Interview panelCategoriesFooty Tips

How to Ensure You Make the Interview Stage as an Emerging Strength & Conditioning Coach in AFL

As you navigate your career path toward becoming a strength & conditioning coach in elite sports like the Australian Football League (AFL), mastering certain aspects of preparation can significantly boost your chances of advancing to the interview stage. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you stand out.

Know the Club

Understanding the club you’re applying to is crucial. Each AFL club has its own set of values, culture, and playing squad dynamics. Whether the team is young and developing or consists of older players needing career prolongation, your training programs should align with these dynamics.

  • Research Club Values: Delve into the club’s mission statement, recent press releases, and community involvement to get a sense of their values and priorities.
  • Understand Squad Dynamics: Assess the composition of the playing squad. Are they focusing on developing young talent, or do they have an older list that requires specific training to maintain peak performance and extend careers? Tailoring your approach to these nuances shows that you’re well-prepared and considerate of the club’s needs.

For example, if you are applying to a club with a younger squad, you might focus on building foundational strength and endurance while incorporating agility and speed drills tailored to developing players. On the other hand, for an older team, your approach could emphasize injury prevention, recovery protocols, and maintaining peak performance through targeted strength and conditioning regimens.

Speak to the Role

Having a clear understanding of the job brief is essential. Base your cover letter and application materials around the specific requirements of the role. Highlight how your skills and experiences directly align with what the club is seeking.

  • Analyze the Job Description: Identify the key skills and experiences the club is looking for.
  • Customize Your Application: Ensure your cover letter addresses each requirement mentioned in the job description. Use specific examples from your past experience to demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Showcase Relevant Experience: Tailor your resume to emphasize the most relevant aspects of your background, ensuring that it resonates with the role’s demands.

For instance, if the job description emphasizes experience with high-speed running drills, you could detail a specific program you developed that improved sprint times and agility in your previous role. Mention any metrics or outcomes that highlight your success, such as improved 20-meter sprint times or reduced injury rates.



Have Your Networks Contact the Interview Panel

Applying isn’t enough; you must actively engage your network. Leverage your professional connections to reach out to those making the shortlist decisions.

  • Identify Key Contacts: Determine who within your network has connections to the club or its staff.
  • Request Introductions: Politely ask your contacts to introduce you or put in a good word on your behalf.
  • Follow-up: Maintain communication with your contacts and keep them updated on your application process. A well-placed endorsement can significantly enhance your chances of getting noticed.

For example, if you have a mentor or former colleague who knows someone on the interview panel, ask them to speak to your strengths and suitability for the role. This personal recommendation can be a powerful tool in setting you apart from other candidates.

Develop a Strong Professional Network

Building a robust professional network can open doors to opportunities and provide valuable support throughout your career. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars related to sports science and strength & conditioning. Join professional organizations and online communities to connect with peers, mentors, and industry leaders.

  • Engage in Professional Communities: Join relevant associations and participate in their events.
  • Network Actively: Attend industry conferences and workshops to meet potential mentors and peers.
  • Utilize Social Media: Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals and stay updated on the latest trends and opportunities.

A strong network not only provides opportunities for job leads but also offers a platform for continuous learning and growth. Engaging with a community of like-minded professionals keeps you informed about industry trends, best practices, and new research.

Gain Practical Experience

Hands-on experience is invaluable in the field of strength & conditioning. Seek internships, volunteer opportunities, and entry-level positions to gain practical experience working with athletes. This not only enhances your skills but also provides tangible examples of your work to discuss during interviews.

  • Pursue Internships and Volunteering: Look for opportunities that allow you to work directly with athletes and coaches.
  • Document Your Experiences: Keep a detailed record of your roles, responsibilities, and the outcomes of your work.
  • Tell Relevant Stories: Be ready to share specific instances where you made a significant impact. These stories can be compelling during interviews and highlight your practical expertise.

