Prior to creating BFT, Cam worked as the rehabilitation coordinator at Geelong Cats, Physical Performance Manager at Western Bulldogs, and High-Performance Manager at Port Adelaide FC.
Topics we discussed:
- When he started his passion for fitness
- His focus points on his rehabilitation
- His challenges and what he learned
- How he started Body Fit Training
- Fave inspirational quote
- Paul Chek
- Andrew Russell
- Garry Ablett
- Andrew Rondinelli
- Scott Patterson
- James Merideth
- Joel Mullen
- Bohdan Babijczuk
- Loris Bertolacci
- Luke Meehan
- Kevin Ball
- Robert Aughey
- Andrew Demetriou
- Neale Daniher
- Rodney Eade
- Matthew Thomas
- Daniel Stewart
- Matt Thomas
Connect with Cam:https://www.instagram.com/camfalloon/
Body Fit Training: https://bodyfittraining.com/
Jack: Welcome back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast. My name is Jack McLean. I am the host and in today’s episode I interview Cameron Falloon, the founder and joint CEO of Body Fit Training. Prior to creating Body Fit Training, Cam worked as a rehabilitation coordinator at the Geelong Cats, physical performance manager at Western Bulldogs and high-performance manager at the Port Adelaide Football Club.
Highlights from the episode: we discuss the importance of keeping good records for your rehabilitation; the power of perspective and how our outlook can shape our reality; strength & conditioning in elite sport is more than just being good at your job; why developing S&C should study out of the most senior athletics coach they know.
Before we start this episode, for our coaches listening to the podcast, I want to help you develop your own brand and online business. Join our Prepare Like A Pro Academy, where you get full access to our high-performance presentations and ad free podcasts. And I’ll throw in a free one-on-one Zoom mentoring session with myself, where we can discuss your brand and how Prepare Like A Pro can help your business. Join our Academy today and email us with the link to the podcast, subject heading ‘podcast’, for this free consultation.
Let’s get into today’s episode. Welcome, Cam. Thanks for jumping on, mate.
Cameron: Thanks, Jack. Pleasure to be here, buddy.
Jack: Looking forward to it. We’ll dive right to the beginning of your career, mate. At what age did you discover you had a passion for health and fitness?
Cameron: In terms of S&C, I was a bit of a late bloomer. Always had a passion for fitness and just been generally fitter as a young kid. I did every sport I could: footy, cricket, surfing, swimming, you name it. But I got a pretty bad back injury when I was 18, playing football. And we’re talking a long time ago, in the early 90s.
And that was the first time, as a young strong kid who thought I was indestructible, that I was being told, ‘It may be over for you.’ So I got told by a a rheumatologist. I’d been to see everyone because I was having debilitating back pain and leg pain and nerve pain et cetera. I was getting so many mixed messages back then, exercise, rehabilitation.
And, certainly, exercise as a form of exercise rehabilitation just wasn’t anywhere near what it is today. And one day I’ll being told to do flexion exercises, the next day it’s two extension exercises, next day it’s don’t do anything. And I went and saw a rheumatologist who sat me in his office and said, ‘You’re done. You’ll never play sport again. You’re not going to be active.’
And I was absolutely gobsmacked, to be honest, mate. I went and sat in the car park for about 20 minutes and cried my eyes out and thought, ‘Jesus, my life’s over.’ And that was what really, I guess, woke me up to: I don’t actually know much about my body. I am fit and I am strong. But not because I’ve gone through any training or there’s been any methodology to it. It’s just because I’m active and I look after myself.
So, that just led me to really researching, really trying to understand that there’s just no way I can fathom being 18 years of age and never being active again and never playing sport. I just couldn’t think what life was going to be going forward.
So, I ended up getting onto a guy named Gary Specker, who was a back surgeon and neurosurgeon. And Gary said to me, in a consultation, he said, ‘Look, I can do surgery on your back. And I can basically remove part of the distance protruding.’
And he said that it might last five days. It might last five months. It might last five years, he said. ‘But what you’ve got an opportunity to do is go and get strong and look after yourself and maybe don’t think about going and playing competitive sport, but you can be active and you can live a really positive, active life going forward.’
So, I went home and thought, ‘Gee, I’ve got a back surgeon who’s telling me he doesn’t want to do surgery on my back. That’s interesting.’ And he actually said to me, ‘Do you go to the gym?’ And at the time I didn’t really. Like I said, I surfed a lot. I actually got a carpentry apprenticeship before I went to uni. So, I was doing an apprenticeship, so I was pretty strong.
Jack: But you would’ve been out of work then as well. So, no sport and no work.
Cameron: Yeah, I had to give everything up. And so I thought, ‘You know what? I actually don’t know anything about really going to the gym. And I don’t know if I’ve given them a pretty bad rep. But I don’t just want to go there and make it guesswork.’
So, I enrolled in a course at Monash University, the 12-month anatomy and physiology course. It was just introductory course, I guess what people would say now a bridging course. And it really, really opened my eyes up, more than anything, that I didn’t know enough about my body.
And so, from there I did a Vic Fit course. That’s your equivalent to a Certificate IV these days. And back then it was a 12-month thing. And again, I learned enough to know that I didn’t know enough. But what it did give me was tools to be able to apply what I was learning to my own body at the time.
And I had access to all of a sudden lecturers and tutors and stuff like that. Then I can ask more questions and point me in the right direction to try and get more information about my body. And so, I essentially used myself as a bit of a test dummy. It sounds a bit strange, but with a pretty serious back disc injuries and spinal injuries, you get very instantaneous feedback.
And so, if I’m lifting weights or I’m putting myself in a position when I’m exercising where I was compromising myself or I didn’t have a neutral spine or wasn’t bracing correctly, I’ve got very, very instantaneous feedback. And so, it became a real trial and error and I made heaps of notes and I kept a diary, logged everything.
And I got to a point where a couple of years later I remember going to the gym with some mates of mine who were absolute gym junkies. And I never used to train with them because I knew that I had to just do my thing and not get sucked into the whole ‘am I elite?’ thing in the gym.
And I went to the gym with them a couple years later and I remember them just blown away by how strong I was. And I had no reference point because I just didn’t train with anyone, I did almost my own training. And so, I was like, ‘Wow, this is really interesting.’
These guys go to the gym all the time and, not that I was disabled, but they didn’t have any injuries or they’re all completely able-bodied and didn’t have any restrictions. And even though it was two years, a lot of people don’t have the patience to go through that, but I had no choice. And so far I’ve been able to not only learn so much through the studying, but just apply it. And you have so much learning in that.
And I think for me, that was when I really, really thought, ‘Gee, there’s something in this. I’m really excited by this.’ And the thing that got me excited was I’ve been to all these physios, osteos, Chinese medicine practitioners, rheumatologists, you name it, I went there. And I thought none of them could really help me, but exercise has helped me. What about all the people out there who have back pain or shoulder pain or any other debilitating injury, what about those people who aren’t getting the advice that maybe they could be getting?
And that was for me the start of it. I thought, ‘I’ve been through some really significant discomfort and limitations in my life as a young kid, and now I’m back on my feet and I’m fully able and I’m strong and I’m running again, so to speak. I just really had a passion for a while. There’s a lot of power in this, and if I can bring this to a lot of people and continue to learn and develop myself, maybe I can make a career of this.’
And at that time, we’re talking about 1990 or 1991, I’ve forgotten how long ago. It is a long time ago. I’m showing my age. Rehabilitation wasn’t a theme in terms of as a career. There weren’t people out there who were rehab specialists or conditioning specialists, et cetera. So, not that I’ll see me back conditioning with athletes, I’ll always really focused on rehabilitation settings.
And for me that was just learning so much through movement. And as we know, pain is a really good way to learn. That was really what, I guess, lit the fire, mate. That’s where it all started for me.
Jack: Thanks for sharing. It’s inspiring for anyone, really, whether you’re an athlete looking for performance or if you’re someone that’s in pain currently to use it as a driver and, like you said, as a reference point. Almost like it’s your tracking buddy in some sense. That’s awesome, mate.
And you mentioned the research and how you didn’t have the support, so you had to basically create your own structure and own program. What was your main go-to that worked and were there some things that you did and trialed that didn’t work and is now still part of your philosophy?
Cameron: Good question. There may have been places around, but I don’t recall Pilates back in 1990. There wasn’t Pilates centers or clinical Pilates or things like that.
So, one of the things I really learnt, which I think is applicable today, in S&C and rehabilitation or even when you’re upping training loads with athletes, is that I realized that I couldn’t make exponential jumps with trying to progress myself. And I had to have a really not conservative, but I just had to have an incremental approach.
I had to make a change with the program, understand that I wasn’t going to go backwards. And this wasn’t about performance, I was still focusing on the injury. But almost consolidate that. That then began the new base, and then I could just take another small incremental step. And whether that was changing a movement pattern, increasing the load, changing the base of support, whatever it was, I found out really early that I couldn’t make incremental steps. And that’s where I think ego gets in the way sometimes.
