NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 88: Ryan Metzger

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Ryan Metzger, CSCS
Coaching Podcast October 2020

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Ryan Metzger, Senior Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for Clemson University, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about their internship program going virtual amidst the pandemic to provide young strength coaches the education they need to grow despite the lack of in-person training. Topics of discussion also include early sport specialization and burnout, as well as being a role model for female athletes.

Find Ryan on Instagram: @clemsonolystrength or @coach_metz | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“An intern at Clemson, our program is going to be very demanding. We expect a lot out of our interns, not only time commitment on the floor, working with athletes, but what we're asking them to do outside of the weight room and outside of time with us.” 19:02

“So as a strength coach, you're not just someone barking at somebody or counting reps or whatever it is. It goes beyond that. You're often a teacher and a leader to your athletes…” 28:05

“Athletes are people, and they have real challenges, concerns, problems, good days, bad days. So are the coaches. So there's always that overlap. There's always that conversation, and you know, it's sort of that triage.” 35:20

“There's so many times that your conversations with your athletes are going to go beyond “All right, you've got another set coming up”. So like you said, just thinking holistically of the person first before the athlete.” 36:10

Transcript

[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:00.81] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 88.

[00:00:05.22] As a strength coach, you're not just someone barking at somebody or counting reps or whatever it is. It goes beyond that. You're often a teacher and a leader to your athletes.

[00:00:19.56] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:30.55] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon, your host, and today we have a guest, Ryan Metzker. She is the Senior Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for Clemson University. She also oversees the internship program for that strength and conditioning department. She works with women's soccer and the new softball program at Clemson University. Ryan, welcome.

[00:00:54.84] Thank you. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:56.86] I love meeting new people in the field, and I think we had a meeting a few months back when I got on with your staff, and we were talking about virtual internships--

[00:01:08.04] Yes

[00:01:08.37] --which was--

[00:01:08.91] That was back in May. Back in May.

[00:01:10.89] It seems so long ago now with the quarantine and everything going on, but it was such a-- I mean, I'd never heard of a virtual internship before, and I think sometimes when we think of internships, we think of the hands-on component of what an internship is and that being really the most important takeaway, and that's sort of been ingrained in us that we get our training, we get our education, and then we go and get that hands-on portion in our internship. But now, with a virtual internship, that's really one of the reasons why I wanted to get you on this podcast just to talk about that a little bit. But before we start, I just would like you to take us through your background as an athlete, as a coach, and just kind of bring us up to now.

[00:01:58.83] Yeah. So as an athlete, I grew up as a gymnast. I have done gymnastics since I was probably five. My mom introduced me to it as a little kid, so I competed all through high school as a gymnast.

[00:02:13.62] I actually did one year of track where I pole vaulted as well, so that was an experience. I don't think we talked about that. I didn't throw that in there.

[00:02:23.70] After my high school career with gymnastics, I pursued gymnastics in college as well, so I did my undergrad at Wisconsin Oshkosh, just a small D3 school up in Wisconsin. I got my bachelor's in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a minor in Strength and Conditioning, while also being the four-year collegiate athlete there. To finish up my undergrad, I needed to complete an internship, and I was already doing one with my undergrad, working with football only at the university, which was a really cool experience, my first experience in the weight room really trying to be the coach but also coaching all these male athletes, which was awesome. But we had to do one that was outside of the university, so I went to the University of Kentucky for a summer internship down there.

[00:03:16.39] And when I was there, you know, my gymnastics career had kind of ended. I was still-- still had that competitiveness in me. I think you don't ever lose that if that's your personality type. So when I got there, we would learn to Olympic lift and did all of that stuff as part of their curriculum as being an intern, but also toward, like, the middle and the end of my internship, they mentioned that they had a GA position coming available. Would I be interested in even moving to Kentucky?

[00:03:49.92] Just a lot of things that I hadn't even thought about. So I ended up moving to Lexington at the end of the summer, and I actually didn't get the GA position that they were talking about. So I interned for an entire year there while I was there, just really learning about strength and conditioning, learning a lot about the Olympic lifts. They are a very Olympic-based program.

