioned, the running volumes that the guys have to get through and looking at the types of injuries that were coming through, and Mark Fraser was our physiotherapist, and just having constant conversations with Fraser with regards to, ‘Well, what are we seeing? And how can we address this? How can we load it, knowing the schedule that we’ve got?’

Something we tried to do, I set it up very early on. A big proponent of Visual Coaching Pro. That utilize their system to be able to go in, create often a report or potentially an individualized report, as much as we could, based on pathology of the player and provide that as their injury prevention program. You’ve just got to work out where you can fit it in based on what days you’re running on. And knowing that everyone’s schedule is very different, at least they had something in place that was specific to them.

Jack: And were they doing the majority of their work behind the scenes? So, you guys were more facilitating a program and then they would run when they could and do their injury prevention program when they could? Or were there some sessions face-to-face?

Matthew: There was two commitments around the week where it was face-to-face. You basically had different times. We were starting in the afternoon for those guys, who finished up teaching, could come in. That was great, obviously, for my role because I could get there for those times. And then that backflipped into the nighttime crew, once they finished work and then were coming down to the facility. So they could fit in their brain program and then have a bit of a break and then come do their lift straight after it.

So, we were able to hit both ends of the stick. Or for some guys potentially, if they didn’t want to do that, obviously, you need to have a conversation with them. ‘If you’re going to do this away from here, take this with you. Here it is. We’re putting our full trust in you. Or reach out to one of us and we’re happy to go through that with you as well.’

Jack: Very good. And then, going back to your journey progression, you mentioned Carlton was the next stop after your three-year time at AFL Umpires. What was the contract? Was it full-time? Part-time? And what were your responsibility at the club at this stage?

Matthew: It was a full-time role. Which was great. And again, I was all in by then, to be honest, in terms of commitment. And that started off as a dual role between the Northern Blues as the high performance manager and then, obviously, pinch-hitting in with Carlton Football Club. It was basically…

Jack: Long days.

Matthew: Yeah, long days. But at the same time it was a wonderful introduction just to understand, knowing, I suppose, as a player, what the commitment is like when you’ve been at work all day and then you’ve got to go off to training. And then you’ve got to try to organize groups, like from a management perspective, I think that absolutely did help a lot, because the squad size were big. But I’d already had exposure to that prior to with the Western Jets and so forth, where the size is just humongous. And then that literally meant into an opportunity a year in, when we had a staff member left, and I just basically went all full-time with the senior program.

Jack: So, was that to the head strength & conditioning role?

Matthew: Correct.

Jack: Fantastic. 

Matthew: And I was under Joel Hocking at the time. Joel for me, honestly, is probably one of the best practitioners I’ve worked with. I know he has been on your show before.

But I think from a running education standpoint to really just look at what he did in those couple of years at Carlton, I think he’s certainly got to take a little of the credit. And I know he won’t because he’s very modest. But his ability to really look at the detail in the program and what was required to address, I thought was really outstanding.

But it’s more so just the coaching aspect. And that was probably something that when I sat down with him was just looking at, ‘Well, what do we want to achieve?’ And it’s like teaching these guys how to work on their instantaneous acceleration, how do we actually teach them how to run sub maximally, sprinting exposure, looking at those simple aspects of performance.

Joel certainly gave me full access and full brains, to be honest, to be able to dive into that coaching aspect. Which, honestly, I think, it’s put me in good step for where I’m at today.

Jack: And how did that work relationship function from day to day? Would you guys catch up in the morning of a main training session, talk about who’s running warm-up, who’s running the conditioning blocks and your targets, and then would you reflect and review it together post? Take us through your systems of communication. 

Matthew: It’s a lot, particularly in an AFL environment, when you’re looking at modifications of guys going in. And the good thing about it is in most high performance settings, a little bit different over here, we can talk about that later on, but I think the emphasis in terms of the management aspect I definitely did see.

There was really big focus on that initial medical meeting in the morning that’s driven by various people. There’s, obviously, a rehab component, which is traditionally physios and your doctors. But then your performance manager, who’s really working in consultation with your coaching staff to go through the list. I won’t say roster over here, but to go through the list. Then work out who can do what and what modifications might be in the environment.