And, as I said earlier, guys in the gym in particular, just pump weights and squat heavy or deadlift heavy or bench press or whatever. I learned really quickly I just couldn’t do that. And I’ve got really quick feedback. And when I talk about feedback, I had one year where my left leg, where I get most of the pain, it took me about 10 minutes to walk up and down the hallway in my apartment. Which wasn’t a very big apartment.
So, I really learned through just small incremental changes in load or small incremental changes in a movement pattern, a progression as such, or, like I said, changing your base of support. I then started to really research core, if you want to call it core. Which for me is a very broad term and not just abdominals, but glutes, and multifidus and your QLs and your lats and everything else that’s connected. And just try to understand as much as I could.
And I got on to actually Paul Chek, who probably a lot of people know, and he’s got a lot of good stuff, but he can have a lot of cookie stuff as well. And I really liked what he was doing, but more than any stimulated thought for me, it just made me want to read more and challenge my own thinking. And I think what I learned through things like reading Paul Chek’s stuff was just to develop critical thinking.
And again, I was able to apply some of the stuff that he was preaching in a gym setting for myself and work out: ok, for me, is it working? Is it not working? Does that actually make sense? And I’ll just go back to anatomy books and I’d look at muscle insertions and actions and innovations and go, ‘Does what he’s saying make sense?’ So, that was probably for me really, really important early on. That was where I got a lot of my research.
The other thing for me was when I went to a Chinese medicine practitioner. Unfortunately, this gentleman’s passed away. Some of the older people who might listen to this podcast would know, he’s very well-known in Melbourne. He was called The Professor. And I reckon he was in his late-70s when he met me.
And I remember him picking me up and shaking me and I don’t know what he was doing, to be quite honest, but he looked at my scans and scan results and I talked him through my pain and he did an assessment. He said, ‘I’m going to treat you for six weeks and I’m going to fix you.’ And he said, ‘If I don’t fix you, you’re not going to pay.’
I went to him a couple of times a week, and he did needling and cupping and gave me herbs and all this weird stuff to take. And I’ve got to say I was probably 90% better. And he refused to allow me to pay him. And I wanted to pay him because I felt just so much better, more than anything because of the pain relief.
And so, for me, again, another learning point was like, ‘Wow, there’s another area that I can study and research and try and understand, which is Chinese medicine and Eastern medicine. But also the mind. And what part of this, with back pain in particular, is the mind game and how can I try and train my mind to then train my body to overcome this.’
So, I just learned really early on that there’s no one panacea, that you’re not going to find all the answers in one place and that the more research you do, the better you’re going to become. And the more people you can speak to… And it’s not that you’re taking everything on board as gospel. But as I said, I learned really early that I had to critically evaluate things and I have to really break them down and assess them myself.
At the end of the day, I like to keep things simple, Jack. And if at a really basic, simple level it makes sense and is not nonsensical, then I’ll give it a go. If it is a little bit too left field and a bit crazy… And we’ve all seen the videos of Missoula slapping fish over the top of you and things like that. Then I wouldn’t give it a go. So, that’s how I did my research, just by learning and thinking through it and picking up books and reading. And that was my path.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. And that’s really interesting. Chinese medicine fixed me as well. I was a chronic asthmatic, spent a fair bit of time in hospitals at a young age and would need to be on antibiotics the rest of my life, was the prediction. And grew out of it at 13–14. Mum got me under Chinese herbalist and the rest is history. So, it is pretty powerful stuff. And Paul Chek, I’ve looked at his holistic lifestyle coaching course, and a fair bit of it resonated with me.
I liked that philosophy that you mentioned, like you don’t take all of it on and just completely throw the rest of the stuff that you’re doing, like throw the baby out with the bath water. But you just implement these things and almost just try it on for what resonates with you. And it sounds like you’ve got a good balance between the objective data and the research and the science, but also understand the importance of trusting your instinct and common sense.
Cameron: Yeah, absolutely. I think that journey that I was almost forced to go on… When you talk about coaching and strength & conditioning, there’s a science and then there’s the art. And the art takes so long to build. And all that objective stuff that you’ve got in front of you as a conditioning coach, whether it’s GPS data or force play data, et cetera, et cetera. Then there’s the art of knowing the athlete and their psychology, their movement, their moods.
To be honest, the tone in their skin and the shine in their skin sometimes when they’re really peaking versus when they’re off. I think it sounds funny, but I just wasn’t aware. All these things were just building over years that I wasn’t aware of. And it wasn’t probably until really late in my career that I realized that those foundations were laid right at the start and it was being open to things like Chinese medicine.
I remember in AFL clubs in the mid 2000s, if you said to the physios with the dark look, ‘I wouldn’t mind sending Gary Ablett to the Chinese medicine guy.’ I’d probably get sacked. But I think times have changed and we’re a little bit more open. And so, it’s really interesting that having that subjective side and that gut feel, I think, is really what helps you to become a really good coach as well.
Jack: And on the reporting side, you mentioned you had a journal. Would you mind elaborating on that? What were your main focus points that was really effective in your rehabilitation? What would you write down?
Cameron: I took notes on my pain and, to be honest, it was my own version of the Borg scale, which I wasn’t aware of at the time. I just had a 1 to 10 pain scale that I made up myself. Certainly, not validated, like the Borg scale. I did that. I obviously tracked all of my training and movement. So, what exercises I was doing, the loads I was doing, sets, reps, timing. And then I documented how I felt. How did I sleep that night? How did I wake up in the morning? Did I have pain through the night?
And I just did that ongoing. I didn’t, to be honest, focus a lot on nutrition, because I just wasn’t really aware of it at the time. But it was all about training and rest periods. And as I said, it could go back where I had nights where I’d wake up in the middle of the night, have really bad leg time, struggle the next day, or it’d be inhibiting me the next day.
And over time I could keep going back to my notes and looking at them again and see, ‘Ok, there’s a bit of a common trend.’ So, the first one I saw was those incremental jumps. When you’ve got pain, you tend to go really easy and light on exercises. And then when you don’t have pain, you forget very, very quickly and you think you can go back to where you were.
So, I learned that really quickly, just because I had a reference point and a journal to be able to go back to. So, it was pretty simple, to be quite honest. It was looking at mood, looking at a pain scale and tracking my training lines.
Jack: It’s simple. But also not many 18-year-olds would be doing that when they’re rehabbing themselves. How did that come about? Was that through a surgeon or a physio recommending to note things down and see what works and what doesn’t? Or did it just come intuitively?
Cameron: To be honest, it was intuitive. I think when I did that Vic course and started to understand a tiny little bit about exercise prescription, I was getting a little bit of knowledge, so that gave me some impetus to start to apply that. And then I thought like, ‘Why is it that I’m doing training sessions and I’m sore? And then other days I’ll go and I’m not sore?’ So, it was really trial and error for me.
And I was really driven by, I wanted to go back and prove that I could play football again. That was actually the number one thing. And to be quite honest, I never did. And I didn’t because I got to a point where I was so fit and strong and healthy that I actually didn’t want to risk it. But through that period where I was getting myself to that stage, that was the motivation. I wanted to prove everyone wrong that said I couldn’t do it.
And I also wanted to prove to myself that my life wasn’t over, like I was told. And you do think your life’s over as an 18–19-year-old when you’re young and fit and strong, and when you’re told you’re never going to be active and don’t play competitive sport and get a desk job. I couldn’t have thought of almost anything worse that someone could have said to me at the time.
And I guess, as a young kid, a lot of us dreamed to play elite sport. But I always thought it would happen because I was reasonably talented and played in our rep sides as a junior and state squads and stuff like that. And I thought it was going to happen. When this happened to me, I realized that shit, I may have really missed this opportunity because I actually didn’t give it a crack. And I’ve only got myself to blame for that.
So, there was a lot of factors, I guess, going around and in my head. And so, it was a little bit of I wanted to prove the people who’ve told me you’re never going to be active again, I wanted to prove them wrong. And then, it was like, ‘Ok, I may have blown my opportunity. I want to get back. I want to play footy and I want to have a crack.’ They were the two driving forces. And to be really honest, it was just wanting to do whatever I could to achieve that, to be really frank.
Jack: And you mentioned that rehabilitation wasn’t a common career, potentially not even a career at all at that stage. Once you got back on your feet and mates started to notice, ‘Shit, how strong you are,’ and you were starting to see this stuff is pretty powerful. And you’ve got your diploma. When did you make that jump to: okay, now I want to start focusing on performance and shift into a coach and focus on how I’m sharing this knowledge with athletes?
Cameron: Well, I did a lot of personal training and then I moved overseas. I lived in London for three years and I did a lot of training over there. And it was actually right at the end of my time in London, I thought I’ve got to come back to Australia and, if I want a career in this industry, I need to get more knowledge. I came back and that’s when I went to university. And so, I spent three years PTing in the UK, I came back and started studying.