[00:04:11.40] When the GA position came open again, they had mentioned that the person that they want to fill it, they want them to compete in Olympic lifting. Would I give it a shot? I was like, if this gets me the GA position, sure, I'll try it. So I said that I would do it, and I ended up getting the GA position that next go-round, and about two weeks after that, we started a lot of our technical stuff.

[00:04:37.89] And then ever since then, it's like that was it for me. I kind of took off in weightlifting, so that's been where my focus has been as far as an athlete and being competitive. So competed in my first meet at a local meet, and I think that meet, I qualified for the American Open. With time, was like-- I know that sounds really cool now, but weightlifting was not as popular back then as it is now, so it was pretty easy to do that at the time. Numbers have really skyrocketed and popularity has as well.

[00:05:11.96] But ever since then, I've really kind of stayed at the national level, fortunate enough to be able to compete all over the US. I was a 53-kilo national level weightlifter, and they changed the weight classes to now I compete as a 55 at the national level still. So it's been pretty awesome. I've gotten to compete against Olympians and American recordholders and just really awesome athletes. So I've been very fortunate with that.

[00:05:44.15] That's really interesting. You know, the gymnastics background, and I don't think gymnastics and the sport of weightlifting are often associated, and one thing that comes to mind is that both of those sports are highly technical just in the demands and the training to be proficient. And was that something you did as a gymnastics athlete at all, or is that something completely new to you now? And how does your gymnastics background help you in the sport of weightlifting?

[00:06:18.62] Yeah. So when I was in my undergrad, we had actually started Olympic lifting. I think I got introduced to it my freshman and sophomore year. So I had a really awesome strength coach in Coach Brown. We still keep in contact today. He's been really influential in my career, both athletically and just in the field of strength and conditioning.

[00:06:40.52] But after my sophomore year, the gymnastics team was complaining that they didn't want to lift weights and that they were getting too bulky and all of those normal complaints that everyone has because they don't want to lift. But I really, really enjoyed it, and like you were saying, I was introduced to it, but you can start to see a lot of the similarities between weightlifting and gymnastics. And I think for me, transitioning to weightlifting was just a really natural fit. It is extremely technical, both sports are. And to be, I think, an efficient lifter, you have to be technically precise.

[00:07:19.87] And after, you know, I got to work with a really great coach, he got into the ins and outs of the technique, and I think having the gymnastics background was something that helped me to understand all the critiques he was giving me. So for me, I'm very lucky in that gymnastics gave me a lot of body awareness. So making small coaching cues and small technique changes was very natural because you're used to that in gymnastics. You have to just kind of move a little bit, and then you're right on with what you need, whereas some people may not have that ability.

[00:08:00.55] But also, I think just routine. Gymnasts are very, very concentrated on routines and perfection and just the way that you go about things. And with weightlifting, the more routine that you have, I think the better it is for you, and just kind of your mindset is very, very similar in that you want to be so precise and perfect in what you're doing. So as you said, a lot of that has transferred over to weightlifting for me.

[00:08:30.16] Yeah, it's interesting. When I was at Springfield College years ago, I remember we worked with all the different teams as grad students, and I remember some sessions with the gymnastics team, doing Olympic lifts, and that thought process of, how much technical load can athletes handle? We talk about stress management and especially right now, with everything going on, but you know, what is that mental load that athletes can handle and still be proficient?

[00:09:01.90] And gymnastics is definitely one of those sports that you need to be very committed, but it's interesting with the connection to weightlifting, that they are both so technical in that success in gymnastics would lead to the ability to learn another technical movement like the sport of weightlifting. Now, you also mentioned you were a amateur pole vaulter, which I didn't know. Talk about--

[00:09:33.37] Yeah, that's a good story.

[00:09:35.53] Talk about the importance of being well-rounded as an athlete, a multi multi-sport athlete. I know our long-term athlete development special interest group and coaches, that that is sort of an underpinning for the field as a whole, and you really represent that. Speak to long-term athlete development.

