Last week I wrote about a special opportunity for a young coach (or two) to gain a lot of quality experience working with the full spectrum of hockey players (See: Strength and Conditioning Internship), and have since gotten a lot of interest. In fact, one position has already been filled, so there’s only one left!

As a follow-up, I asked Matt Siniscalchi to write a quick post sharing his story and experience with you. Matt has a great story because he has quickly evolved from an inexperienced student to one of the best coaches I’ve ever had an opportunity to work with. Not only can he effectively teach all of the 800+ exercises we’ve filmed for the Ultimate Hockey Training Insider Section, but he can effectively communicate to everyone that walks through our doors, from young kids to elite athletes to our general population clients. He can also perform assessments, movement-based screening, and performance testing and understand how all of these variables need to be integrated into a well-designed training program for athletes/clients at different ages and with different training goals. He’s been able to make this ascension because he’s put in a TON of time gaining coaching experience and is constantly working to attain new information (note that he’s not doing one at the exclusion of the other), not just because he’s passionate about the field, but because he sincerely cares about the people he works with.  Simply, he epitomizes everything we look for in a GREAT coach.

He’s also revolutionizing the training apparel industry!
 Without further adieu…

The Intern Ascension

It was around this time in 2010 that I reached out to Kevin Neeld on Facebook to see if he’d allow me to observe for 20 hours at Endeavor Sports Performance, which was required for a class I was taking at Rowan University. After 20 observation hours, I was lucky enough to be considered for an internship, and fast forward four more years I’m now a coach at Endeavor, and have had a ton of opportunities to grow through sharing ideas with the staff, continuing education courses, books, and most importantly, coaching hours.

Currently, sports performance and training in general is in an exciting period.  There is a ton of useful information that you can find on the “inter-webz,” at seminars, in webinars, and countless membership websites.  I wish I had known about some of these resources while I was in college or did a better job of searching for them because I would have been ahead of the curve (maybe)!  Heck, since coaching I have learned a lot from those websites and courses with regard to assessments, corrective exercise, energy systems, periodization, and how to implement them to make successful programs.  However, the most important part that anyone in this business can (in my opinion) do is spend time watching great coaches coach, take notes, ask questions, and then get in there and coach people to the best of your ability.

If you have the privilege to intern at a sports performance facility/program, these are “the big rocks” that one should come in with and/or know by the time you finish…

#1 You’re going to fail – It’s OK, it’s how you and I get better

We all make mistakes, not one person is perfect with regards to anything in the training industry. That should be a huge relief because there were times when I’d be dripping sweat coaching groups (even as small as 4!) because I’d have no idea what was the best cue on a lift or the most efficient way to handle the group. They would be conditioning (the end of the session for that day) and I’d think to myself “what the hell did I just do?”

#2 Coach, Coach, Coach

 Yes, you’re going to fail; it’s OK, but you’ll only get better if you coach.  You could know periodization, physiology, and be able to name the latest research on (insert topic here), but if you can’t coach an athlete to perform the fundamental movements what good is that?  It doesn’t matter what you know; it matters what you can coach. Coaching should be why you wanted to be in this industry in the first place.  Caring for individuals comes first; all that other stuff is important but coaching and caring should be at the forefront.  If you care, you will read, continually educate, and try to become better as a coach along the way, not for your own sake, but to help get your clients better results.

#3 Build Relationships

When you start coaching quite a bit you start to get a sense of what people like, dislike, etc…It also makes you realize that some people are coming to you for guidance, motivation, and the opportunity to obtain a goal.  Some may come to your facility because their parents force them while others see it as a means to get away from other stressors.  Don’t always think that people are coming there because they want to, so when you get the opportunity to see them say hello and ask how things are and know that you can make their day slightly better than what it was when they walked in!

#4 Less is almost always better

Whether its cuing athletes in sprint work, during lifts, or designing programs I have learned that the less I do with regards to exercise selection the better the athletes typically get. Doing less doesn’t mean being lazy but instead optimizing the training program by mastering the basics.  Fundamentals of training are, well, fundamental (Courtesy of Dan John).  Every elite athlete in the world is elite because they mastered the fundamental skills of their sport to a very high degree. Take soccer for example, elite is being able to master 1 and 2 touch passing but before you are able to do that one needs to simply practice passing as much as possible! Check out the video below of what I mean by mastering the fundamentals of passing.

Getting stronger, faster, powerful, and having good endurance are skills that take time and patience to develop, but the process starts by mastering basic movement patterns and training habits.

