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.

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

KN: Coach Boyko, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this.  Can you please introduce yourself to those readers that may not yet know you?

CB: My pleasure.  Thanks for the opportunity.  I am an assistant strength coach at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  I have worked with Men’s Ice Hockey for eight years and worked with a combination of Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Ski Team, and Men’s Soccer for the past 6 years.

KN: Before you started working at UMass, where were some of the places you’ve interned, volunteered, observed, etc.?

CB: I started the path that led me to UMass by volunteering at Brookline High School when I was an undergrad at UMass-Lowell.  I then applied to graduate school at Springfield College and had the pleasure of volunteering at Holy Cross with Jeff Oliver.  During graduate school I worked with the teams on campus as well as interned at Northeast Sports Training in Warwick, RI and at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work part-time with the hockey team at UMass and that blossomed into a full-time position after I completed my graduate work.  I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunities that I have had and to be able to work with some excellent strength coaches and teachers along the way.

KN: You’ve had a lot of success at UMass with the ski team recently winning a national championship and men’s soccer finishing in the final 4 last year.  What’s your secret?  Can you expand on how your training philosophy has evolved over the years?

CB: First, I would say that I do not believe that I am not primarily responsible for these team’s accomplishments.  If the team is not well coached and good athletes are not recruited, then they are not going to perform well no matter what I do with them in the weightroom.  One thing that I have learned over my short career as a strength and conditioning coach is that there is more than one way to be a successful strength coach.  Various coaches have various methods of keeping their athletes healthy, making them stronger, more fit, and better athletes.  I may not follow the same template of other strength coaches, but I sure can learn from what they do and take certain ideas and apply them if I agree.  If I don’t agree, at least I can stop and think of why I don’t want to use it, which can sometimes be just as good.  Over the last 8 years I have been exposed to a variety of coaches with a variety of styles of programming and coaching.  I have learned and taken ideas, exercises, and coaching methods from all of them to form my philosophy.  By trying others programs, analyzing them, then trying different things with my athletes has led me to the philosophy that I have now.  One thing that I would like to add is that there are certain basic principles that I believe in, but I am always open to change if it will benefit my athletes.  So my philosophy is being constantly “tweaked.”

KN: The strength and conditioning profession seems to have a certain stigma of being brain-dead meatheads amongst academics.  Where do you think the disconnect is?  What can strength coaches do to help bridge the gap?

CB: I am not really exposed to much of this, so hopefully I won’t stick my foot in my mouth.  Unfortunately, strength and conditioning coaches have developed a stereotype of muscle bound meatheads that are just bent on seeing big testing numbers by just having athletes lift heavy and eat excessive amounts of red meat without any thought to their programs.  If you saw me, the last thing you would think is that I am a strength coach.  When I tell people they usually laugh and say I thought you were a banker or accountant.  The point being, I need to be well-read and educated to have my athletes believe in me and my programs.  I believe there are more educated strength coaches than ever before and that there is a gap between the academic world and the strength and conditioning world because we have to have a strong academic understanding as well as practical experience.  I can say this, there have been wonderful studies that have said a certain protocol or exercise is effective, but in the weight room it may not be possible due to lack of staff, facilities, or time.

KN: I agree.  A lot of the in-lab studies aren’t always practical in the real world.

I’ve found picking the brains of people such as yourself, Brijesh Patel, Michael Boyle, and Eric Cressey to be an invaluable resource in helping me to create and modify my programs.  How important do you think it is to network with other strength coaches?

CB: I think it is extremely important to network.  I am by far NOT the best strength coach in the world.  One of the best ways of making myself better is to talk to other strength coaches and see what they are doing and how they address some of the problems that I am having.  I believe if you stop learning, asking questions, and modifying your program then you will be doing your athletes a disservice.  I have been very fortunate to work with a core group of excellent strength coaches such as Jeff Oliver, Bob Otrando, Brad Arnett, Brijesh Patel, and Mark Stephenson.  My network has expanded by being in their network and it just evolves from there.  I try to talk to as many people as I can, try not to burn any bridges, and through that I am able to expand my network.

KN: Speaking of learning and finding new ideas, how has continuing education been instrumental in your success?  Other than the coaches you listed above, what resources/seminars do you rely on for new information/ideas?

CB: I definitely believe it helps in terms of molding a philosophy and bettering yourself as a strength coach.  As I already stated, if you stop learning you will be cheating the athletes you train because they are trusting their health and careers in your hands.  I rely on subscriptions to the NSCA journals, Training and Conditioning, and Biomechanics.  I believe Mike Boyle, S&B Coaches College, and Eric Cressey do a great job of putting out quality information (by the way I am not getting any endorsement money for this).  I believe it is important to network at conferences.  Perform Better does an excellent job of putting together a diverse lineup of speakers at their seminars and I have been able to expand my network at these events (once again, no endorsement money for this either).

KN: In the last several years 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?

CB: I think it will.  I would just caution falling in love with any new trend or fad.  People tend to take new concepts such as functional training, core training, corrective exercise, and mobility work and do it to the point of excess and forget that you still have to have fit and strong athletes.  Not to say that these ideas don’t have value, because I believe in all of these concepts, but I do believe there should be an appropriate balance.  I would like to see the profession continue to grow with motivated coaches that are eager to learn and share ideas for the benefit of the athletes that we train.  I would like to hope that this can be accomplished by quality coaches with experience putting out quality information.  I think the internet has been great in regards to being an avenue to access a lot of information.  I just hope it doesn’t become littered with B.S. from people that are not qualified.

