John is the Founder of Speed Power Play. Download the app if you haven’t already. He is also the Strength & Conditioning Coordinator at Suntory Rugby
Highlights of the episode:
- How wrestling experience can help with off-season training for inside game
- Key areas to focus and running drills he use for developing athletes
- How he keeps athletes engaged and have fun during his training sessions
- How to make the most of using Frans Bosch methodology
- How to improve your influence as a strength & conditioning coach
- Dean Benton
- Neil Craig
- Frans Bosch
- Ben Cousins
- Mike Tyson
- Mark Fisher
- Vern Gambetta
- Eddie Jones
- Rob Newton
- Kelvin Giles
- Shane Lehane
- Warren Young
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Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I am your host. And today my guest is John Pryor, the performance specialist at Rugby Australia, founder of Speed Power Play. Make sure to download the app, if you haven’t already. I’m currently doing the hip lock series and really looking forward to chatting with John a little bit more around the Frans Bosch methodology and working on your running mechanics, both on the gym and on the field. So check out the app strength & conditioning corner at Suntory Rugby.
And before we start this episode, our mission here at Prepare Like A Pro is to inspire aspiring athletes with practical knowledge from the 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 on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
Welcome, John. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
John: Appreciate it. Thanks for inviting me.
Jack: Look forward to getting stuck. Let’s start at the very beginning of your career. At what age did you discover you had a passion for strength & conditioning and working with the elite athletes?
John: I read your question. Had to think about that. I think for me, mate, I grew up as one or 10 kids and I’m the youngest of five boys. So, I was at the bottom of the barrel and any family wrestles or scuffles or games of footy in the backyard.
And my next two older brothers were both broad-shouldered, blonde-head, good looking blokes. And I was a little runty redhead. So, I think maybe at 14 years of age I sent away for a weight training set. I got a Jim Bradley speedball and bags, set it up in my garage and got busy training.
I’m pretty sure it was either 14 or 15. And so, I think in some ways had a very early experience with how you can physically develop yourself, so that sort of engagement. And I think that probably was my first interest in not only trying to hold my own against my brothers, but just trying to physically develop myself.
I think in terms of deciding, probably the second influence was at my school, I was a bit of a cheeky kid, I guess. And we had a field teacher, a little stocky South African bloke, about five foot four and equally wide with muscle. And he was a really, really good PE teacher and he also taught us year 12 PE in sports science.
And I think that’s probably the first time I’d come into contact with someone who trained and developed themselves physically. Plus, he scared the shit outta me. He gave me a hard thing a couple times, which is not allowed these days, but he was actually, say that jokingly, but he was an inspirational guy. So, I think that would be the thing that gave me the interest.
And then, we talk about it later, but when I eventually got to university and then got my first job, I had to really just ran into really great people along the way. But I think even at 18 years of age, even my first year of doing sports science at Ballarat Uni, I had a boxing group in my garage and I’d never boxed in my life, but I was coaching guys for boxing and studying Mike Tyson and go teach the guys this. And I had a couple of Highland games athletes who I was coaching again.
I had no background in those things, but maybe it was just a natural inclination to coach for whatever reason. But I’d had that experience of physical development out of necessity and in a little country town like Ballarat, where I grew up. It’s not a little country town, it’s quite a big provincial town now. But we didn’t really like getting information on training. It’s not like you couldn’t jump on the internet and find the weights program.
I had to get by other ways, start off with whatever was on the poster that you bought with the dumbbell kit and work outwards from there. So, I think that thinking and that mindset that you can develop was inherent in my brain and really in a lot of.
Jack: On that note, it’s a good point that came through that early on part of crafting you’re working on your craft. It sounds like using your own body as a lab. How important do you think that is for at 52?
John: I’m paying for that now. But I had a guy asked me a question the other day. I’ve just recently had knee surgery from 30 years of punishing self-experimentation, but I would do it again cause it’s been a fantastic learning vehicle, especially when you’re learning something that’s a little bit tricky.
So, we will come to Frans Bosch stuff later, but even if you are doing speed development and you haven’t done that before, you might have a background as quite a good distance runner, or I think you using yourself as an experimental tool, if you’re capable and able, even if it’s a very humble way.
I know that from a running point of view. I’ve been with rugby 20 years, but I grew up in Ballarat. So, I grew up only with AFL. There was nothing else in Ballarat, AFL and netball. And I love netball, come to that if we do. But obviously played AFL growing up and I was a scrappy little half-back flanker and not much skill.
So, when I did my first year at university, I took time off footy and did a year’s track and field the catch on. And mainly sprinting I really learned to run. And then I went back and played semi-pro in the Western Planes, which doesn’t exist anymore, but played my way through uni playing. But I had this amazing experience of playing footy pre and post. Being able to run.
And for me, it went from the back FLA to the wing and then to the midfield, but all this space on the field started to open up. People started to fall off, tackle started to fall off, started the wind contact. And it was experience. I’ll never forget was that, I probably maximized my running capability, particularly in terms of speed, but also because I was doing one hundreds and four hundreds, you have a lot of alactic work.
So, you’re doing a lot of anaerobic repeat three hundreds. And just that combination of actually maximizing my running ability and maximizing my running capacity. And I hadn’t played for, I think 12 to 15 months then going back and just thinking, wow. And I don’t wanna sell myself as a talented football cause I certainly wasn’t.
But you had another gear. And it was, that’s the best footy I’ve ever played. That’s 30 years ago. And I’ve had nothing to do with AFL. Well, very little professionally. So I’m not gonna start speaking to your big AFL audience, but I will say that experience of absolutely maximizing my running skills and speed and capacity that was a really big impression on me.
And when I work with athletes, whether it’s developmental elite, I’m always asking myself the question, is the running we’re seeing from this individual represent their absolute peak capability and acceleration, VMAX, multidirectional, and then capacity.
And if they’re not, then we gotta address that cuz we’re all we’re in running sports, you’re in obviously your audience, I think’s a big AFL audience on rugby and rugby league, but same goes for hockey and field based sports. So I know there’s a lot of knowledge and we get a lot of information about capacity but in terms of running skill, that was a very, very influential for me.
And that was pretty crude. That was pretty basic compared to what I know now, but it left a big impression. This has gotta be a real cornerstone of my coaching.
Jack: And I’m sure it’d be a range of things, but knowing what you do know now, like how much of it do you think was that environment by being around sprinters and seeing how they move and how much of it do you think was the drills of having a track and field coach?
John: So good, really good question. They were crap drills. They were very sophisticated. We actually overdid stuff. We worked a bit too hard, but being in the environment where every guy in the training squad and even a couple of the girls actually were faster than me, Chas started.
And I think first thing you’re right, the environment was really big getting into a track, seeing something different, being somewhere where you are now at the bottom of the pile. I used to try and at training, we had sort of six or seven guys, and they’re all quicker than me at the beginning.
And even trying to win a stride through now. No, one’s actually going max at the stride through, at the start, but it kind of gets competitive amongst sprinters. And so I think it’s a really good thing, particularly in the developmental. If you have that opportunity to go down and do some sessions in track and field, I think it’s a great change of environment. You’ll see attention to small details that you didn’t have.
Second part of your question was no, the drills weren’t that good. And if I was repeating the same process, now I’d have a lot more content, particularly around change of direction and deceleration and more specific things. That change of environment where, where there’s a much greater emphasis on the thing that you wanna develop.
So I reckon it’s that you can’t be underestimated. Now that field sports are so professional we all hear the same information and if you go and look at AFL teams on our 16 teams, is he,
Jack: Eight 19, 18, 18, maybe 19 come if Tazzie get on board. Okay.
John: I mean, I’m guessing here a little bit, but programs are so similar. And I think for your developmental athletes, there is that opportunity in that developmental phase when you’re 14, 15, 16. If you’re a midfielder, you might go and run track in an off season and do some two hundreds, 408 hundreds. If you’re, I dunno if you, do you even have two positions in AFL anymore? It’s hard for me to tell if you’re a power based athlete going and working on. I think it’s a fantastic.