And then I got a gig. I was actually doing a corporate training job and I hated it, absolutely hated it. And one of the guys who worked for this company, a pharmaceutical company, his name was Scott Patterson, he played in the old NSL in Australia. And he was in Socceroos squads, never played for the Socceroos, but he was in a lot of squads for a number of years. And he was a really good guy and we were just chatting one day and he said, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’
And I haven’t given this any real thought, to be quite honest. But I said, ‘Well, Manchester. It’s the biggest club in the world and soccer is the biggest sport in the world. So that’s got to be my goal.’ And he said, ‘Well, I know some guys at Derby County.’ And they were in the Premier League at the time. And he said, ‘I can do an introduction if you want it. I think you’d go really well. They’re involved in youth development academies, et cetera, et cetera.’
And to be really honest, I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea. I’d done a lot of personal training and, as I said, I was at uni at the time as a mature-age student. I won’t bore you the details, but I had an interview with those guys and I ended up getting the job as a part-time fitness advisor at Derby County Academy. Lee Broxson, who played for Melbourne Victory for a number of years, and James Meredith, who’s played overseas and played a couple of games with Socceroos, were kids that came through the Derby Academy. And that was my first taste of it.
And the interesting thing was, when you’re working with kids, it’s not so much about performance, but it’s about teaching movement and it’s about teaching efficiency and really getting the foundations right. An education. And I loved it. So, I had been doing with pre-teen, working with physios and doing a lot of rehabilitation stuff. Because that was where I thought I wanted to go.
And the soccer academy, I think, just really opened my eyes up, especially working with kids. I loved seeing them develop and I loved seeing them succeed. You’d show them something or you’d help them out with something technical, and once they grasp that, you could just see a little fire light up in their eyes. And I thought this is actually really cool. I really loved this.
And I spent a lot of time during that period, because it wasn’t getting paid a lot of money, and I used to get into the old VIS. And for some of the people listening, they’d remember it was on Coventry Street in South Melbourne back in the day. And I couldn’t get in because I wasn’t a couch, but I used to, basically like a stalker, I’d just watch how they trained in the windows.
And I’d go down there a couple of times a week and I’d just watch the VIS guys and girls train and just try and observe and pick things up. And then, if there’s something I thought was really interesting, I’d go to the park and maybe try it myself. And then just try and think how can I apply this in the setting that I’m in with soccer.
So, that experience with the Derby Academy was just awesome. I got to work with some really awesome coaches and some fantastic ex professional soccer players. That was when I really thought, ‘Okay, this could be something for me.’ And then that led to a job working in the NPL, which is for those in the AFL or VFL, it’s the VFL equivalent of soccer in Australia. And it was when the old National Soccer League had disbanded and the A-League hadn’t yet formed.
And I’ve got a gig working with a guy named Joe Mullen, an ex National League soccer player and Socceroos, brilliant guy and fantastic coach, working with a club called Green Gully. And so, it was quite interesting that I was trying to cut my teeth and there was a real opportunity to run my own program.
And all of a sudden what I didn’t realize, because I really didn’t know soccer in Australia that well, and because the National League had disbanded and the A-League hadn’t started, we had the State League team and I think we had four or five international players playing in that team. Players like Rodrigo Vargas, who’s won multiple championships with Melbourne Victory. And guys like Dragi Nastevski, who’s played for Australia. And so, it was just amazing.
I was in this really fortunate position, scary, to be quite honest, because of the caliber of these guys. But again, the opportunity to run your own program. And then where I was really fortunate because I had worked with physios with back injuries and stuff. You go into an NPL program, and you’re the physio, you’re the doctor, you’re the conditioning guy, you’re the rehab guy, you’d be the psychologist.
And so, it was awesome to be able to learn all those skills, but also apply some of the skills I learned through rehab by reaching out to physios that I’d developed relationships with, be able to send players to them. I’ll learn taping techniques, a physio would say, ‘Look, I know you haven’t got a physio on game day, but I’ll teach you how to tape.’
And I just learnt so many skills from some great people and great practitioners, but also learned to then manage a team. I just had these really fortunate stepping stones and working with such good caliber of players made my life actually really easy. Because they were just so talented for that level.
I introduced stuff like ice baths to them back in 1994 and was doing a bit of research on that stuff and trying to work out what worked and what didn’t. Macedonian and Croatian players were yelling at me as they’re jumping in bloody ice baths. I compromised and said, ‘Look, you jump into an ice bath, I’ll see your time and then you can smoke a cigarette.’
So, we had some really fun times. And it sounds funny, but through that you learn to manage.
Jack: That’s the art side coming through.
Cameron: Yeah, that’s the art coming through. I need to get an outcome and I want to achieve something and then they want to as well. So, okay, how do we make it happen and how do we have that conversation for us both to get the outcome we want? Because everything in life is about compromise.
So, that was a really interesting journey for me working in soccer. And to be honest, some of the happiest moments of my life, and from a coaching perspective. And, obviously, winning always makes life a lot easier and we won a few championships and had some great times. But relationship-wise, I’m really, really close with that group of soccer players from 1994–1995. And that was the impetus for me getting into AFL football.
Jack: And for the S&Cs listening in, how important is it to get coaching experience? You mentioned doing your degree and you realized how important that was, but also at the time you had been a personal trainer for three years, worked in an Academy. So, focusing on development of the fundamental movement patterns, rehabilitation experience, liaising with physios.
So, there was a fair bit of experience you had before even running your first program. How important were those chapters? And then, how important is it to run a program at state league or for talent pathway programs?
Cameron: I think the opportunity to run your own program just can’t be undersold. And especially if it’s at a lower level. At a state level, there’s a little bit more responsibility because there’s a little bit more at stake. If it’s on even a lower level of D3 or 4, you’ll learn a lot. You’ll just learn a lot.
And if you’re really passionate, and I don’t think anyone who’s passionate and wants to take on that role doesn’t want to be successful. So, if you’re the guy or girl who wants to drive a winning culture, you’ll do whatever it takes. And having the responsibility to run a program just it’s really different. I’ll give you an example.
When I was an assistant strength coach in the AFL, your relationship with the coaches is really, really different, because you’re not the guy that everything falls on your head as the senior conditioning guy, the head of high performance or whatever. So, not having that pressure allows you to have just different relationships. And that’s the reality. You have very different relationships. You have different conversations with coaches, management et cetera.
When you’re in the edge or the top job, so to speak, your head’s on the chopping block. There’s just a lot more that comes with it that no amount of training can really prepare you for. And conversations are different and relationships are different. And so, that experience, running your own program and everything falling on your shoulders, even though it’s a lower level, it’s similar responsibility. And if you take it seriously, you will get a lot out of it.
Planning training for me… Soccer was absolutely foreign to me. And it still is. And I’ve worked in soccer for a long, long time, but it’s still very foreign to me. It’s not natural, like AFL, for example. So, for me to sit with coaches and plan training sessions was a real challenge. And I had to really concentrate and I had to be really on my game because I felt like I couldn’t bring a lot to the table from a conditioning point of view, because when you’re trying to develop skills based training and do small sided games to get a certain physiological outcome or training outcome…
Back then we weren’t using GPS and things like that. So again, I went back to how I trained myself: take lots of notes, keep a journal, keep a diary, review things, constantly go back and review things. I wasn’t doing RPE scales or Deltas and things like that, but I’d go into the rooms and I’d call players and: ‘How are you feeling tonight, Jack, after a training session?’ And just get a sense of across the group. Are they all feeling good? Are they sore? Are they tired?
And so, I really can’t undersell the value of running your own program, no matter what the level is. And, obviously, having started at a lower level, you will work your way up. And that’s great, because you’ll learn different things along the way.
I’ve got interviewed by Loris Bertolacci, who I know you’ve had on this podcast, and when Loris interviewed me, he asked me a lot about rehab, strength training, all the standard stuff. And then he asked about situational things. ‘What are you going to do on the training track if this happens?’ And I was able to give him real-world examples. I was like, ‘Actually, working with the soccer club, this has actually happened to me, and this is how we played it out, et cetera, et cetera.’
I don’t think, to be really honest, I was the best candidate for the job when I got hired by Loris, by a long run. But I think the fact that I’d run my own program and that I’d had that responsibility on my shoulders, gave him some level of confidence that okay, if he’s not around or if he’s sick or whatever, he’s pulled away from the training program, whether it’s in the gym or on the track and we’re doing plyometrics or whatever, that I could make the right decision.
And I think that’s really important. And you only learn by making mistakes and you want to encourage people to make mistakes. But certainly the people that have worked with me, being younger and come up through the ranks, I’ve wanted them to make mistakes, but I try and get them to make mistakes on paper, so to speak. Because you can’t go on the training track with an elite athlete, who’s going to compete in two-days time, and fuck it up.
