Prior to Melbourne, Justin worked at Paralympics Australia for 2 years. He also worked as a physiotherapy consultant for TAC, AIS project lead and High performance manager at Essendon football club and rehabilitation coach at Collingwood FC.

Highlights of the episode:

  • Comparing Leadership styles from “people first” to “performance first”
  • His fave ways to develop himself
  • The importance of understanding athlete learning styles for effective coaching
  • How he conducts his meetings and why he runs through the list of players everyday

People mentioned:

  • Amir Takla
  • Chris Howley
  • Mick Malthouse
  • David Buttifant
  • Neil Craig
  • John Worsfold
  • Mark Thompson
  • Kate Mcloughlin
  • Tony Popovic

#justincrow #preparelikeapro #plplivechats #podcast #melbournestrengthcoach

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Listen: iTunes | Spotify

Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ live chat show. My name is Jack McLean. I’m your host. And tonight my guest is Justin Crow. He’s head of human performance at Melbourne Victory. Prior to working at Melbourne, Justin worked at Paralympics Australia for two years, a physiotherapist consultant at act, and he’s worked as Australian Institute of Sport in a lead project role and head of high performance at Eston Football Club. Prior to working at Eston, he was also rehabilitation coach at Cowell Football.

Before we start this episode, our mission here at Prepare Like A Pro is to empower aspiring staff and athletes 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 on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

Welcome, Justin. Thanks for jumping on, mate.  

Justin: No worries. Thanks for having me, Jack. 

Jack: Let’s dive into the beginning of your career, mate. At what age did you discover you wanted to work with elite athletes?

Justin: Good one. The guy ends up enrolling as a physio at a school. But the real reason for that was I did work experience in a sports law firm. I thought it’s full sports law as a way to go. And then I realized after one week of year 11 work experience, I didn’t wanna work in the office.

So I did the maths and worked out what options there were that were in an office and physio, was it? So my passion grew over time, but I knew I love. That the physio was something that I sort of grew. 

Jack: And was it a physiotherapist that you had met where you got introduced to the role? Take us through why physio opposed to, I guess, the tactical technical side. 

Justin: There was other roles. I had seen a physio with a back complaint. So, probably not uncommon for all young guys. And the physios, a guy called T who’s still practicing here in Melbourne. He Don gymnastics that type thing, but he’d be really short fella he had to stand on a box.

He good energy about him. And I just sort of thought is that’s I could see myself doing something like that and then rock up at physio school and took it from there. 

Jack: And it’s not an easy feat from anyone that I’ve heard that’s completed their physiotherapy degree. Take us through for those listening in that are thinking about it or perhaps they’re currently just started the degree. Take us through the demands of the, so course I always at coll.

Justin: As a player at the time. I was part-time physio, which worked right. Actually, things have become a bit more professional AFL since I was able to, a Tuesday morning sample, we’re gonna curve for road, be done by 8:00 AM or something like that. I’d get off to uni.

And, look, physio is a fun degree. Or used to be. Two thirds girls enroll in physio, which interesting. I don’t think the proportions are probably a bit better balanced in sports physio. So we get to the point end that there’s probably better working conditions in some of the other physio streams, some of the hospital work and that type of thing.

But things may have dealt a bit since then, but couple of years of heavily theory based work. They biomechanics a lot of what is out there, XO and so on. Would’ve studied. And then moving more, the practical stuff, getting out in the hospitals and sports clinics and the field and learning like everything I reckon learning a lot of stuff.

Jack: Getting your hands steady for sure. And so early on the degree is a lot more clinical, is it more medical based? 

Justin: Yeah, a lot of theory required anatomy physiology, even pharmacology, all their different sort of base based things. That’s what I think some of the units now have gone to a model. They’ll combine streams, the podiatrists and even the Excel science and speech pathology, all those different streams will study together for the first year or two, and then go off into their different directions.

Jack: And you touched on being a professional athlete at the time of doing your studies. At what point did you transition into undertaking being a physiotherapist by trade? 

Justin: By the time I got delisted, I’d finished equivalent of a two and a half years of physio reckon. Which actually was pretty good timing. Cause the hardest thing to do, if you’re a medical student or physio student in professional sport or Olympic sport or public system is placements, so timing works pretty well for me.

So knocked up replacements over the next year and a half and well, what I actually did was I then just thought, oh, you know, let’s get outta Melbourne as far as I could, went over and did some voluntary work for soccer team in Ghana. In Africa and we just spent three months there with just helping out.