Jack: And you mentioned how you were overworked, compared to team based athletes, so obviously track and field where it is you’re trying to develop that. I guess you really are measured off your training in the sense that it’s an absolute all out effort. Did it also open your mind on how much training can be done? How much the body can withstand?
John: I think so. If you do track and field and if you are out to the 200, 408 hundreds, those sessions are grinding, they’re and we don’t do a session, might be six, three hundreds, but you’re actually racing each one you might be running ’em in 36 to 39 seconds, that kind of intensity and that kind of resulting fatigue.
I’m not saying AFLs, but it’s having that experience will it’s. That’s a super high level of fatigue and it’s a super high level of exertion and intensity. I remember seeing, and it’s, I know this long story about Ben cousins, but at his playing days, he was a fantastic player.
And I remember a documentary I watched where he was just going off to do his own running sessions and really working intense anaerobic sort of training. And I think, yeah, don’t, don’t about’s life after foot. That’s not my domain, but he was a fantastic runner with fantastic capacity. And I remember just hearing him talk about the intensity and the value that he placed on those really intense capacity type work.
I think yeah. Track and field’s great for that. There’s a lot of limitations a bit, if you apply track and field running approach to footy codes, but there’s value just in that understanding of the intensities and the detail.
Jack: And there will be no doubt some developing athletes in that will be pretty motivated now to go do some track and field training. What about, you’ve got a wrestling background as well. I believe a combat experience in the off season, like for, let’s say someone that’s already pretty good with running and that’s their strength and they’ve been identified maybe they’ve they need to get more aggressive or they need to get better in the inside game.
Would you say wrestling would be the way to go? Is it boxing? What would be some of your favorite off season sort of training?
John: My background in wrestling’s pretty limited, I took up jujitsu and then, and then no gear wrestling, just so I could learn if it had a potential to apply to rugby at the time.
So there’s two parts to that question. I think absolutely. Yes, because if, if, say you’re, you’re a young developing player and the physical part is one that you’re either lacking confidence or lacking physicality. So the first part mentally going and doing a little bit of no G wrestling, I would say that if you did D wrestling, so you did see with a G and you were hoping that’s gonna it’s can be quite slow and static.
Compared to AFL technical. I probably watch about six games a year of AFL these days. I’m trying to fall back in love with it. So I watch a few games and those little scrimmages and those interactions they’re very quick. Whereas if you go and do gear wrestling, you actually end up in a lot of really slow, drawn out chest matches where you’re more, holding and choking and so forth.
So no gear, wrestling, I think could be really helpful, even doing boxing and anything physical that develops your confidence in that sort of physical engagement and interaction, I think can be highly valuable, particularly in those formative years. Yeah, definitely. So you can either approach it from a physical point of view.
And if it’s from a physical point of view, then definitely if it’s wrestling, you wanna find something that’s a bit faster. No GE. So it’s not, if you go and do jujitsu, you might get yourself to black belt, but a lot, a lot of those that can be quite static and very slow, or you might actually find someone there’s quite a lot of good jujitsu and wrestling guys now who run little sessions for field sports, where they’ll adapt the techniques a little bit.
And the interactions will be quicker and faster. Because there’s no 22nd wrestles and AFL there. I mean, it’s gone little bit of space then a quick give and things like that. So you definitely need that greater level of dynamism. But from a mental point of view.
If, even if it was jujitsu and even if it was boxing in new young kid lacking in confidence, then it’ll have value psychologically. I know that. I know that when I, going back to my own experience when I went from having a year off running and I went out to just to earn money actually, and cuz there was good money in the country legs, my running skills were good.
And all of a sudden I was playing really well. And I was getting targeted by 35 year old country blokes who wanted to knock my head off back in those days you could do whatever you wanted. There’s no, its pretty loose. Just that time I’d spend in boxing and it gave me a lot of confidence and I wouldn’t say you can hold your own.
I wouldn’t say that was natural for me. That wasn’t a natural. Tough aggressive person. So having that experience in in the boxing stuff was helpful. So I think from a psychological point of view, there’s big value there for developing athletes.
Jack: Sure. And going back to your career progression from a influence point of view, maybe mentor, you might call it, who was some strong influences on shaping you?
John: I’d be very lucky at university to have Warren Young. I dunno if you’d know Warren, he’s a researcher at ball university. I think he’s retired now. But he was, I hadn’t really given much thought to it just recently, but we were first, second and third year at sport science degree, and this is 89 90. So the idea of strength, research and strength science was very.
No one had even heard of the term. So at that he was a leader at that time. So we were doing advanced strength, training and biomechanics, and I don’t believe anywhere else in Australia was offering that. So got a really good grounding in diagnostic strength. Looking at strength as it applies to field sport, rather than just strength on its own.
Cause pretty much back in those times you either had power lifters or weight lifters with the two people we were getting information from, which are both great sports and I’m not here to bag them, but Warren was fantastic. When I got my first, I was probably lucky when I studied my master’s degree in Southern cross for Rob Newton, Greg Wilson and Mark Fisher who were three very smart people.
And then when I got my first job I pretty soon realized that I had a good understanding of strength and linear speed. I didn’t really have any comprehension of what we turned functional training, multidirectional speed. So I didn’t know, Vern GA better from a bar of soap, but I wrote a letter to him in the states and cobbled together some money and brought him out to Australia.
And he was the most influential person in my career and just opening up a whole realm of new of new information and content, and still is one of my mentors and still is a good friend extending from that. When I got into rugby was Eddie Jones. Who’s now the head coach of England was the head coach of the Wallabies.
And so I’ve done nine years with Eddie, which is a, I think a world record. I think anyone else has lasted that long. Cause he’s a very intense guy, but he was fantastic. Because he’s completely committed to the art of coaching and to continual updating of your knowledge. So, as long as he’s been in the game, he’s a continual learner.
Pretty frustrating when you head of performance because you right. These long winded periodization plans, and then every couple of weeks he’s paired up and he’s continually searching, adapting, modifying. He was a great influence in terms of having a real passion for not just existing in the industry, but seeing yourself as a developmental coach, whether you’re 21 or 51.
And he really instilled in me, I guess, that commitment and then following on from that, which we’ll talk about later, but was Fran wash, which was really only cuz there was some problems I couldn’t solve in Japan from a movement point of view. So I, again, I chased trans down. He didn’t know who I was.
I’d met him briefly in Australia. When Dean Benton had brought him out. But I guess I chased down a few people that I needed backdrop to that story is that I I’d actually, after my master’s degree, I’d actually taken a job in ergonomics, not in sport. And I happened to be, so I’d already, it was a fully funded PhD and lots of money at the end of it.
And I thought that was a safer bet than sport. So I’d actually decided not to go into sport. And I was driving home. Friend of mine was in Canberra, was at a coaching conference and was track and field coaching conference, I think. And then they’d had a session on SC. So I just stopped my car, drove into the Canberra track as it is.
And Kel Giles was running a S C session. And I I’ve said it before, but Kelvin would’ve been in his peak somewhere in his forties, big R POY bloke. And he ran this session and I just thought that was fantastic. And I just thought, yeah, that’s what I wanna do. So at that time I started actively looking for S and C role before that I was probably gonna go down a, a different S by mechanics path.
So suming that up, but I’ve been extremely lucky to either bump into good people or have been able to find them.
Jack: And really bring him in your circle by the sounds of it like to, to have the confidence, to bring someone in from, over from America.
John: Look, I reckon it’s an important thing. And I’m on the other end of it now where I’ve got young people, younger SES asking for stuff. I think your approach to someone you want information from is really important. I would just be diligent, be honest, be humble and forthright and do what you can for them, you know?
And so, you talked to Shane Lahan a couple of weeks ago and another guy I could think of is Barry Hogan, who was at the Buies, both of those guys wanted to learn the stuff that I was doing and I’ve had 20 or 30 people turn up to my sessions, just grab an iPhone start video in my session, both of those guys approached me.
