Beth Dowling is the Upwey Tecoma Strength & Conditioning PLP Intern. She is also completing her masters in strength & conditioning at La Trobe University.
Highlights from the episode:
- People who influenced Beth’s career
- Advice she got from James Russell
- Things she learned from running a pre xmas program
- How she upskills herself
- Highlights that she looked back fondly
- Fave life motto
- James Russell
- Nick Meffin
- Chloe Dolten
Female Athlete Project: https://www.thefemaleathleteproject.com/
To have Jack answer your questions send us a voice message via this link:
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 Beth Dowling. She’s our Prepare Like A Pro Strength & Conditioning Coach Intern for the Upwey Tecoma Football Club. She’s also completing her Master’s in Strength & Conditioning at La Trobe University.
Highlights from this episode: we discuss the importance of gaining practical skills as a developing coach; practical tips for coaches who want to develop their networking skills; the importance of trying new methods and assessing if they are effective or not.
Before we start this episode, if you want Prepare Like A Pro to manage your football club’s high-performance program, which includes my strength & conditioning programming and an intern like Beth facilitating the sessions and individualizing the program to suit the players, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s get into today’s episode. Welcome, Beth. Thanks for jumping onto the show tonight.
Beth: Thanks for having me.
Jack: Looking forward to diving into this interview. Let’s start at the very beginning. What age did you discover you had a passion for health, fitness and strength & conditioning?
Beth: Young age, I think. I was really fortunate to have quite a sporting family, to kind of grow up from there. I grew up in England, so Rugby Union was my go-to for a long time. And then when I came to Australia, integrating through netball throughout my young life and my teenage life, and then, obviously, footy. AFL was what I love to do.
So, in terms of what I wanted, I initially wanted to go down the physio route, as most people wanted to start their career. I was a clumsy kid, had a lot of injuries, I’m even nursing one now. And I just started thinking about how I can improve my body and get my body back as close as I can to start playing netball and running and things like that, to kind of my own conditioning and strength perspective.
And then got to uni. So, I did my Bachelor of Exercise Science and my undergrad, which I love. I think it just stemmed from there. I really like how specific strength & conditioning is and how to return to play. I think that’s separate from the original physio route that I wanted to go down really.
Jack: It makes quite a classic strength & conditioning journey. Being athletic and sporty and wanting to learn more and being hungry to develop to help yourself and then progress into coaching and helping others with that skill set. You mentioned moving from England to Australia, did you get exposed to strength & conditioning coaches in England or physios in England or were you too young?
Beth: I was too young. I moved here when I was five. I was really young, but still fortunate enough to have a different perspective of what their main sport was as well. Obviously, with soccer. Not that I remember it, but that is a good perspective from my dad watching it and things like that.
Jack: Absolutely. And then you mentioned injuries, who did you work with mainly to help you with your injuries? Did you do it off your own bat? Did your family help you or did you have professional support with the physios and the strength & conditioning coach?
Beth: I saw my first physio when I was 13, so I started quite young. I did my ankle really badly. Netball is not a great sport for joints. Did my ankle and took a long time, I think I was in a bit for about 12 weeks. So, a long time. Working with a physio, trying to get my strength back in my ankle. Got back on the court and did my knee the season afterwards. Obviously, something went wrong with my build-up in my rehab, which is when my head started ticking, what I can start doing to improve it.
Jack: And when you say you did your knee, is it an ACL?
Beth: My MCL, actually.
Jack: And playing netball?
Jack: Back to back significant injuries.
Beth: Yeah, for sure.
Jack: As a young kid, what did you learn from that, do you think, looking back now?
Beth: It’s hard because the desire for me to play was still very much there. Like I was 14, I wanted to play. And sitting on the sidelines, it hurt, especially when we were winning matches. And then at the end of the season, we finished on top and things like that. That was hard for me to sit that on. But it taught me a lot of resilience as well, going through that process. Yeah, I’m injured, but now I can rehab and then get back on the court. Obviously, that time it wasn’t actually successful. But it still worked, I’m still playing now.
