• From the Field with Suzie Snyder
    Suzie Snyder, MEd, CSCS, works with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. She is a professional off-road triathlete on the Luna Pro Team and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
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  • From the Field BannerFrom the Field | Suzie SnyderSuzie Snyder, MS, CSCS, USAT-1    Suzie Snyder, MEd, CSCS, works with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. She is a professional off-road triathlete on the Luna Pro Team and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). She earned her Master’s degree from Springfield College in Exercise Science and has been working with law enforcement and military tactical athletes for the past seven years. 

    Snyder is also a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach and has experience coaching cyclists, triathletes, and collegiate and youth athletes. In addition to coaching, Snyder is also passionate about educating endurance athletes and female athletes on the importance and fundamentals of maintaining a proper strength training program.

    1. What tactical population do you currently work with?

    I work with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), a full-time counter-terrorism tactical team. First and foremost, HRT operators are FBI special agents whose job is to protect America from terrorist attacks. These individuals are highly qualified, motivated, and trained to respond to the most complex and urgent situations requiring tactical operations.

    2. How did you get started in the TSAC (Tactical Strength and Conditioning) field?

    I got started in the TSAC field as an intern at the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) finishing my Master’s degree. Mark Stephenson and Thor Eells had started working together to revamp the Colorado Springs SWAT Team’s PT standards prior to my arrival at the NSCA. As soon as I learned about the program and began working with the officers, I was hooked. I loved the idea of improving the standard of our law enforcement professionals in order to better prepare them for the duties that their jobs required. 

    It allowed me to apply the education I had received that was directed toward improving sport performance and transfer it to people that gave performance a deeper, real-life meaning. I also enjoyed the challenge of creating a balanced program that meets the demands of an officer/operator but still allows that officer to do his job effectively.

    3. What resources do you utilize for continuing education? Are there any sources you recommend staying away from?

    My first and primary resources for continuing education are the NSCA conferences. I look forward to the TSAC Conference each year because it is a great chance to learn some new tricks from highly qualified professionals and talk shop with like-minded people. I also enjoy seeing old friends and colleagues, as well as networking with people who oftentimes become new friends. Some other resources I use on a daily basis are Athlete’s Performance Institute, Gray Cook, Eric Cressey, Human Kinetics, as well as some mail order home study courses.

    I typically stay away from any source that is not based on exercise physiology/exercise science and athletic performance. While many of the popular workout fads are difficult, competitive, and people love to hate them, many are not periodized and can be dangerous if not modified according to individual needs.  

    4. If you where hiring someone in your field, what would you look for?
    If I were hiring someone for a TSAC position, I would look for an individual who holds an NSCA CSCS® and has experience coaching athletes or working with military or law enforcement officers in some capacity. Any strength and conditioning professional with the knowledge and passion for improving athletic performance in sports would certainly value the importance of proper strength and conditioning for tactical athletes and be able to apply the same principles into the tactical arena.. 

    5. Please describe the regular duties included in your position?

    My primary duty is to create and lead the strength and conditioning program for the group of agents in the New Operator Training phase. I evaluate and test the new operators, create a periodized program, and then have ninety minutes each day to lead them through it. In addition, I do the same for the current operators, with the difference being that they have the choice whether or not they want to participate in any or all of the options I offer.

    6. What are the two most important things you have learned; that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
    The first thing I wish I knew when starting out is that some athletes, even those at the top of their sport are not as motivated or hard working as I expect them to be. I hold high standards for my athletes and I would get frustrated when they did not give the level of effort that I expected. I still hold high standards but have relaxed my expectations, to some degree. Especially in my current role, I try to keep in mind that they are performing physically demanding tasks in addition to their PT and have to be able to sustain a balance of the two demands.

    The second most important thing is to keep up with continuing education on a regular basis. The old saying “use it or lose it” is so true when it comes to your knowledge; it is so easy to get wrapped up in writing programs, collecting test data and prescribing exercises that you forget to review the basics like anatomy and physiology. Also, I wish I had expanded my formal education into physical therapy or athletic training in order to be more knowledgeable in dealing with injuries and rehabilitation concerns when necessary.

    7. What recommendations would you give someone who is looking to start a career in TSAC?
    Network! Many strength and conditioning professionals work with a variety of athletes and populations and have a wide network of colleagues. Attend different conferences and meet new people; many positions are filled because of personal connections rather than qualification.  
    Second, learn from professionals who work with different populations and related fields such as physical therapy, athletic training, massage therapy, yoga, pilates, etc. and then use and adapt that knowledge with your own athletes.

    8. What do you believe are the top three physical requirements for this population that must be addressed in a proper TSAC program?

    1) Operators are faced with physically demanding tasks that could easily result in injury (both acute and chronic) if the body is not capable of withstanding those demands; thus, injury prevention is a major component of a proper TSAC program. Injury prevention exercises include simple neuromuscular exercises to teach and learn proper movement patterns and muscle recruitment as well as core stability, joint stability, joint mobility, and total body flexibility exercises and movements.

    2) Plyometrics and strength training are always incorporated into TSAC programs because they serve two purposes. The first is for the muscular strength and power adaptations necessary for getting to where an operator needs to go under load and under variable conditions. Secondly, plyometrics are especially important for strengthening connective tissues in order to sustain high impact landings and heavy loads.

    3) The primary tasks of an operator are to shoot, move, and communicate. In order to do these three things, aerobic and anaerobic endurance are very important. The ability to move to the target quickly and then be able to communicate and shoot are largely dependent upon the operator’s fitness level and ability to recover quickly. Interval and agility training are the primary methods of training these physical attributes.

    9. What steps do you go through when writing a program for the population you work with?
    When writing a program, I first consider the focus of the previous phase of the program and then the highest priority or most demanding tasks my athletes will face in the next phase of their operational cycle. I consider the adaptation I want to elicit and then whether I want to follow linear or nonlinear periodization schemes, what time of year/season we are in, and the space and equipment at my disposal.  
    Without a large indoor training space I have to get creative when training speed, agility, and energy system development during the very cold and very hot months.

    10. What are some critical factors in getting tactical athletes to buy into a strength and conditioning program?

    Make it challenging; operators will feel like they are wasting their time if they feel like they have not gotten a good workout. Competition and/or working in a group are also factors that keep athletes consistent on the program. Gaining respect as a coach and/or as an athlete yourself is also important in getting buy-in because operators want to see that you are capable of doing what you are asking them to do. Also showing them that you care about them both as people AND as athletes is a great way to get respect and create meaningful programs. 
  • 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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