About their learning. So I would love to learn this from you. And then after that, then they might helped carry gear. In Barry’s case, he said, I’m not gonna video anything. Is it okay if I write notes at your session? And so he observed the sessions, wrote notes, and then at the end of it, can I ask you questions?
So I think when you’re seeking something from people who have probably got a lot of people asking for that information, just set yourself apart by the earnestness of your approach. And it may take 20 repeat emails and it may take a little bit extra, but if you really think that person’s got some answers for you.
I think the quality of your approach and the authenticity of it’s really important. So I hope that I did that in chasing down the people I had to chase down. And that’s certainly when I’m looking at people who ask for something, cuz really a lot of people are pretty rude. Like I want to do a zoom talk and I want you to tell me everything about, well, I’m gonna say at best, no at worst something a bit ruder.
But I think it’s a big thing in our industry, cuz now we all have such access to each other through, through the socials, but you can still get access to some really good people around the world if your approach is consistent, honest and earnest.
Jack: And like you said, that, I think that’s an important point. You like give back as well by helping them out, whatever in any way you can.
John: I mean, when Bern GABA came to Australia, I drove out to the airport, carried his bags. Scrubbed, scrubbed together. The most money I could and put him in a unit right on Manley beach, do anything I can to make the, to make it a pleasurable interaction.
It’s because, and especially people who are, I guess, the senior end of their careers. So the back end of their careers, they like where I’m at now, you definitely wanna find a few young people to help ’em pass on your information, but logistics that dictate that you can’t do that for 20 or 30 people, but two or three people will distinguish themselves.
And it’s a really enjoyable thing at the end of your career to find a few people who you can help develop it in Shane’s case. He’s learned the stuff that I taught him really well. And he would ask me five questions and then I’d see him go in the gym and practice it and then come back and say, how’s this.
So, of course I’m gonna help a guy like that don’t need to anymore. He’s off on his own. But I think that’s what I look for in someone who wants to, wants a bit of assistance. Yep, absolutely.
Jack: And they’re sort of they’re not waiting for it to happen. They’re driving their own careers.
John: They’re, they’re demonstrating their commitment to it and also. Old fashioned. Good mannerness for me.
Jack: No doubt goes a long way. Yeah, some good gems for those listening in the strength editioning coaches. Note that one down. You hear it all the time in the industry that obviously you gotta be a good coach and good practitioner, but good people go pretty far and maybe that’s not as competitive as well.
John: I reckon that’s right. But I’ve got, for example, I’ve got a zoom on Monday with an Indian SC. Now I don’t know him from a bar, so, but this kid’s just chased me down and chased me down. And I get on the zoom with him and he’s just the most authentic, committed young guy, he’s, salary’s bugger all. But he is trying to apply this certain kind of training and he then sends me videos.
I’ll give him my time for nothing. Cause I know he’s got no money now. I’m not saying you can do that for everybody, but he’s just demonstrated his commitment to me. He sends me video edits of everything that he’s done. It’s a little good little location point that he hasn’t got a sense to spend.
And normally I wouldn’t be able to help, but I can’t say no. Cause the blokes just demonstrated complete commitment to something that I’m passionate about.
Jack: That’s fantastic mate, PA passing it on. That’s love that. What about for some, some key areas of focus for the developing athletes listening in like from a running skills point of view, you mentioned that early on and how important that is for team team sport athletes. What are some great drills?
John: I’m not gonna try and give you too much because I started in developmental athletes, but I’ve almost 15 years now been working international level. So you get athletes two weeks before they’re playing, so you’ve gotta sharpen them up. And then I did start in the developmental system.
And to be honest with you, I’m nearly ready to finish international and either wanna go back into developmental or actually go into pathologies and rehab stuff. But I think First one for me is developmental athletes. If you an AFL or a running sport, doesn’t matter whether you add naturally quick or naturally slow maximize your running skills and that’s inclusive of skill running skills, running capacity and running sort of capacity in terms of acceleration speed and, and your anaerobic AOB capacity.
I think now we’re so robotic with a lot of our training, we forget to play. And I think a lot of play in that agility space is a really big part of development, run at the goalpost, spin around it and see if you can hold your balance and having a bit of play. I think in that.
Multidirectional speed agility. And then if you have access to someone who can really coach that stuff, I think, I mean, good development programs could have all that stuff built. I have seen some pretty ordinary ones. I have to say where I see kids being taught to be quite robotic.
So that’s my big thing is developing your running skills. And I think for me as a developer, I said, developing good habits. My belief is that habits, Trump motivation, some days are motivated. Some days we’re not, we play badly, or the coach gives us a spray. Motivation can fluctuate, but if you develop really good training habits and it takes a bit of effort and energy to put habits in place, but once they’re in place, It’s pretty much.
Our whole day operates on habits really. And I think, and the development of athletes having really good habits, but habits that are specifically you put in place for a specific reason, I ask a lot of young kids. I do, I don’t work in the developmental space, but I guess I do. Cause when I’m not with national teams, I actually have under 16 girls football, soccer training in here and it’s always quite humbling.
Cause I come back from the national level and, and work with the girls. This friend of mine runs the club here. So, having habits that you put in place for a reason so you might actually have poor flexibility. So I actually have some athletes who get outta bed and have a little mobility session is the first, breathing session and mobility.
Don’t make your first habit of the day jumping on Facebook cuz the first thing you do in the morning is let another source dictate your mindset. That’s really a poor habit for me. So a habit might be that you’re actually outta bed, do a breathing routine into a mobility routine.
That’s a really good habit that might really suit your needs. So I think that that’s the other key one for me, isn’t that developmental phase you can develop really good habits. And I see, we’ve got some really good developmental programs in rugby Australia now, but you see a big difference when people come to the pro level, those who have come from really good and bad academy programs. But yeah, I think you speak, I’m not sure the Bulgarian handball.
Jack: Yeah, Val.
John: Yep. So I’d just say, if you want hear more about the development, I’ll have to go back and go back and listen to him. Enjoyed
Jack: That one, the Bendigo high school, his phases of training. That was pretty impressive.
John: Looks it’s quite a traditional approach, you know? He was articulating, but there’s many, many ways to skin cat and I thought he was really thorough. But for me, if there’s one message running skills maximize ’em, don’t be disillusioned. If you’re only in that middle ground, you’re not the fastest or the slowest.
If you can find two meters improvement over 40 gets, that’s massive. If you can find some better balance, you can regain your balance after bump a bit quicker. If you can develop your capacity a little bit more. I think that that’s my message really.
Jack: And on the good habits part for the coaches listening in that are managing a large group and, and maybe it’s a semi-professional programs.
That’s just themselves, 30, 40 athletes. What are some. Favorite ways to, to get that message across is that when you’re in the gym and, and you’re hearing those one-on-one conversations when you’re having and you you’re taking notes and then having that awareness to be able next time when you chat with them or in the moment when you first hear something to give them a task or start to develop some habits, or is it putting, presenting to the group to encourage them to start driving questions and, and curiosity, like, what are some of your favorite ways to divide?
John: It’s a good question. It’s a good question. So for me, I don’t like, I think as see some of us fall into the trap of having really long introduction talks. Too long on the presentations. And you think of how many times our athletes are being spoken to for long periods of time.
So for my actual sessions, I like to start with an ignition game. It might be a R scissors, paper face FLA or diff. I like to actually start the session with energy. So I capture your attention, wake you up. I don’t have many rules when I run my sessions in the gym in particular, I don’t have any rules apart from if you YN, if you YN in my session, then all the boys congregate together and you’ve either gotta tell a joke and make ’em laugh, or you’ve gotta perform a dance because I believe en energy in the room and everyone being invigorated and alive.
That’s the key thing. That has to proceed meaningful information. So I keep those group chats pretty short. And then I’ll try. And from that, if there’s habits that apply to everyone yeah. I’ll deal with those over time. But I normally run a timer and I give one of the players a stopwatch.
And if my intro talk goes for two minutes, I gotta do 20 pushups or there’s some punishment for me, not them. So I like to keep that part short and I like to keep those individual conversations. Situational. When I think that person’s most open to hearing and listening. if that makes sense.