So, can they do a 18v18? Or if they can’t, why? Can we regress them out? Is there any other drills potentially that they can do, not necessarily taking them and shutting them down? To Joel’s credit, his ability to just think on spot and then understand straight line running that’s certainly something that the athlete might be able to achieve and try and prioritize getting in some actual work.

Jack: Yeah, it’s a juggling act between all parties.

Matthew: And to continue on with that. The extension of those meetings was just so fluid. Joel was coming up during training, checking in and asking like, ‘How’s so-and-so going? Who are you working with?’ And then just trying to have that dialogue, like where are we at.

Dan James was a colleague of yours at Melbourne Footy Club. He was my rehab physio. We were working with at the time and just constantly having good communication, I think between the three of us around, well, when can they go into these particular drills outside of that main medical meeting and where’s their progression at?

So, I really enjoyed that process and I think Joel, to his credit, was really collaborative around it.

Jack: And with the developing athletes listening into the podcast, Matt, what were some of your favorite acceleration drills? You mentioned speed out of the blocks and how important it’s with football and how you and Joel would come up with drills to improve that aspect of the game. What were some drills that pop up to mind that athletes could start practicing in their warm-ups or in their training sessions to improve that area? 

Matthew: Just going really basic, like in a 1v1 contested situation. Literally just grappling, I suppose, with your opponent and then someone to cue you to be able to get out of blocks. Just working on that first one to three steps is really critical.

But then what I think is really valuable and what we tried to do was even further, was just filming. So, from side on, from posterior. Actually, just have a look at how you’re extending from the hip, knee and ankle and literally get someone to be able to have a look at that. And that’s where I think three point starts: a really good or standing starts or a rolling start variation. These are all fantastic drills to be able to coach those aspects of acceleration.

There’s a whole game up there. But Joel was a really big proponent of those first three steps. Essentially because at the end of the day you’re trying to get away from your opponent and we’re talking about really marginal gains in AFL, the competitiveness. And that’s where I think it’s really relative to the environment.

Jack: Then in your own personal role supporting Joel, what were some key focuses or key pillars that you found that meant that you were successful on each day of your role? 

Matthew: Because I was trying to juggle a bit in terms of that role. I was basically out on the field, doing a lot of the mid to end stage reconditioning. And then outside of that was in the gym, under Stu Livingston. And then I was trying to do the running for a couple of years there as well. And I think anyone who’s done the running at the AFL level, to be able to get through those demands the older you get it’s… 

Jack: Oh, you were doing the running?

Matthew: Doing the running as well. It’s certainly not an easy thing. It’s probably more taxing, to be honest. Like literally if I had been playing… But no, it’s a really difficult thing. Because the running loads and particularly the high speed aspect of getting a message and then going on and off the field at AFL level.

Jack: Is that when the rotations were higher as well?

Matthew:  Yeah, it just transitioned to go from 120 down to 90. And it’s full on. Like it really is. So, I think it’s like having most opportunities. And I think the issue is, particularly with staff, is how you’re actually designing their roles and knowing the responsibilities they have to lock into. There is a lot that they’re trying to manage on their plate and look at progressions.

We all know it when you’re actually prescribing the writing programs and content design, there’s a lot of communication in your high performance environment to be able to make that decision. Whether that’s through injuries, as a player’s coming back; whether that’s through your sports scientist, to be able to have a look at your load; and then, obviously, your performance manager to look at that exit criteria saying that they can do 18v18.

Those are communication aspects, if we really go back to where, I suppose, it’s stemmed from, back in all those days, of being able to really communicate effectively in your environment. 

Jack: A hundred percent. It’s so important. And also sounds like you were in all areas of the strength & conditioning: from warm-ups to helping out rehabilitation, to being in the gym, to being on the field, and then, obviously, working close with the coaches on game day, being the runner. So, how important is it, do you think, to be heavily involved when you are at a club in all areas from your own personal development? 