[00:09:53.53] Yeah. So I think there's been a lot that's been put out there lately about, like, early sport specialization and how, is it good or is it bad? And I think early on for me, gymnastics really, really was my entire athletic experience, and I didn't have these other sports early on. And with that, I got burned out. Like, at 10 years old, I was like, I don't want to do this anymore. And so for me, I wish that I would have had more sport experience as a younger kid.

[00:10:27.88] And then I got it as I got older, which I think helped a lot because now, even as a strength coach, and we can get into all of that stuff too, but just being athletic enough to demonstrate movements. Some of my soccer athletes, like, if I was only in gymnastics my entire life, maybe I would have no idea of the technique how to kick a ball. How do I show a swing to my softball athletes if I've never picked up a bat? So I just-- that has helped a ton in my professional career but also just limiting, kind of like you said, the mental load and the burnout of constantly doing the same thing over and over.

[00:11:10.45] And also, your body getting used to different movements and being able to adapt has been huge. I think overuse injuries become a really, really big topic of conversation, especially with that specialization so early. And so I think I've been very fortunate in that when you talk to a lot of gymnasts that have only done gymnastics their whole life, you know, I've had this surgery and this surgery and this surgery, and I've done this and this and this.

[00:11:34.88] And I've been very fortunate that my body has held up. I've been able to kind of diversify my athletic ability. And I think, again, it's helped me a lot with weightlifting and even anything else that I attempt to do, whether it's my softball athletes teach me how to slap and be a slapper. Like, at least I have the ability to know how to move my body that way instead of always being very stuck in this mindset of one sport, and I haven't done anything else.

[00:12:04.39] It's interesting. You sort of took the opposite approach as what we would typically associate with long-term athlete development of my kids, getting them out there playing soccer and all these different things, and then focusing during your high school years and really fine-tuning and developing into an elite athlete in one sport, whereas you've sort of expanded later after your gymnastics career. And that, to me, could be why you're a great strength coach. And strength and conditioning is really a combination of multiple sports and multiple movements and activities. And I think that that's one of the true benefits of long-term athlete development in our field is that we dig from these other areas and other sports.

[00:12:56.44] We talk about, with all this technology and sports science and, you know, I come out of the professional baseball world, and there are international coaches coming over from the sport of rugby and other sports just because they have a little higher level of training in sports science. But there is this mesh, and we do learn from other sports in the field. And that is such a valuable thing. And I think often, we think of long-term athlete development as an athletic skill, but it really does bode value to the coaches as well.

[00:13:29.41] I think-- and a lot of times, you find that when the athletes find out your athletic background, like, all my athletes know that I weightlift, and they knew that I was a gymnast. But then you get some athletes that are, like, well, you've never played soccer, or you've never played softball, so you don't know. And it's like, maybe I haven't in the competitive realm, but, like, I can figure out this movement for you and figure out how to work this. And the better I am at doing it, I think it creates a lot more buy-in with the athletes. And the more that you're able to kind of display your athletic ability to the athletes, the more that they're going to enjoy you as a coach, but also enjoy all of the stuff that you're asking them to do.

[00:14:12.55] Ryan, I do want to ask you about the Clemson University softball program. When I think of Clemson lately, I think of football, but over the years, I think of Clemson as a baseball powerhouse program. So it was surprising to me to hear that the Clemson softball is a new program at your university.

[00:14:36.64] You're the strength and conditioning coach for that program. I don't remember you mentioning that you had a softball background. Talk about being a strength coach for an emerging program at your university, a university that holds high standards for winning.

[00:14:53.24] Yeah. So actually, I've been very fortunate in that this was not my first experience of working with a first-year program. So for me, like I said, it wasn't my first go-round, and I think that was super helpful to me with working with softball. Softball being in the works for Clemson is something that started before I got to Clemson, so I can't really give you the background on how it started, but when I got to Clemson, they had already had a few athletes that had been at the university training, knowing that they weren't even going to have the ability to compete until that following spring. So for them, I think it's hard because you go a year without really having a game, and they just constantly train. So that was definitely interesting.

[00:15:47.88] And then once the fall came or the end of summer and we got a lot of our team here, it was a mix of athletes. You know, we had some transfers, and we had grad students, and we had a huge group of freshmen because it's like, how do you make a team? So for them, I think it was just understanding what the expectations of being a collegiate athlete are and is because they don't have really anyone to look up to to be like, this is the way that we do this or, like, this is this. So you're basically setting the ground rules for culture, expectations, standards, everything from the start.