Because, because you think it’s the amount of time that they’re forced to sit and listen. And, and doesn’t matter whether you’re AFL rugby league or rugby, and there’s a lot of detail in the game now that didn’t used to be. So they had, they had pretty intensive learning around the game itself. So I like a lot of our learning in essence, C to be inherent in the session.
So if I’m teaching coordination stuff that the learning will actually be doing inside, inside the training. I’ll have little snippets here and there, but I’m not one for long. I mean, I’m capable of long monologues, but I don’t think that’s in how athletes best interest from a learning point of view or it’s certainly not my style.
And I think you getting back to habits, I think as a coach too, once you know what your style is you gotta build habits around your own day to make sure you’re consistent with that style. So I remember going to meet Neil Craig. Eddie, Eddie Jones, who I was working for at the time in Japan sent me to meet Neil Craig and Neil Craig was the coach of Adelaide crows.
You may know he was a great sports scientist when I came to the system and now he’s the head of maybe high performance manager in England, but he is a pretty rough, rough and ready bloke. Good, tough Ozzie rules player in south south Australia, I came to meet him to talk about coach development. And he said, who the bloody hell are you?
What’s your coaching style? And what is your session like? And I was just about to try and answer. And before I could even do that, he said, and before you even answer, if I run 10 players and ask them, are they gonna say what you say. And I thought about that and I thought, well, I’ve really gotta define, so I need to define what my coaching style and what I think my environment’s like.
So since that day I’ve got a one pager, which identifies how I want my sessions to look and feel. And then on the, on the back of that, then I’ve gotta think, well, okay, for me, it’s energy and specificity. So I want to be quite energetic through the session and I want the specificity to be self evident.
So the players can see clearly the connection between the training program and, and their game. But if I’m gonna do that, there’s I, the sessions actually need to be well planned, highly organized. I need to make sure that my mental and physical state is a certain way before the sessions and better kind of habits I need to put in place and, and not to say that’s perfect.
Cause I got to a certain point in my career. I thought, hang on. I’m not really living up to that. One pager anymore. I’m actually not as energetic at the start of these sessions. And I think having that one pager as a coach is a really good thing. And can it lead you down? It also led me to areas that I didn’t have the knowledge and information I want. I know it drifting topics a little bit.
Jack: No, no. There’s lot there.
John: Yeah. That chat with Neil Craig and like, I don’t know, Neil Craig, I’m not, I’m not saying good things about him. Cause he is a friend I’ve only met him a few times, but that interrogation of me as a coach was really substantial.
Had to go and think about what do I stand for as a coach? And would the players back me up if he called them? They’d say, oh JP he’s, he’s just a beat head. These sessions are pretty basic then obviously I’m not doing my job. So yeah, that was good. A good experience. And like I said, I have a little one page if effort that dictates.
How I coach and I have another little, one page that I developed on how I need to manage myself to optimize that now they’re not perfect, but they were two really substantial small documents that I developed from that meeting.
Jack: That’s fantastic, mate. Thanks for sharing that insight in terms of your own development with, so the purpose of that I’m just thinking of what you mentioned there, where at times you would review that one page and you thought, okay, I was a bit off there with my sort of your values or what was written on that one page.
And that’s where the second page came about, where you’ve got your key areas that you need to do for yourself to be your best version yourself.
John: Is that right? Yeah, that’s pretty much it. So if you think of page one is about what I stand for as a coach and what things I think are important. I mean, and so for me maximizing athletic development, agility, efficiency in the body.
So making sure your max are their key things in terms of how I want the session to be. You I’ll start with an ignition game. If, if guys are yawning, then that’s probably an notification on me rather than them. But I always make a point if you are yawning, you’re sucking energy out of the room.
So that’s my coaching style. And then down below that is areas that I’ve already got the knowledge on and areas that I probably need to keep updating myself. The second one pager is just for me as a person. Because I say this to all young coaches, as essence C coaches, whether we know it or not, we’re energy givers.
You go in that room and you are giving, giving, giving, and the same for our physios. It’s the same for our massage staff and same for our head coaches and. At some point I ask coaches, where are you? Recharging your batteries. Some people intuitively are really good and know that other people, a lot of people I’ve seen, including myself at different points in time, you just run yourself down, you run your batteries down and it won’t be that obvious.
It won’t be that you’re so tired. Can’t get outta bed and don’t go to work, but it might just take the edge off your coaching. It might just take the edge off your natural authenticity and energy that was previously exciting people to train harder. I had a really great experience in that year that I took off from AUR and, and did track and field that the coach was just the most.
Funniest energetic. And he’d wise crack and create all this energy, then he’d go right. A son, I reckon you’ve got something special in you today. I reckon you’re gonna do that three hundred and thirty four five. And he did it. You’ll find something extra. And that was just his personal energy.
So I think as S C coaches, where in the environment where we’re giving energy all day long how do you get yourself up for that for the coach? How do you recharge the bank? So I think a lot of I’m just thinking to different people. Some people naturally are very good at that. Other people are bad at it.
We just work ourselves into the ground and we don’t know until we’ve actually run our batteries down a bit. So, I think it’s really important. It’s not something that anyone ever talked with me about throughout my career, but it’s the further you get into your career, the more responsibility that you’ve got, the harder it becomes to find time for whatever it is that recharges your batteries.
Jack: And is that with, on that note with that, do you have like your sort of weekly non-negotiables that you’ll prioritize in your schedule in terms of like training and those elements that do recharge your batteries for me personally?
John: As a coach. Absolutely. So, there’s certain kinds of training and stuff that invigorate me, there’s certain stuff, nothing to do with training that I, for me growing up in the country, I have to get access to being out in the country, at least once a month.
I have to listen to music, mountains, fire, ocean, they’re all little touchstone things for me that I need to access every, every month or so other people, it might be music, meditation, mind mindfulness obviously is integral part of that. That first half hour of my day is consistently the same every day.
Like I’m not preaching this for everybody, but I think having a strategy for how you can be at your optimum, personal energy. I think it’s a no-brainer, no matter what role we’re around sport, ultimately we’re in the business of influence and, and our influence is diminished when we’re look tired or we’re speaking in a monotonic fashion. So I think it’s really big.
Jack: And then you mentioned how some, depending on where you’re at with your journey, you might not even be aware that you’re chronically fatigued or tired. When you do build that awareness and you realize going into a session before you’re leading it, shit, I’m a bit off here mentally. What are some of your favorite ways to sharp yourself up before. You have to get, or do sort of feed off the group and that good question?
John: No, no. So if from an acute stuff, it’s you, if it’s a session at 10 o’clock and at nine o’clock, I’m pretty flat, I’m diving into an ice bath, shock the system.
Shock the system. I’ll just try and upset when I work in Japan. I mean, my own hotel room in camp always, which was great. And I literally had ice bags and that was my quick, quick ReSTOR of energy, cuz that, that gets me back up and I’ll blast part there. So I play music very, very loud, but those two things would get me up in that acute one hour type timeframe in terms of months, weeks.
I need to get out. I need to get outta cities. I need country, fresh air. I need oceans, mountains, fireplaces. They’re the things that sustain me over a longer term. So I think as an individual, knowing what they are is really, really important.
Jack: We’ll move into the Frans Bosch methodologies. Now, what were the history side of things? What are some of the good and bad points to use when it comes to Frans Bosch work?
John: I know it’s very controversial and for me it was simple. I was in Japan and, and I’m pretty comfortable head of performance for Japan, national rugby team.
And we developed great running capacity. We developed we had very small guys, so we’d slowly developed, lean muscle mass and all those things. Japanese athletes, partly by genetic type and partly by the university system, they go through a really quad dominant. So I had guys pulling hamstrings left right.
And center when we tried to do any speed work. So I kind of figured out most of those things, myself Eddie Jones is a great coach and had a really particular plan for how he wanted to move out, move the ball and move the players. And that required a really high degree of vertical and natural agility.
And I hadn’t really been in the agility space that much. So I just need to seek someone who I felt had the expertise that I was seeking. So that was probably 2012 or 13. And I saw it trans out, brought into Japan for a two week trial. It was as confusing to me as it is to a lot of your listeners when you look at it and think what the hell’s that you know.