KN: 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?

CB: I still don’t think I know that much, but If I had to do something different I would have started learning and training more seriously from an earlier age from more qualified teachers.  I started my weightlifting training with college roommates that were bigger than me and I would say I wasted a couple of years of training and developed some bad habits (and shoulders) that were tough to break.  The advice that I would give to an aspiring strength and conditioning professional would be to never stop learning, try everything, and be very open-minded.

KN: Thanks Coach, and good luck the rest of the year at UMass.

CB: Thanks for having me and I hope I have been helpful.


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.

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

In Part 1, Mike told us about how he got to where he is today, how his athletic history affects his programming, and how he continues to educate himself to stay at the top of the industry.  Read on to hear Mike talk about the importance of networking, the merging of strength and conditioning and physical therapy practices, and some tips on keeping your knees healthy.

KN: 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?

MR: It’s hugely important, Kevin.  Quite simply, you can’t be everything to everyone.

I’ve done my best to build a solid-network here in Indianapolis.  In fact, I had worked with at least 10 massage therapists before I found one that I was comfortable referring people to!  After three years I finally have the team I want around me – a solid PT, chiro, massage therapist, surgeon, etc.

As far as building a team goes, I really feel like you need to seek out the best in each respective field.  For me, I went to numerous massage therapists before I found one I liked.  However, doing some research could save you some time as well.  Ask around – who is really good?  Who is doing things similar to you, albeit in a different field?  It takes some time and dedication, but it will make you much more efficient in the long-run.

One last point – always remember that your network is a reflection on you as a coach.  If you refer a client to someone and they are late to appointments, or flat out not that good, it’s a poor reflection on you.  In contrast if you have solid professionals backing you, it takes your game to the next level.

KN: In the last several years 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?

MR: I definitely would like to see a continued “blending” off all training mediums.  I hate the fact that people want to make the fields black and white – the PT does therapy, and then they hand the client off to the strength coach, etc.  The more each cog in the wheel understands about the others job, the more seamless the entire training process becomes.

I don’t have any desire to do true physical therapy, but having a greater understanding of their vantage point and methodologies allows me to take my job as a trainer or coach to the next level.

KN: I couldn’t agree more.  It’s a shame that the body’s functions are typically taught and viewed as isolated systems.  I think the more we can blend information among fields and open the lines of communication, the more effective all professionals will be.

It wouldn’t be a Mike Robertson interview if I didn’t ask for some knee tips.  What are three things athletes and lifters should do (and probably aren’t) to improve the health and functioning of their knees?

MR: Unfortunately, like runners and other avid enthusiasts, true lifters tend to be minimalists.  They don’t like to do the stuff that keeps them healthy; they just want to lift!

With that being said, for the average lifter here are three things I would highly recommend.  My apologies if you’ve heard this before!

#1 – Single Leg Work

Whether you’re a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, or just someone who loves to train, single-leg work does a ton of good things for your body.  It reinforces good mobility at the hips.  It improves stability in the frontal and transverse planes.  Basically, even if it doesn’t get you immeasurably stronger they can help keep your lower body healthy, especially the knees.

#2 – Foam Rolling/Mobility Drills

This has been harped on time and again, but I’m still shocked at how many people don’t warm-up, cool-down and recover properly!  Basic foam rolling and mobility drills for the hips, thighs and ankles goes a long way to staying healthy.

#3 – Get the posterior chain stronger

Again, this is harped on from an athletic perspective, but most people in general who hit the iron would be behooved to get their back side stronger.  We already know that athletes who tear their ACL’s tend to be quad dominant, and they are supposed to be “healthier” than the average individual!  Smart training for the glutes and hamstrings balances strength around the hip and knee joints, which is never a bad thing.

KN: 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?

MR: I do my best not to look back – there are always things we wish were different!  However, our past, both good and bad, are what make us the people we are today.

I think the only thing I can honestly say I would’ve done differently was laid a better foundation up front with regards to my movement.  I know so much more now about how the body moves and functions, I feel like I could be even stronger and healthier had I laid that foundation initially.  However, I’m not doing too bad now so there’s really no need to nitpick!

To an aspiring strength coach, I would give the following advice:

Learn everything you can from everyone you can.  Some will be good, some will be bad, but soak it all up.

If you’re going to be really successful in the industry, you have to lay your own foundation.  The better you understand functional anatomy, the better off you’ll be.  Functional anatomy can help you prevent injuries, get stronger, improve athletic performance, the works.  Make it a goal to learn anatomy inside and out and never stop learning.

Finally, you are your best guinea pig.  You absolutely must push yourself in the gym if you want your clients/athletes to respect you.  You don’t have to win bodybuilding shows or powerlifting meets, but if you aren’t working hard yourself, why should your clients or athletes listen to you?

KN: Great advice!  Thanks again for taking the time to do this.  As I’ve mentioned to you before, I think Building the Efficient Athlete (Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey) and the 2008 Indianapolis Performance Enhancement Seminar (Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman) DVDs are must-sees for anyone in the industry.  Where can readers go to find out more information about these and some of your products and services?

MR: No worries Kevin – I’m glad you liked it!

The best place to track me down is at my website, www.RobertsonTrainingSystems.com.  There you can find my blog, my articles, and of course my products.  I’m actually in the process of getting the site re-designed (again), and I think you’ll really like the new look and feel I’m bringing to the table.  Basically, I just want the design to be on par with the content I feel like I’m bringing to the table!

Again, thanks for having me Kevin and I hope you all enjoyed the interview!
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.

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!