Matthew: It’s amazing exposure. And I think that’s really where you do a lot of your learning, personally as well as professionally. And then, if you really have the strength & conditioning lens on as well on game day, finding out what really does matter.

And like now, I suppose, the position I have over here, when you’re comparing across AFL, across a multitude of sports, I think the physical and mental aspect of AFL demands is by far the most complex that I’ve seen in the world. And you are required to do multiple aspects of technical and tactical and physical. All in that 120 minutes plus of game time. And to endure for that long as an athlete, it’s certainly very, very demanding.

And I think it’s very demanding, obviously, for staff to be able to effectively say: is that athlete ready to play? When you’re dealing with so many different variables as well in the environment. Certainly, there’s a coaching component to that. And then, obviously, the physical aspect to be able to say: is that player actually in condition to perform 120 minutes of game time?

That’s where I think it gave me a really good lesson in terms of, even the background that I had from a playing perspective coming in, to really look at: have we actually done enough to prepare this athlete? 

Jack: I think it’s a really good point. When you are literally next to the players on game day and seeing how challenging it is and getting that close-up eye and feel for it. What change did it do from your strength & conditioning philosophy, do you think? Or what evolved from that? 

Matthew: I’ve probably got to give a lot of credit to Joel in that. It was just his ability to think of the game demands. And I suppose this is probably where GPS started in terms of location positioning, looking at the running patterns that a player has to run.

And he was really good at breaking down what those requirements are for football. And do we actually need to condition athletes the way that we have done before? Can we make it more the tactical periodization concept, but build those aspects of preparation actually into the training to complement the coaching staff?

So, I think that’s certainly a lot of credit to Joel. What I was able to then take into rehab as to how we condition the players and just making it as specific as we could for a forward, for a defender, for an inside midfielder that’s coming back. And making sure that they have had some form of exposure with regards to those movements that they’re going to have to complete.

And the challenge was particularly with the strong boys that you’re dealing with. I remember doing a rehab session one day with Alex Silvagni where I was going back with the flight and he literally sat on my head in a rehab session. And there we got a bit of a standing ovation from it.

And like you’re dealing with that type of player who’s just a bull at a gate with regards to everything that he does from a physical perspective. And you’re trying to make sure that he’s ready to do what he needs to do. Which in some instances is impossible to prepare in rehab because he’s only going to get that in a game. When he runs one line and he’s going straight at the ball as hard as he can.

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. And from what you’ve explained, this role where you were heavily involved in the whole program, it makes a lot of sense getting in rehabilitation at North Melbourne. Take us through your mindset with leaving Carlton and going to North Melbourne. 

Matthew: That was an amazing opportunity, honestly. I think because Johny Siegel was the one who initiated that in one of my off-seasons and basically said that who was in at the time, they had a couple of staff that were just exiting. I can’t remember who off the top of my head, but I think it was Dan Meehan, a year before Steve Saunders had just left. So, they were still reorganizing their staff.

And that basically turned into a conversation with John around, well, he knew exactly where I was at in football. And then, because I had worked at North Melbourne back in the day during my internship and John was actually our consultant dietician with the referees, so we did have a good relationship in terms of that connection piece back then.

And he had worked in that return-to-play space for a long time previously and juggling a lot of hats and doing the running and everything else that come with it at the elite level. It was basically a conversation that started and eventually turned into something that I was really, really attracted to. Because I think this is depending on the experience of the departments as well.

Like there is some fantastic physiotherapists out there, that are trying to dabble into areas of performance, but just might not have had the same level of experience in terms of understanding game demands, looking at GPS, looking at all these other aspects of technology and performance.

And then we’ve got some S&Cs in the industry as well that can absolutely dabble into the return-to-play space because they might have one or two years of physiotherapy exposure, but didn’t like it. Then they went out to do exercise science in human movement or Master’s of high performance, et cetera.

For me that was an awesome opportunity because I got to deal a lot with the rehab guys and working with our physiotherapist at North and really just overseeing all of the running content design, which was awesome. So, I spent a few years there, till I made the jump over here.

Jack: And for those that aren’t aware of what the rehab role entails. Take us through what a typical day looks like and how you work with the rest of the team. 

