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Strength Coach Success Secrets: Exclusive Interview with Brijesh Patel

Kevin Neeld: B, I know how busy you are getting things settled at Quinnipiac.  I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to do this.  Can you please introduce yourself to those readers that may not yet know you?

Brijesh Patel: First of all thank you for having me and thinking enough of me to be interviewed.  I am currently the head strength and conditioning coach at Quinnipiac University, which is located in Hamden, CT.  It’s a small mid-major school where I’m the first full-time strength and conditioning coach in the schools’ history and I have the unique opportunity to build the program from the ground up.  It’s an exciting position to be in I look forward to the challenges ahead.

KN: Congrats on the new job.  I can’t wait to get out there to see what you’re doing with your hockey teams!  Before you landed a head job, where  were some of the places you gained experience as a coach?

BP: I started out in this field as a student volunteer at the University of Connecticut (UCONN) and was given more and more responsibility during my undergraduate career.  This worked out into receiving a Graduate Assistant position at UCONN.  After grad school, I moved onto becoming the assistant strength and conditioning coach at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.  This was a great opportunity that arrived because I was fortunate enough to intern with Jeff Oliver and Mike Boyle during my undergraduate summers. Working with Jeff and Mike paved the way to where I currently am.  I can’t thank the people that I have worked with over the years who are now all over the place, specifically:

  1. Jerry Martin (UCONN)
  2. Shawn Windle (Indiana Pacers, NBA)
  3. Mike Boyle (Boston University and Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning)
  4. Andrea Hudy (University of Kansas)
  5. Walter Norton (Institute of Performance and Fitness)
  6. Pat Dixon (St. John’s University)
  7. Chris West (UCONN)
  8. Jeff Oliver (Holy Cross)
  9. Moe Butler (UCONN)
  10. Teena Murray (University of Louisville)

KN: That’s quite a list.  I’ve been fortunate to have met and learned quite a bit from both Michael Boyle and Jeff Oliver myself.  I couldn’t say enough good things about both of them.

In addition to what you’ve learned from your mentors/colleagues, how has your athletic/lifting background influenced your training philosophy?

BP: I was never the best athlete growing up and relied on training to make up for my genetic limitations.  Therefore the training that I have my athletes is based on what I have learned and done on myself.  I’m a big believer that you need to continue to train to truly understand what works and how things feel. There is nothing more frustrating to see than coaches who don’t do the programs that they write.  How do you know if it works? How do you know what it feels like? How do you know if it’s too heavy, too light, too much or not enough?

KN: I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve personally drawn up some things that look great on paper, but when I run myself through it, I find it’s either too little or too much.

Changing gears a bit, over the years I’ve noticed that the academic community doesn’t always respect the strength and conditioning profession.  When I talked to Mike Robertson about this, he said it was partially the fault of the professionals within our industry for not educating ourselves.  What’s your take on it?

BP: I think part of the problem is that the field is relatively young, and the reputation is that most strength and conditioning coaches are “weight coaches” who’s only responsibility is to get athletes stronger.  It doesn’t help when you see a lot of coaches in the field disregarding the importance of how the inter-relation of physiology, biomechanics, sports nutrition, training, coaching and psychology really plays a role in the development of athletes.  Most sport coaches don’t have a clue either and it’s up to the new age of strength coaches to educate coaches to all the ways that strength and conditioning coaches can really help their athletes.  It’s going to be an on-going process, but you can see the way the field is changing by how much importance is being put on proper biomechanics and looking towards PT’s and ATC’s to understand how the body works and to train it correctly while minimizing the chance of injury.

KN: You mentioned borrowing some knowledge from PTs and ATCs.  How important do you think it is to network with other professionals within (other strength coaches) and outside (athletic trainers, physical therapists, doctors, etc.) our profession?  How did you go about building a team of professionals you can consult with and trust?

BP: I think it is extremely important to build a network of trusted professionals not only for educational purposes but to try and really help the athletes that you train in the best possible manner.  Being able to bounce ideas off of other professionals is one of the best ways to learn and to find out what will work in different situations.  Since I’ve moved on to Quinnipiac, I haven’t yet gone out to really meet other professionals in the area, but is on my to do list.  The internet has been a great resource in learning from others and being able to communicate with other coaches, trainers, and therapists.  I’ve met so many people by reading things that they’ve wrote and emailing them about it.  Going to conferences, seminars or just visiting people is another great way to network and meet other professionals.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with people who are well connected which allows me access to some of the best in the field.

KN: I’ve noticed in the last several years that there seems to be a merging of information between the strength and conditioning and physical therapy fields.  Do you think this will continue in the future?  What changes do you think will occur (or do you hope to see) in our profession over the next 5-10 years?

BP: Like I mentioned earlier, I think the field is heading towards that trend of looking more outside of your specialty (strength training) to find answers to why athletes get hurt or why they move certain ways.  Athletics is all about movement, and our job is to enhance their ability to move.

Developing athletes are being encouraged to specialize earlier and earlier and technology has made movement less necessary which are all factors that will impair our ability to move in an number of different ways.  I see the field continuing to progress as it has over the past 5-10 years as strength and conditioning coaches begin to realize that our job is really to enhance the ability of our athletes to move efficiently.  This can be done through flexibility training, mobility training, strength training, conditioning, strongman training, etc.