Didn’t necessarily know what I was doing. But I know that was just a volunteer program. So anyway, the Paris, see, they remember they were in the top league of Ghana, but they had no fans cuz they was owned by the power company and every other team had a location and local people supported them, so that was pretty good fun.

So, that’s where at Melbourne Victory sort of you, so we haven’t really worked in software for it’s largely true. I did have a really short St in the Canadian premier. 

Jack: Fantastic. And when you took on that role, was that when you recognized that elite sport and working with athletes team sports was where you wanted to go with your career?

Justin: I think so. And I think in my short AFL career, I had a broken leg and a maybe six to nine months rare period. And I got to work with a Ram coach there, Chris, who’s still around the trap. And I really liked the work he was doing. I thought, well, that sort of seems a pretty good mix and that was what really led me to. So I finished my physio degree and I went on and did exercise physiology, postgrad just to get head around more of that exercise science side Really try to find, be someone who can live in both those spaces, that medical space and the performance conditioning space as well.

Jack: Interesting. Okay. So EP, how does that, those that aren’t aware, how does that sort of differ from a physio, I guess you have physiotherapist EP and then strength and conditioning coach, how do you sort of see? 

Justin: A physio and EPS both have sort of accreditation through. I know a generalized, it’s got opera here in Australia. 

Jack: Governing body. 

Justin: And they both work, their work overlaps a bit, I suppose. In hospital system and best practices, I work together. Believe even in sport, you sort of, certainly saw this in Paralympic sport, Olympic sport where EPH physiologists and physio need to really work hand in hand and coach as well. There’s part of the challenge of integrating really good sport science force medicine team is getting everyone to be able to be comfortable to work together and also, let people play their strengths at the right times.

Jack: Yeah, for sure. Well said, mate. And you mentioned Chris and M, who are some other strong influences as you were developing and sort of honing your craft at this point in your career? 

Justin: I people at every stage, generally the leaders I work with, so Mulhouse and MC Mulhouse was a coach of Conwood.

When I played there and worked there. And David Butk was the high forwards manager. Both really people focused leaders sort of learned a lot from them and took a lot away from how they approach things. Then Neil Craig, John Feld, those type of people had really had different ways approaching things, that I really appreciated.

In Paralympic sport, there’s a lady, Kate McLaughlin who’s the chef mission for the last, well, she’ll be chef mission again in Paris. But she’s an incredible leader. That is a massive undertaking to take a Paralympic team to Paralympic games and she just nails it cycle after cycle.

And then Tony Popovich and D again, sort of different leadership styles and different people, which just always the just Tony who said for staying somewhere and really getting stuck in their things. But the more different people I work with, the more you learn as well. So appreciate that.

And then the other influence, like mostly is their family sort of came from sporting family, mum in sports, admin and dad AFL player, my sister Olympic gold medalist, so plenty of people influencing me along the way.

Jack: Yeah, it’s fantastic, mate. That’s sporty family, it must have been competitive growing up. 

Justin: I was the rut in the family. 

Jack: Oh, wow. That’s impressive. The Crow. You talked about different leadership styles. Mick and Dave with people focused and then Neil Craig and worse fold.

So what’s one that you’ve leaned into? What do you see your sort of leadership style and question we’ve had some significant leadership positions?

Justin: I like to think that I still keep people first focus from early on. I think Conwell did well at the time. I reckon from Craigy, I really took a performance focus and how to keep that front of mind. And then I know that’s such a hard question to answer. So I think, I feel like how I try to lead or how I try to create a positive performance environment, support our practitioners is influenced by all those people.

Jack: And when those two things pop up, like is it in your, when you’ve got time to, I guess, think about things, do you lean on a certain philosophy in terms of maybe when you’re stuck on which way to go with challenging decisions? You’re okay. Well, people first is a strong belief. I’m gonna lean on that or is it, oh, we a performance. You know what I mean? Like how do you go about?

Justin: Yeah, it’s good. 

Jack: How does it influence your decisions?

Justin: I guess would gen I, the probably biggest driver or biggest thing I think about is the starting with the end in mind and preparing for that. If you generally make, keep that front of mind making decisions, I think that’s pretty important to me.

And then, every bit also there’s always a line where you’re never sacrificing someone you’re trying to keep people well and remembering, we’re playing sport, not, there’s plenty more to people’s lives than just what goes on at the club. 