I think that running your own program is just invaluable and it really teaches you risk reward and don’t let your ego get in the way. Don’t get pressured by a coach who wants you to push that player a little bit more, when intuitively you know he or she’s right on the edge. Or they’ve just been dosed enough, they don’t need any more to perform.
So, I can’t undervalue or undersell the importance of that for young people coming through. And even if you’ve had a couple of years in elite sport and you feel like it’s a step back, it’s not a step back. You’ll just learn so much by doing it. And then you’ll be surprised because it’ll propel you forward if you’ve got the right attitude.
Jack: And it sounds like through your progression, we’re still in the early stage of your career at this point, but the assistance of stand-up and transfer through the different chapters, whether it was you personally to then overseas and then learning a new sport, running conditioning in that, to then now, in an interview setting for your first job in elite sport, by having that reporting system and reflecting and working hard.
When you put back your focus on towards high performance sport and, you mentioned Man United was your goal, did you envision it being rehabilitation at the time and helping those that had chronic injuries like yourself? Or was it more, you just knew you wanted to be involved in that environment and you were just going to let the rest take care of itself?
Cameron: I didn’t have a plan, to be really honest, which you can probably tell by my journey. It stems right back to the very start that when I started learning about movement and exercise as a therapy and how that can help people, that’s what gave me the most amount of joy. So, if I could continue to do that…
And, to be honest, probably somewhere along the way, I just got excited by maybe climbing my way up through my career and lost a little bit of sight of… Not lost sight, I just didn’t have a definitive plan, if that makes sense.
I’ve been really fortunate that the environments that I’ve been in, whether it was rehab settings, whether it was the soccer clubs, the development academies, I was just really fortunate to work with really good people and open-minded people. To be really honest, I never had a hard-fixed plan.
I worked with Loris and, unfortunately, I experienced Loris getting ejected from Geelong. And it was a really challenging time because I’d actually knocked on the door a couple of years in a row to try and work with Loris and only had a very short period of time with him, unfortunately. And that probably affected me psychologically more than anything. And gave me a bit of a negative slant on the world of professional sport.
And that’s probably a bit unfair to the industry as a whole, but what I’d experienced and what Loris went through and what I saw, it just didn’t equate to me. He’s just a really passionate guy, a really knowledgeable guy, players absolutely love him. He’s got buy-in, he’s got a number of label, gut feel. He’s really got that art side of coaching. And he’s gone. And I was like, ‘Wow.’ I think that’s when I realized: okay, this is more than just being good at your job.
And I remember speaking to Andrew Russell. We were at a conference once and he said something to me that, and I won’t mention the names, but he said that one of the people that he’d worked with that mentored him had taught him the game, and one had taught him how to play the game. And what he was saying was that one had taught him the real art and the skills of being a strength & conditioning coach, and the other one had mentored him and taught him how to deal with the politics. Because there’s a lot of politics in sport. And, I guess, I just wasn’t ready for that, to be really honest with you.
And so, I didn’t really have that I wanted to be at Manchester United, I wanted to be in a rehab role or a conditioning role or a high performance manager. It was just egotistical, to be honest. It was like, ‘Well, they’re the best. I just want to aim for the best. And you know what? If I don’t get there, at least I’ve given it a crack. I’ll probably have a hell of a journey along the way, and I can’t complain.’ And that was probably my thinking at the time, to be honest.
Jack: Which is so interesting. I’ve had so many leaders in the field on this podcast in all different walks of life. And it’s pretty consistent across the board that no one had this grand 10-year plan that they were going to work it all up. But they just worked hard and backed themselves in to work it out. And then kept climbing the ladder and taking on new challenges.
So, for developing S&Cs, there’s something in that, for sure. To take on new challenges and getting out of your comfort zone and, obviously, putting in the work. And like you said before, if it’s state league level or if it’s development D3, you still got to go above and beyond. Because you’re going to get better at your craft by doing so.
Cameron: Absolutely. You talk to anyone who’s had a career in the industry and there’s a really common theme and they’re super passionate. And you don’t have a career in this field over any length of time, unless you’re really passionate. And if you’re in it for the money, you’re in the wrong career. You’re in the wrong industry in terms of S&C if that’s your starting point.
There’s, no doubt, various sports and so on. There’s so much to learn. But you look at the Olympic sports and how elite that is. You’ve got one opportunity every four years. I always talk to the AFL boys a lot around: ‘Yes. you’re elite, but for me that’s just another level.’ And it’s another level of thinking. It’s another level of application. To have four years of training, preparation and then get to the Olympics and you get the flu, which is out of your control. Far out.
There’s your one opportunity and everyone has a bad day and it could be that day. And there’s a lot that you can’t control. There’s a lot that you can. Great thing about team sport is a lot of the time you’ve got next week. And a lot of the time you’ve got other teammates that can maybe pick up the slack when you’re down.
I love Olympic athletes. And one of the things I used to say to a lot of the young guys who would work with me or who I’d hire in S&C roles is, ‘Go to the local athletics track. Find your local athletics track and just watch training for a couple of nights. And observe and find the oldest coach on the track. And you want to introduce yourself and ask if you can volunteer and help. Even if it’s just observing. And listen to what they’re saying, watch what they’re doing.’
And I used to get all these strange looks year in, year out with young S&Cs coaches like, ‘Why would we want to go and talk to the oldest guy on the athletics track?’ And I’m like, ‘Just think about it. One – just the knowledge that those people have from so many years. Two…’ And I heard Bohdan Babijczuk talking on your podcast recently and he’s an exceptional coach but he talked about: you work for so many years for no money.
And so, these guys are still in at 50, 60, 70 years of age. They’ve done it for not much money, if they’ve been paid at all. So, they’re super passionate and you’ll often find they’ve trained really elite track and field athletes, national level, potentially international level athletes. And they’re not in the AFL or the rugby, not in the limelight and don’t have Instagram pages and Facebook pages and Twitter pages. They’re just doing it for sheer passion. I love it.
And if you can develop a relationship with those people and be good to them and learn, what an opportunity. What an important opportunity. The knowledge that you’ll get from that, you can’t read it in a textbook. And it’s so hard to develop that yourself, trying to learn yourself. Go and learn off someone else who’s been doing it for 50 years. That’s experience and that’s invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.
Jack: Thanks so much for sharing that, mate. That’s a great point and definitely one I’ve noted down and, hopefully, all the coaches tuned in have as well. Get down to the local athletics track, for sure. And actually Bohdan is someone I’ve been… But lockdown’s been tricky. It’s reminded me of I’ve wrote down his name as well. Because I was trying to tee up some work, to shadow him and do exactly that. So, you’ve put that at the front of my mind.
Cameron: He’s a very, very kind man and he’s exceptional at what he does. So, you’ll love working with him.
Jack: And in terms of the bad taste in your mouth with your first experience at Geelong. It sounds like Loris was someone you were looking up to and a mentor. And then you got to work with him after chipping away at him for a couple of years. And you get the role, and then due to circumstances it doesn’t work out and Loris has left the club. How important was that in your career? And for young S&Cs, how important is it to have plan B because of the beast of elite sport?
Cameron: I think having a plan B is really important. I know I didn’t. And I thought that I was just going to continue to evolve and this will be my life forever. I was pretty naive, to be really, really, really honest.
I remember back in the mid-2000s, a lot of the conditioning coaches or pretty much all the conditioning coaches in AFL clubs got together and we were trying to form an association. We were the only, I guess, group in the AFL that didn’t have an official association. So, there’s the Doctors’ Association, the Players Association, coaches, et cetera.
And Andrew Demetriou at the time, he didn’t really like us. He used to call us the fee-setters. And we got in Neale Daniher because I think Neale had just finished up coaching and was working with the Coaches Association. Or maybe with the Players Association, I can’t recall. But we got Neale Daniher and our chat was about how do we go about doing this? How can we formalize it? What are the road blocks? Et cetera, et cetera.
I’ll never forget. He said to us, ‘You’ve got to have a plan B, boys, because at the end of the day you’re all fucked.’ It was pretty confronting, but it is the reality and more so as an athlete. It all comes to an end one day. Whether it’s at a club, someday you’re going to exit the building. Hopefully, on good terms. But more often than not, when you look through the history, and let’s just look at AFL. There’s just not a lot of people that survive 10–15 years, there’s just not. And the toll it takes on people and their families, if they do, is significant.
So, it was pretty good advice. It was pretty direct and poignant, but I think looking outside the square and how can I apply my skills and so on is really important. And then that might be just starting to dabble in some consulting or doing something like yourself, which is brilliant. Podcasts that are really specific and benefiting an industry. There’s so much opportunity now that I think it’s really important to just look outside the square.
Even for young kids coming through when they finish uni. Especially in Australia. And I imagine it’s the same in places like America, where NFL is so big, England where soccer is so big. To look outside. Look at other sports. Like what about water polo? What a great challenge that would be. It’s an international sport. It’s huge in Europe. Netball, rugby, rugby sevens. There’s so many sports that you can apply your knowledge and learn and grow and develop.
