Tom Cleary is the Prepare Like A Pro strength & conditioning intern for Glenorchy FC (looking after the senior Men’s program). He is also a business owner of Tom Cleary Coaching an online program for men and has a Bachelor of Health & physical education.

Topics we discussed:

  • His shift from going to be a physio to physical preparation 
  • How he started at Collingwood FC while having his degree
  • Mentors and people who helped him in his career
  • Key relationships within the program for a rehab coordinator role 
  • Methods to build resilience for developing footballers
  • Fave inspirational quote or life motto

People mentioned:

  • Daniel Jones
  • Martyn Girvan
  • Ben Shipperd
  • Dean Filopolous 
  • Josh Humphries
  • Dan Meehan
  • Jona Segal
  • Dave Sobey
  • Alex Moore
  • Dan Pfaff
  • Stu Mcmillion
  • Matt Turnbull
  • Kobe Bryant 
  • Craig Purdham

Connect: https://www.instagram.com/matty_ferraro/

Listen: iTunesSpotify

Interview Transcript

Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I’m the host and in today’s episode, I interview Tom Cleary, coming to Prepare Like A Pro strength & conditioning intern for the Glenorchy Football Club. He’s looking after the men’s program. He is also a business owner of Tom Cleary Coaching, which is an online program specifically for. And he has a bachelor of health and physical education.

Highlights from this episode: why growth mindset is so important when dealing with setbacks; practical tips for coaches who want to build an online brand; the importance of journaling and how to set effective goals.

Before we start this episode, if you want to have a Prepare Like A Pro manage your football clubs high-performance program, which include my Australian conditioning programming and an intern, like Tom, facilitating the sessions and individualizing the program for rehab purposes and development purposes that suit the players, email me at jack@preparelikeapro.com.

Let’s get into today’s episode. Welcome, Tom. Thanks for jumping on. Let’s dive into the beginning of your career. It’s usually a common trend for PTs and fitness coaches to start pretty young. At what age did you start in the industry?

Tom: I was really, really lucky. Back when I was at university, a job came up, so jumped on the desk and from there, there wasn’t actually that many full-time days there. They just had a couple of lines that were doing classes and bits and pieces. And I hate that. People ask me if I would train. Went out, got my qualifications. And that’s where it all started. 

Jack: Fantastic. And when did you discover you had a passion for strength & conditioning, personal training?

Tom: Obviously, when I was younger, it was more for my learning. Initially it was more, what can I do to become better personally. I was on a bit of a journey to be on the best footballer I could be when I was younger. And I found that a lot of those lessons helped me initially and just going from my own transformation because I wasn’t genetically gifted or anything like that.

I had to work quite hard to get my body to where it is now and all the lessons I’ve learned along the way once-off fully transformed myself and got to, I guess, that next level. I was able to share those teachings on and, I guess, once I fully gain that full appreciation of it all that’s where the true passion came from.

Jack: And was most of your learning back then self-taught through research or did you lean on a few mentors that helped shape you? 

Tom: Initially we had a really good strength & conditioning coach at clinical. It was August, my first mental and from there, he was really good in regards to mindset and just getting it done. Just probably building my mental gain in regards to, I guess, learning all the fundamentals I needed to know to be successful.

That’s when I’ll move to the VFL and I just had access to just so many coaches. Obviously at Williamstown, we had full strength & conditioning coaches and nutritionist physio. So, just by having that many people around you, it was what my own little mastermind. And because I was obviously working in my own practice, I just wanted to learn as much as I could. And I utilized all those people that I met along the way to really propel my own learning. 

Jack: And then you mentioned at the start, it was very much on your own personal journey to help your football performance. And you weren’t genetically gifted. For those developing footballers that are tuned into the podcast, what were some helpful things that you found along the way? I guess some gems that helped you improve your athlete development? 

Tom: Initially it’s just working on the fundamentals. Too often, I feel like people are focusing too much on the accessory stuff and not enough on the brain and body are of what you need to do, focusing on becoming a strong graphlite flexion, becoming feeder initially and working on your weaknesses and making them not so deficient in your game.

So one of the main ones for me was I had to get stronger. I grew really light and I was very skinny. So I had to put on some muscle. That was goal number one. And secondly, I wasn’t a very good endurance athlete. So I had to build my tank and now to two major factors that really propelled one guy and within two years I saw a huge difference in my game.

