There is a great quote which I have read from one of the forefathers of the strength and conditioning industry, Vern Gambetta, where he states “You don’t enlist in the army as the General”; in reference to, you have to pay your dues and do your time. This is a fantastic analogy which holds a great deal of merit. Most people who end up this field have taken a strong interest in human performance from either being an athlete themselves, or they are passionate about coaching and seeing athletes improve. But like any occupation, you need someone there, a mentor, to guide you along the way. I cannot say that I have explicitly had this in the complete sense, while my interest grew in improving athletic performance. Partly due to my ongoing participation in athletics and also due to the fact that it is tough to find good mentors.
When I completed my Physical Education degree I had three fantastic mentor teachers, Grant, Bruce and Warren, and they helped shaped the early stages of my career in an extremely positive way. I truly thank them for this. Through my own participation in track and field, two of my previous coaches probably inadvertently became mentors while also teaching me about the event(s) along the way. Their coaching styles and philosophies, some which I agree with and others which I do not, have definitely made an impact on how I see myself as a coach. And, like any good coach, I have taken what I thought would work best for my own coaching and attempted to impose these on the athletes I am working with.
Over the past six years, after completing a graduate degree and doing various certifications, I have been fortunate enough to have developed strong relationships with a few like-minded people who are passionate about sports performance. Without specifically working under their tutelage, we are constantly discussing the ins-and-outs of various issues relating to strength training, technology, dashboards, past performances, recovery modalities, therapy, biomechanics, giving feedback and everything in between. Some of this takes place in person, while at other times it is over the phone or email; but I think the dialogue is vital. It has given me the opportunity to receive affirmation in regards specific training methods I have introduced but I think more importantly, it has provided me with a sounding-board and allows me to recognise that I do not need to know everything and there is always more to learn from those who have been there and done it.
With the wealth of information on the internet, I have continued to develop my own thoughts and philosophies on strength and conditioning through a select few inadvertent-mentors. Dan Pfaff, Mike Boyle, Mike Young, Dave Tenney and Mladen Jovanovic have been highly influential in the way I structure my thoughts and practices around training. Aside from Mladen, I have never met these world-renowned coaches; yet due to availability of information on the net, I feel like I know these coaches well. In Australia, we have fantastic strength & conditioning coaches who contribute a lot to the local and international industry, but the level of information which comes out of North America is just greater (not always a good thing:), yet not superior in any way to the knowledge and applied practice in Australia. The times I have been fortunate enough to sit down with a few Aussie coaches working in elite sport I have found them to be overwhelmingly helpful and accommodating to the cause of younger coaches. I use the term inadvertent-mentor as these coaches are unknowingly, yet fortunately, contributing to my professional development as a coach by giving website interviews, posting links or photos on twitter, or filming their practice sessions. This type of information is liquid gold for those not at the coalface with elite or professional athletes.
The world of strength and conditioning is a small but ever-expanding fraternity of men and women. I hope everyone continues to be a mentor or a sounding-board for those coming through the ranks. There are no secrets ingredients to training; just different recipes and cooking methods. Although only in my coaching infancy, I know it is not an exact science and I will continue to develop my craft. Thanks to those who have contributed to my development to date. Good luck on your journey!