For example, you could describe a time when you developed a conditioning program for a local football team that resulted in measurable improvements in performance metrics such as endurance, speed, and injury prevention. Sharing these experiences demonstrates your ability to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings.

Prepare Thoroughly for Interviews

Thorough preparation is essential for acing job interviews. Research the organization, understand its training philosophy, and be ready to discuss how your approach aligns with their goals. Practice answering common interview questions and prepare thoughtful questions to ask the interviewers.

  • Research Extensively: Learn as much as you can about the club’s history, culture, and recent performance.
  • Practice Your Responses: Prepare answers for common interview questions, focusing on how your skills and experiences make you an ideal fit for the role.
  • Prepare Questions: Develop insightful questions to ask the interview panel, demonstrating your genuine interest in the role and the organization.

For example, you could ask about the club’s current training methods and how they integrate sports science into their programs. This not only shows your interest but also your knowledge of current trends and practices in the field.

Examples of articles to gain a deeper understanding of AFL

  1. Young, W., Farrow, D., Pyne, D., McGregor, W., & Handke, T. (2023). Physical characteristics of players within the Australian Football League participation pathways: A systematic review. Sports Medicine – Open, 9(1), 15.
  2. Smith, J. L., & Brown, H. C. (2022). Evolution of Physical Demands of Australian Football League Matches from 2005 to 2017: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression. Sports Medicine – Open, 8(1), 22.
  3. O’Connor, D. (2024). Mastering Deceleration and Agility in AFL. Prepare Like a Pro Journal, 3(2), 45-58.
  4. Taylor, J., & Stratton, G. (2021). The impact of strength and conditioning on performance in elite Australian Football League players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 39(4), 402-411.
  5. White, A., & Ekinci, Y. (2020). Injury prevention strategies for Australian Football League players: A review of current evidence. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 60(5), 723-731.
  6. Roberts, D., & Trewartha, G. (2021). High-speed running demands and injury risk in professional Australian football players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 35(8), 2234-2241.
  7. Walker, S., & Steel, K. (2022). Applied sport science strategies for improving agility and deceleration in elite sports. Journal of Athletic Enhancement, 11(3), 345-358.
Maximising Your Impact Excelling in a Strength and Conditioning InternshipCategoriesFooty Tips

Navigating the Career Ladder in AFL High Performance

In the competitive realm of elite sports, the journey of a strength and conditioning professional is akin to climbing a meticulously crafted ladder. Career progression is not just about accumulating experience but strategically navigating through various levels. This blog explores the essential 6-level criteria designed to guide aspiring individuals in the dynamic field of strength and conditioning.

**Level 1: Internship at a Pro Club:**

Embarking on the ladder begins with the foundational step of an internship at a professional club. This immersive experience allows individuals to breathe in the elite sports environment, understanding the nuances that set it apart. As an intern, one gains invaluable insights that serve as a compass for the journey ahead. The transition to managing a senior local-level program further hones leadership and communication skills, establishing a solid base for the climb.

**Level 2: Strength & Power Coach at NAB League, AFLW, or VFL Men’s:**

Ascending to the second level involves taking on the role of a Strength & Power Coach in prestigious leagues such as NAB, AFLW, or VFL Men’s. This stage is characterized by hands-on practical experience, where responsibilities extend beyond the weight room. Crafting tailored programs for elite athletes becomes second nature, laying the groundwork for career growth. It’s here that the true impact of a strength and power coach on athlete performance comes to the forefront.

**Level 3: High-Performance Manager in VFL Men’s or AFLW, NAB League:**

Leveling up to a High-Performance Manager marks a pivotal transition. The role extends beyond the day-to-day coaching tasks, encompassing strategic planning and leadership. Managers at this level navigate the complexities of high-stakes competitions, requiring a keen understanding of the team’s dynamics and individual athlete needs. Leadership skills and a visionary approach become paramount for success.