Matthew: A lot of communication. Obviously, a lot of organization with the players as well. Like you are literally living and breathing pretty much in their back pocket, particularly as it gets towards that pointy end of performance.

To their credit, the physiotherapy staff under Matt Turnbull, who was our head physiotherapist at the time at North Melbourne, just such a collaborative person. And really not only had been in the role previously, with him and Dan Jones, Matt was an amazing teacher of understanding the injury they were actually dealing with and then laying out that projection timeframe on some rough recommendations of yeah, the pathology and this is where it’s at. And then when we are talking about these concepts in terms of strength loading and really how that’s going to be progressed over time towards that core component of the program. And then eventually returning them to run.

I think, to Matt’s credit, the work that he had done at the Australian Institute of Sport, being under Steve in the AFL environment, he was fantastic at being able to sit down with each of our staff members from an S&C standpoint, and then just really map out what that continuum does look like. And then we’re just constantly having dialogue around it.

So, the beauty about it was like you’re constantly going through from day to day to assess based on clinical assessments with physiotherapy staff, and then you are constantly thinking, ‘Well, this is what I’ve got planned for tomorrow, from a running content perspective. Is it too much or is it not enough?’

And then really what we tried to drive was having like a main medical rehab meeting each week, either at the start of the week or the back end of the week, to be able to review what the projection is going to look like for the week. And then also at the back end of the week, looking at, ‘Well, what did we do well? And then what didn’t we do well? Where can we grow? And then how does that programming influence going into that next week of projections?’

So, it’s a lot of coordination, obviously. Outside of that, the Saturday mornings, like being able to go in and spend time with the players. Because the running schedules, it just happened to fall into probably one bout on the weekend. And then you’re constantly planning again on a Sunday to be able to get ready for the week, because we knew that meeting was coming through. So, the commitments are certainly very high.

And I’ve got to pay some respects to my wife for being able to put up with it for that long, to be honest. Because in some aspects it’s a very selfish industry as well. When you’re trying to work and manage kids and mortgages, it’s not an easy balance. And you’ve got potentially 5, 6, 7, 8 rehab players at the same time and trying to coordinate their lives. It’s not an easy thing to be able to manage. Hence why you rely on those guys around.

Jack: Absolutely. And how about the one-on-one time that you get with the athletes? And, obviously, rehab’s not a fun place for an athlete, they want to be playing the sport with the rest of their teammates. So, did you lean on, obviously, your rehab experience at Carlton and assisting there, but also maybe your personal training experience, that one-on-one coaching early on in your career, do you feel, from a rapport point of view and helping them from a mental point of view in support?

Matthew: Oh, absolutely. And the more exposure I got in the industry, the more comfortable you do get as well, in particular with the playing group. And I think it just comes with time and there’s an element of confidence that does do that. But it’s probably just the relationship side, that it goes to another level. And, to be honest, a fair bit of banter between players and then staff.

But that’s the camaraderie that effectively is part of our culture that we want to be able to encourage. And then that comes out in rehab and your coaching ability to be able to create an environment where it’s not all doom and gloom. But you’re just constantly looking at ways, to be honest, to even get the players out of the environment and train them off-site.

Because, particularly with North Melbourne, we were able to utilize Ascot Vale Leisure Center and a lot of the players lived around that area. I was in Strathmore at the time and could meet players down there to an early running session and then go into the club or just trying to get them off-site to keep them engaged. But just having that constant ability to think outside the square a little bit, because it’s not easy.

And one example I can think of that I had with a player, I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning, but Ed Vickers-Willis, who done his ACL had a career with injuries. It is a lot to be able to manage and one day we just were in the gym with each other and going back and forth. And he literally pretty much broke down in front of me and said, ‘I thought I’d be back a little bit quicker than what I was.’ And then he’s obviously been through one of these ACLs.

And I think because I personally have been through it, to be able to have that emotional connection with him and just say that, ‘Mate, we’ve got 12 months of rehab here to be able to get you right. Let’s just remove you from the environment.’ And literally we went and grabbed a coffee. ‘And we’ll worry about training later.’