Jack: And you mentioned at the VFL program, Williamstown, and you had four agencies, how would you utilize them to their full capacity to get those results? Was it getting a program following the program, asking them questions throughout training? Take us through your mindset on how you made the most of that.

Tom: We’re very, very lucky. So, 40 or squads. So every coach only had 10 players. It was up to you as a player to reach out and get extra help. I was always on the front foot, the coaches are usually there an hour, hour and a half for training side, always be there an hour and a half early enough. There was a movement pattern. I felt like I wasn’t quite doing right. I’ll get help there. 

A lot of the strength indicators and the way in which I was doing movements, they could help me in regards to that. But the main thing was when I had a specific goal I wanted to achieve, they could really clearly define how I could achieve it. So that was probably the main.

Jack: I love that. That’s great advice. You can look at a scale. And say that training starts at five o’clock but you worked out that the coaches were there beforehand and hour before. So why not tap into that resource where you do get that one-on-one time and make the most of that downtime to get better? And that would accumulate.

I imagine if you add those hours up over a week, months and the year amount of like, it’s a great way to get a competitive edge against your peers and ultimately fast track your development. Was that something that you just did through trial and error, or did someone recommend you to put in that time and start getting into the car early? 

Tom: It’s a bit of a story behind this one. Going through probably my junior years of football, I was never fully dedicated to it and I was half dedicated. And I just had a few things that happened throughout my life 10 years, which kind of made me wake up a little bit and realize that life is really short. And if you want to make things happen, your footy career is a very, very small potty law.

So if you really want to make something up, you’re going to have to get out there and get it done because time flies and you go from Halaska when the college into almost finishing uni, it’s telling me to move on and start to get things rolling. 

Jack: Yeah, for sure. And then you mentioned the personal trading side of things. When did you make that shift where you started focusing on actually coaching others? You mentioned that a few guys approached you. So that sounds like that’s where you started getting that experience. But when did you make that shift, started taking on more clients, working in the online game and really building your brand, the Tom Cleary Coaching? 

Tom: So pretty much I was training really hard over the course of my time in Melbourne, when I was obviously playing the villain stuff, I was just really elevating my own physique. And at the time I was running another business where I was teaching teachers on how to take activities with kids from disadvantaged communities.

I found that really fulfilling, but it wasn’t a long-term thing for me. It was more something I was doing just to, I guess, pay the bills and it wasn’t very time consuming, but I was getting paid quite well. So go out, do my work and I’d still have heaps of time to prepare. And I guess focus on my main goal, which was my football at the time.

And then I was in the gym. I obviously used to liaise with a lot of the paydays and stuff. And one of my mates, now he’s actually a full-time online coach at JCFA. He’s just like, mate, look, your stuff should get into it. And pretty much all I went home and thought about it. And I was just like, this is where my passion is, sharing that and teaching others and helping others.

And one of the main reasons I got into teaching, I’ve always loved helping others to achieve what they want to achieve. And it just seemed like a logical step for me to follow the health and fitness path.

Jack:  And for the coaches listening in to the podcast world, which is probably our main demographic: strength & conditioning coaches, personal trainers. How did you start? Was it Instagram? Was it Facebook? Take us through where’s the best place to start, do you think, when you want to start developing your own? 

Tom: In regards to social media, it’s one of those ones where if you’re not fluent with it, you’re just better off starting as a payday, jumping into a gym, getting the gym, obviously to get you some clients from there. It’s completely up to you to get results. I truly believe results are gold and referrals are gold.

And if you can get people results and you can guarantee them: if you do your program for you, follow the steps, I’m going to put out for you and the plan I’m going to lay out for you and you will achieve what you want to achieve. There’s nothing else that you really need. That’s my honest belief in the coaching game. 

Jack: So have the results, make the talking, do the talking. Good fluff. And going back to your football point of view, how did the VFL come about? And obviously I imagine you were playing mostly football before then in Tazzy. Why did you make the move to VFL and take us through what was the difference between the two of playing in Tazzy compared to VFL footy? 

Tom: So like I said before, I agree really late. But it didn’t stop growing until I was 22, very late. And I wasn’t playing senior football living in Tazzy until I was 21. And I blossomed and started growing into my body.