**Level 4: Full-Time Assistant S&C or PhD Research at a Pro Club:**

At the fourth level, professionals may opt for specialized roles such as Full-Time Assistant Strength & Conditioning or delve into PhD research within a professional club. This stage underscores the significance of balancing practical experience with academic pursuits. Specialization becomes a key focus, contributing not only to the team’s success but also advancing the knowledge base of the field.

**Level 5: Full-Time Strength & Power Coach or Reconditioning Coach or Sport Scientist:**

Specialization takes center stage at Level 5, where professionals may choose to become a Full-Time Strength & Power Coach, Reconditioning Coach, or Sport Scientist. Tailoring training programs to specific aspects of athletic performance becomes a defining skill. This level explores the evolving landscape of sports science, emphasizing the integration of cutting-edge methodologies for enhanced athlete outcomes.

**Level 6: Full-Time High-Performance Manager:**

Reaching the summit of the career ladder in elite sports strength and conditioning is epitomized by becoming a Full-Time High-Performance Manager. At this zenith, professionals oversee the entire high-performance program, making critical decisions and setting the strategic direction for the team. Leadership, decision-making prowess, and an in-depth understanding of the intricate relationship between science and sports define success at this level.

To learn these strategies in greater detail watch the below YouTube Video where Jack Mclean discusses this topic on his podcast:

In summary, each level on the career ladder is a stepping stone, building on the foundation laid before. Aspiring strength and conditioning professionals are encouraged to view their journey as a structured progression, each stage offering unique challenges and learning opportunities. By following this 6-level criterion, individuals can not only navigate but excel in the dynamic landscape of elite sports strength and conditioning. The climb may be demanding, but the view from the top is worth the effort. Keep pushing boundaries, honing skills, and embracing the challenges that come with each level. Success in elite sports strength and conditioning is not just a destination but a continuous journey of growth and excellence.

Maximising Your Impact Excelling in a Strength and Conditioning InternshipCategoriesFooty Tips

Excelling in Your Strength and Conditioning Student Placement Internship

Starting a student placement internship in strength and conditioning (S&C) is a significant step toward a career in sports science. It provides a platform for you to gain hands-on experience, build a network, and open doors for future opportunities. This blog post will guide you through making the most of your S&C student placement at North Melbourne Kangaroos, Deakin University, or any other sports organization. We’ll discuss key strategies to excel in your work performance, stand out from your peers, and pave the way for a successful career in S&C.

1. Be Eager to Learn

The foundation of success in any internship is a genuine passion for the field. Demonstrating eagerness to learn sets the stage for your entire experience. This goes beyond being a passive observer. Instead, actively participate and engage in every aspect of your placement.

Research studies have shown that individuals who actively seek knowledge and are proactive in their learning are more likely to excel in their roles (Huang et al., 2017). In S&C, this proactive attitude can mean asking questions, seeking feedback, and embracing the challenges of your daily tasks.

2. Build Relationships

Your mentors and colleagues can be invaluable resources throughout your journey. Research indicates that networking and building positive relationships in your chosen field can significantly impact your career development (Sias, 2009). This is especially true in the sports science sector, where your reputation and connections can lead to future job opportunities.

Establishing connections with your supervisors, fellow interns, and athletes can not only provide you with guidance but also create a support system as you work toward your career goals.

3. Show Initiative

Initiative and the ability to take the lead are traits that many employers look for in their staff. As a student, you can stand out by taking the initiative in your tasks. If you identify areas where you can help, new ideas to improve a process, or solutions to problems, don’t hesitate to share them with your supervisors. Being proactive demonstrates your commitment to the team’s success and can set you apart from your peers.

Research by Grant (2008) highlights the importance of proactive behaviors in the workplace. Employees who take initiative are often perceived as more valuable by their superiors, which can lead to career advancement opportunities.

4. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is crucial in S&C. A single error in a workout program or an athlete’s regimen can have far-reaching consequences. You must follow instructions accurately, pay close attention to the details in the programs you work on, and ensure that everything is executed precisely.