So, little things like that, I think, go a long way with your relationships and the playing group, to be able to encourage them to actually get out of the environment.

Jack: And you’re thinking of them more of as a person in that scenario rather than just the athlete.

Matthew: There’s a lot going on, like they’ve got contracts that they’re trying to think about in their careers, what’s next as well in terms of their progression professionally. So, sometimes it’s just identifying when that can happen and making sure you’re working with them individually to be able to identify it.

Jack: Well said, mate. Thanks for sharing. So, you made this shift over to America. Take us through your thoughts behind leaving North Melbourne and heading over to the States.

Matthew: I didn’t mention this just before, but when I did start at the Western Jets, I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to go in with Vic Metro squad as well. And we had a few players involved in those programs with Locklin Hunter and James Ceesly was just coming on board then as well. But Jamie Hepner was my guy in terms of my first real understanding of GPS application.

And he was the one I come over here in an off-season and literally got chatting to him about careers and everything. And what do you know? Basically, we got to the part of the conversation where this opportunity probably only comes up once to go and get some international experience. And this was certainly something that I was looking for.

And if I was going to go anywhere, I think that on the world stage the sport, particularly in the US, is the biggest and the best. And that’s certainly how that connection piece come along. And, to be honest, I’m forever grateful for what the exposure wise for what I’ve had to date from Jamie. It’s been an incredible ride.

Jack: Fantastic, mate. And take us through your role at Catapult. It’s a massive company doing big things. Like you mentioned, from the 1Hz GPS units back at the very start of sports science GPS to what it’s now doing. Take us through what your role looks like from a day-to-day basis?

Matthew: As you said, it is a big company. And I think, to be honest, I didn’t realize how big Catapult actually is on the global stage.

And I say that because when you’ve been working in the Australian Football League system for such a long period of time, and you really only know Catapult where you’ve got League-wide deals as well, to be able to see the growth of that internationally now and where majority of that market share is actually at, from Catapult’s perspective, on the wearables plus on the video size, is just being fascinated.

And, clearly, it’s only growing. But I did get asked that question a few weeks ago when I had a catch-up with the Science for Sport guys. But basically it’s very varied. And you can create it, I suppose, into your own little niche, similar to your thing. We’ve been running some webinars, particularly when COVID did hit us.

And then, eventually, when we got over COVID, I said with a couple of my sales guys that are having company over here as well, and really as a part of our, I suppose, sports science team, and we have about 8 to near 10 of us now over here that are in remote-based roles, ‘What are we doing to really grow the market from an educational standpoint? And how we can really facilitate these performance conversations?’

And what we tried to implement and, thankfully, the company was very accepting of that and was prepared to back us up with regards to implementing it, was workshops. And we had a couple of online Major League Soccer conferences over here so far. We’re hoping to do one of those in person as well.

In conjunction with the University of Louisville earlier this year with Dr. Lenhardt Rainer and Dr. Pat Ivey, we were able to run at the collegiate level space a really well-thought-through high performance collegiate level discussion on all areas of high performance. Not just Catapult technology, but what we’re actually doing to grow the market over time and, certainly, invest in our practitioners as well. So, that’s taken up a component.

And then the various accounts that I’m exposed to through the company, which is on Major League Soccer, and then into American football, I’ve done a little bit of work at the USA cricket team, and then a good handful of universities, has really led into more a consultancy opportunity for what I’ve been able to turn it into. And that’s any areas of periodization and return-to-play.

Next week getting ready to go and present to the head strength coach and head coach at Vanderbilt Football and on how they could potentially map out their camp.

Jack: Oh, wow.

Matthew: Yeah, that’s something that’s just around the corner over here, everyone’s gearing up for football. So, to be able to have the opportunity to do that.

And, honestly, since I moved over here, the collaboration that I had with Jamie Hepner, who’s our director of applied sports science, who looks after all our NFL accounts. I think he’s had such a big influence in that space for me, being able to look at game demands and then look at what’s required particularly for this sport in order to prepare. That’s something that I’ve just absolutely love diving into and we continue to grow out over time.