When I speak to a lot of people coming out of uni, ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘I want to be an AFL strength & conditioning coach.’ And that’s okay. That’s a great career. But there’s a limited number of jobs. It’s tough to get into, as you know. And it’s tough to stay in it, as Neale told us. So, what else are you doing to develop your skills and your skillset and your knowledge? For some, it might be lecturing and doing some thoughts on lecturing or going into academia. Absolutely, it’s so important to look at that.
I had a young guy, Anthony Rondinelli, who worked with me in Port Adelaide. And we sat down a few months into the start to his tenure at Port and said, ‘Okay, look, I like almost to have a professional development plan.’ And I said to Rondo, ‘Go ahead and think about it and then come back.’ And he came back and he said, ‘To be honest, I’m just going away every night, I’m so full of knowledge and I’m learning every day on the job. And I don’t know whether I’ve got the capacity to do more studying.’
We had a couple of chats about this and the general gist of the conversation from my side was: ‘If you don’t come back and give me a plan and it’s something that’s really going to be beneficial to you and your career, at the end of the season, which is six months away, and we do our reviews, you probably won’t be here next year.’
And I guess what I was trying to say to him is that don’t think your undergrad degree is the be-all and end-all. It’s just the base. It’s a really good foundation, but there’s still so much to learn. And we want you to learn and grow and develop, for yourself and also for our football club.
And he ended up doing the IOC nutrition course. I’ve put him on as the first full-time ever sports dietician-nutritionist at a football club in the AFL. And he’s had a pretty good career and I’m so happy for him. He’s working with international tennis and he’s using rugby at the moment.
But the point is, it was really interesting what he thought was possible from a capacity perspective and where he thought his learning was versus where, just through experience, I knew that it could go. It’s really important to set your employees and your colleagues, your younger ones who are learning, to set them up for success, for the future and open up their eyes to other opportunities.
And whilst you want them operating at a really high level for the job that they’re doing with you, yet, I think you have a responsibility to, absolutely, guide them, but leave them in a better place and open their eyes up to other opportunities and experiences and develop a really big tool bag. So that if AFL falls over, you can apply those skills elsewhere. There are other opportunities that you can go into.
And that absolutely was the case with Rondo. AFL started to stumble a little bit and he got into tennis, and now he’s in rugby. And what a great skill set: he’s got strength & conditioning as a background, he’s got nutrition, he’s really strong in that. What an awesome skill set. And he probably wouldn’t feel as strongly or passionately maybe as I do about it, because I know that he didn’t want to do it and probably felt like I was pushing him to do something at one stage. But I think it’s held him in a really good stead with his career. So, I think having a plan B is absolutely essential.
Jack: A hundred percent, mate. He was fortunate to have someone like yourself that actually was thinking of him. Because so often you can just go aimlessly, like you said, everyone’s busy focusing on their role and they’re at their capacity. But to almost treat each other, like you said, colleagues like athletes, that there should be a plan to get better and improve. And just by simply probably someone embracing it and building that awareness, you’re able to then put some energy into it. Which is great. And you almost gave him a bit of your own version of the Neale Daniher.
Cameron: Sort of. It’s an interesting one, Jack. Back in the mid-90s and early 2000s, conditioning departments weren’t massive. And we didn’t have, GPS came in in the mid 2000s. We had 1Hz GPS units in 2005. And so, where I was really fortunate was when I had the opportunity to work with people or get some experience, it’s really interesting how much time they had to give, how much knowledge they wanted to share. And I’m forever grateful for that. And it’s something that was never lost on me.
And I think now in high-performance, because most footy departments have 8 or 10 staff and there’s data going around left, right and center, and so many stakeholders with coaching staff and board members and blah, blah, blah, you’ve got to report to. I feel like sometimes that’s just a little bit lost, just that passing down of knowledge, that little bit of care, that relationship stuff.
Certainly, it was never lost on me. I’ve really appreciated it. And as I said earlier, I’ve just been so fortunate to rub shoulders and work with some really awesome people, whether it be soccer, whether it be physios, in a rehab setting or in the AFL. And as you get older, I think you value that more.
And one of the things I love about my current business with Body Fit Training is that we’ve got 35,000 members and to be able to just see them get enjoyment out of our programs and what we deliver to them is something that one – I never thought I’d be able to do. And two, funnily enough, I could never do that in sport. Because you have a sport of 20 or 45 or whatever it is. And to be able to now give to 35,000 people, and we have a thousand trainees in the network, and to be able to help educate them and pass on some knowledge and, absolutely for me, to continue to learn off those people.
It’s just one of the great things, I think, about our industry is that the journey just never ends. You’re always learning and every setting is just slightly uniquely different. But some of the things are constants. And I think that passing down of knowledge and that relationship side of things with your staff and that care factor to make them better is something that I…
To be honest, I’m out of the strength & conditioning world now, with my business. But that was really strong back in the mid-90s, in the 2000s. It was really, really strong. And something I really appreciated as a young guy coming through.
Jack: And like you said, that if you’re passionate about it, you’re going to want to pass that information on. If someone’s impacted you, you want to do the same back. And it’s great that our industry does do that, both in the private sector, as well as in sport.
Going back to your career, what were some of your biggest challenges that you found working in elite sports? So, you’ve gone from Geelong to Doggies at this stage. My understanding is that was when you ran your first program, at Western Bulldogs?
Cameron: I obviously got a bit of a taste with Geelong when Loris left. I ran the program there for the remainder of the year, but it was absolutely Loris’s programs. I was really just the caretaker of the Doggies. And I really wanted that opportunity because, as Loris had done the work with the boys, Geelong now are really developed, are under an amazing program for a number of years with him.
And the opportunity at the Bulldogs was a really strong team that was performing pretty well, but were really underdeveloped physically. And so, that was just a great challenge to go into a site that was still young. But when I compared, for example, their strength and power data to Geelong, it was like, ‘We’re just miles off.’ But when I compared running data, it was pretty much the same.
And so, when the big games happen and when AFL finals happen, it becomes a bit more combative and a lot more higher intensity sprint efforts and accelerations, et cetera. The Bulldogs were going to fall apart. And so, that’s what the club had seen. So, that was an awesome opportunity.
And I had a really good assistant, Luke Meehan. He came over from Geelong and worked with me. He’s at Richmond now. And he was awesome and it was his first full-time gig working in the gym and running rehab. And he did an awesome job and was an awesome support for me.
I think just again, it was really bizarre, it was two guys, that was our conditioning department. Two guys. It was really fortunate we had a partnership with Vic Uni, and so we got access to some awesome academics in biomechanics, skill mechanics and physiology. People like Kevin Ball and Claire McMahon, and Rob Aughey. And we were able to leverage off those guys.
The learning I got in 2007–2008 at the Bulldogs was probably the most I’ve ever learned in a two-year period, both from a coaching perspective and being an S&C coach, but also academically. Because I was just so fortunate to have all these really smart and great people at Vic Uni at our disposal to help us with analyzing data, looking at things a little bit differently, do all of that testing for us and give us a different slant on how they’re looking at things. So, that was a really awesome opportunity.
And one of the things I learned, and for those that were involved in the AFL at that period of time, the AFL went through this massive push to sports science and coaches were fascinated with it. We wanted data and we wanted GPS numbers. And as I said, we were using 1Hz GPS. And in fact, Rob Aughey and I did a study on the GPS sports 1Hz units and found that, ‘Oh, you know, up to 100% inaccurate live versus post hoc.’ So, GPS sports weren’t that happy with us at the time.
But it was really interesting, because the coaches wanted answers and they wanted an answer straight away, because we were making this big investment in technology. But we actually didn’t really know what the data meant at the time. And then, more importantly, how to apply it. So, that was a huge learning curve.
And the guys at Vic Uni were phenomenal in helping us, and there’s no way known I could have done that on my own. And so, that was an awesome granting of: okay, one – outsource and get experts to come in and help you. You can’t do everything yourself. So, know what you know, but also really know what you don’t know and get experts in and get professionals in to help you, because that’s really important.
Being able to do that was fantastic for us. Giving Luke Meehan an opportunity, who was young and largely inexperienced, but I just knew that he had something in him. I probably took a little bit of a punk, putting him in full-time and putting him full-time in rehabilitation. But he was a guy that, similar to what we were saying about running your own program and putting the hard yards in and learning.
When I was at Geelong, he was part-time, but he would come in on his days off and he would want to do extra and he’d be there on game days and he’d be helping down with GPS units all in his own time and all for free. And I thought, ‘Well, you know what? Let’s give this guy an opportunity because you can’t replace hard work. And if he’s passionate, he’s got hard work, I want to give him as much of an opportunity as I can.’