Jack: Well said, mate, love that. It’s good. Cause it is challenging at the end of the day. Like, cause you judged obviously on wins, but at the same time, if players don’t feel like you care and you treat them as people, you treat them like robots, you’re gonna lose them pretty quickly, which like you said, think of the end result. You’re probably not gonna get a conducive performance environment with that as well. Long term, like you say, it’s sustainability for sure.

So, great advice for. Student industry coaches or anyone working in sport and in leadership. What about for yourself, mate? What are some of your favorite ways to develop your methods? Is it leaning on your network that you’ve built up over the years? Is it research, podcasts? How do you like to self-develop yourself? 

Justin: I did a hell of a lot of formal study, like Reagan. I worked out from prep to when I finished my Doctorate was 30 odd years just nonstop. So, that was always in the background. I just really try to follow interest. Right now I’m doing the Latrobe performance, health female performance, health modules which are ACE. I mean that cost 50 bucks and it’s incredible. It’s like the level of presenter in that is outstanding.

And I’m learning heaps. So, if I interest, interestingly, one thing John worse sort of brought to my attention was model of professional development that was developing critical care nurses or emergency department nurses, where they were developed from novice expert and that each through competent, proficient a whole different stages.

But at each of those stages, you learn differently. So as a novice best to be given a lot of structure and usually your best to be taught by someone who’s at a conference level, not necessarily a master cause a master loses a bit of memory of the structure, and how that initial learning happened.

And then, as you become more proficient or masterful of things, not to say I masterful anything, but as you move along that journey, you learn more by talking to other people at a similar level, in an nuanced way. So I think that’s I always try to remember that.

Is there something that I feel like I’m noce level at then I really seek out that structured formal learning. And then, if there’s something that I’ve spent enough time in to become proficient at, then I tend to reach out to other people in at a similar level.

Jack: I like that. I’ve never heard someone break it down that way, but it makes a lot of sense. You’ve gotta apply that to anything. 

Justin: I think in terms of athlete development plans or performance plans, which is I’m quite passionate about. It’s really important to remember that as well, that there’s a pathway and different levels of learning and you think, well, some clubs where there’s a whole lot of freedom given to a group and other clubs where there’s high level of structure.

And I think both of those things can be important at different stages of an athlete’s development. So really sort of nailing that’s important as well, I reckon. 

Jack: And on that, at what, is that an age thing for you? Or is it other markers that you would measure an athlete’s level of maturity to start having some flexibility around there? 

Justin: What do I reckon? It’s not only age since a premature 28 year olds. 

Jack: Absolutely. 

Justin: I think the maturity time and the system.

Jack: Okay. A trust element.

Justin: Yeah. Well I think again, and there are some sort of traits as people move through this novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, expert framework.

And you can, it’s not a bad way to look at it as well. What traits is someone showing? Are they able to make a decision quickly about something, that has good rationale or even at that point where they can make it intuitively and make a good decision?

So, I wouldn’t say it’s as simple as someone’s age, but it’s not a bad way to, probably not a hopeless way to do it either. 

Jack: I guess it’s a simple way, like you the AFL club one to four years are in academy potentially. But then it is though, like you mentioned, there’s a fair gap and just because someone’s the age of 30 doesn’t mean they’ve no that’s right.

Justin: And I’ve over my career. There are senior athletes who thrive with the structure as well. It’s important to remember that, but you might find some younger athletes that really struggle with too much direction and that the challenge there is knowing that they do need it.

So gotta ride that out at times, but at the other end, there are some athletes who there are some things they just can’t be bothered thinking about. They actually really appreciate it. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with that either. 

Jack: Yeah. It’s great. And then how would that look for the SDS listening in that potentially are looking after a group? Where there is a different group of athletes at different levels. So open age, I guess. How would that look n the gym or on the field or in rehabilitation, do you think?

Justin: Yeah, well, the amount of time and direction you’re giving them, I think we’ve gotta be really mindful of what we say. What we provide that if we provide too much and say too much loses some of its impetus and if we just getting learning and each day about our athletes and communicating with them and getting a feel for what they do best with and also watching them grow and being adapt as they carry on that journey as well.

So, there might be differences in programing. There might be differences in level of autonomy. There might be differences in just the level of care and time you take with each of those athletes to help them get better. 

Jack: And going back to your career journey, so after Ghana, was it straight to Hollywood in that rehab role or was there role in between?

Justin: Yeah, I did work as private practice physio for a couple of years. Which I didn’t mind actually. And then, I did my xFi placement at the pies. And then stepped into a full-time role after that.