But what I did is rather than try being a program director at the time, I could have said, you, you can do this. And I just, I gave him chunks of time and I just let him do whatever he wanted. And I just sat back and observed and I did notice that at the end of the two weeks, some of the guys, like I know everyone’s max velocity, their max, a Excel, I know all their data and GPS and, and also visually I’ve got a good, I guess I’m a close observer of how people move.
And I saw change. I saw changes in that two week window, not with everyone. And it wasn’t, I’m not gonna tell you it was anything crazy, but I saw some shift in peak AEL for players. I knew very well. So my attachment to it wasn’t that I was a Frans Bosch fanboy or anything like that. It was that I saw results that I hadn’t been able to get before that caught my interest.
So I think I had him then for six weeks at the start of a world cup preparation, but I’m coordinating the program. I’m coaching in the gym. I’m coaching speed on the field. I’m coaching, wrestling all, so I’m pretty busy. Yeah. So I can only see little bits of what he’s doing that I’m trying to, so my experience with it would actually was.
Perhaps not as grand as it could have been, but it was fantastic. Cause I did get to him, see him coaching it with small groups, had a couple of really important rehab case. I got to hear him articulating, I got to see him coaching. So my experience with it was quite unique. And then a lot of people now, their first experience is just seeing what some guy posted on Twitter.
And a lot of the times it’s not with not with explanation and it’s not telling you what they’re trying to achieve and what they’re trying to do. So here’s my summary. It allowed me to attack areas that I hadn’t learned in traditional strength training, either as SCA courses or through anything I’ve learned at university.
So in terms of movement efficiency, looking at where energy might be lost. So like, I think in S&Cs, we’re pretty good at thinking about how to build capacity. So, we develop more strength. We develop better MAs, distances, they’re all building our capacity. But I think of that as like a motor car we’re building a four cylinder out to a six cylinder.
What Frances stuff taught me was how to pump up the tires. Cause a lot of the times we build a motor, it we’re still running on flat tires. So, if your ankle stiffness is poor that’s gonna impact your acceleration. It’s gonna impact your top speed. If you’re the lack of a frontal plane, hip lock.
Well, that’s energy being lost into the ground. So again, that’s flat tires. So that was my first very crude experience with it. And from there there’s a lot more complexity to it beyond which we can discuss today, but it allowed me to attack areas of performance that I just didn’t have access to before, if that makes sense.
Yeah, absolutely. So I would’ve, I mean, I guess I pretty, at that time I was a reasonable expert in speed, but I just didn’t, I couldn’t break, break it down in, in, in a systematic way. And so now, through France’s learnings, when we do our strength training, we’ll have ankle prefabs where we’re working on ankle stiffness.
We’ll have high intensity hip lock where we’re just basically getting better contractions around the hip. So we’re not losing energy. There we’ll have trunk co contractions. So that the same thing. So we’re not losing energy, with a flacid torso. And so that we’re pretense the body in a way that we can actually optimize the way the body is designed.
So the hamstring can operate the way it’s meant to operate, for example. But I think it’s easy for me to say that, cuz I’ve had that unique learning experience. I’ve seen a lot of people misusing the content and we’ve all seen that and that’s really prevalent. For your people for your listeners who are star, who are either interested in it or who have started undertaking it a little bit.
I just go to three things. If you look at a Bosch exercise and you’re doing one and I’ll see you guys posting them all the time. If you can’t answer these three questions, then you shouldn’t be doing it. The first one is validity. So valid li in meaning. Okay. What is that exercise for? Is it a hip lock and is there the hip lock related to acceleration?
And if that’s the case, then you at least know what it’s for. Okay. That’s a good start, but I’ll see people doing run up on the box and I’ll have a dangly weights and they’ll do a three step run up. But if I ask them that question, well, what, what are you hoping to achieve with that? Is it high intensity, hip lock or is it ankle stiffness or is it foot from above?
If we’re working on the tractors, if you can’t answer those things, then you probably need to take a step back. Second set of that’s validity, then intent and intensity. So intent, meaning that there’s some very complex looking exercises, but the intent of the movement needs to be clear to the athlete.
So if I’m doing some lockouts or all things where acceleration type drills into the wall, we need to establish what the athlete’s intention is really clearly for them. Cause again, we go back to some of those really complex stuff. If the athlete’s just doing what they think you want them to do, but the intent is not clear and the successful or non successsful outcome is not clear, then there’s little chance of getting a transfer there.
And the third one I use is intensity. Okay. So when we’re doing bench pressure or squat, obviously the weight on the bar and the speed with which we move, it determines the intensity. But when we go to this coordination realm, you need to know what are the factors that determine the intensity. And so, it can be forced pressure, speed, pressure, or movement complexity.
So, if you really wanna learn it, and if you think it’s the online course, which is just pretty expensive, but like I said to you in the, we were chatting before I’m actually going back and doing the Frans Bosch theory course at the moment, myself, even though I’ve been a, I’m not part of the Frans Bosch systems business, I do run cracks for him sometimes, but I’m going back and relearning the theory myself, because I’ve actually gone quite a long way up on the application side of things.
I’m going back to do the learning. And I think if you don’t invest in it unless you really want to commit to that learning process, but I’ve see you had Shane Lahan on last week. He done the course, he hasn’t had exposure to Frans, but he actually learned in a slow and methodical way from me.
So he learned four exercises, knew what they were related to. So if it’s a acceleration hip lock, then he knew what it was relating for, knew what they were hoping for. And then he learned the execution tested on his own body, and then he is ready to coach it. He’s built his capacity outwards like that.
I think that’s the way to approach it. And I definitely recommend it’s a really good online course. I’m not sure what your audience thinks is expensive or not, but I’m a couple of modules in. To doing it and I’m actually finding that much easier to comprehend than the books.
And again, I’m very close to it all, but I find if I read the two books, I wouldn’t actually be able to go away and coach on the back of it. I find the online course that combines the video and theory’s been really helpful. But there’s no question for me. And again, I’m not saying that it’s an essential part of every field sports preparation, it’s certainly is for me because it’s allowed me to develop a system that’s dramatically reduced soft tissue injury.
If I run the program the way I want to run it with all the sub components using Fran and methodologies then I can reduce soft tissue drastically and I’ve had some probably at four clubs in three countries repeated that now. So I’m really confident in that. And I wouldn’t have learned that content without access to Frans.
But that’s not to say you can’t do it another way. I mean, I was listening into your, was it Valer or Valerie or Valer I was listening into his content and I’m thinking married Bosch in there. It’s a traditional approach, really good quality and management of his strength, good quality, player developments that are born out of normally born out of that track and field.
There’s good methodologies that are different. But if you just decide that you wanna learn Frans Bosch methodologies,, just emphasize that it’s a, it’s a big, it’s a big commitment. And if you stay the journey, it’s a great skillset that will unfold itself.
Jack: And when you started bringing in these drills on yourself and then with your athletes in a program what, what was it starting to, what were you taking out? What were you weeding out of your program to bring in these drills?
John: That’s a good question. I don’t wanna insult anyone here. I guess if you look at a really long drawn out, warm up where you might have, pping sideways and, and 25 minutes later, and you still haven’t moved.
That’s gone. I can get the body ready very, very quickly. So what I did is I had a look through all of his content say, okay, this content’s highly specific and is targeted for individuals who might be the targeting agility or acceleration. Can I put the generic stuff in there? So for example, hip Spinall and.
The generic content I, that replaced the traditional for me. So I have a really more lively more dynamic and more skill specific warmup that I’ve developed on the basis of not, not, not exclusively friends stuff. It would come partly from some wrestling content, but, and partly from Frances content.
So I can get the body ready in a more efficient, way, more exciting way. That’s kind of the first thing. And that will be at the start. It looks when we’re in camp, we’ll do an early morning routine of that. It’ll be the first eight minutes of a strength training session. Then the second part is the specific needs.