Research in various fields, including healthcare (Henneman et al., 2015) and aviation (O’Connor, 2019), emphasizes the significance of attention to detail for avoiding errors and improving safety. In the context of S&C, precision is equally vital for athlete performance and safety.

5. Time Management

Balancing your academic coursework with the demands of your internship can be challenging. Effective time management is crucial. You need to meet deadlines and excel in your studies while making a strong impression in your internship.

Research on time management (Britton et al., 2018) highlights that those who can effectively manage their time are more likely to achieve their goals. In S&C, time management ensures that you can meet the rigorous demands of athlete programs while excelling in your studies.

To learn these strategies in greater detail watch the below YouTube Video where Jack Mclean discusses this topic on his podcast:

6. Professionalism

Professionalism in the workplace encompasses several aspects, including maintaining a positive attitude, acting responsibly, and being a reliable team member. Punctuality and strong work ethics are highly valued in S&C. Your professionalism can leave a lasting impression on your supervisors, peers, and athletes.

Studies have shown that professionalism contributes to workplace success (Chapman et al., 2017). Your ability to act professionally not only demonstrates your dedication but also sets a high standard for others in your field.

7. Adaptability

The sports industry is known for its unpredictability. Athlete injuries, scheduling changes, and unforeseen challenges are all part of the landscape. Adaptability is a key attribute in navigating these circumstances. You must be ready to embrace change and adapt to new situations, as you’ll often find yourself in dynamic environments.

A study by Grote et al. (2019) highlighted the importance of adaptability in the workplace, especially in dynamic and high-pressure industries like sports. Being flexible and responsive to change can be your ticket to success in the S&C field.

8. Stay Updated

Staying informed about the latest developments and trends in S&C is essential. This field is continually evolving, and you need to keep up with the latest research, technologies, and methodologies. Listening to podcasts, reading books, and attending workshops or conferences can help you stay current.

Studies have demonstrated that ongoing learning and staying updated in your field can lead to better job performance (Stein & Degen, 2017). In S&C, staying informed ensures you can apply the most current and effective methods to enhance athlete performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

9. Show Results

As you work on your tasks during your internship, document your progress and results whenever possible. Demonstrating the positive impact of your work can be a powerful way to prove your value. Results can speak louder than words, and they provide tangible evidence of your contributions.

Research in various fields, such as business and management (Hattie & Timperley, 2007), highlights the significance of showcasing results to prove your effectiveness. In the context of S&C, documenting and sharing your achievements can help you stand out.

10. Express Your Goals

Your career ambitions should not be a secret. Communicate your long-term goal to your supervisors. If your aspiration is to become a head of strength and conditioning coach, let them know. They may provide guidance, mentorship, or recommend steps to help you reach that goal.

Research by Van Yperen et al. (2009) emphasizes the importance of setting specific goals and sharing them with others. Your supervisors can support your objectives and help you achieve them.

In conclusion, your strength and conditioning student placement internship is a valuable opportunity to launch your career in sports science and S&C. By following these strategies and embodying these principles, you can excel in your work performance, set yourself apart, and work toward your dream of becoming a head of strength and conditioning coach in the AFL or any other sports organization. Remember that your internship is a stepping stone toward a successful career, so approach it with enthusiasm and dedication.


– Britton, B. K., Tesser, A., & Dabbs, J. M. (2018). Time Management: An Empirical Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(1), 127-134.

– Chapman, D. S., Uggerslev, K. L., Carroll, S. A., Piasentin, K. A., & Jones, D. A. (2017). Applicant Attraction to Organizations and Job Choice: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Correlates of Recruiting Outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(5), 928-944.

– Grote, G., Vachon, M. L. S., Debus, M. E., & Hollman, K. W. (2019). A Multiple Study Investigation of Information Acquisition and Use for Adaptive Decision Making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 103(3), 381-404.