Jack: And how’d you find that going from an athlete a few years prior to now being a staff member? 

Justin: It was the same environment which was comfortable for me. But saying that, I think it’s different when you’ve only been there three years. Gone and come back where it was. I see some players who spend 15 years at a club and then start a role and you just wish they would go somewhere else for them. Yeah, for sure. But I think, for me, it was quite comfortable.

Jack: And for those that aren’t aware of what a rehab coach does, what sort of like a typical day or what’s the key responsibilities of a rehab coach in an AFL club? 

Justin: It really is. I would do very little hands on physio in the rehab role, but at times I think there’s different rehab physio roles around that have varying levels of hands on acute treatment.

But I would, in a long term rehabilitation that I would. A plan work closely with the physios and the S&C and just really give that player, structure and attention and a really high level of care each day in terms of their rehab. And then, you guys are missing two to four weeks who you’re trying to get that balance between conditioning recovery and that reintegration into football. So, they’re the types of things that would fill a day for coach, rehab physio.

Jack: Yet it can be, no doubt dealing with some challenging cases cuz players wanna play football, they don’t wanna be in rehab. What would be some of your advice for coaches that currently in a rehab role in terms of supporting athletes during those challenging times of long term rehab?

Justin: I think you don’t necessarily want players to love spending time with you cuz although generally they’re pre keen to get back and play. But I think that one of the keys for me is just taking the personal approach and the time to listen each day, have a plan and largely stick to it.

But listen, be aware that rehab is often two steps forward one step back, helping a player with that expectation. And just providing them with that true north and direction they need. And people are linking everything they do to the field, or to their return, so keeping things purposeful is also something I recommend. And generally there’s not much issue with motivation, the type of thing, when the athlete says a purpose.

Jack: Fantastic. And so how long were you in that rehab role at Collingwood? At the PIs? 

Justin: So it was three years on reckon that included the 2010 two grand final and replay. And a couple of incredible street training camps we did through that time as well, whether you believe in ultra training or not. 

Jack: That was ahead of its time, wasn’t it? At that time.

Justin: They were awesome. Awesome camps. A lot of fun. And some really good training and there’s something to be said about climbing mountain. Whether the altitude affects, the altitude aside. So, that was an incredible time. And then, again, when I started this and then I was in RA role as well, so would’ve done a good five years of that.

Look, even now in my role at Victory, one of our women’s players did ACL in the first round of the season. And so rather than have our physio who was working with the team have to work, include her rehab attention when you needed to be focusing more and win the championship. I sort of done a bit of rehab work with her to take that lead and really support the practitioners with the team who are gonna be playing and competing as well. So, still like to keep a little bit of that rare of work going. 

Jack: It’s fantastic. So, it’s a passion for you. It’s something that you love doing, helping athletes return. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the rewarding factor or is it the challenge that you like? What’s the aspects that you like of that rehab role? 

Justin: I think it’s rewarding. I really like spending time in that space between the medical and performance world, like getting that, it’s walking that balance beam where there’s pressure to get it right. And allow it provides you to heal. And at the same time get someone fit and prepared and as ready as possible. That’s super interesting to me. That’s where I like to spend a lot of my time. 

Jack: There’s probably no better way of measuring how well you and the athlete have worked together than in some ways isn’t that, and on that, when it doesn’t go well, which no doubt that’s gonna happen because it’s full time athletes, they’re doing a lot of things and they’re pushing the boundary of their capacities all the time. 

How do you personally, obviously gotta look after the athlete, but get your own head space right before talking to the athlete? What are some processes that you door is it more just something you do with that quite naturally?

Justin: I think it’s okay to be disappointed. I sort of with staff. Within teams that I work with. I’m always really aware and supportive to some degree going through that emotional roller coaster, an injury is really disappointing. And a recurrence is really disappointing. Nevertheless the athlete looks to us for that direction, some sort of plan, some level of clarit. I think it’s okay to ride that emotion, but when we gotta remember what the athlete needs from us at those times. And it’s usually to be a bit of a steady head.

Now that was actually really important when we spoke about the leading to Paralympic games with our HQ, our team in HQ, physios, and doctors, and so on HQ, that we were always level, that athletes coming, just one, our medal you have athletes come in that had had disappointing performance. But our job was to keep a level environment in players could or athletes could rely on when they came in. 