And I had two really good seasons at Glenorchy. The first season we lost the grand final. I’d gotten some VFL interests that year and elevated my game, locked exponentially, and also just thought, well, if I can do this in my year, what can I do on an average.

But I still knew deep down, I was a little bit underdeveloped and I spent one more year in Tazzy. We won the grand final that year and the rest is history, may more waves too. My way of the V just a good one in regards to like how on the developed our wars and I guess a little bit about Tazzy footy.

My bench press was bigger than my squad when I went over to Melvin’s. It’s one of those ones and that’s probably where my passion is, coming back to Glenorchy is sharing the importance of strength & conditioning, and actually preparing like an athlete.

Jack: It’s so important putting yourself in those environments, that way you can absorb so much being in these high-performance environments and, like you mentioned, work on your weaknesses and get an understanding of those weaknesses and top them up. And when you’re sharing that knowledge with the guys and the Tazzy program now, what are some of your key pillars and key areas of focus from an athlete development point of view? 

Tom: First and foremost, I would say leg strength. It’s one of those ones where when all our state teams go over to Melbourne, Perth, South Australia, just the overall leg development kids and players from other sites, you can tell they’re doing leg weights. They’re strong, they allow body, their ability to win, contest the ball, stay strong over the ball. It’s just so important, especially in a physical game like football, where being controlled over the ball, bank controlled, even when pressure comes your way is a very vital part of the game. 

Jack: A hundred percent. And going back to your personal training, strength & conditioning career, what is some of your fondest memories where you look back at, you’re proud about those moments throughout your coaching?

Tom: There’s two main ones. I once had a client, he was a dad, he was 50 and he came in and he wanted to lose some weight. Once you start digging deeper and find out the deeper reasons why people are wanting to do those things, I guess that’s where the gold is found. And he wanted more energy. He wanted to actually be able to finish the spot and rice and he wanted the feedback and he’s old clothes. And feel good about himself again.

And when we first started, he’s like, I’d be happy with four or five kilos. And I said, nah, let’s go for 30 that you can’t. He just looked at me. Guys, honestly, we’re going to do it in six to eight weeks as well. And you guys really said, yeah. And we didn’t quite make it there. We missed out by 0.4 of the kilogram. But the following morning after the six same weeks and he went on holiday the following morning, he weighed in at a specific amount.

That’s probably one of my most fondest memories. Just seeing the disbelief that something like that could be possible. And I guess as coaches, that’s the main thing to show people, I guess, what they are capable of and what is possible. 

Jack: And in that moment, when you stretched him and pushed him out, stretch these boundaries. Did you have full confidence or did you know that it might not happen here, but I’m just going to roll the dice as a coach?

Tom: No, I could tell he was serious and, especially in fat loss, if you know your fundamentals and you know how to keep people accountable to the process they need to follow, you’re going to be fine as a coach. But you’ve got to know your staff in regards to that kind of thing.

Jack: And on the flip side, what about your biggest challenges and what did you learn from me?

Tom: I think the biggest challenge in coaching is you can lay out the best program, everything can be perfect, but sometimes the client’s not quite ready, I decided already. But it’s being able to get that mindset shift and get them to fully buy into the process and fully buy into themselves.

And it’s one of the most frustrating things as coaches, whether that be in football or just as a trainer, being so dedicated to, I guess, to this life. And I’m trying to share that passion and get people to obviously value their health and value their fitness as much as what we do.

It can be a little bit frustrating sometimes, but I guess that’s why we’re here, to keep going, keep sharing that passion and keep helping people, even if they fall off the wayside. 

Jack: Thanks for sharing, mate. A hundred percent. It does take your patients, doesn’t it? To say that everyone’s on their own journey and for some that they’re going to take on it really quickly, it’s come at the right time. And for others, it’s gonna take a bit longer, but like you said, it’s our role to stretch them, but also support them and it’s awesome to hear that you’ve got that balance between the two.

Going back to challenges. I know you’re going through ACL reconstruction, for the athletes listening in, what are some of the biggest challenges dealing with a long-term injury? Obviously, it’s something that happened last year for you. Talk us through that challenge, I guess, in regards to injuries like that.