[00:16:33.99] They're really fun to work with. They saw a ton of improvement, as you would assume, because they were so young with their training age, and so I think they really enjoyed the weight room because they were able to see results so quickly. Super talented on the field.

[00:16:50.03] Like, unbelievably talented, and it's unfortunate because the spring got cut, but, like, we were on a roll. And I wish I could have seen the spring play out for them because I know that there were some hypothetical NCAA models being put up, and Clemson was potentially in play for some of that. And I think that's just really exciting for a first-year program to even be on the mat for some people the way that we were. So--

[00:17:20.58] That's cool.

[00:17:20.93] --it was awesome, and I'm looking forward to a spring where we can have a whole spring.

[00:17:26.66] Yeah. I think we're all looking forward to getting back to normal. One thing I want to ask you about is, over the years, I've worked with a number of coaches that came through the Clemson strength and conditioning staff. And I mean, I've always been blown away by the level of preparation and detail coming out of that program.

[00:17:52.55] You oversee the internship program. Would you talk about the curriculum that you have in place? And then we'll get into virtual internships a little bit.

[00:18:03.50] Yeah, for sure. So I got to Clemson last summer, and when I got here, the summer interns were already here, and I think they were starting in the curriculum. But the staff-- it's a staff effort on the curriculum, so it's not only me running through it. I'm the one that kind of keeps everyone on track and on a timeline, be like, hey, we need to do this, this, this, but it's really a staff effort.

[00:18:31.04] And so last year, they were revamping the program for the interns, and we had come up with a pretty solid curriculum. So we try to hit five major blocks of our curriculum. So we have a strength or a resistance training program block. We have an energy system development. We do movement.

[00:18:52.55] We do injury mitigation and diagnostics. And then we do a leadership portion that's kind of throughout the entire internship. So that's on its own block.

[00:19:02.80] An intern at Clemson, our program is going to be very demanding. We expect a lot out of our interns, not only time commitment on the floor, working with athletes, but what we're asking them to do outside of the weight room and outside of time with us. So we give a lot of material, a lot of education. We have a ton of resources available to them, but we also take the time as a staff to go over a lot with them so they're not just ingesting all of this information, and then it's like, now what? So we make sure that they really have a good understanding of everything that we're giving them, and then we also do a ton of projects and research and give them topics that maybe they've never even heard of.

[00:19:49.39] And now, you're opening up a whole nother scope of stuff for them. We have unit research topics and things that we do at the end of every single block so that we're getting practice on programming for a strength program and for energy system development. And then we do, at the end, a huge project, which is basically very similar to this CSCCa certification, where they're putting together a full encompassing program, and they have to basically defend it to us. So they get a lot of information, and I think it's really just how much they take away is going to be how open-minded they are and how willing they are to learn.

[00:20:34.58] It's comprehensive, and I think programs, internship programs, have come a long way where now there's programs out there that have assigned curriculums to them, but the hands-on portion is often what we think of. And getting that hands-on coaching experience with athletes is really important. How have you dealt with COVID-19 in running a virtual internship program, and how does that program stack up to what you would have normally had in place?

[00:21:04.56] Yeah. So kind of like you had mentioned early on, like, virtual internship? What does that even mean? We didn't even have any idea, when we basically put this idea together, of what it would look like. So we're very fortunate in that, like I mentioned, we have a lot of resources and material that we are able to give out to our interns. And so from that side of it, we were able to really stick to our curriculum.

[00:21:30.83] So we have electronic copies of everything that we give out. So we were able to email all of that out to our interns. And then all of our meetings are Zoom meetings.

[00:21:40.03] So a lot of it was just led from them. We wanted discussion, open discussion. Here's our material. Read it. What questions do you have?

[00:21:50.59] And that was very early on, what our internship started looking like. We changed a little bit. We altered it. We still did some research projects for the interns to just kind of get an idea of some of that stuff, but we started integrating what we called intern debates. And so because we don't have the setting that we can be in physically, we had to come up with something that we could do to get them really thinking outside the box of a lot of these topics.

