"It’s a long road ahead” This phrase will never leave me. One of the most humble of mentors I have had– Tom Clough, said this to me at Bradford Bulls in 2011, and I totally agree.
In 2011, I shook hands with the Head of S&C at the Bulls camp, welcomed on board and I was understandably over the moon.
“This is it – my chance to graft and work under a Pro banner”.
However before I knew it, I was out the front door again.
“What did I do wrong?”
My motivation behind this blog is to let you all into my professional life to date. I want to let you in on where I went wrong, the ‘blessings in disguise’ and hopefully you can either relate to my journey or take advice from it.
In 2007, I was playing pro rugby league at Warrington Wolves, after 3 years of hard graft and dedication. I was still at school, and loving life. What’s not to love? I would go to a few lessons, train at school, train at the club and play at weekends in front of our supporters.
“I’ve made it!” I thought
Then came the injury. Within the timeframe of that summer, I had lost my playing contract, my shirt and my boyhood’s dream. I had gone under the knife and now I was facing a new start at University in Leeds. I went to Leeds Trinity and All Saints (TASC)– formerly a College that was linked (somehow – I never knew) to Leeds Uni. Therefore, it was not the ideal of institutions for higher education.
I went through a pretty dark patch following that summer and the majority of my first year was spent looking at the bottom of an empty glass that had previously held something alcoholic. By no means did I have a problem, but compared to the athlete I was, this was a noticeable shift in character. I started playing rugby again alongside my studies. My motivations soon came back as we were doing well on the pitch. I then started to focus and take lectures and my course: Sport, Health, Exercise & Nutrition (SHEN) more seriously.
One of the first introductions into S&C was when one of our lecturers – Aled Rowlands, used the rugby league team as his test group for his PhD. Although I had followed an S&C programme at Warrington, I had never been ‘on the other side of the fence’. I found it interesting, even though I didn’t understand any of it.
Aled and another of my lecturers – Phil McDonald soon became good friends alongside being brilliant lecturers. I loved their passion for their subject and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I knew I had so much to learn but I took everything a step at a time. Phil was the one who first spoke about the UK Strength & Conditioning Association (UKSCA). From learning what was involved, I knew I hadn’t got any of the credentials nor experience to even think about trying. Not yet anyway.
I took full advantage of discounted Fitness Instructor and Personal Training (PT) courses whilst I was at Uni and I soon established myself and built a small client base in Harrogate.
I enjoyed working from a local gym with my 1-2-1 PT clients, but I enjoyed the Team orientated training more. I soon made links with the local rugby union team and became their Fitness Trainer. After a couple of months, I knew I had found my ideal career path.
Sometimes it’s not what you know – it’s who!
I won a grant for £1200 at Uni in front of a ‘mock’ Dragon’s Den Judge’s panel. One of those judges was a man called Jordan Dudley and he met with me after the event. We talked and he wanted to find out my true motivations for the future. I barely finished my sentence speaking about wanting to work in Pro rugby and I was soon stood in the car park at the Leeds Rhinos camp.
I was taken on board as an S&C intern. My direct mentor was Ben Jones PhD, a fantastic mentor and S&C Coach. I was pleased to read that Ben has won the UKSCA S&C Coach of the Year 2017.
It was now 2010 and I was now finishing my finals at Leeds, juggling a small client base in Harrogate, working in a bar and now working at Rhinos. I had to stretch myself this thin, firstly to make things meet and secondly, to feed my desire and passion to start my career.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out at Rhinos. I fully accepted their feedback and it was, as I had feared:
“You need more experience”
And that was that. I have always looked back positively as I managed to work with some fantastic S&C coaches, technical coaches and players alike. I was now more determined than ever.
This is it!
A year later, I was stood in the car park of Bradford Bulls camp and I had just been welcomed on board as an S&C coach for the U18’s & U20’s working underneath the Head of S&C – Tom Clough.
The last 12 months had seen me graduate, graft my arse off in the PT world by building up my client base, I had taken on board a member of staff (now he is my Co-Director of the PT business) and I was even setting up my own gym. A lot can happen in a year I guess!
I had also taken on board some roles and responsibilities as an S&C coach for the Scottish Exiles, which saw me working directly for the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU). I worked underneath a guy called Matt Wright who is head of performance at Teeside Uni. Again, another fantastic S&C coach whom I have been lucky to have met and worked with in my early stages of my career.
The 2011/12 season in Super League saw the crash of Bradford due to financial difficulties. Unfortunately I along with the rest of the coaching Team were then faced with 2 decisions; work for free or leave. I had no choice, and as soon as my journey at the club was looking hopeful, I left. I had a wife and a new business to support.
Where I am now
I have a Team of 3 PT’s working underneath our brand: Conditioned Training and we are fortunate enough to operate from our own private performance gym: The Fitness Rooms, where we have an additional 3 members of the Team.
Our vast client base who is welcomed through our doors range from 5yr – 65yr old. We focus on: their disabilities, health and wellbeing goals or even amateur and professional athletes working on their athletic performance. We also provide S&C support for a number of schools across Yorkshire. This I find very interesting, as it is not only sport specific demands needed from us but general age group support.
For example, every Tuesday, we drive into a school, set up and provide S&C support for a total of 60 kids, boys and girls with age ranging from 12-18yrs. We split into groups defined by their capabilities and goals: Mobility & Movement, Technique learning and High Performance.
I worked for the SRU for 5years where I worked up to the responsibility of Lead S&C for the Exiles and S&C Coordinator, which saw the constant juggle of 1800 athletes across the UK (excluding Scotland) needing access and continuation of their ever on going athletic performance.
I have just recently been welcomed on board for the Yorkshire Triathlon Academy and the British Triathlon - National Academy squads. This is for distance learning support for athletes whereby they can use me as either a port of call for help and improvements or for their on going S&C support and programming.
Please feel free to check us out:
Conditioned Training Ltd
The Fitness Rooms Ltd
Although I have not mentioned much about my professional academic progressions in S&C, apart from completing a vast array of the CPD courses and S&C workshops alike, I haven’t yet taken the UKSCA assessment day. I feel comfortable with how much I am doing and learning within the field and one day soon it will naturally happen. I am always discovering new refinements that I can make for my practical prescriptions and programme design.
One thing I have learnt from the past 7 years is not to force something that naturally requires time. I know I will achieve it and also enjoy the experience. I shall also have great pride in including 4 more letters after my name (ASCC) but I feel confident that the level I have got to through hard graft and from gaining vital experience has made me the coach I am today and there really is no rush. The future is bright!
The journey I have taken sometimes through choice and sometimes through necessity shows that either way, in the world of S&C you must be willing to graft, stick your neck out and learn and pick yourself off of the floor, dust yourself off and crack on. I hope by me sharing my journey in the world of S&C to date has helped you in some way.
You're probably already going through some ideas in your head, right? Tell me how you are or want to progress in the world of S&C in the comments. I'd love to help out!