So I have two athletes who the main issue is the pathology of the knee. So they’ll have 15 minutes of their strength training time, which might be doing protective, contraction work around the knee. So first thing is, replacing those long, boring warmups. And we have a lot of fun with that and, and a lot more specificity in that really.
But yeah, it was hard initially cause I’m thinking well, and that’s part of the problem is that when you do go down the pathway of France’s content, there’s so much and making decisions on what’s likely to be best suited to your team. And then to individuals that, that takes some learning, you gotta invest but is very easy in the.
I’ve said before I, where possible if I have a 60 minute strength window, I like to have like to, I had 21 players, I’ll break you into three groups of seven and you can go and do the simple cause in rugby, we need big strong bodies. So we’ve still got all the basic and I love my traditional strength training.
So all those traditional stuff will be done either with a junior coach or I’ll go back and forward to it. Or players might even self manage their uppers, their uppers, for example, but the group of seven does the specific coordination work with me. And that’s about a third or a quarter of your time in the gym at least.
And they’re rotating, rotating, ideally. That’s the ideal. It’s not always possible. But I would never be part of a one hour strength session without coordination work in there. And it would never be less than 12 minutes ever. Sometimes quite a bit more. So it’s pretty easy to find that time.
And, but I think at the, certainly at the elite level, there are times when I will direct players back to the players developed really good efficiency, movement efficiency. And I see a lot of the coordination is pretty well mastered. They might need some long contact power that might be the limiting factor.
So I’m still open to reducing it. I’m yet to see many field sport athletes who have absolutely maximized their capacity in terms of speed coordination, agility, and so forth. So for me, it’s always gonna be in my programs.
Jack: And with those rotations that’s when you’re looking at more, the generic library exercises. So you just as an athlete globally.
John: We do the generic stuff. So every athlete is everyone’s gonna do some basic hip lock work. Everyone’s gonna do some basic ankle stiffness work. Everyone’s gonna do some trunk co contractions, and everyone’s gonna do mobility that also like, say for a hip spindle, for example, I won’t demonstrate it here, but if I’m doing that, I’m actually getting, it’s just, it’s a low intensity hip lock, but I’m also getting really good range through the groin.
I’m actually really getting, getting quite good. So there’s multitude of things going on there. So that’s the generic stuff. And then when you, then when you come down in the rotation of seven, you’ll either be categorized on a needs group. So you might be in the acceleration group or you might be in the pathology group, or you might be in a different group.
So in rugby, we might have guys who. Jump for line outs, for example, they might just be doing some faster jump types. Cause a lot of, so that’s how I try and work it. So the generic stuff people do together and I’ll do anything I can to keep that interesting. So I’ll change the routines every three or four weeks, let different players lead.
It whatever’s needed to keep that content fresh. Because when you’re coming around in your group of seven, that content is actually either individually specific or group specific. So generally the motivation on that part of it’s quite high. Quite, it’s not a big problem to get them up for that.
Jack: And then from a progression and prioritization planning, point of view. You obviously, like you said, with your simple strength exercises I imagine there’s not a lot of leeway with the athletes in a sense, like they’re doing their five by five at a percentage or whatever the plan is and maybe they’ll go up.
Maybe they’ll go down if you manage them. But with this motor learning type of stuff, is it very much when you’ve got a small group. You’ve got the plan, but if a player’s really switched on and they’re grasping that drill, do you quickly just progress into the next drill?
John: Yep. And that’s where the answer is. But that requires the development of a skillset. So if you don’t have that skillset, if you’ve just learned some of the basics, you can still get a result. When I was in Fiji the players had done none of this stuff before, and they’re all big muscular guys, but all had been playing overseas and leading a very certainty lifestyle.
So there was really easy games there with the simple stuff. So if you have done friends’ work for a long time, then it’s pretty easy for you to watch a group of seven and say, okay, that’s too easy now. And generally I work on about 30% failure. You actually want failure of some of these drills.
And if, if it’s not anything life challenging. You’ll actually progress there. But so it’s periodized really on time. As in I’ve got that. I’ve got that content for 12 minutes when it’s no longer challenging. Yes. I’ll take it up a little bit, but it’s probably not periodized in the same way that the major lifts are.
Jack: It needs to get. So you’ve got 12 minutes to get him moving as best they possibly can. Awesome.
John: Look, if, if you were, if you were, if you were an individual one on coach, there’d be much better ways, you can, but I don’t live in that world. I live in the world where I’ve got a squad of players and you’ve gotta try and find that balance between group management and, and getting the most specific content you can. So, yeah. I found by managing it by time, a good way to do it.
Jack: And then and I imagine majority of listeners are in that same boat where yeah. So these are great tips to apply, even if it’s not specifically Frans Bosch, but it might be some of your drills. Your app or this sort of quarter?
John: I think it doesn’t matter if it’s friends. In all that content being ready with your progressions and, and yeah. Something’s no longer meaningful and no longer challenging you gotta be ready with your progressions. Cause I think, I’m always the biggest thing I don’t like is athletes going through the motions.
If it’s not content that’s engaging and challenging the better off going and resting and being fresh, being fresh for the on field session. I don’t like to double dip. So if I’m doing speed and drilling, leading into the on field session and I don’t like to have the same content in the gym. So if there’s, if we’re doing our drilling and our bounding and stuff leading into the on field session, I definitely will have much different content.
So then I might focus on off feet content in the gym. So that might more be trunk co contractions, hip co contractions, as well as our traditional strength. I think sometimes we are and myself as well can be guilty of double dipping. So we have plyo and we’re doing max 10 meter Axel in the gym, and the player knows in the back of his mind, but he’s doing that in the morning, but he’s gotta be judged in the afternoon on the field session.
So I try and avoid that double dipping. I try and look when I really wanna stress the nervous system when I really wanna stress the musculoskeletal system, obviously, high impact on field and I’m not gonna do the same thing in the gym. That’s pretty straightforward, I guess, but having learn France’s content. It gives me a really good way to underpin in the gym, what I’m working with on the field without double dipping and repeating
Jack: With those sort of key areas of focus with the ankle stiffness trunk, trunk, stability, hip lock. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see coaches that maybe haven’t done the course making with athletes?
John: Validity, intent, intensity. So first of all, they haven’t worked out what this drill is good for. So it looks cool and they’ll show it to the players, but you’ve really gotta have a good explanation of exactly what part of a movement pattern it can potentially enhance. And I think then how to coach. Okay. Now a lot of them will start trying to coach it by detail saying, oh, I’ll put your hand here and move up here a little.
No, no, it should be outcomes. So you have tasks, for example, there’ll be an end point. So it’s and if you get that right, then you develop an intrinsic coaching experience for the athlete rather than one. So for example, if we go to a traditional, just doing an, a skip for example. Now that’s okay.
They’ve got their place, but there’s no feedback coming back to the athlete there, unless the coach happens to say, that’s really nice, Jack. That was a really good one. But if I’m coaching prefabs in the gym, for example, I might be doing an ankle stiffness, prefab, which might be a low position, switch and rotation with a pole.
I might have two, once it’s learned properly, I’ll have two athletes, two players standing facing each other and there’s rules. Okay. Rule one is we start in this position. Rule two is you’ve gotta switch. Try, skip back to the starting position without your heel touching. Then I gonna start racing them.
And that’s much more powerful than me trying to coach details cuz they will self organize. So they have a stick on their back and that dictates that their spine’s gonna be long. We’re gonna have contractions going on. The rule two is heal off the ground, rule three, we just race. And so if we can get those rules, right, and if we can get the intentions and the end points, and I know it’s talking shop a little bit, but if you got those things right, then you’ve a good chance of, and you know why you’re doing it and it’s structured.
And you know that your content’s assembled well, if you’re just picking single exercises off that you’re seeing online, you obviously much less likely to have any positive chance. But you don’t wanna be too snobby about it cuz everyone can learn in different ways. The place for that experimental stuff for me is on your own body.
Or if you’ve got a couple of mates who don’t mind training with you, go and go and play and go and learn that stuff. But don’t be doing it with your athletes, by the time, if you’re gonna put his stuff in place, then you should have done your homework and learn what you’re doing by.