[00:22:18.95] And so we split up our interns. We had a total of eight. We split up our interns, and we would give them a topic, and they have to be able to, in their group, argue why this side is better or this side is better. And we want them to know both sides, but take a stance. So that was probably the newest part to our internship.

[00:22:40.04] We were very fortunate, though, that Clemson has really been pushing forward to have our athletes train and have our interns be able to come. And so very early on, I reached out to all of our interns and said, hey, I think there's a possibility that you guys can come. Here are the stipulations, and just know that if you come, it is 100% your decision, and if you decide to not come, that's also fine. We'll continue on the virtual internship. So four of them ended up coming to Clemson, and we were able to get some hands-on work with them, which I think is awesome because it's basically a perfect mix of that virtual and the practical side of stuff.

[00:23:24.79] That is interesting. I think the real message to young coaches there is, you're in those critical years where you're building your coaching toolbox, and we're always adapting in this field, right? And COVID-19 is no different than that. And if, you know, you don't have as much time on the floor, per se, as you would just because we are being quarantined, and you still need to make the most of that experience.

[00:23:54.84] And I thought it was so cool that you and other programs out there have held true to the interns that you had scheduled to come in and stayed open-minded and just kept some momentum going for your program. Because internship programs aren't just good for the interns, they're also good for the staff and the coaches to help see new ideas come into a program and to learn new things and sort of vet new coaches for your program as there's turnover. So there is a lot of value to having an internship program in place really at all stages of our career.

[00:24:34.67] And it really goes into one of the messages I really push on our coaches is, at some point, you need to give back. Give back to this profession. You need to mentor. You need to talk to young coaches and advance their starting point from where we were when we started in this profession. It's really, really important.

[00:24:55.70] Yeah. And you know, as you had mentioned, I just want to-- I just had this discussion with a few of the interns the other day. You know, like we talked about, the practical side and being able to give back though, in keeping our internship. I asked the interns, I said, what's the feedback on the virtual internship? What are your thoughts? And they're like, it's so educational, we just miss the practical side.

[00:25:18.47] And so for the ones that have been able to come, I have asked, what's your feedback? And they're like, we wish it was longer. We wish we had more practical experience.

[00:25:28.32] And I said, but the trade-off with you guys not having as much practical time is that the amount of education that we've been able to give you guys is probably so much more than we've been able to give in the past because all of our staff has been available at the same time to be available to you guys as resources for everything you're going over. Because we stayed true to a schedule, and we made sure that we made a lot of time in our day to be able to work with them. So you don't get the practical side as much, but on the flip side, we really ramped up the education for them this summer. So.

[00:26:04.43] That's great. So you've built this curriculum, and your staff. What are some of the books and resources that have helped you along the way and that you look to when you're guiding interns through this process?

[00:26:18.46] Yeah. So a lot of our program has influences from like FRC and PRI, so we try to give them some insight into those. Our staff, as a whole, just finished a lot with Maladin So he has a lot of influence on some of the stuff that we do.

[00:26:35.71] But then I also have really tried to build up the leadership side of our internship curriculum. So give them a lot of articles about the dos and don'ts of interning and body language on the floor, and how do you approach as work coach. Just a lot of the little things that maybe would get missed on paper. So we try to give them that practical side of it. Just tie up all of the loose ends for being a coach staff.

[00:27:08.66] Let's dive into the leadership side a little bit. Talk about the strength coach as a leader. We're never the head sport coach. We're never the athletic director.

[00:27:23.32] Or I should say we're not often the athletic director. I think there are some examples out there where strength coaches have advanced into these senior roles, which is empowering for our profession. Talk about the strength coach as a leader, as part of a system with a lot of leaders, right?

[00:27:42.58] Yeah. Yeah, there is. And for me, I understand my role when it comes to working with a sport and the sport coaches. Like you said, I'm not the head sport coach, but in my area, which is strength and conditioning, I'm the head coach for these teams. So as a strength coach, you're not just someone barking at somebody or counting reps or whatever it is. It goes beyond that.