Jack: Along your journey from strength & conditioning coaching perspective, who have been some people that have influenced your career today?
Beth: I think one of the first ones, a few years back, my dad’s friend, James Russell, he was actually a co-founder of Edge Training.
Jack: What a small world.
Beth: Yeah. So, he’s a friend of my dad’s. I got in contact with him just to chat about his experiences and any advice that he could offer me. And I think he really opened my eyes, my mind to what the industry can really be like. He really just didn’t sugarcoat it and gave it to me as it is. And it really just helped me and taught me how to be really resilient, going into the industry. I’m quite competitive. So, I am excited to get into the industry and I feel like I’ve got that fire in my belly to get there. I think he really opened my eyes to it, though, which was really helpful.
Jack: And if we dive in a little bit more specifically for the developing strength & conditioning coaches, what type of advice? You mentioned he was quite honest and real with you. For the listeners, can you share what resonated with you and how that helped to put fire in your belly, like you said, and make you want it even more?
Beth: He pretty much outlined that it’s not always about what qualifications you have. It’s about networking. Networking is the key thing. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. At times, obviously, your knowledge base is an outstanding start, but at the end of the day your connections will get you further that what you know.
Jack: Yeah. Which is something’s how we got in contact, isn’t it? Through Nick Meffin, physio therapist.
Jack: James had the exact same influence with me. We actually went to uni together. And he was definitely by far the best at, I think there’s a fine line between networking well and not so well. And James has got the outright pattern in terms of a building really strong relationships naturally and just at ease, but also building, not just from a professional sense, but also personal relationships as well. So, he’s definitely taken away the exact same concept. Yeah, there you go. And he actually created a Facebook group, which is still going strong at the moment.
Beth: Yeah, I’m on it.
Jack: So, now you’re a big fan of J. Russel. That’s a small world, and I didn’t even know that. So, you learn these things on a podcast interview. And who else has helped you along the way?
Beth: Well, most recently you have as well. I think we’re pretty good with going a little back and forth away throughout the way from just checking in and how to build my professional communication as well. Especially managing a team. Like I’m Upwey’s strength & conditioning coach, so communication is definitely important. I feel like I’ve learned that a lot recently with you.
But on a broader perspective, more of an inspiration is more the guys at the Female Athlete Project. So, Chloe Dolten. They’re all about trying to put more engagement into women’s sports and female athletes. They also did a really big movement on raising funds for the Paralympic athletes to get paid for their Olympic medals.
Beth: I think they’ve been a really good push for me to continue in this industry as well. And just give a little bit more engagement and realness to women in sport.
Jack: Female Athlete Project, for those that are interested in their work after what you’ve been telling us that they do, which is super inspiring, how did you hear about them and how can people find out more information or help support their cause? Do they have a website or a gym?
Beth: Website and Instagram with Female Athlete Project. They have a lot of merch as well, which goes towards raising funds. How did I hear about them? I think it was more around the Olympic time when I started building up, they found me. I was a little bit late to the party. They just like to put focus on different women’s sports, different athletes like with the Matildas. So, they are great.
Jack: That’s awesome. We’ll definitely add those links in the show notes for people to check out.
Jack: Hey, podcast listeners. I just want to take a short break from this episode to introduce Simone Austin. She’ll be making a guest appearance as part of our panel of sports dieticians with the AFL experience on the 27th of January. This is a collaborative event. One that you will not want to miss. Simone will be discussing how the healthylife Food Tacker can help you. Hear Simone to explain more.
Simone: Hi, I’m Simone Austin, and I’m a sports dietician and an author of ‘Eat Like an Athlete’. And I’ve worked with elite sports for over 25 years, including 12 years at Hawthorn AFL Football Club. But now I’m Chief Health Officer at Healthy Life. And I’m going to share with you our new and exciting healthylife Food Tacker. It’s a great way for athletes to be able to track their food in real food terms. So, join us, so I can share more.
Jack: Hear Simone’s full discussion on this topic, as well as four other high performance with AFL experience sports dieticians. Make sure to subscribe to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ YouTube channel. And click ‘Attend’ on our live event on the 27th of January 8:30 PM. Now back to the ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ podcast episode.