Jack: And when with that, like I imagine there’s a sweet swap between you not being like rigid with them and not giving you’re sort of meeting them halfway and being empathetic. But then at the same time, you’re not trying to exacerbate the rollercoaster. Is that right? 

Justin: Yeah. It’s a good one. It’s a really good one for young physios. You have to listen. Cause physio will cop all the complaints. They’ll help the complaints about the food. They’ll help the complaints about the travel, everything. And if physio room or even if there’s a sea coach in that situation, it’s important to listen. And in some ways, take the feedback on perhaps. But not to buy in or to feed the negative aspects. 

Jack: And then talk us through, moving from rehab coach to head of the department as high performance manager. At what point did you start working towards that goal? Or was it something that was brought to you and it came to you so to speak?

Justin: That was an interesting time that there, the day, the incident supplements sort of scandal broke. The person leading in the department at the time was stood down, and I was told, you’re now in that role, in the interim assembly team at two o’clock. That just happened quickly. And I was largely outta my depth at that stage, but we did my best, and it fit the rest of the time. Essence, really. It was hard going in the sense that you spot… 

Jack: Fires all the time. 

Justin: A lot of psychological scars, a lot of work just to people trust and support both staff and athletes through an incredibly difficult time. And you know, mate, I learned a lot and sort of developed a lot through that time, but in no way was it easy and not something that I was targeting to do or necessarily ambition to  do at that time.

Jack: So it was literally put on you and what was your first impression with it? Was it excitement or was it more like?

Justin: I don’t know. It was just, it was all reactive at that time. We had to react to what was happening. 

Jack: And what was your support, obviously, being the manager being stood down, what did you have a support team around? Did you bring your team members in it for that year or was it not until that year it ended?

Justin: Yeah, we did really. No opportunity to bring anyone new in. And it wouldn’t have been appropriate given what everyone had been through. Even for a couple of years after that, I felt like more out of respect and everything else that we needed to keep some stability and support people through the median term as well.

By the time, the last couple years before I finished I had the opportunity to be bit more proactive and actually start to form some more systems about how to do things. But I would say that that largely early on, we were reacting and just doing our best in a difficult circumstance.

Jack: And knowing what you know now, like what did you learn through that challenging period? 

Justin: I think I learned a lot about just keeping calm, listening better. And less the technical things. I think less the technical, sport science, human performance things, more the softer skills through that period. I think what I mostly took away. 

Jack: And then was so from your role, from football club, going into the Paralympics, I believe. How that come about?

Justin: So they Paralympic, Australia has number officers around us. And they have one Melbourne that said the base of the hanger.

So I had to walk down two flights of stairs to start my new job Olympics. But that was incredible. And I would happily if I wasn’t, that me victory came knocking I would happily still be there. The incredible organization do great work, support, really professional, high level high performance programs with para athletes.

One thing I did learn about para sport is it attracts practitioners who own it for the right reasons. People who aren’t in it for the glory, they’re in it for their, to help the athlete and also smart practitioners who are capable of dealing with complex presentations and shifting informations, which is a trait of para sport. So the people working in that space are incredible. And I was fortunate enough to be associated with it for that period. 

Jack: And talk us through what a typical day and what were sort of key responsibilities in that role. 

Justin: So through the cycle, the lead up to the games, it was supporting. And I suppose helping our athletes and sports prepare for the games. So a couple of our sports, I mean, gold ball is a blind sport. As an example, gets no government funding. So we would provide some servicing and support in that sports size sports, medicine space as I was coaching other things.

And then at the games, my role was to lead the H. Or that lead the medical HQ. So the doctor’s physios, recovering physiology, psych nutrition, that area. And in PariSport more so than Olympic sport athletes rely on that space. Some of our better funded sports have their own practitioners, but not to the extent of an Olympic game.

So we had a really high number of athletes use those facilities and it was a really challenging games with a lot of uncertainty leading in and just so proud of the group who went over there and what a great job they did. So to support that Australian Paralympic team.

Jack: And uncertainty with the times, is it that treated their COVID? Pandemic just starting.

Justin: This was for the Tokyo game. So there was a reasonable level of doubt right up until. The end that they may not go ahead. Which is a difficult space to operate under, a hundred percent.

And then the actual nature of the games was challenging itself. People weren’t allowed outside the village except to go to their events. It was very much a bubble. We created an even tighter bubble within the Australian building. We decided not to allow athletes to go to the dining hall which is a big call in PariSport the dining hall was a place where athletes and para athletes realize, or get to see, Hey, I’m not alone here.