Jack: And I’m sure you’ve done this webinar on how to analyze game demands for a new sport, because that’s something you’ve experienced a lot over your career and now you’re currently doing it. On any given day you could be talking about soccer and then in the afternoon NFL and a whole range of different sports in one day. Obviously, you’ve picked up that skillset.

But there’d be video analysis. I imagine, there’d be speaking to key relationships in the sport from coaches, tactical technical coaches and the strength & conditioning staff. And then also, obviously, looking at the objective markers. But what are some of your, I guess, top three things that you’d recommend as sports science / strength & conditioning coach when trying to present to a head coach on understanding the game demands? 

Matthew: I think what AFL did provide me with and the practitioners that I worked under as well, is just the raw ability to program. And in particular programming of running content design. That was one of the first things I did, particularly in getting over here, with the multitude of sports that I am now working with, is just to understand at the annual plan level, what does it look like in terms of their schedule. Work backwards from that to understand the micro cycles.

Because particularly in Major League Soccer, which I think has been amazing for me personally to be able to review in the environments that I’ve come from, but then also just look at things pretty differently now in terms of how we load and when we load and how much athletes can actually handle. And that’s where that ability to go program for yourself, but then get some feedback from that with the practitioners that you’re working with in your little network. And I just happen to have a really good one now to be able to call upon and bounce ears off.

That’s the beautiful opportunity about this role at Catapult that it offers for anyone who’s coming in. Because you’ve got so many different opinions and you can dive into any situation and conversation along. Which goes all the way through from the head coach spoke to GMs, all the way down to your physical therapist and your athletic trainers on load management principles, or just understanding Catapultat a deeper level. What the company is and what we’re trying to achieve.

I think having that ability, having those performance conversations to really look at the detail of what you’re trying to achieve and really have your own take on it philosophically as well, I think, is something that I’ve enjoyed with the conversations that have opened up to really dive into. Because there is some really class practitioners over here that, honestly, I can learn a lot from. And I’m hoping that I can contribute in particular areas for them as well.

Jack: It’s something that you mentioned off air, technology and software specific for the goalkeeper and understanding their game demands. I imagine you’d be in a unique position, which is great that Catapult’s investing in a role like yourself with your background, where you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what sporting clubs are wanting in terms of the tech and the demand from their point of view, and then you’re working with the company that’s creating that. What are some exciting things, do you think, that’s on the horizon or are you currently working on in terms of sports science?

Matthew: As I found out now working for a technology company, it’s just pushing the envelope into any areas of performance that we can. And I never thought I’d be doing video analysis and diving into components of that in integration with wearable data. And now we’ve got the capacity to do that.

I’ll give it a plug, but Match Tracker is now, I suppose, our solution in that space in conjunction with all of our other platforms. But Match Tracker enables us to be able to integrate wearable data with all of our other third party solutions into the one platform.

I think what that allows for the practitioners and what I can see in the industry unfolding as well, if I think back to my own scenario, based off doing the running account, is your ability to get access to those platforms. Actually go and educate yourself as a practitioner on why do we move the ball this way? Like our pressing or our defensive cover. What does our shape look like in particular areas? And then look at the spacing of that.

I think that is a huge investment, no doubt, for the company. But from my perspective to see the evolution of that. It’s probably been some of the questions where I’ve had to go upstairs to the analyst and literally say, ‘Can I grab the video to go and have a look at this guy’s injury for the weekend?’ Or they would be coming to us to get GPS data. But now it’s available essentially in the one platform.

I think it’s a huge opportunity for performance managers who are dealing with the head coaches with regards to their game plan. And, obviously, the rollout of that. That’s where I see it being really impactful. Because they’re essentially making those decisions integrated with each other.

It probably feels like I’m selling it a little bit, but I just genuinely think it’s going to automate components for these practitioners who are walking into those conversations with the coaches and they’ve already preloaded by right clicking. If that conversation comes up, work rate wasn’t good enough. Here it is.

Jack: And that’s why we couldn’t set up the zone properly.

Matthew: Yeah, spot on. You’ll probably see that like the biggest investment in regards of takeover certainly over these last six months and beyond.