#5 Attention to Details

Parents and athletes alike don’t typically understand why they are doing a certain movement or how it benefits them.  As a coach it is important for us to spot compensations, educate the client, and teach them why we may choose one method of training over another in to get the desired training effect.  Training is a process that shouldn’t be rushed for the sake of making the session difficult simply to please the athlete.  Give them what they need so that the athlete gets the results they want.  We can accomplish that by educating them and paying attention to details along the way.

#6 If you can teach a young athlete, then you can probably teach anyone

If you try to fix everything at once, most likely you won’t fix anything at all.  With regard to movement, coaching should address the biggest flaws in movement.  I always tend to think that if we can get the young, least coordinated athletes to move well, then coaching the more experienced athletes will be a breeze. The best way to learn to become a great coach isn’t to work with the highest level athletes; it’s teaching young, inexperienced kids to do things really well.

#7 Ask Questions, Carry a Journal, and Read

Don’t be afraid to ask questions all the time.  It makes us better as coaches and increases your chances of understanding concepts. A journal can be your best friend because you can write down your thoughts, questions, and concerns with what you saw that day.  At night or during breaks try and read as much as you can.  Reading 30-60 minutes a day is significantly important because if you add up all those hours in the course of a year you will certainly have a better grasp on whatever topic it is you read!

The above seven tips are what I feel are essential to many coaches because it has helped mold me into the coach I am today.  I have had the opportunity to create a blog of my own, attend seminars, meet caring coaches, and work with other great coaches who help me each day (thanks Kevin, Matt Sees, and Miguel Aragoncillo).  The opportunity has given me confidence to coach large or small groups, all with athletes who have individualized training programs. I’ve also been able to progress from just coaching to being able to perform assessments and write programs for a wide range of clients. Most importantly, I continue to log a lot of great coaching hours. This, in addition to reading every day, watching DVD’s, and talking with other strength coaches has provided me with more opportunities than I ever thought possible considering I could barely coach a group within the first couple months of interning!  Remember it’s all about the road (journey), not the inn (final destination).

-Matt Siniscalchi

Great reminders from Matt on not only how we can all get better as coaches, but important things to remember about the dynamic of working with people. Before we wrap up, I just wanted to follow up on my post from yesterday (See: Johnny Hockey, Off-Season Training, Hockey Training Seminar?), and gauge your interest in attending a 1- or 2-day seminar in the early Fall that discusses my system for off-ice training for youth hockey players that would be geared toward youth coaches and parents to help bridge the gap between what high level hockey S&C coaches are doing with their players and what is common practice at the youth level. I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll do it at all and if I do, exactly what I’ll talk about. With that in mind, I’d like to hear from you! I’ve gotten a favorable response so far, but I’d appreciate if you could do me a quick favor and drop a note in the comments section below about whether you’d be interested in attending a hockey-specific seminar that I run, how many days you’d prefer it to be (1 or 2), and what topics you’d be interested in hearing about.

Thanks in advance!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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With another season of internships wrapping up at Endeavor, I thought it’d be appropriate to outline a few things that all interns should be aware of.

1&2) Show up early. Stay late. This is probably the easiest way for an intern in any industry to make an impression. One of our Summer interns regularly stuck around for 13 hour days just because he liked being there. Not surprisingly, we asked him to start doing some part-time work with us in the Fall. Dedication goes a long way.

3) Don’t get too comfortable. This is a mistake I’ve made in the past. Depending on the internship, you may be surrounded by people around your own age (including your “superiors”). It’s okay to joke around every now and then, but certain topics about your extra curricular activities probably shouldn’t be brought up ever and a certain comfortable/familiar tone you should avoid using with your superiors.

4) Study your superiors. I use superior due to lack of a better term. In our industry, almost everyone has a blog. At Endeavor, I have my site, I write for Endeavor, and David Lasnier has his site. Our interns also know that both David and I read Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, and Carson Boddicker’s sites on a regular basis (amongst others). Make it a habit to read everything your superiors write and try to follow along with the people that they’re reading too.

5) Try new exercises. If something isn’t familiar to you, try it. Become proficient at it. You need to be able to demonstrate every exercise to coach it anyway and actively jumping in to try an exercise shows you’re interested in learning.

6) Ask well thought out questions. One of my favorite things is when an intern says something along the lines of, “I was reading the book you let me borrow; I have a question about…”. Doing outside reading shows they’re passionate about the field and getting better. Asking questions shows they aren’t glazing over the text, but really trying to critically analyze everything. This can also be applied to questions you have about the purpose of certain exercises and/or why they’re included in certain parts of the program.