So again, I guess the lessons were: understand where my strengths and weaknesses were, and where my weaknesses were, bring in other people who were really strong, way better than me at it. And don’t be afraid as someone running a club to get people in who are better than you. Because empowering other people to do the job is really powerful and they’ll run with it. So, get out of your way a little bit and get out of other people’s way was something I learned.
The other thing I learned, which I saw through Loris, was really developing relationship, strong relationship with players and making them believe. And to be honest, it took some time, and in 2008 it really, really clicked. And it really worked. And we went through a really tough preseason because we didn’t have a training facility or rebuilding with an Oval.
And we had guys doing weight sessions at 9:30 at night during preseason. And we’ll study running sessions the next morning at 6:00 in the morning, because the coaches had offices in one area of Footscray and we had part-time offices at Vic Uni. And it was a really, really big challenge for the club and the players at the time.
And one of the things I learned was that don’t make a big deal of it. It is what it is. It’s not going to stop us. It’s just a challenge and we’ll overcome it. And if we all have that mindset and we really focus on that through the preseason. And we went through the season, I think, around 15 or 16. And I think we hadn’t lost a game and ended up playing finals and just losing a Prelim final to Geelong that year and off the back of a preseason that most people wouldn’t read about.
And so, out of adversity comes opportunity. I think that was another lesson that we learned. Everything in life is dependent on the lens that you’re looking through. You can choose to look at the opportunity or you can complain and you can make excuses. And, certainly, the playing group and the coaching group that year in the club in general, just said, ‘Nah, this is an opportunity for us and it’s going to galvanize the group and it’s going to make us stronger.’
And I actually remember players running in a three-quarter time in the Prelim final, and they were talking about the preseason and everything they’d gone through, and that they were going to run this game, that they were on top, that they felt Geelong were tired. So, it was really interesting that right in the heat of battle for recorded time, MCG, Prelim final, I remember Daniel Giansiracusa running and talking to the players about it.
I thought, ‘Wow.’ It’s just a really interesting psyche. And so, choose the lens that you want to look through and make it a positive one. Because there is always opportunity and glass is half full is way, way better than being glass is half empty.
Jack: And was that something that you planned? You talked about how Andrew Russell talked about: you can be taught the art of coaching and that game, but then there’s also playing the game and being able to influence people through politics and the culture of the club. As a coach, was that intentional to try and get leaders like Daniel Giansiracusa to mention those things at three-quarter time? Or that just sort of happened? And you took back and you looked at that like, ‘Oh, wow. That’s awesome.’ That almost surprised you when it happened and the players did it.
Cameron: Definitely not intentional. And I’m not one for trying to fabricate things like that. I just don’t think it works. But there absolutely would have been times during the lead-up to the finals and the finals itself… It was a really bizarre seasons. I’ll give you a bit of a backdrop.
I think after round 16 we didn’t win a game for the rest of the season. The top four, I think, was Geelong, Hawthorn, St Kilda and Bulldogs. And they were all that far ahead from the rest of the competition that top four couldn’t change. And so, win-loss was really irrelevant for the next seven weeks.
So, I sat down with Rodney and the coaching group and we decided that okay, potentially, here’s a really awesome opportunity to get a little bit of extra work into the guys and almost do another training block, because it didn’t matter whether we won or lost. And, clearly, we were training harder, because if we win a game for the next six or seven weeks…
And I think that also played psychologically into the minds of the players. Because every week we did a presentation about it and we talked about it and they knew we were playing finals and that’s where their mindset was. Athletes know when you do the work… You don’t become successful and you don’t get to play in a Prelim final, MCG, as an athlete, unless you put the hard yards in and you’ve made some sacrifices. And they knew that. We didn’t have to fabricate it. We didn’t have to tell them that. They know that.
So, I think probably through that seven-week block there was a few reminders of where we’d come from as a group and what the adversity and the things that we’d overcome and the challenges that we’d overcome. So, no doubt, that was fresh in their minds. But certainly that was driven by the players, that was internal. It obviously meant something to them and they believed in it.
Jack: And then your next role was at Port Adelaide, interstate role. For S&Cs with young families or partner, how challenging is it to make those decisions when the home moves?
Cameron: It is challenging. My wife and I just had our first son, so he was less than a year old when I went to Adelaide. My second son was born over there, which is unfortunate for him. He’s an Adelaide boy. But I think, again, it goes back to me not really having a plan and thinking that it’s all just going to work out. I didn’t really think about it too much. I thought potentially we’d live in Adelaide for a few years and come home and go to another club.
And I actually got home and I got off, not offered a job, I’ve got to apply for a job for the Philadelphia 76ers. And I remember going through that process and then one day I was talking to my wife about, ‘Geez, it’s a possibility we may move.’ And I remember looking at their roster and their travel schedule, and I just went, ‘No, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t put my wife through it. I can’t put my kids through it.’
And it is a big challenge. And I think with sport it’s also a great opportunity. I had an amazing time in Adelaide and my family had an amazing time. We built some fantastic friendships and relationships with people. But when you’re an S&C, you’re all in. You can’t be half pregnant.
And so, my phone never stopped ringing, whether it was players calling at night. Nearly every night I’d have a phone call with head doctor. I’d speak to the head coach every night. We’d have just a quick wrap-up of the day, what’s evolved since everyone’s left the club. Because there’s always players seeing doctors and going to appointments. I’d have a chat with a footy manager.
I guess I was fortunate because my kids were really, really young, but over the years, that never changes. And as you kids get older and family needs change, it’s something that people need to consider. And, certainly, at the end of my time, when I got given the flick from Port, I spent two weeks camping with my family. And I just remember saying to my wife, ‘I just didn’t realize what I was missing out on.’ And just saw so much development in two weeks in my kids. I was far out. I was like, ‘Is this what happens every week kind of thing?’
Having said that, it’s an awesome career and it’s a fantastic environment to be involved with. My wife went over there, we were completely new to Adelaide. We don’t really know anyone at all. And all of a sudden there’s an instant family and they embrace you. And it’s very rare. If I would’ve gone over there with KPMG, that wouldn’t have happened and my wife wouldn’t have integrated as quickly. Footy clubs and elite sporting teams are really awesome environments, really awesome. It’s a big family.
And so, from that aspect, absolutely, really, really fortunate and really appreciative. But it is certainly a challenge. And I still speak to a lot of guys in the AFL and it’s a challenge for everyone, their family’s moving. Maybe you were young, you didn’t have a family, but you’ve moved into state and got married and got kids. And you’re always torn between where home is. So, that’s a decision that a lot of practitioners will make along their career.
For me personally, my wife was really good and gave up a lot of things for me. And I got to a point in my strength & conditioning career that I thought probably time to give a little bit back to her. I did that for one year and then I started up a few businesses and got back on the merry-go-round. But it is a challenge. It’s certainly a challenge.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be thinking about it too much as a young guy or girl getting into the industry. Just forge a pathway and these things, these challenges will come when the time is right. You make your own decisions and solve what’s best in your life at that point in time.
Jack: So, no regrets. And like you said, the environment, that’s the part that is so special about working in that role. It’s a lifestyle and you’re around so many great people and the growth that you get from it personally and professionally is huge. And for the young guys, obviously, that’s something you want to aspire to it, then go for it.
What about for guys that are thinking of that and they’re listening into this podcast? It’s not an easy decision to walk away from that level, potentially. When, like you said, a new sport is knocking on your door and you’ve got the opportunity to go to another country and take on another challenge there, in America, which would have been huge.
How did you know that it’s your time now to focus on your family? And then we’ll get into the business side of things. But was it a gut call? Was it leaning on a few of you mentors? Did it take some time? Like for those in that similar position, how would you recommend managing that?
Cameron: That’s a good question. It certainly took time and the point I made about sporting environments being a really good environment to be in just always drew me back. So, that was hard to leave. The adrenaline rush. You do everything for the game day and the win or the loss. And then whether it’s a win or loss, it’s back to work and you’ve got to go again. And that two hours or whatever it is on a weekend or weekday or weeknight that you’re competing is what I loved about it. And my whole week was driven by that.
And so, it was really hard. That was really hard to walk away from. It’s really rare to be in an environment where everyone is absolutely pulling in the same direction. In a lot of corporations in the corporate world, people have competing interests and they’re getting pulled in different directions. And in sport it’s all about the performance and it’s about the athletes. And I love that and being in a team environment, so that was really hard to leave.
I was fortunate that in my early career I had done rehab and I had worked with physios and I had worked in soccer part-time and had relationships with people. And through working and doing PT, I knew a lot of gym owners. And I had had people reach out to me over the years saying, ‘Hey, would you like to do this? Or would you like to do that as business venture?’ And I just focused on strength & conditioning. I never really explored those opportunities.
So, when I left Port, that was a time for me I thought I really want to give my wife an opportunity to go back and chase her corporate career. And to do that, I need to step back. And so, I started making phone calls and reconnecting with people in the fitness industry in terms of gyms, the commercial side of the fitness industry, and physio mates and people that I studied my therapy with.