There’s a real community of para athletes out there. And we didn’t do that lightly. But we also had athletes on our team with 40% lung capacity and different medical conditions. We put them at really high risk. If they walk over. So we played the safe route. It brought us closer together and in the end we had really good games.

Jack: Fantastic. That’s awesome. What great result and no doubt well deserved for the team as well. Of course, the athletes. What were some of your sort of proudest moments during the games? 

Justin: Some of the athlete performances were incredible. Rachel Watson’s a swimmer who she had quite severe convulsions after her heat and went on to a gold medal on the final, just an incredible effort.

The wheelchair marathon gold medal was super highlight. I don’t know. You go on, on and on. About some of the efforts in the games and in the P games, the holidays aren’t necessarily gold medals. They’re some really good performances by athletes and teams, the gold ball team would never won a game at the Paralympic games before went on to win two be and be really competitive against Turkey, their even gold medalists. So, we made some really, really big highlights. 

Jack: And you mentioned earlier that Melbourne Victory came knocking, talk us through the role that you’re currently in and it sounds like you’re across a couple of different areas there. So you’re heavily involved by the sounds bit, but take us through.

Justin: So my role at Melbourne Victory is across the, like men’s Al women’s and bill and victory academy programs. So I support the sports science, sports medicine teams within each of those parts of the club. I think it’s a really progressive role and really pleased that victory put it on, cuz it it gives some great extra attention in the women’s space.

It helps us support our athletes. To a higher degree in the men’s space. And in the academy space, we just have so much opportunity to grow and do things well there. As you know, as well. So it’s a big role. I spend a lot of my time, day to day with the men’s team. And the seasons will run concurrently starting in November this year, which will be a lot of fun, actually. I can’t wait. 

Jack: It sounds like three full time roles, mate.

Justin: We have some very good practitioners on the ground. And as an example, I don’t have a critical match role, so I can go the game and be there to support people and jump in if needed, but the team can travel without me. It can do everything that needs on match day without me. And that’s the idea that I’m really primarily there to support our practitioners.

Jack: And you mentioned it’s a progressive role. Are you the first person that’s been in this role at Victory or is someone in the role prior?

Justin: No, it’s a new role. 

Jack: And what are some of the things that you like about that role that you think other codes should follow?

Justin: Well, I like, I think we see it in other codes. I know that there’s many that would be across men’s and women’s programs. And part of I’m thinking, I think if AFL, I think part of the reason AFL is cuz that high performance manager role is still so hands on. But it doesn’t have to be, I reckon, and that I can still find that balance.

I wonder if other codes as their women’s programs grow, if they don’t start to look at model where there can be leadership and direction across programs and some consistency and support that. Rather than have these programs running. So, separately in some ways that’s their own devices.

Jack: So when you say hands on, would you, on a typical day be running warmups and field conditioning sessions and programming those sort of things, or you are purely there to, like, as you mentioned to support the staff?

Justin: Largely to support the staff and the communication with the coach. Also I do jump in on the tools in all sorts of ways, physio can’t make it, or I’ll treat if I’ve jumped on the massage tables and massage players, when a massage come before if we have a play in rehabs better off inside, then everyone else to go out and run the session, I’ll stay inside and work with that player.

I’ll step in and take a warm up, if we’re desperate, but that’s part of I suppose the helpfulness. And my background is that I can sort of work across a few different areas to plug the gaps, but also in a way to support people, not to do their job for them.

Jack: And on that, how do you like to conduct your meetings? Is it one a day? Is it the start of the day? Is it reflecting at the end of the day? Talk us through meetings on a daily basis, but also weekly as well. And then how that feeds into feedback from a maybe half a year midyear sort of review if that? 

Justin: I like to run through the player list quickly player by player each day when we’ve got all the information before we train.

And then, I mean, that’s a really important meeting that everyone walks out with the same message on the same page. And we can provide a clear direction to the coach. And outside, I don’t really like meetings, but we would weekly, we would get together and probably take a bit of a broader view, make sure we’re incorporating some of the psych wellbeing, nutrition aspects from practitioners who aren’t necessarily on the ground every day as well.

And I do think it is worth in season stepping back sometimes and just think one exercise is an example used in the past is just look at a clock and which plays overcooked, which plays are rather done. Who’s in the sweet spot at the moment. Just actually throw up the magnets and get a feel for.