Tom: It’s a big one. You go from flying, I could have had the best pre-sales in your life, you could feel the fittest, the strongest of your life and something like that happens. And it changes the whole course of what you need to do when all is going through, is just the same. Just built myself. I just put in so much time to get myself to a certain point.

When I was in bed, obviously recovering from the surgery, I could just see myself just atrophying and getting smaller and weaker. The first time I got out of bed, I could barely walk and there’s certain times throughout the rehab, you can’t really see things are going to get better. And especially with ACLs, it seems like you are better for a week and you might lock stain on something or move incorrectly. Nice Wells up. And it seems like you just go backwards again.

It’s definitely one of the lowest points in my life. I’ve never all of them. I’m sure there’s probably worse or injuries out there, but it just seemed like there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to help myself out of the situation apart from rest. Especially as an athlete, you always feel like you should be doing more, have always been someone that’s like, I need to do more, where just at that point in time, I just need to just rest and reflect and make a plan moving forward. 

Jack: And like managing that week moving forward and then having a setback quite regularly throughout the process. We need swells. And as you mentioned, you want to put in more work and get yourself prepared and ready. But you know that you need a rest and let your body absorb the training and then go again. How did you learn to cope with that and not get overwhelmed and stressed with those setbacks? 

Tom: Bit cheesy, but I started practicing gratitude. I had this journal. It’s called the inner journal. That’s right. The inner journal. So I just started, they are really good. I’m an avid reader as well. So I read the resilience project. It was right in the hype and stuff. Just more on my mental game, just how to become a little bit mentally stronger.

And I just found that being grateful for the things that I have in the things that I’ve done and all the great things that I’ve experienced along the journey of so far, just reminiscing on those things and appreciating the things I do have. I have money. I live near my parents. I had friends that were willing to help me out, bring me down food. And without all those things, I would have been even harder with the injury.

Jack: I love that, mate. That’s a testament to your mindset and your attitude to continue to grow and learn. Look at setbacks as an opportunity to get better with the physical side being on a back burner in his, so to speak, you focus more on your mental game. 

But for athletes that might be going through a setback, talk us through the journal. What do you do? Is it a daily thing? Is it weekly? Talk us through the process and ultimately, what did you gain? 

Tom: The main thing is at the start of the journaling. You plan out your next two to three months. So what are the goals you want to take off? What are some of the things that you, what are the checkpoints? Are you going to tick off along the way? And by doing that year, you’re working backwards from that. So then your days are planned around, this is going to be the goals we need to achieve in two–three weeks. What daily things are needed to do.

In regards to the gratitude stuff, you’re always writing down in the morning. What are you grateful for? What do you have in your life that you’re happy about? The better way to frame your life, then framing your life with what you don’t have right now. You don’t have a healthy body. You don’t have the knee that you probably want, but reframing the situation to these are the amazing things I do have.

I just found that that was really powerful and I’m a man of structure, a lock routine. And I was able to just plan out a bit more of a route saying, especially when you’re injured like that. And you’re spending a lot of time in bed. How’s that allocate time slots where I could just do other things or read. I was doing at the time of coal. So I allocate a couple hours each day to just work on upskilling and building them on knowledge bias.

That’s probably another good thing as well. If you’re not able to do one thing, there’s probably something else you could do to help you out along the way as well.

Jack: Focused on what you do have and what you can control. That’s great insights and good gems for anyone, not just athletes, but anyone going through a challenging time. Well, we’ll move to the get-to-know-Tom segment of the podcast. So these are light. You can have fun with it. Which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why?

Tom: I would say ‘Braveheart’, a classic, one of the old punk rides.

Jack: Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely my, by far that’s everybody. 

Tom: Yeah. I just value, I guess, his willingness to stick to his word and be bribing moments, which you could probably normally just run from. I think that’s a bit of a dying art those days, having the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

Jack: Awesome. And on that inspiring note, what’s your favorite inspirational quote or life motto? 

Tom: I’ll actually got a written that my more wall over here, it is: ‘to be a true teacher you need to be the living embodiment of your teaching.’ 

Jack: Whereas that placed on the wall. Was it and written? 

Tom: Now I’ve got a mindset map. I’ve got my values and I’ve got my daily affirmations. 

Jack: And then in your work, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves? 

