• From the Field with John Bennett
    Lieutenant John R. Bennett, MS, EMT-P, CSCS, is the Tactical Fitness and Readiness Program Coordinator for Seminole County Fire Department. He is the Chair of the Central Florida Firefighter Fitness Collaborative where they are advocating agency-to-agency co-ops and focusing on advancing a clear framework for running a readiness program. Bennett also instructs biomechanics, exercise physiology, and internships at the University of Central Florida.
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  • From the Field BannerFrom the Field | John BennettLieutenant John R. Bennett, MS, EMT-P, CSCSJohn Bennett is the Tactical Fitness and Readiness Program Coordinator for Seminole County Fire Department. He is the Chair of the Central Florida Firefighter Fitness Collaborative where they are advocating agency-to-agency co-ops and focusing on advancing a clear framework for running a readiness program. Bennett also instructs biomechanics, exercise physiology, and internships at the University of Central Florida..
     
    Connect with Lt. Bennett!  facebook   |   Seminole County Training

    1. What tactical population do you currently work with?
    I primarily work with firefighters, with some diversion in military and law enforcement.

    2. How did you get started in the TSAC (Tactical Strength and Conditioning) field?  
    I finished my Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology while working for a fire department. Then the agency formalized its wellness program, including creating a specific panel and using a basic foundation of training with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) partnered Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) course. I took this as a supplement from my outside role in sports performance, and have since segued into this as a primary focus. 
     
    3. What resources do you utilize for continuing education? Are there any resources your recommend staying away from? 
    Formally, we have the fortune of a strong system of qualified individuals and have been able, for budgetary reasons, to maintain an in-house CEU program. This has grown to encompass working with other agencies. Additionally, research, publications, and conference presentations are where I have supplemented my own credit hours. Informally, I like to stay abreast of trends and what’s hot “in the street” that may not yet be formal—including sports shop free clinics, shaking hands at multiple fitness facilities, keeping up with colleagues at universities, and networking with other organizations and institutions. Most of all, I keep up with what the crews, law enforcement officers, and military personnel are doing in their own time.  
     
    To be contradictory: In-house CEU programs. They work well to keep costs down and are good occasionally for quality control, but overall I feel the model is limiting and does not encourage maximal growth. For those who may be a bit fresher, some of those shop clinics and networking sessions could be misleading. I try not to knock anybody’s philosophies, but I remain aware of those items which are not sound or may yet be theoretical. Nonetheless, I remain cognizant that some of the best science has come from what was once anecdotal.. 

    4. If you where hiring someone in your field, what would you look for?   
    “Teachability”—to me, this encompasses everything. Not a “yes-man” who will become a minion of mine, but rather someone who has inquisitiveness with thought, humility with confidence, open-mindedness with assuredness. A teachable individual will be motivated, positive, and constantly ambitious to continually contribute to themselves, their program, and their athletes.
     
    5. Please describe the regular duties included in your position?  
    As a program coordinator, my position involves a lot of management and oversight of personnel and the program. If I could condense it down: I would say I am an “idea man” as well as a manager and organizer of ideas and projects who also provides feedback and guidance for the best outcomes. Broken down, my job tasks basically look like this: 
    Support
    • Funnel for management and administration
    • Provide resources to team
    • Advocate for team and personnel
    Communication
    • Mediate tasks between various coordinators (testing, programs, community, etc)
    • Coordinate benchmark dates on template annual calendar for all programs
    • Verify and validate individual coordinator implementation
    Standards
    • Uphold instructor requirements and accountability
    • Program standards and parameters
    • Monitor and identify program gaps, inefficiencies, and needs
    • Compose recommendations for structure, programs, and ideas
    Training
    • Identify and prepare for recruitment and new instructor training
    • Ongoing education, training, and certification planning
    Other Roles
    • Act as Interagency Liaison (currently Interagency Collaborative Chair)
    • Assume responsibility for any coordinator positions or tasks not fulfilled
    I also have held onto my role as a strength and conditioning coordinator, and currently oversee equipment management for the time being—both of which have their own (more objective) job responsibilities.

     
    6. What are the two most important things you have learned; that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?    
    1) Not everything can be systemized. It is a great start and a great way to get the basics, but that is not how things flow. Even with revolutionary perspectives, a box only goes so far; science needs art to properly work.

    2) Leaving countless doors open and diversifying is not as beneficial as it may seem. I was afraid to get pigeonholed in one area; I wanted to be able to shift or diversify at any time and to be marketable. My mentor, Dr. Nancy Cummings, once told me that once you know this field you can train anybody—anybody. I heard it then, but now I understand. Caveats aside, I have also begun to understand you can slide into any number of roles in the field as well.

    So, I say specialize; the more specialized you are, the more diverse you become.

    7. What recommendations would you give someone who is looking to start a career in TSAC?      
    Sacrifice the time for hands-on experience. Education, conferences, and books are great, but nothing beats actually doing the job. Even if you have to move and work for free, do everything you have to do to get a solid 6 - 12 months of heavy hands-on real work. It does not even have to be with a tactical population. One thing about the University of Central Florida (UCF) students I mentor that stands out is a required 480 hours of experience. It makes all of the difference in the world, regardless of the field. When doing that, do not forget your books and education.
     
    8. What do you believe are the top three physical requirements for this population that must be addressed in a proper TSAC program? 
    1. Metabolics:
    a) The 800-meter runner compromise: You cannot be a sprinter or a distance runner. Not only does a well-rounded firefighter have to be able to shift muscle groups, but they must be able to do so all in the same event.
    b) Appropriate metabolics: Many firefighter programs simply mimic military or law enforcement training. It will definitely help get the firefighter moving in the right direction, but the metabolic needs analysis shows three totally different work to rest ratios, time spans, repeatability, etc. between the three main tactical occupations.
    2. Movement: Posterior chain, rotational, strengthening, and fatigue resistance.
    3. Mental fatigue adaptation: Despite being controversial, the military has thrived on this while the fire service lacks it the most.
     
    9. What steps do you go through when writing a program for the population you work with?     
    I’m a Bompa, Daniels, Gambetta, etc. believer—work backwards. To do that, the first thing is to find out the time frame: How long do you have with the individual/group? From there, purpose of the program, desired benchmarks (if any), purpose of the phases (each week for short programs), primary/secondary days, and then the programs should be determined and designed. 

    Constant considerations/adjustments must occur during the plan, including: Other daily training (especially new recruit classes), metabolic and movement analysis that may vary for the goal, alternating strength/conditioning/cyclical cardio impacts, and alternating body area focus/rest. Sometimes it is also necessary to go all the way back to the basis of the group and programming. The goal is not to set Olympic records; it is to make the tactical athletes stronger, healthier, and more adept in a safe way. injury. 

    10. What are some critical factors in getting tactical athletes to buy into a strength and conditioning program? 
    The key for buy-in is response. With the non-athletic populations or the gym pump populations, from the 18 year-old new recruit to the 58 year-old traditionalist, they are not open to many of the “tactical” or “industrial” ways of training. Unless they played a sport with a modernized coach, most of them still find exercises and programming silly or associate little face-value to them. 

    But if you can get them to put work into the neuromuscular period, not only will they begin to buy-in, but most will begin to like it. Another way to get athletes to buy-in to your program is being willing to adjust. Do not expect 500 different clients to bend to you. Use a system so you do not recreate the same program every single time you write a new one. You have to be flexible: You may have a style and some specific philosophies, but if you ask them to change or try something new, maybe you should also try something new as well.
     
  • 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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