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.
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.
#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).
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,
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Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.