Jack: And going back to you mentioned that you’re getting a lot from a communication point of view and developing your professional skill sets by running the Upwey program. It’s definitely different from personal training, strength & conditioning, which can be in one-on-one setting in the gym, maybe up to one to four. Suddenly now you’re running a warmup of 30 athletes or more, now you’re running conditioning sessions, you need to delegate, which I know we’ve talked about, and really think quick on your feet, which I can tell with the conversations we’ve had you’ve got a knack for. How invaluable is getting that experience at the football club?
Beth: It’s so invaluable. I think it’s all the little things that build up are really going to help me progress in my career and be the best coach I can be. Which is super important for the club and the teammates as well. And just trying to build rapport and nice relationships with them as well is also important.
Jack: And then you’ve got the strength & conditioning aspects, but then you’ve also been managing players from an athlete-centered approach. So, each individual might be doing a different plan. How have you found running those sessions and being able to manage players on that individual level at such a large scale?
Beth: It’s hard work, more than I thought. There’s a lot going on in such little space in time. But once the system gets going, everyone knows what they’re going to do, and then it just runs a lot smoother from there. Just getting that initial start from everyone to go, ‘Okay, well, this is what I’m going to do now,’ and so on. It was a struggle at first, but it’s finally got going now, which is amazing.
Jack: And for those listening, strength & conditioning coaches, what were a couple of big takeaways that you got from running the pre-Christmas program? I know that the January–February block is ahead of you. But what were some big takeaways that you got out of that you think would be really important for coaches to get that experience that you got?
Beth: Definitely, everything that you know they don’t always have to know. I think simplifying things, making it easy for them to communicate across too is going to do so much more than just spilling lots of things that they might just not know. Another thing is building rapport, building friendships and relationships with the club and the teammates, the coaches, is just going to make things run a lot smoother. People are going to like you and enjoy your company as well. So, they’re going to be more inclined to listen to you as well and know that you have the best interest for them.
Jack: Yeah, a hundred percent. That trust and, like you said, rapport is so important. And probably largely something that I’ve noticed working in industries is probably the big difference between a program that’s run well, and one that’s not run so well is the compliance and that buy-in. Because more or less we’re programming similar run blocks and similar strength and power programs. But being able to get that compliance and build that buy-in through rapport and relationship building, like you said, is the real difference of a coach that’s running a good program. So, that’s great.
It’s great that you’re getting those takeaways, and I think most high performance managers that we’ve had on the podcast, the number one thing that they say for developing S&Cs is to run your own program. Doesn’t matter what level it is. If it’s the Under 13s, community level, whatever it is. The earlier you can do that in your career, the better you will be long-term. So, it’s awesome that you’re getting experience and you’re finding that firsthand by getting your hands dirty. You’re building those skill sets and the art of coaching.
What about from a knowledge and trying out new methods perspective? How do you like to upskill yourself? Is that through research, through speaking to other practitioners? Is it podcast listening, YouTube? What are your favorite ways to upskill yourself?
Beth: Obviously, I love learning. And going back to uni to progress further, I think, that’s a good start. But I’m really big on podcasts. I just really like when you’re going for a walk or you’re doing something and just listen to somebody’s perspective of their role within the industry.
But I also love research as well. Checking up on new methods and new ways. But also trial and error. Because you hear all these different ways and methods of how to improve performance, but if you don’t try it yourself, you’re not going to know what works best for you and then whoever you’re coaching as well.
Jack: I like that. And being able to apply it, what is relevant, to what you’re currently doing in your role. We’re in a world now, where information is easy to access. The challenges of filtering the relevance, like you touched on there, how do you go about doing that? Do you have a journal or is there a mentor that you lean on? Or do you have a process of doing that or is that something that comes naturally to you, like the second nature?
Beth: I’d like to say I don’t try too hard to find what I’m looking for. However, anything with online, if you look, if you want to find something, you’ll find it. It is hard to sift through all the things and find something that’s actually relevant to you and credible as well, which is probably more important.