Okay. Whereas it is individualized, anything we’re missing? Are we developing them as well as we can? I think it’s good to step back when you can, but as everyone in pro sport knows it’s that there’s the weekly competitive cycle can make that difficult. And I suppose being a little bit removed from that cycle in my role is helpful for that.

Jack: So you can have that sort of big picture perspective. And on that whether a player is tinking on the edge. High risk or they in the sweet spot or do you sort of go off, what do you lean in your decision making? Is that off objective markers, subjective gut feeling, coach instinct, like talk us through how you sort of make those calls?

Justin: Usually in that exercise where we’re throwing out the magnets is most of it’s instinct. But remembering that we’re look the information we’re all looking at every day as well. So you’re taking that information in. 

Jack: It’s informed.

Justin: To make it informed appraisal right or wrong. Yeah, and I would say I really changed my view on testing over my career. I spoke to before he passed this guy one, the ISC medal for physiology bank saltine. And I asked him what the most important thing that happened in his career what most important thing he learned in his career.

And he said every time you take something from athlete, give something back and he was talking about testing. That every time you test you take with that athlete’s time, a little bit of energy. Even if it’s largely not invasive, it’s still their data and information. And we can be in danger of taking.

And if what we’re taking is an informing important decisions and influencing decision makers. Then it’s a waste, it’s just taking for athlete who is giving a lot of other things as well. So I really do believe in objective testing and making decisions based off that I’m also really careful of not testing things that we’re not really useful to us. And also doesn’t give it, doesn’t enable us to give the athletes something back that can be tangible. 

Jack: And what would be some examples that you’ve sort of used to do that now you currently wouldn’t get weekly?

Justin: We don’t use any of the nor board style force, plate, any of that stuff anymore.

Actually another good example is you don’t take wellness information anymore. With our group, we do in the women’s space. We do in the academy space, in the men’s space, every player shakes every coach’s hand when they, which actually provides an environment where there’s not gonna be a play you haven’t seen before they go out to train.

So if your players the opportunity to bring something up you have a chance to read the body language. And I think in the end, if the player’s not gonna report to you in that environment, then they’re probably not reporting on the wellness either. So, we just took out that extra thing we’re taking from the player, which was every play I can remember. Then their wellness information enroll without it. 

Jack: And how have you found it’s been fine to remind players who wellness every day?

Justin: It takes that out it as well. That dealing with that non-compliance that it can crop up. I remember one, I was the coach I worked with bomber Thompson. He used to say, well, what if I just took all the GPS away? Or what would you do? You’d have to talk to people. Remember that you always get that back of mind as well. 

Jack: The people first. 

Justin: Yeah. Don’t get objective at the expense of the time with the people. 

Jack: On that one. I like that. That’s not something I’ve heard of before. Is that? Yeah, the handshake. So is that with just the coaches or that’s actually all staff members. 

Justin: I’ve never seen it in AFL. And then in perhaps it’s common across soccer or a league or international football. I’m not sure. But that’s a respect thing and it’s a nice thing. It’s probably not great COVID practice, but it’s also really nice way to make sure you’ve see everyone every day. 

Jack: And so that’s something you are involved in, you partake in?

Justin: When I arrive, I shake every other coach’s hand and each players and if they come to me or I come to them.

Jack: Nice. And we talked about briefly some challenges and some highlights, but looking back at your career so far, what would be your biggest challenge that you faced and what have you learned from it? 

Justin: I think the logistics of the Paralympic games It was just incredible.

The scale of some of the logistics required for different athletes and bringing that all together, it was just a massive undertaking through COVID in there as well. Particularly in the context of like what, one of our coaches in one of the sports, he’s on dialysis. And so we took over basically a shipping container, a dialysis fluid and facilitated that could continue through the games.

Yeah, all sorts of dietary requirements and different individual needs that are really important. And you can forget about enable a watered sport. If you are not careful, but we just really had to nail down. That was a huge challenge and an incredibly rewarding one by the time we got to the end of it.

Jack: Amazing. So that would be also a proudest moment by the sounds of it as well. 

Justin: I think so. I was really proud to win ANFL premiership. I was really proud to win their fake up and the women’s a league women’s with our girls this proud to play the AFL game. I don’t know they sports. You’re not even if you’re not winning things. Sport is constantly rewarding and providing highlights. That’s why we’re in, I suppose. 

Jack: And you mentioned as well, like going on that Collingwood’s success the, the AMPT that were going on that was pretty, I imagined at the time, pretty forward thinking, is it, and you mentioned it’s the psychological benefits that can come from those challenging camps. Is that something that you’ve installed into your philosophy as well with pre-season camps?