Jack: That’s exciting. And how long have you been in the role for now at Catapult? 

Matthew: It’s been nearly two and a half years now. Yep, two and a half years. So, obviously moved over here literally on the eve of pandemic. And it’s crazy how it’s got to this stage. It’s been amazing ride, mate.

Travel wise, as I was saying to you before, I’ve certainly done a lot over the last 12 months. I think we’ve had good 40 plus flights or so in terms of touching basic clients and working on projects and then just meeting and greeting people as well. I haven’t met a lot of these practitioners over here and I think it’s a part of the opportunity that Catapult provides.

Obviously, it is a business. But at the same time you’ve got that connection piece with regards to your practitioners to dive into any conversation that is going to help them utilize the full components of that technology.

Jack: And the last one before we touch on the last part of the podcast. You mentioned a presentation that you’re preparing for the head strength coach, as well as the head coach. There would be an element of pressure on a presentation like that, I can imagine. So, for those listening in that might be presenting for their first job or a new job or it could be an assignment, whatever it might be, where there’s a bit on it. What are some of your key focuses when you’re putting a presentation together like this one?

Matthew: It’s just knowing your room and knowing your audience. There’s no doubt about it. Thankfully, I have had this opportunity once before to present to this coaching group, which was amazing earlier on the year.

But I genuinely think keeping it as simple as it possibly can, but go into some detail when you’re required to. Because they’re going to want to hear rationale as how you actually got there. And I think that’s really the best piece about having objective data, to be able to walk into that conversation.

I still think there is elements of interpretation in it. But the more you can understand their environment, and that’s something so simple is like asking questions to them. And exactly what we’re doing at the moment, trying to create it more of a discussion based around performance and how you are actually trying to help them. So, I definitely see those areas being the main focus.

Jack: I like that. So, you are there to basically serve them and help them.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Jack: Which sounds simple, but that’s what the presentation’s for, ultimately.

Matthew: Yeah. I’ve definitely got one story based off that, which I know you would appreciate. And this is the beauty about it, but that exact conversation that happened really four or five months ago, sitting in literally a boardroom meeting with the head coach and you’ve got the head strength coach, you’ve got our sports scientist, that’s running Catapult.

And they basically just asked me to come up and we’re going to try and work through what our loading actually looks like in consultation with the coaching staff. And asked some specific questions based around what is Catapult, they’re investing in it. How can we actually utilize this to its full potential? That also in conjunction with medical staff and then your general manager at football.

So, to be thrown into that conversation, I was, to be honest, petrified a little bit, because I’m still learning elements of the game. But at the same time, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of load management. But what was really critical was for me to bring my practitioner that I deal with on a daily basis, essentially, into that conversation to empower him to go to the head coach.

So, what I did was try to open up that communication pathway. And basically after that conversation the head coach was walking down to his office downstairs and checking in with regards to what do you have recommended as a daily load plan from then on? It seems like coming from that AFL high performance environment, now when you actually take a step back and you’re like, ‘How can that happen?’

When you’re walking into this environment and then you see just the complexities of it and now to the amount of athletes that they’re dealing with and coaching sizes as well. I think that’s really critical to understand. And now that practitioner has just gone to the Carolina Panthers in the NFL as the head of sports science and coach Bellerose is classifying now as one of my guys.

Because he’s gone on, but at the same time he’s done really well as a part of his career progression. I think by empowering him in that conversation, he’s got a real seat at the table to be able have that conversation with the coaching staff. And I’m just some Aussie that have been able to open up that conversation. 

Jack: I love that. That’s a great story. Awesome. Well, we’ll start to wrap up the podcast, mate. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. We’ll go to the lighter side of the podcast now, the get-to-know-Matt section. First one, and you don’t have to have one, but do you have a favorite inspirational quote or life motto?

Matthew: Clearly, as you’ve seen, probably just through the journey tonight, I think just looking at every opportunity and, to be honest, assessing and seizing every opportunity that presents in the industry. Because it is highly competitive, no doubt about it. And I think within your own little network, whether it’s family and close friends et cetera, which is certainly something that I weigh up at the time, you’ve got to absolutely assess those situations. Literally seize the opportunities and at the same time do it with real conviction and pride and perform at the best of your ability that you can.