7) Ask for feedback. Feedback about your performance will make you better. This is true in any industry. If you don’t ask for feedback you may not get it. It’s important to learn what your strong and weak parts are so you know how to improve in the future.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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David Lasnier recently made the trek down from Quebec (in the middle of a snow storm) to start an internship with me at Endeavor Fitness. Aside from how to taunt the Endeavor staff following a Canadian sweep over the Americans at the Olympics, David has learned a lot of valuable lessons since he’s come to Endeavor. Check it out below!

From David:

“Four weeks ago, I started an internship at Endeavor Fitness in New Jersey under Kevin Neeld.  To give you a little background on who I am, I would say that I graduated from College in 2006 with a major in kinesiology, I have been working in a commercial gym for the past 3 years in Quebec, where I am from and I am French speaking.  Since graduating from College 4 years ago, I have done my best to keep up with continuing education; buying books, attending seminars, searching the internet for interesting articles and chatting with other strength coaches and personal trainers around me.

Making the move down to New Jersey was probably one of the best move I could ever do for my career; first, because the environment at Endeavor is much better than in any commercial gyms out there and, also because I am working with great strength coaches who are very brilliant and know a lot.  I have only been here for 4 weeks and I can honestly say that I already learned a lot on strength and conditioning and on other things as well.  Here are some of the things I learned in the last four weeks.

– I already knew this before, but it really struck me hard in the last few weeks; the more learn, the more you realize you know very little. I hate to admit it because I am the kind of guy who wants to know everything, but you really need to be modest in this field and admit that you will never know everything.  If you think you know everything, this is a big mistake and you are the ones who probably know the least.  Why? Simply because when you think you know everything you stop learning, you are not aware of what’s changing and the new trends in your field.  Let’s face it, we are in a field that is constantly changing and you simply can’t assume you know everything you need to be a good coach or trainer.

– Short muscle vs stiff muscle.  I actually thought I knew the difference between the two, but I actually didn’t.  A muscle that is short simply doesn’t have the range of motion as compared to a muscle that is stiff has the range of motion, but has a hard time achieving that same range of motion. A good example would be 2 athletes who don’t appear to have the necessary range of motion to squat when you ask them to squat with their body weight only.  But when you load them with a barbell on their back with let’s say 185 pounds, the athlete who’s muscles are stiff will be able to achieve the full range of motion compared to the one who’s muscles are short just won’t be able to achieve it.

– On a related note, I realized that sometimes we (at least for me) focus too much on muscles instead of movements when trying to improve flexibility or range of motion.  When training athletes you need to realize that they need most is a better range of motion on athletic movements like sprinting, lunging and squatting and not only better isolated flexibility in their Tensor Fasciae Latae(one of the hip flexors), for example.  Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that you shouldn’t stretch the TFL, but maybe spend more time working on their hip flexion/hip extension range of motion.

– This has nothing to do with strength and conditioning, but Archer is a great TV show! It is so hilarious I can watch the same episodes over and over again. This is by far the thing I enjoy the most on American television!

– Deadlifts can solve shoulder problems! Before coming to Endeavor, I haven’t been deadlifting in probably 3-4 months.  Not because I hated them (actually I love deadlifts), but because I was playing hockey and flag football 2-3 times a week, and I didn’t want my performances on the ice or the on the field to be affected. At the same time I was also focusing on increasing my front squat numbers, so it turned out I left the deadlift aside for a while.  I began dealing with some posterior shoulder pain on my left side at the beginning of the month of January.  I then started to look at it more closely and tried a lot of different approach to solve the problem; more stretching, more thoracic spine mobility, more soft tissue work, more scapular stability work, you name it.  But nothing was helping get rid of that shoulder pain that was getting pretty irritating.  Then I came to Endeavor, started to deadlift a lot (twice a week as an average) and noticed my posture was getting better by doing so.  And all of a sudden, no more shoulder pain!  Then it struck me; my upper back and spinal erectors muscles got stronger which improved my posture and led to a more upright standing position, which put less stress on my rotator cuff muscles.

– On another non strength and conditioning related note, I like that I can blame the fact that I am French for pretty much everything I don’t understand or whenever I make a mistake!

– People in New Jersey go totally crazy when there’s snow falling down! No, but seriously I really like the fact that there is not a lot of snow here (compared to what I’ve seen in Quebec) and that the temperature is a lot more comfortable during winter.

I have only been here for four weeks and I already learned a lot on strength and conditioning as well as general  American culture; which I already love!”

Thanks David!

For the current and future interns out there, you should also check out these two great posts from Eric Cressey:

Top 10 Mistakes Intern Applicants Make: Part 1

Top 10 Mistakes Intern Applicants Make: Part 2

Kevin Neeld

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