Jack: It’s a slow burn by the sounds of it’s a fair bit going on when you’re coaching and leading a session.
John: Yeah. Well, I actually think the first phase is pretty easy, you know? And I’ve seen a guy like Shane Lahan when he obviously had heard about it and seen it.
When I met him two years ago, he came into the Wallaby squad and ran the strength for us. So he had seen some of it and could show a few exercises. But if I asked him those questions, he’d be 0, 0, 0. But then he started building out his toolkit little bit by a little bit. And he sent me through a collage of stuff that he’s done with the swans the other day bloody good.
I always really thought it was terrific. And so, yeah, it’s very possible to learn it, but understand that it’s a commitment and that you build outweighs build your skill set outweighs. Probably goes for anything though. Really.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely having purpose. And with the, the literally intent and intensity you mentioned the stick and, and having that cure, keeping the heel off the ground and then the competition. So you’re ticking all those three areas. Do you have like your own library that you’ve created or do you do them in your head?
John: Yeah, no, I have a library. One, I have a library that I’ve built myself and then, and the library that Frans developed for me. So I pretty much only use the stuff that I’m really confident in coaching.
And that I know what are the key drivers of that I intent and intensity. But I built that library out and who’s a young physio SC who I coached him when he was a 14 year old. And then he, I sort of mentored him a bit in SC he’s now probably 28 and working a European football club.
He’s got a bigger library than me. I’ve actually, he uses a lot more content than I do. Cuz he’s learned really well, has direct access to France. I choose to have a smaller library of content that I’m really confident with and I know works. But that’s the same as I think any it’s the same in strength.
But yeah, I do. I have that library and I have it on a little mini software that I can spit stuff out and design programs as I need to.
Jack: And then with the progressions, how does an athlete sort of earn the right to. Change their, their main purpose. So like you mentioned how you break them up into a pathology group and it, so that might be pretty straightforward.
If the, I guess there might, from that one, there might be a consistent drills that they do just to keep themselves feeling good. But for like the performance side of things, is it the ever change, someone who’s working on agility? Do they eventually move to maybe acceleration or not?
John: For me, not normally because understand that I’ve usually got a free month window or, and competing through that time.
So normally you’ll stay on that same grouping, but no, it’s a good question. If someone had really poor acceleration mechanics and that was our primary focus and so their Bosch content was focused in and around that start and acceleration if it was a developmental athlete. I do a very poor man’s version of a Bosch video analysis.
And in fact, it’s really not only content I’ve learned Frans stuff I’ve done traditionally. If that video analysis shows me that, well, actually ankle stiffness is now much greater than what it was. I’m looking at these, I’m looking at mid stance, I’m looking at toe off and all those things are a lot better than they used to be.
I might shift that person across to agility. But in my environment that doesn’t happen that much cuz we have them for short periods and, and need to maximize a single result normally.
Jack: Yep. And then moving over to the generalist verse specialist in sports setting, where do you sort of sit with that question?
John: Yeah, just something I think about quite a bit is, and it’s particularly hard for your generation and beli because I mean there’s so many young ES now, do you become a special. Or do you have a broad set of skills? I think the thing I see now, just watching young people come in the ones who are highly specialized can sometimes have a pretty poor appreciation for the whole program and how it fits together.
I’m ver GBE who again is one of my mentors. He has a saying, which I can’t recall at the moment, but being a great generalist with a couple of strong points. So you’re comfortable taking flex, you’re comfortable taking conditioning, you can do the GPS and you can do strength, but then have one or two areas that your specialist skills and authenticity are just absolutely obvious.
I actually think that’s a lot more powerful and potent than just having that one little, cause it’s the same for all of us. When we really highly develop one skill, we tend to see things through that lens. A little too much. And I think in the field sports environment to me, I think that certainly for your younger SES, getting that breadth to skills.
And they’re saying, right. I particularly feel that I can zero in on this one. And but being cautious of going too specific and too narrow in your focus.That’s my particular view on it might be other people might have a diametrically opposed view.
Jack: And you mentioned like how energy and specificity were like two key areas of focus for yourself when you are looking at developing yourself and reflecting on your sessions is with the specificity side of things, is that where, like, it sounds like throughout your career, you have moments where you’re like, shit, this is something that I need to work on this area, and then you’ll seek out an expert or you’ll do a certain workshop and up skill in that area is.
Yep. Something that you’ve naturally done or did someone sort of guide you in that direction?
John: That’s a good question. I think partly naturally, but I’ve just been like Eddie Jones, who I worked for for a long time. He just that’s where, I mean, he goes and seeks people who he needs.
I mean, even when he is already considered one of the elite coaches, he’s often a soccer team in Europe, learning from another coach. I mean, Dean Benton, who you may or may not know of is head of performance in rugby Australia. And he’s just a lifelong learner. So I’ve been around people who have that approach and inclination for me, I tend to prefer rather than doing courses.
I like to seek individuals. I like to go to the source and find out, but it’s not always possible. But it’s essential, unless you happen to be super sonically gifted, the rest of us have to. Acquire that knowledge and skillset, however we can. But it is, to me, it is very inspiring to work with these elite coaches who are still lifelong learners and this has heaps of them.
Jack: And you mentioned, obviously to be able to survive in the industry early on, you probably do need to be a generalist and take what you get. And then as you start to grow the power of having to make an impact. I guess, having those one or two skills, what are some of your, for those listening in that are starting to search for that to maybe get a lead role somewhere?
What are some of your favorite ways to work out? I guess for yourself where you should find those strengths that are gonna see through and stand out in the industry.
John: Do you mean if you want to be ahead of performance and you’re trying to get, cause I’ve always done the opposite. I’ve always thought not to be ahead of performance. Cause I love coaching on the field. I’ve ended up getting ahead of performance in Japan and Suntory and Fiji, but I never wanted to be.
Jack: And I guess, I mean, sorry for someone that’s doing quite well, so they’re performing well in their role as the generalist. But they’re starting to get to that point now where they want to have those one to two areas that they’re. They’re really good at what would be some of your methods to, to work that out that, that is gonna stand out with the industry, whether that be strength and power sports, just genuine commitment and going outside the box.
John: So, one of my subordinate or junior staff at a club I work with didn’t have any skills in the contact tackle, kind of area went away and did wrestling came back and all of a sudden it’s got these skill set, genuine, authentic commitment, and going outside our circle to get that expertise.
That’s pretty impressive and that’ll catch the attention to people. I think the other thing is we are in the business of influence, so you may well understand your content that you’re trying to convey to players, but how good are your skills of summing it up in a brief articulate fashion?
And then do you really know that the players digested and ingested what you said? So I think, if you are not a natural, if you’re not naturally articulate and succinct, you might need to go and work on that because I think the use of language and the briefness of language is underestimated.
I see a lot of young essays, really earnest, good young people, guys and girls who have invested time in their learning, but they’re repeating back to the players. The content that they’ve read and players are polite. They’ll sit there and put up with that introduction, but I think working on your skill set, how could you make that communication different?
How could you make it memorable? Can you think of me? Think for me one memorable thing a coach has ever done or said to you. Okay. You got 10 seconds Jack, tell me something. Did the coach ever influence you think, oh, remember that session? Because he did that. So I think, thinking about how that information that you are presenting might be digested better.
Is it a player that you meet one on one, you have a boxing session with him for 20 minutes. And then when they’re really tired, you sit down and you talk about, cause I think we’re in the business of influence. Really, we are trying to influence better behaviors on the field and off the field.
And there’s a science to influence. Some people have a natural ability in it. Other people don’t, I’ve got one developmental coach, very good coach. I know. And his knowledge is way beyond mine. His intelligence is way beyond, but not particularly good speaker. And I, and I’d be saying to him, he’s gotta go to Toastmasters or find any uncomfortable environment, put himself in that environment and develop that skill.
Cuz like I said, communication skills are the avenue through which we have that influence. I think we don’t talk about that enough. Really?