And I just thought, ‘You know what? I originally thought I wanted to start a gym.’ I actually started a 24-hour gym. And I thought, ‘This is going to be awesome. I’m going to be able to help all these people and write some programs.’ And to be really honest, I struggled. I remember trying to write a lady’s program, just to 45-year-old lady, mum of two. And I actually couldn’t write just a gym program. It took me three hours. It really frustrated me.
And it was like I was so used to working in an environment where everything has a goal and there’s a performance outcome, and we have so much information to be able to inform me on how to shape that program. All of a sudden I have a lady who’s joined the gym and given me five minutes of her background. And then I have to write a program for her and take her through it when she comes in on the next appointment. And I literally couldn’t write the program.
And it killed me, it absolutely killed me. I was like, ‘Maybe I’ve lost it. Maybe I’m not meant to do this anymore.’ And so, that was an absolute challenge for me. And that just led to me talking to more people and: ‘Have I lost it? Or do I just need to look at things differently?’ And then that’s what led to Body Fit Training. And I wanted to do something that, I guess, utilized my skills and knowledge as a conditioning coach, but make it for the mainstream and get it in the hands of as many people.
And through my experience of having my own 24-hour gym, I had a lot of trainers come through, PTs come through. And I was really surprised at how many CVs said that they did strength & conditioning, they did rehabilitation, they did body composition training. And I was like, ‘Wow, these people are way better than me.’ Because I can only really do strength & conditioning, I can’t do any of this other stuff.
And in reality, once I interviewed these people, it was like: passionate — tick, got them in a minimum qualifications — tick, but experience — haven’t got any experience, haven’t been in the real world, haven’t really been in front of people or coached them. And so, again, I struggled with that. I was like, ‘What is wrong with our industry? All these people are saying they can do things they can’t do. And I’ve spent 20 years trying to build a career and stare inside the Victorian Institute of Sport windows and learn and work for nothing.’ It actually really disheartened me for a while.
And that’s when I started coming up with a concept of Body Fit Training and thought, ‘Well, how can I utilize my skills to provide people who are passionate with an opportunity to have a career, but also educate them and impart some of my knowledge and try and get them passionate about what I’m passionate about, which is health and fitness, getting people lifting weights and enjoying themselves and feeling the benefits of that?’ And that was a really, really hard transition to me. I genuinely really struggled. I really, really struggled.
And so, I think the earlier conversation we were having around having a plan B, I didn’t have one and I think that’s why I struggled. So, I think if you can take Neale Daniher’s advice and know that it’s Sunday, it’s coming, and start just exploring where are you skillsets and where do they lie and what are you really passionate about?
And right from going back to my back injury and what I learned from my own training and getting pain-free, I was like, ‘My immediate thing was: how many people are in this situation and how can I help them?’ And I think that’s what resonated when I got out of sport, what I saw was the opportunity, it was how can I help more people?
And, hopefully, through Body Fit Training, whether it’s our franchisees that are running successful businesses that we can support and they’re having a great time in a field that they’re passionate about, or whether it’s our 35,000 members, I feel like I’m on a different journey now. We’ve got some great staff that work with me, by the way, they do a hell of a job. But that was the opportunity for me. I didn’t really know how I was going to do it, but that was certainly the opportunity. But I definitely struggled the first eighteen months when I decided to really make the cup.
Jack: Thanks again for sharing that and being so open and honest with the challenges of that transition stage. No doubt, that will help some people. And also just build some awareness maybe for those that haven’t gone through those challenges yet in their career.
You mentioned the passion with helping people. And you can tell throughout the whole podcasts you are passionate about not only helping athletes and clients, but also coaches develop. Talk us through how the creation of Body Fit Training came about. And why is it group classes? How did it become a franchise? Take us through the creative side of it.
Cameron: As I said, I started a 24-hour gym and felt like I couldn’t write programs for the mainstream. And I really struggled and I’m like, ‘I’m not utilizing my skillset.’ And I really just wanted to find a way.
And at Port Adelaide we used to do these power gym sessions in the gym with the players and we had heart rate monitors on, we had live heart rate and everything. And I just remember that they loved that. They absolutely loved the training. And you’re in a group, they’re in a team environment. They’re all working hard together and there’s high fives. I thought, ‘Okay, AFL is actually a really awesome way to train from a training perspective.’
If you look at our AFL players training, they’re really, really awesome hybrid athletes. You’ve got to be aerobically so good. Aerobically, you’ve got to be good. You’ve got to have good strength and power. You’ve got to be extremely durable, robust. You’ve got to build bodies that can withstand that 360 degree nature of the sport and the bash and crash.
And so, I thought, ‘When I look at a week of how we train in the preseason, it’s actually a really good way to train.’ Obviously, not to that level and the intensity that those guys do, but it’s just a good way to train. You have your aerobic days, your conditioning days, you do your speed days on the track and things like that.
And I thought, ‘Well, what if I can develop a system that’s really loosely based around that? Where each week we try and train a specific energy system through a program. We try and target slow-twitch muscle fibers, fast-twitch muscle fibers. And then we try and move through as many fascial planes as we can. Which we do with AFL conditioning, because it’s a 360 degree sport, so we don’t want to overload on any joints and structures day in, day out. So, how about do some high intensity and low intensity days and plays like golf and Pilates or yoga and recovery and things like that?’
I just started playing around with it in 2015. And two guys, ex-players from Port Adelaide, Matt Thomas and Daniel Stewart, and I’d kept in contact with them post footy. Daniel had just finished his career and he was looking at either going into fitness or going into the building game. And Mattie was just winding up his career at the Richmond Football Club. And I remember talking to them and saying, ‘Hey, look, remember those sessions we used to do in the gym?’ And they were like, ‘Oh yeah, we used to love those.’ And I said, ‘Look, I’ve got this concept.’
And I took them through the whole concept. And I said, ‘Look, I’m thinking about starting a group training gym. And you guys are looking for an opportunity. I know you’re passionate about fitness. If that’s what you’re passionate about, how about I’ll put in the opening money and I’ll get it going and you guys can put in a little bit of money, but in 12-months time, if the concept is working and we’re making money and people like it, you guys pay me back what I’ve put in it? So, interest free loan. You can have the business and I’ll continue to grow and develop it.’ And that’s what we did.
So, I did a couple of gyms with them under a different brand called Jimmy Scott’s. We did two others, one in Richmond and one in Yarraville. And just made a hell of a lot of mistakes. Learned a lot of lessons, blew a lot of money. And that’s where it all started. And I loved it. I just loved it. I’ve still got photos of fitting out the gyms with the boys, laying rubber flooring, teaching them how to leave flights, how to do kettlebell cleans and snatches.
And I’ve still got all the photos I did of the training with the guys in the early days. And I just saw what they got out of it and how much excitement and passion they had for it too and what they were getting out of it. Them being elite athletes, they felt like they were passing on a little bit and giving people a really awesome experience as well in that general fitness setting. And it just grew from there.
I was, ‘If we can continue to build this with the right intentions and be able to share this with people and give them a really good training methodology that is going to help them to progress and help them to not stagnate, but learn skills.’ Weight training is a skill. And so, our programs are progressive and we program in eight-week training cycles. And we develop people up through the eight weeks, so they’re really proficient at the end of it with their lifting. And is it perfect? Absolutely no, no way. But that’s the opportunity.
The opportunity now is a thousand trainers in the network and giving them the tools to be the best and to deliver the programs in the best possible way to the members, so the members have a great member experience. And if we continue to do that, and we’re really investing a lot in education at the moment. That’s the challenge for 2022 is to make the trainers in our network to be the best as they possibly can be. It’s super exciting.
And the good thing about the business is that it can continually evolve in terms of the needs. Initially, it’s just beating down the programs and the format and the equipment and your operations manuals. And then it’s about establishing a brand and getting recognized. And now it’s really about the quality of trainers and making sure that with so many trainers coming into our network, that we absolutely have a really high baseline level of competency. Because not every trainer can come in.
It doesn’t matter whether they’ve done a uni degree or a Cert III, not every trainer will have experienced Olympic lifting or will have experienced kettlebells, and can therefore teach someone how to do even a kettlebell swing, let alone a kettlebell clean or a snatch, a really explosive dynamic move. A lot can go wrong, so we need to give them the tools to be their best. And I’m super excited about that.
It’s just an awesome opportunity. It’s a great challenge. And one that I and the team that I work with in the programming side of things and education in our business are really, really excited about.
Jack: Absolutely, mate. And well done. It’s taken off in Australia. And probably later on in the podcast you’ll mention about the America trip, but how did that connection happen in America? How did you get it outside? Did they just start hearing the noise from down under?
Cameron: Sorry, are you talking about franchisees or the recent sale?
Jack: The franchisees and then the recent sale.