Jack: And you mentioned enrolling in your Master’s. Take us through the motive behind that. What are you looking to get out of doing your Master’s in Strength & Conditioning?
Beth: I will finish with the ASCA Level 2 Accreditation, which is awesome. But I just wanted to find my niche a little bit more, to narrow down of what I really want to study. And it also gives me a component to start a little bit of a research thesis as well, which is really exciting for me for my second year.
Jack: Have you got any ideas of what you think you’re going to do?
Beth: A few ideas. I like things around concussion base in team sports. There’s a lot of ideas and I’m not sure where it takes me. And sure, I’ll come up with hundreds of ideas anyway.
Jack: A hundred percent. Best of luck. It’s awesome that you’re doing that. And, no doubt, you’ll get a lot out of that course. Looking back at your career so far, what are some highlights that you look back fondly at?
Beth: I think working with amateur AFL players has been really rewarding because they do rely a lot more on you than you think. They don’t know as much as you do, they’re not professional athletes, so they really take in what you say and they do what you essentially tell them to. Because they want to improve or they want to return back to play with that rehab.
And with the team I was with last year over the pandemic, that was a few distractions with the team, but we ended up with really good success with the season. And it just gave me a little bit more insight into ‘Yeah, I’m on the right path. This is what I want to do.’ I find that really rewarding. And I’m really passionate about it as well, so that was really good.
Jack: And on the flip side, what about biggest challenges that you’ve faced and how did you grow from that challenge?
Beth: I think throughout my undergrad degree and through the pandemic as well, finding placement was a struggle. But at the end of the day, any experience is good experience.
Jack: What did you end up doing for the placement?
Beth: I jumped on with Ringwood Footy Club, which I have to do with there now, just doing pilot medical team bit for them. And then I did a certificate for an Allied Health Assistant with Exercise Research Australia as well. That was really good from a clinical perspective. Understanding that people with varying medical conditions still really need and stress the importance of strength & conditioning as well. It helped me a lot.
Jack: Tough year. We work with people, it’s definitely heavily affected by getting hours of experience. But well done for navigating through that and sticking to the task and still getting something out of it from a growth perspective. Love that. Good insight to your mindset.
And for strength & conditioning coaches listening, it’s the willpower that you do need a little bit sometimes, it’s just to recognize, ‘Okay, well, I’m not going to be able to do that, but I’m going to focus on this area.’ Like you said, developing new clinical skills and medical connections. Which, no doubt, if you get a rehab role at some point in a club, that’s going to come in handy with building relationships with the physios and trainers and other doctors and those sorts of things. So, it all comes together later on, that’s for sure.
Jack: Hey podcasters. I’m excited to announce we have a free collaborative live event on the 27th of January. And this is one that you will not want to miss. Ben Parker is part of the panel. He is the Gold Coast Suns’ Chef and Performance Dietician. He will be discussing body composition for AFL players and how to achieve an ideal body composition. Here’s more information from Ben.
Ben: Hi, guys. Ben Parker. Performance Dietician at the Gold Coast Suns. Next week, I’m going to talk to you about what’s the ideal body composition for an AFL athlete. Also, will talk about the performance benefits of different physique traits and ways that we can measure and track changes in body composition. I’ll also give you some practical tips and strategies on how you can manipulate your own body composition and make yourself a better, more capable athlete. Speak to you then. Cheers.
Jack: To hear Ben’s full discussion on this very topic, as well as four other AFL experienced sports dieticians, make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel ‘Prepare Like A Pro’ and click ‘Attend’ on our live event. Now back to the episode.
Jack: We’ll go into the personal side of the podcast. It’s a little bit lighter section. So, first one off the bat is which movie or TV series has impacted you the most and why?
Beth: Most recently I’m very into ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ show on Netflix.
Jack: I haven’t seen that one.
Beth: So, you need to. I was late to it, but I’m hooked on it. I think the mental toughness of that all, when the racers have to get back in the car after the crash is just insane. As well as all the other components to it as well, but the mental imagery and the training. It’s different to what I’m used to, for sure, but it was really interesting, actually.