Jack: That’s fantastic. Andry. Thank you so much, John. We’ll move into the lighter part of the podcast now that get to know we’ll call you JP. Now that we’ve had a chat for longer than an hour would favorite inspirational quote or life mother, you don’t necessarily have to have one, but is there something that you?
John: Probably main one for me is yeah, youngest of 10 kids or second youngest of 10 kids and dad was a pretty scary sort to do, but he also his life motto and you’ve sort of articulated this before he died, which is 20 years ago, but basically to have a seriousness of purpose and a lightheartedness of execution.
And I think that’s what I try and do. I try and be absolutely dead serious about whatever my goals are and goals that we set in the athletic environment, but it’s a long journey and it’s a lot better journey if we have fun along the way. And they’re not mutually exclusive. I think when I was younger coach, I’m saying late twenties to 30, I was way too, not too serious, cuz it’s good to be serious, but I think I was always gruff mode and I wasn’t enjoying the journey.
And I know I certainly squashed a couple of athletes cuz every session was hard and exhaustive. So I think that’d be my main thing, \ serious purpose, lighthearted execution. And the other thing, like I said to you before my other life motto is energy and energy out. If at the moment I’ve taken a three month break from coaching at the moment, cause I had a knee surgery.
And what I also realized at the end of that during this break now was that having had that sort of knee pain was so long, my energy banks dropped down a little bit. So I think energy and energy out as an SC coach go and find if you don’t already know, a lot of your audience might know already, but if you haven’t worked it out, go and work that out.
Cause it’s the same thing. There’s a lot of, there’s a big cost of this industry. That’s hard and there’s not many 50, 60 year old S C coaches on their first marriage. It can really be hard on your life, hard on relationships. And I think working out the stuff you do either side of, for example, when you finish a big day at the club, are you gonna carry those problems home, back to your partner and are there little resets that you can use to manage your energy? Cause it’s a tough industry, and actually the further you progress, the tougher it gets from that side of things, maybe my two things.
Jack: And what about in your work life? What are your pet peeves? What makes you angry?
John: Look, not much gets me. I was pretty quick to get angry as a younger coach. Not much. I think the main thing for me is a lack of authenticity. So anytime that people are purporting to be what they’re not or have knowledge that they’re not, or I don’t like inauthentic behavior.
I think that’s pretty much it, not much self upsets me. I only have one rule in the gym if you are and you get punished, everything else. I like people to be energetic in my coaching environment, as long as it’s not destabilizing the content. Not too many, not too many.
It sometimes feel a level of frustration that we have athletes when you get to the top level and they’re on these huge salaries and we don’t see the commitment from them that we think should be there for that. But then we’ve actually got rather than questioning them. We’ve gotta question ourselves, that come environment.
So that’s when I go back to the communication, if I’m not, and we’ve got a couple of real tricky ones, I certainly have had an Australian rugby that we haven’t been able to impact on them. So we’ve gotta keep asking ourselves, okay. Are they, our are our avenues of communication effective, if not try something different. But have fun along the journeys. Big one for me.
Jack: Favorite way to spend your day off?
John: Try and get out to the Bush. I’ve got a little, I live in Sydney, which is obviously very busy. I’ve got a little Bush block, about three hours away. Get out to there. I’ve got a two year old and an eight year old boy mate.
So I’m anytime I get, I wanna spend, take them somewhere, but definitely for me getting out of the city, getting back to nature which is fortunately living right on the beach is, is one easy way for me. But they’re the big things back to nature for me. I’ve got a kayak and I go and find a river and paddle for a little bit. That’s yeah. All things around nature for me.
Jack: Well, thanks so much for jumping on Jen sharing with us, your journey, but also success leave clues and a big believer on that. So the practical tips that you’ve given us and stories along the way has been huge on I’ve got a lot out of it. And no doubt the listeners have as well, both athletes and coaches. In terms of 2022, I know you mentioned you’re having a break at the moment to recover from your, your knee surgery, but what what’s on the horizon for you for 22, the year excited about?
John: Look right at the moment. It’s just, I haven’t had time to really read and learn. So I’m actually like doing friends’ online course. That’s been enjoyable, just reading a lot more. I mean, cause the higher you get up in the system, the less time you spend actually learning content. So it’s actually just learning again. Getting back to learning and for me also, we get into this job because we love training.
But then down the line you get less and less and less time for training. Right at the moment is just for me investing back in my own personal training, practicing some new methodologies and new learning. So that’s exciting when I return to coaching in September. I’m excited just to relaunch with a new level of energy.
So I think apart from that, mate, just, if you got two young kids, that’s, that’s about as exciting as it gets. The things that keep me excited for this year.
Jack: Well, with your current role, it sounds like you’re doing a fair bit of consulting. So when you are back in three months time what does that look like? What’s sort of like a typical, so my in?
John: For me, most likely in September, I’ll be over in sum to in Japan, which is great. I’ve got four young SES there. Young thirties, thirties and below. So young thirties and below. So all young guys. And my first project will be working with them, developing them.
It’s a club I’ve been with since 2009 had a lot of success. And then after that success with the complacencies crept in, so really excited to get over there and relaunch that program and, and to work with those really good young coaches. And see if we can change the environment and get a little bit of the edge back that the club worked really hard to get.
But I guess it’s a natural progression as you get older is to enjoy more developing young coaches.
Jack: What are some of your favorite ways to like, is it every day, every session where there’s an element of development just by either them seeing you or through reflecting on a session, or is it more is it a bit more formal with the way that you like to sort of develop it?
John: I’m a pretty in I’m sometimes I’m too informal actually, but yeah, I’m pretty informal, but I will definitely say, look, here’s this block of time. Given, I want you to run, this might be I want you to run a contact prep session and then just, I keep out of his, get out of his way.
Cause the last thing a young coach needs is the senior coach standing on top of him. But I’ll observe it from somewhere where I’m low key. And then giving that feedback. Cause I think, as young SC coaches, a lot of times we don’t get much feedback, the head coaches sometimes don’t watch our sessions at all.
So even if you have something, I did it myself. I’ve actually paid people to come and watch me and observe and give me some feedback. So, I think that’s an essential part of it. And if you are head coach, who’s not giving you that you might need to go somewhere else to get it. Or even seek it from players, if you, if you’re brave enough.
Yeah, but I will do that continuously with these coaches and I guess I probably, I prefer it to be semi-formal so they’ve got a project and they’ll get feedback, but I’m not gonna do all that, you know? Across the desk in a meeting.
Jack: So when you see stuff you’ll, you’ll let ’em know pretty quickly. And it’s sort of the more in that nature?
John: Yeah. But I mean, if I ask you do you know when you are taking a speed session where you’re standing, can the players always, do they always hear you? Are they always seeing you, did everyone actually see the demonstration, getting someone to video you and play back a session that you took it’s bloody confronting at times if you haven’t done it.
And that’s whether you’re 25 or 50. So, it’s good to be in a position to do that for young coaches.
Jack: Fantastic. Well, we’ll start to wrap it up, mate. Thank you for good. Thank you again. For those that want to get in contact, where is the best place to?
John: I think I’ve a Twitter at speed power play and at fit three K it’s I T number three letter K. So either of those will get to me I’m just in the process of writing a whole lot of content for speed, power place, as I’ll be sticking some of that out in the next few weeks. Oh, awesome. But yeah, it can get me on those. I’m not a massive socials person and not much of a self motor, but you can get hold of me on those and happy to have someone do that.
Jack: I’ll add them in the show notes for those listening in, so you can click the links and yeah. Thank you for everyone. That’s tuned in as well. If you tuned in halfway through or three quarters, make sure to listen from the first minute because yeah, John’s provided us value all the way through.
So definitely wanna listen to the whole episode, guys. This will live in our YouTube channel as of now, and then if you wanna wait for the podcast, we’ll release it next Sunday. So looking forward to publishing it, but yeah. Thanks again, John. And looking forward to watching your career, the rest of it from afar catch up whenever you’re in Melbourne next.
John: Thanks, Jack.
Jack: Awesome, mate.