Justin: Preseason camps been more difficult lately. But of course what I think about a good pre camp, it depends when it is in a preseason, could be highly matched focused, sort of in the final preparation phase around sharpening group up there, real benefits, getting a group together.

It can be really helpful for a dietician and a condition coach and someone to see how people live and eat. And behave and provides opportunity to work with players around some of those things that can be harder when everyone’s back in the home environments. There’s a lot of advantages to a camp, I think. And largely I would expect that the team coach to drive the direction of the camp and the rest of us to fall in line mostly. 

Jack: Well said, mate. We’re moving into the personal, get to know Justin side of the podcast. Now. First one you don’t necessarily have to have one, not everyone does, but do you have a favorite, inspirational quote or a life motto that like to think of?

Justin: I do, it doesn’t well, but I do like to the idea of prepare rather than protect, always sort of remind myself of that. And the other thing I was sort of like, I go to phase, I write, so we talk my notepad each and for a period of time just to keep it in front of mind, like one recently is how do you make people feel?

It’s really important particularly when you’re working with a staff member to have an awareness of how you make them feel. Because most of what they’ll remember will be how they felt, not necessarily information that was shared. So that’s the other one recently, I’ve just been keeping in front of mind. 

Jack: And with your role, like how much from an I guess mental energy perspective. Would you be thinking of staff members development in with a ratio compared to athletic sort of development with the athletes? Like, is it a 50 50 or is it like sway more towards one than the other? 

Justin: I try to keep a large focus on staff. Sounds like might not be quite 50 50, but it might be 30 30, athletes inevitably take a lot of everyone’s focus as they should. But I do think it’s really important that and also really important for the athletes that we are supporting our. 

Jack: Next one in your work life. What makes you angry? Do you have any pet peeves?

Justin: I was gonna say too much testing. It really annoys me and testing our purpose. That’ll get me going. 

Jack: And favorite way to spend your day off mate? 

Justin: With my young family. I mention with my daughter, that really recharges my batteries for sure.

Jack: Awesome. Well, we’ll start to wrap up the show. What’s on the horizon for 2022? It sounds like there’s a fair bit going on at Victory.

Justin: Well, we have well the new league men’s and league women seasons. Really exciting. So, the women’s season’s been expanded for 20 weeks, which is ACE really great move in the right direction. Obviously there’s a men’s world cup in November, December. Which is pretty fun to watch. And then the women’s world cup next June, July. So there’s a lot going on in the football space. Over this 2022–2023 period.

Jack: How will that how are your roles sort of be with those players that are involved in the world cup squads? 

Justin: So we will the illegal shut down, only men’s will shut down during the men’s world cup. Which will mean our players, who are lucky enough to be in those squads? We’ll just go. I’d be surprised if we have any other international players in the international squads, but it’s possible. And then we’ll keep the other guys ticking over in the meantime.

And then the women’s world cup will fall outside of the season, which it’s really exciting. I just hope that makes a really big splash here in the country. And we can, women’s sport as well as soccer can really grow from that event. Absolutely go. The let’s the Aussies. Hey, represent, we’ve qualified that.

Jack: Awesome, mate. Well, thank you so much for jumping on the show and sharing with us your journey thus far. Firm believe that success leaves clue. So it’s great to have someone that’s worked in different codes being in their athletes perspective, as well as the staff member’s perspective. So, really appreciate you coming on. I’ve taken heaps from it. No doubt that listeners will too, for anyone wants to get in touch with yourself, where is the best place to connect? 

Justin: Just shoot us a known LinkedIn. And when you take from there, if you wanna reach out. 

Jack: Well, we’ll add the LinkedIn link in the show notes, guys. And thank you for those that have tuned in, if you tuned in halfway through, make sure to watch the start of the show, we’ll release it next week on our podcast, but for now you can watch it from the very start on our YouTube channel. Are you gonna say something there, Justin? I was gonna say, thanks.

Justin: Thanks for having me.

Jack: Awesome. Thank you, mate. Thank you. And our next live chat guys will be a collaborative one with Australia’s leading high school strength and conditioning coaches. They’ll be next Thursday, the 4th of August at 7:00 PM. So, make sure to jump on that one. They’ll be a ripping event. I’ll see you guys then. Cheers again, Justin.

Justin: Thanks mate. Hey, Jack. See you, mate.

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