Jack: I can imagine. I’ll have to write that one down. What about a favorite inspirational quote or life motto?
Beth: My 2022 life motto is ‘Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.’
Jack: Very well put, love that. In your work life, what makes you angry? What are your pet peeves?
Beth: People that half-ass things and expect maximum results.
Jack: Awesome. That’s great.
Beth: And also little things, like not putting equipment away.
Jack: Yeah, it’s good to keep the gym nice and tidy. There is a home for everything. And that definitely helps to have those standards because before you know it, when you don’t have those standards, you’re packing up the gym at the end of a shift, which is enough and worse. What’s your favorite way to spend your day off?
Beth: Having a sleep-in, heading to the gym or my rehab at the moment. And going to brunch with family and friends, catching up, having a cup of coffee.
Jack: That’s a nice day. Recharge the batteries. This is COVID-free world, favorite holiday destination and why?
Beth: Traveling Europe is definitely on my bucket list. I haven’t delved too far into it. Obviously, I’ve done England and France, but nothing along the coast. So, definitely on my list, once we can get out of this.
Jack: Hopefully, it’s not too far away.
Beth: Hopefully not.
Jack: Well, thank you so much for tuning in and sharing your story and what has worked for you equally, also the challenges that you faced and how you’ve coped with those challenges and that growth mindset that you have. And also thank you for the work that you’ve been doing with the Upwey Football Club. You’re a real asset to the team, and I’m only getting positive feedback from everyone at the club. So, well done. What’s on the horizon for you for 2022, Beth?
Beth: A few job prospects have come up this year, which is exciting. So, stay tuned. And also just trying to get myself back into full function training, getting through my rehab, my surgery recently.
Jack: Can you talk us through that? What operation did you have and what does the rehab look like?
Beth: I had bilateral leg surgery three months apart. My artery behind my leg was trapped in muscle, so I was getting no blood flow to my feet and causing a whole lot of nerve issues, stress fractures, all that stuff. Took a long time to diagnose. But we eventually got there, the surgery was success, and now we’re just going to get the second one. So, my advice is just trying to build some strength back up in the calves. You can start running probably three months post-op which is still far to go. But I’m sure it’ll come down really quickly.
Jack: Is that when you have the second one or you’ve just had the second one now? Three months from now?
Beth: I’ve just had the second one.
Jack: Okay, awesome. That’s a good feeling. You’ve got them behind you right now. And from that perspective, how does it help you for athletes that are going through rehabilitation with the injuries that you’ve had and the processes they’ve gone through? Do you find that helps you from a connection, empathy point of view with athletes that are gone through rehabilitation?
Beth: Yeah, for sure. Especially when these are my first surgeries I’ve had ever. So, I wasn’t really able to empathize with them beforehand. But now, like when they’re having down days, their motivation is low, I can empathize with that and just getting through that as well. And equally they help me get through it as well. It’s a two way street there.
Jack: I love that. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing your time and being open and honest with us tonight. And I’m really looking forward to working with you throughout 2022.
Beth: Thank you.
Jack: Any last words before I do the outro?
Beth: Thanks for having me.
Jack: Thanks for tuning in, guys. If you want to listen to the podcast, we’ve got the YouTube episode that will be released tonight for those that tuned in late during the live segment and you want to listen to the very beginning of Beth’s story. Definitely recommend, there’s some gems there for both developing strength & conditioning coaches, but also for footballers from a practical sense. And then the podcast will be released in the podcast world, which is Spotify, iTunes, and wherever you listen to podcasts, in the coming weeks. So, stay tuned and thank you for tuning in.
Our next live episode will be with Kevin Ball, who’s a biomechanics and who’s currently working at Victoria University. But he also worked at Fremantle Dockers for a number of years and the Australian Institute of Sport. I’m really looking forward to that chat. If you need a little work on your kicking technique, then this is the one that you won’t want to miss. So, that’s going to be this Thursday, the 13th of January at 8:30 PM. I’ll see you guys then.
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 email@example.com. Thanks so much for tuning in.