Cameron: Well, as you know, I’m not one massive for social media. I know you tried me for a long time and I never look at my LinkedIn and I’ve never posted anything on Instagram. But the power of social media is phenomenal. And America and Singapore grew organically just through social media and people looking at our franchisees in Australia social media pages and looking at their hybrid deals and just the different way that we were training.
And it absolutely blows my mind that we could be doing something in Melbourne or Adelaide and somebody in Santa Monica in California is picking up the phone, ringing and saying, ‘Hey, guys, I love what you’re doing. Can I be the first franchisee in America?’ It’s just mind-blowing. And I think in some way my experiences in London, when I spent three years there, it really opened my eyes up to the world, the globe.
And I talked earlier about young S&Cs coming out of uni, look for opportunities to work in global sports. AFL might be where you want to go, and it’s a great, awesome opportunity. It’s a great career, but it’s in Australia. And so, go for it, go for an international sport, go for something that’s global or that you’ll end up at the Olympics.
And for me, working in London, opened my eyes up to that there’s this whole world. And I no longer just have to think about my life in Melbourne and my career in Melbourne, because there’s all these other opportunities out there that I just never knew existed, to be quite honest. And the social media and what it’s done for our business on that front has been phenomenal.
Most of our growth in Singapore has been completely organic through social media. We’ve sold out half of our capacity in Singapore in about 18 months just through social media and not spending $1, which just blows my mind. So, that’s come through somewhat good fortune. And in the recent acquisition we sold our American business and our IP to a huge, big American company Xponential Fitness. They’re a public company listed on the NASDAQ, where they are 10th brand in America.
That just came through an introduction from somebody in industry who said, ‘Hey, you know what? I was talking to this CEO of this company. You guys would get on like a house on fire. I’m going to introduce you two, guys.’ And that introduction and a couple of casual chats turned to him saying, ‘Hey, I’ve actually sent my sales guys down to your Santa Monica side to do a few sessions. Can we have a talk about potentially buying your US business?’
And I was like, ‘This is just crazy. This is out of control crazy.’ So, really fortunate. Great, fantastic partners for us. And they’re going to provide us a lot of support and really help us to fast-track more, I guess, the tech side of our business and get that in the hands of our members. I’m super excited about that opportunity as well. So, it’s funny how the world works.
And I talked earlier about having the glass-half-full lens is way better than the other one. And if you continue to have that, any S&C, your career is going to do this. Hopefully, it does that, like a nice periodized breath. But you are going to have ups and downs. And every down just look at the opportunity. Yeah, you can crack the shits and you can have some downtime. There’s nothing wrong with that. But look at the opportunity. I’ve certainly been super fortunate in my career and my life to be able to look at that.
And just picking up that phone and calling this guy, who I had no idea who he was, on the other side of the world in the middle of COVID. It’s not like I was going to go and have a beer with him and go and grab a coffee or meet face-to-face. We were talking on a Zoom, never met each other. And, funnily enough, we spoke for about an hour and 50 minutes and it seemed like 30 minutes. And I knew then that this guy’s on the same level in terms of what he wants to achieve and his passion and everything else. I really liked him.
And then here we are. Now we’re in business together. So, it’s a strange world and you just got to be open to those opportunities. You just never know what’s around the corner.
Jack: That’s awesome, mate. We’ll get into the lighter side of the podcast now. This is the personal get-to-know-cam segment. The first one is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why?
Cameron: Yeah. I heard someone on one of your podcasts say the ‘Rocky’ series the other day. I must admit I’m a massive fan of Rocky. I really love the ‘30 for 30’, the ESPN series. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that. It’s a series of sports documentaries. They all go for 30 minutes.
I’m just fascinated by what makes people tick and what is it that makes successful people successful? And success is a very broad term, by the way. And it’s what you define as success, because it’s not the same for everyone. But it just fascinates me on what makes organizations successful. Sporting organizations, could be the corporate world as well. What makes individual success really successful?
Especially individuals that have been told most of their life that maybe they just don’t have the talent. Like Tom Brady is just such a great example of that. Told he’s going to be too slow, he hasn’t got the arm. And he’s gone down and he’s still playing footy in his forties and he’s one of the greatest of all time. So, I love the ‘30 for 30’ series.
And there’s no one magic bullet. You can see an athlete that just doesn’t perform in one environment, goes to another environment — doesn’t perform, and gets to the third environment — for whatever reason performance goes through the roof. And it just could be so many factors that are involved in that.
So, what are they and what was it that made the penny drop for that athlete? Was it just environmental? Was it their own psychology and their own realization that they had to do more and be more professional or change the way that they were doing things in their lifestyle?
So, I really love the ‘30 for 30’ series. I love anything that talks about what makes people tick. I’m fascinated by it.
Jack: Definitely one to check out. Favourite inspirational quote or life motto?
Cameron: This comes from Michael Jordan. ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’
Jack: That’s on a par with the question before. That’s a good one. I don’t think that’s popped up yet, funnily enough. And then this one in your work life. What’s your pet peeve? What makes you angry?
Cameron: It’s probably two things. So, this is very Australian. I can’t stand tall poppy syndrome in Australia. That drives me crazy. People who have reached the pinnacle, worked so hard to get there, and then we just want to chop them down in Australia. I can’t stand that.
I think it’s probably going to be a bit harsh and, as you know, I’m not on social media, but fitness influencers and fitness gurus on social media, who look fantastic and spread everything, because they’re getting paid, and actually can’t lift weights. That drives me absolutely batty.
Jack: Good to hear some insight as well. What’s your favourite way to spend your day off?
Cameron: Funnily enough, training. If I go on holidays, I actually train more than I do when I’m working. I love mountain biking. It’s something I’ll do with my boys. We love it. Whether it’s getting out to the You Yangs or down to the forest here in West Victoria, or heading over to Derby in Tasmania. So, doing some sort of exercise.
And then the other thing I love is I love food, and I love a beer or a red wine. So, I try and have a pretty balanced day off with I’ll have a good sweat session and get some exercise in, and then enjoy the fruits of my labour with some good food or wine.
Jack: And then this is COVID-free world. Favorite holiday destination and why?
Cameron: I’d have to say Bali. And I actually hate to say that. Again, like I said, when I am on holiday, I actually really like to train and it’s such a conducive environment to train. Life’s so cheap over there. I’ve been fortunate that on family holidays we’ve gone over there, hired a villa and had a chef. And to be able to train in such awesome weather, come back to a pool at your villa with your kids, have someone cooking food for you. I don’t know, it ticks a lot of boxes. Ticks a hell of a lot of boxes.
Jack: I’m a big fan of Bali. It’s a special spot and for the surfers as well. I’ve never surfed on Bali yet, but it’s definitely on the list of things to do for, hopefully, 2022.
Jack: Awesome, mate. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. And I know I’ve taken a lot out of it. No doubt, everyone that’s tuned in and listened live or listening in the podcast world at whatever date that is, will take a lot out of it as well.
You’ve got an America trip on the horizon. What are some things you’re excited about with that? And while that’s probably the main thing to be excited about at the moment, but is there anything else that you’re pumped up about for the rest of the year?
Cameron: The America trip’s exciting. Xponential fitness, who we’ve just partnered within US. They’ve got their big national conference. So, that’s in Las Vegas. I’m pretty pumped about that. I’ve never been to Vegas. I hear it’s a pretty good place to get to and party. Coming from Melbourne and being locked down for the last eighteen months, to let your hair down. You never know. But I’m excited. I’m excited to meet the people over there. They’ve got, as I said, nine other brands that they operate, with nearly 2000 franchise in America. So, what a great opportunity to learn off those people.
And then I’m really excited, as I said, we’re building out our education in BFT at the moment. And we’re really launching that heavily in 2022. And so, it’s an awesome opportunity, as I said, to as much share knowledge and train and help others, but whenever I’m in that environment where you’re doing face-to-face training, the thing I love about is I always learn as well and get something back. So, really excited for 2022.
On a personal front, I think it’s going to be a really big year. Family and business. And as I said, the opportunities at the moment, the business is in a spot where I’m really enjoying it. Having heaps of fun and getting to do what I love to do, which is to train and educate and get out in front of people. So, it’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to the end of the year and 2022.
Jack: Fantastic, mate. Thanks so much again. Really excited to see what big things lie ahead for Body Fit Ttraining. Thanks for jumping on. And for those that are tuned in as well, well done for staying with us. It’s been an hour and 48 minutes.
Cameron: Well, sorry.
Jack: You’ve done well staying with us for that long. Good work for those that are tuned in. If you have any questions, feel free to send them our way. And our next live interview will be with Matthew McGregor, who’s a sports psychologist for the AFL PA. And he’s recently just worked at Hawthorn Football Club as well. So, that will be next Tuesday. That is the 23rd of November, at 8:30 PM. I’ll see you guys then. Cheers, Cam.
Cameron: Thanks, Jack. Thank you.
Jack: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for tuning in.