Tom: Work life? I guess, cause I worked with a lot of young fellers. Plenty of guys like to talk about. Not many people like to do the work. I’ve got a lot of respect for people that, leaving lucky economy McGregor’s of the world, the people that talk that they work the hardest. Nothing worse than someone that talks too much, but does very little.

Jack: And then what’s your favorite way to spend your day off? Both these last two questions are COVID-free worlds as well. 

Tom: A hundred percent. So I’m a Tazzy boy at heart, so I used to love going outdoors. I’m an avid fisher, so I love my fishing. So I went on and went to Melbourne. Fishing turned into going shopping with the boys and strolling along the beach. So I’ve been happy to get back to Tazzy and get back into the outdoors style of things and check a few lines out and catch some fish. 

Jack: What’s your favorite fish to catch? What he’d like to go for is that ocean river or just stop? 

Tom: Although I’ve actually had a pretty good run. They have caught some bluefin tuna, but it doesn’t get any better than catching a big alpha predator. So we’re going off the Mica Shocks and about Full Lakes. 

Jack: And what about a favorite holiday destination and why? 

Tom: I’ve got many avid memories of boys’ trips over the Bali. So that used to be just a once a year. I would put a crew over there. New America, been Thailand and New Zealand. And I’ll hope I can get to Europe before I’m 30, if not on my cry. But I’ve got a couple left, so a little bit scared, but I’ve got to make it over there before I’m 30. So that’s the goal.

Jack: Is it COVID, the thing that’s holding you back or just work commitments and bits and pieces?

Tom: Just COVID really. I don’t want to go over there and have to do another fortnight. Oscillation a bit of a hundred percent pine.

Jack: Hopefully, it bleeds over saying, 2022 new year fresh start. Let’s get over this side over to constraints. And here you go. Where would you go? What’s your first?

Tom: I feel like I’ve got to do the basic white boy experience. What I have to do lock up beta, Greece, and Croatia. I’d just have to take those off, just on my own soul. And named beyond that, locked to the touristy stuff, Italy, even favorite free lock Haven at going up to lot rush or something like that would be cool just for different Bob.

I’m an avid traveler. Back when I stopped playing VFL, started playing a little bit of locally, just the freedom to be able to travel. And I guess do that stuff was good. Very. 

Jack: And what about what’s on the horizon for you for the rest of the year, mate, and then also leading into 2022, what’s in front of you at the moment? What are your focus? 

Tom: So the main goals, I’ve almost finished a course, on building out a course, which is more or less my teachings, just the foundational teachings of what I do in my online VIP course from there. I want to start on YouTube. So that’s been my next little project. I’ve been going pretty hard on Instagram.

So, being successful on there, but the next little project is going to be huge. Shubin obviously learning how to edit videos and do a decent job of that and just learning a new skill set. I feel like it’s going to be a really good new challenge. 

Jack: That’s awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on and I’m here giving us your ups and downs of life experience. We can learn from, obviously, things that have worked for you, success leaves clues, but also the mistakes and challenges and to speak to someone like yourself that has that optimistic mindset and growth mindset is invaluable for coaches and athletes to listen to and start taking on mates.

I really appreciate your time and they do big things. I can’t wait to come down to Tazzy and catch up with Glenorchy footy club and that’s a successful 2022 season with ACE and the rest of the boys. A hundred percent by a hundred percent. Any final words back? 

Tom: It’s been absolute pleasure. Tazzy is Whiting. Parados enough. So you’re always welcomed down here. Apart from that, thanks. Thanks for having me on. 

Jack: And thanks for everyone that’s tuned in. And at this stage we have no planned live chats coming up. So it’s a bit of a reset and recover and let the podcasts that have happened. We’re about eight weeks ahead. So Tom’s podcast is live episode, will be released in the new year.

And if you have any questions or queries, or in the meantime, if you’ve just tuned in halfway through, you can watch the whole episode on our YouTube. And for those looking for a Christmas program, we have a free 14 day trial as well at the moment. All you need to do is sign up to our email list at preparelikeapro.com. But I’ll see you guys on the next episode.

Thank you for listening to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. If you liked this episode, it’d be a massive help, if you could like, follow, rate, give a review or even share with your mates. The show is recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Be sure to follow our Instagram page for all updates on our latest and greatest. If you would like to get in touch to suggest a guest or advertise with the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast, please email me at jack@preparelikeapro.com. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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