• Coaches Corner with Christina Specos
    Christina Specos is in her third year as the Associate Director of Sports Performance for Purdue University, where she is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Mackey Arena facility. Specos also coordinates the Health and Kinesiology Department's undergraduate clinical student and internship curriculum.
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  • CoachesCornerBannerCoaches Corner | Christina Specos

    Christina Specos, CSCS

    Christina Specos holds a Bachelor's degree in Athletic Training, Master's degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and a certification in massage therapy. Now in her third year as the Associate Director of Sports Performance for Purdue University, she is responsible for the day to day operations of the Mackey Arena facility. 

    Specos is the Head Sports Performance coach directly responsible for yearlong programming and implementation of all strength and conditioning activities for the women's basketball and volleyball programs and oversees women's soccer and tennis. 

    She also coordinates the Health and Kinesiology Department's undergraduate clinical student and internship curriculum and practical experience for twenty students. Prior to her position at Purdue, she spent three years full-time in the private sector at Lightning Fast Training Systems in Pennsylvania and eight years at the prestigious Lawrenceville School in Princeton, NJ. 

    Specos also worked with Lightning Fast's National Football League (NFL) Combine Prep program and a private massage therapy practice working with some of the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) players.

    1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning?
    About 13 years.

    2. What is your training style/methods regarding training?
    Movement-based and Olympic-based.

    3. How has this training style/method evolved over the years?
    The core of what I do hasn’t changed much. Frankly, I think that’s the way it should be. Sport is movement and classic strength training principles don’t die. Everything else just adds more flavor and options to supplement it. I think the biggest evolution for me is incorporating more accommodating resistance and technology (like using Tendos and force plate numbers, as well as iPad video applications) to get better and better at what I do.

    4. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
    Primarily, a lot of people on the Perform Better Circuit back when I first entered the field in 2000, such as Duane Carlisle, Mike Boyle, and Mark Verstegen to name just a few. They each had their own “specialties” and “populations” they worked with, but always had a well-rounded approach with many comprehensive classic principles.

    5. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with?
    I start with a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and some performance testing and inquiring about an athlete’s personal/sport-specific goals. I like to combine both physical needs based upon testing and assessment data and athlete’s personal goals together to create a profile upon which to start. From there I assign corrective exercises to attack the deficiencies from the FMS and other restrictions I find. Typically regarding strength training in a team setting, I like to start with a template design when I program using a broad view of where I’d like the athletes to be and make adjustments down or up from there based upon whether they are a brand new incoming freshman, a returner, or an injured athlete.

    6. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning?
    Proper rest and recovery. Working in the collegiate setting, at times, you know you can only control so much. This is, and always will be, my toughest challenge. You can provide the best programming, periodization schemes, linear and lateral movement drills and progressions, and conditioning plans, but if the athlete doesn’t buy into the concepts of proper lifestyle habits (including nutrition, sleep, the avoidance of drugs and alcohol, and hydration), it doesn’t mean a thing; we will always fight an uphill battle with this.

    7. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field?
    I love conferences—not just for the educational sessions, but also for the informal meetings, networking, and brainstorming among other professionals. I feel that’s where you really can talk specifics and relate to others with the same specific struggles and situations. A lot of times lectures are great, but can be very general—so I enjoy conferences because I get the best of both worlds. At Purdue University, we bring in speakers and “experts” to show us their way of doing things. Having the ability to do that is so beneficial because we get to carve out a lot of time to really learn different concepts and tactics that others use and actually build a custom plan of attack to fit our needs and come away with something very applicable and immediately useful.

    8. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming?
    I believe that the exercises that are most specificity-based in a strength and conditioning program are those that mimic a sports movement in a training session. A lot of my coaches appreciate when we incorporate movement drills that specifically complement the movements their athletes perform on the court and on the field, especially in times when they are not playing. Of course we have our own protocol of how we teach and progress specific techniques, but adding competitive elements and visualization of what they are doing to how it relates to on-court and on-field play keeps it as specific as possible. In the weight room, strength exercises get “specific” bases upon the improvement of strength as the underpinning quality for improved movement. I’ll tend to progress my auxiliary movements by adding the different planes and angles they have to pass through and be strong in.

    9. What is your favorite tool in your toolbox?
    It’s really hard for me to pick one tool. I’ve explored so many areas and complimentary methods of training that my favorite challenge is trying to blend them all together. If I had to pick one thing though, I’d have to say, I’m proud of all of the Pilates training I went through in the past and now it’s one of my favorite tools to use. My athletes absolutely love it when we do a Pilates class during times like the pre-season, when they mentally and physically need a break from practicing and lifting but still want to work hard, and be challenged (in a different way) while still working on flexibility. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I love using accommodating resistance and Tendo units. My athletes love letting the Tendos tell them what they are doing and letting it challenge them.

    10. What are your five favorite exercises?
    My favorites have to be the classics: clean, snatch, squat, bench, and RDL. They’ll never die and probably give the biggest bang for the buck.

    11. What advice would you give to young coaches who are just starting their careers and want to follow in your footsteps?
    I would advise a young coach entering the profession on a few things. First, take initiative and persevere. Show your co-workers and boss that you are in it for the long haul with a positive attitude and the willingness to be ready at all times. Do your best always, as good things will come in time to those who work hard. Second, work hard and get the job done, but strike a balance to have some downtime and a fulfilling life outside of work. Coaching requires long hours and can be all-encompassing sometimes. It's easy to get wrapped up in work and neglect yourself, which will only last so long before you need to take care of your own needs, otherwise you will burn out. Next, network, network, network (and share ideas). Being hungry and, above all, humble will allow you to openly collaborate with others and grow to be the best coach you can be. Last, have fun! Your athletes will appreciate all of your efforts to challenge them but know when to be hard and when to be lighthearted. A job shouldn’t be a burden, but rather, a fun journey along which you learn, grow, and impact others.
  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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