Jack: And what about in your work life, do you have a pet peeve or something that fires you up, that you get angry about when it happens? 

Matthew: It’s probably a few. I think now, it’s just the longer you’ve been around the industry, you are dealing with a lot of different personalities. Which you’ve got to deal with, that’s part of life as well. But it’s just knowing sometimes you’ve got to take a bit of a step back and really assess the situation and hear other people’s opinions that you’re not always right. That’s a part of management as well.

So, just being able to have that in the back of your mind to be collaborative, because some things are going to grind your gears. And probably it comes more from my kids at the moment with regards to managing them. But from a work perspective, you’re literally trying to deal with a lot, so whatever the situation might be.

Jack: And what’s your favorite way to spend your day off? 

Matthew: I definitely used to like getting out riding, going catch-up with family, like being a country boy. I try to get back home to Australia, to be honest, whenever I could. I love going back and doing some fishing. And I still do over here. There’s a lot of mountain hikes as well, heaps of extracurricular activities.

I think when you’ve got kids on top of that, you’re constantly looking at your weekends and exploring what you can do with them. So, that’s certainly something we try and put a big focus on. But just as a family, as to how we actually manage that component of our life as well. Because we just get caught up in the day-to-day in terms of what we’re doing and sometimes we just take a step back.

Jack: Yeah. Fantastic. It’s a lot more hilly than Australia, that’s for sure. Great places to explore. Well, what’s on the horizon for you for the rest of 2022, mate? What are you excited about at the moment? 

Matthew: Oh, a lot. Geez, the next couple of weeks. I’m off to Nashville next week to meet with Vanderbilt Football, as I said. But they’re also the soccer team Nashville SC. Two weeks after that I’m off to Portland and Seattle. And then the week after that I think I’m off to Philadelphia.

Jack: Wow.

Matthew: Yeah, a little bit of travel coming up. But we’re trying to really I think look at the global stage as well as to how we develop our workshops over here and the collaboration between countries.

I think that’s a beautiful thing about Catapult is that we’ve got multiple countries and bringing people and connections together. Whether that’s with our EPL customers from a soccer perspective, football perspective, as well as the MLS and Bundesliga or in South America with our Latam region.

I think we would really love to try and develop something in person with our practitioners over here. So, hopefully, we can get the green light and get something like that underway, because I think it really adds some value towards our customers, as well as our practitioners from a knowledge perspective. 

Jack: Oh, absolutely. And for those that want to learn up a little bit more or send in some questions, where’s the best place to get in contact with yourself? 

Matthew: Probably on LinkedIn. That’s one I probably spend a little bit more time on, to be honest. That or Instagram seems to be, my daughter’s starting to have a look at that now.

Jack: She’s managing your socials?

Matthew: Yeah, exactly. Or email, obviously. I’ve got That’s probably the easiest. We can certainly share work emails and so forth as well, if they want.

Jack: Well, for those listening, we’ll add the links in the show notes. So if you’re driving and listening to this podcast, you can check out the links after you finish driving. But thanks again, mate, for jumping on.

And thank you for everyone that’s tuned in. And if you tuned in halfway through or maybe three quarters through, make sure to listen to the whole episode. We’ll release the podcast on your favorite podcast directory as of next Tuesday. And you can also find the recording on YouTube. The recording will be there as soon as we click off live in the next couple of minutes.

Our next chat is also with John Pry, which is this Friday, the 22nd at 3:30 PM. That’s Australian Eastern Standard Time, if you want to tune in for that chat. And if you’ve got any questions for John, make sure to send him through.

But thanks again, Mattie. Really appreciate you for coming on and looking forward to finding the rest of your career. No doubt, you are just at the very beginning, mate. Big things line ahead. 

Matthew: I appreciate it, mate. Thanks again. You’ve done amazing job with this, Jack. So, all the best to you. 

Jack: Appreciate it. Cheers, Mattie. 

Matthew: Awesome. Thanks, mate.

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