KN: From other conversations we’ve had, I know you’re always looking for up-to-date information and new training techniques.  What resources do you look to for this information?  Any recommendations?

BP: I really like to read blogs from Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Alwyn Cosgrove, as well as popular internet sites, such as strengthcoach.com, t-nation.com, and elitefts.com.  As for seminars, Mike Boyle and Eric Cressey have put on some fantastic seminars over the last couple years.  The perform better functional summit’s are by far the best if you are going to pick one for the year.  They have 3 days of the best speakers and topics in the field and know how to put on a great conference.  The NC State Basketball Strength Coaches conference was the first of it’s kind last spring and looks to be a good one for those that work with basketball.  Art Horne at Northeastern has put on some good one day clinics that have been great and is going to put on the first annual Boston Hockey Summit later this spring.  That sounds like it’s going to be a great event.

KN: Those are some of the same sites I rely on too.  I like strengthcoach.com because it has the interactive forum, so you can ask article authors questions about some of their content if you don’t understand something.  And I can’t wait for the Boston Hockey Summit.

Last question.  Knowing what you know now, would you do anything different during your college years?  What advice would you give to an aspiring strength and conditioning professional?

BP: The following 5 things are things that I recommend to anybody who wants to join this field.

1. Seek Knowledge – To become the best athlete/coach/trainer/person you have to go out and seek to learn from the best. This knowledge can come from self-help books, business books, college classes, seminars, videos, the internet, you name it. Just go out and learn.

2. Listen to People – This is a huge problem for all people. We all judge people and shut them and their ideas out based on what we think we know about them. When we actually take the time to listen to what somebody has to say, then and only then should we really judge. If it works for somebody else and not for you find out why it works for them…don’t be quick to judge.

3. Train – I already discussed this above

4. Balance – Balance is a general word that refers to how we should do everything in life. If we do too much of any one thing, something else is going to suffer. For example, if we spend too much time at work our family and social life are going to suffer. If we train our internal rotators too much with excessive volume our external rotators are going to suffer and leave us more susceptible to shoulder injuries. If we eat too many carbohydrates, our insulin sensitivity is going to decrease and increase our chances of having type 2 diabetes. We need to have balance in everything we do in our lives: work, family, social life, training, and nutrition.

5. Coach People, not Athletes – The more experienced I get in this field, the more I realize that I not only coach athletes, but coach people. As coaches and trainers, we can have a profound influence on the people with whom we work. We need to realize that we are not only helping an athlete achieve their goals, but also helping them to become better people. We are teaching them what they can do mentally and physically, how to focus their mind, how to stay positive, how to make changes in their lifestyle, how to reduce stress, and how to lead a healthier lifestyle. We run a summer program for high school kids and the biggest changes we see in them are their confidence levels. Parents always remark on how our coaches have been a positive influence on their children.

Many of the mistakes I’ve made in my career so far are things that I didn’t do above.

KN: Where can people find more information about your articles, products, and speaking schedule?

Robb Rogers, Shawn Windle, and I make up S B Coaches College (www.sbcoachescollege.com), an internet education business committed to bringing you the latest information about the methods used by top-level strength coaches to prepare their athletes for competition. Whether you are a sport coach, strength coach, or athlete, we will provide you with products and information that will help you and your athletes achieve new levels of performance. You will find hundreds of inspirational and motivational quotes in our coach’s corner, thought-provoking tip of the months, information-packed newsletters, easy-to-understand articles, PowerPoint presentations that we have utilized, and high quality DVD’s and CD-ROMs and manuals for sale.

We are also starting an exciting new website, My Fit Tube (www.myfittube.com). Our goal of My Fit Tube is to provide an on-line classroom for fitness minded individuals. Created by Strength & Conditioning Coaches with the YouTube model in mind, MyFitTube caters to anybody seeking to further their knowledge in the field of Human Performance.

In today’s world we are faced with mountains of text based information in the fitness field to the point that we are struggling with information overload. By using a video based classroom the message is clear and concise from today’s best teachers. The tips and tricks learned along the way from each of the Elite Coaches will be passed on to YOU the subscriber.

Our goal is to provide a fast food approach to fine dining. Enjoy watching the best of the best from your own home without the need to pay for traveling to clinics/conferences!

KN: B, thanks again for sharing your insight with us.  On a personal note, I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done for me in the past and continue to do now.  I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, inviting me to observe at Holy Cross and now Quinnipiac, and providing feedback on my new Hockey Training eCourse.  I look forward to more collaborations in the future!

Kevin Neeld, BSc, MS, CSCS is the Director of Athletic Development at Endeavor Fitness in Sewell, NJ and the author of Hockey Training University’s “Off-Ice Performance Training Course,” a must-have resource for every hockey program.  Through the application of functional anatomy, biomechanics, and neural control, Kevin specializes in guiding hockey players to optimal health and performance. Kevin developed an incredible ice hockey training membership site packed full of training programs, exercise videos, and articles specific to hockey. For a FREE copy of “Strong Hockey Core Training”, one of the sessions from his course, go to his hockey training website.

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