[00:28:13.39] You're often a teacher and a leader to your athletes, and it's important to really embrace that role because as a strength coach, you may not have as much say, but the amount of interaction that you get with these athletes is more than any other coach during certain times of the year. You are basically the one touching base with all of these athletes as frequently as possible, and that can be very powerful. So what I mean by that is that there are times of the year where the sport coaches aren't able to be as involved, or there's voluntary periods or whatever it may be, but the strength coach has these times of year where we might be the only people that the athletes see for a while.

[00:29:04.72] So we get to really kind of be that gauge for everything and also build the relationships and maybe kind of even build the bridges between the athlete and the coach if needed. So your role is super, super important, even if you're not technically the head. The part that you play in all of it is important for the athlete and the development of that sport.

[00:29:31.03] I think sometimes we get confused in terms of assigning the title of leader. Very rarely are we just a leader or are we just a follower. Most often, we're both simultaneously.

[00:29:45.23] And we're a teacher. We're instructing. We're leading a session within a bigger system as part of a university.

[00:29:57.82] There's always someone above you. There's always someone below you. And there's even times where the athletes become the leader, and we follow their lead, right? And that's what makes strength conditioning-- and this can extend to other professions and fields as well, but that's what makes strength and conditioning so special in my opinion, is that it requires such a dynamic professional. It's able to wear a lot of hats and to really engage with different personalities.

[00:30:28.01] You know, we're not the-- we may be part of the recruiting process, but we don't bring in athletes to fit our coaching style and personality type. We have to adapt to the athletes that the head coach or the recruiting coordinator brings in, and that is such an interesting aspect of the leadership side and just how we view leaders, leadership--

[00:30:51.77] [INTERPOSING VOICES]

[00:30:52.12] Yeah.

[00:30:52.46] --and lessons have been around for a long time.

[00:30:55.08] I also think, and you kind of talked about it, it goes beyond just being a coach, and it goes into as a person. And for me personally, being a female strength and conditioning coach and working with only female athletes, I think it's important for me to exemplify certain aspects and characteristics for these young women. So it goes beyond my coaching. It goes beyond how I carry myself as a human, and I hope that they see that even though I'm just their strength coach, just to be a good role model and a good example for our younger athletes, you know?

[00:31:36.82] Perfect. So I'm going to grill you a little bit here and really get you to-- really challenge you a little bit. But as an emerging leader in this profession, you know, what are some ways that the NSCA can better serve coaches and improve to help future generations of strength and conditioning coaches in the field?

[00:32:00.93] Like you said, having the internships available where you can get that practical experience and kind of have some hands-on stuff, but also as far as the NSCA, and we talked a little bit about the staff there, but just having people that really exemplify those types of characteristics that your younger coaches or anyone else looking in this field can look up to, think would be huge. There are a lot of ways to kind of reach people, so a lot of people learn through things like that, but any other informative research that you have available. Articles, people love to be analytical and read and dissect, and that's how they want to learn to be a leader. So just a multitude of resources, whether it's the people that you have available, whether it's the information that you put out there, the internship stuff, I think all of that would be really valuable and appeal to different types of people.

[00:32:59.31] That's a great answer, and I know I put you on the spot with that one. I think it's so important that we ask that question from my desk, you know, from the NSCA because truly, the NSCA, it's not just the people working here in Colorado Springs. When I got this job, I felt like yes, this was a new job for me, but I'd been a part of the NSCA for a long time. And my story, coming from Vermont without a lot of true strength and conditioning around, the NSCA empowered me to pursue this field.

[00:33:36.45] And then so I know it has the ability to do that for people, but there are so many coaches out there and so many examples and so many shortcomings, right? And we need to ask that question, and I think it's really important. So I really appreciate you being honest and open and relating your experience to that question because I know what it's like to be put on the spot like that.

[00:34:03.68] Yeah.

[00:34:07.46] Let's talk about non-weight room skills. What non-weight room skills are important for strength and conditioning coaches to possess?

[00:34:18.35] Being a strength and conditioning coach, you're in the field of lots of service and working with people. So I think it's super important to care about the person first and then the athlete second. And so building those relationships is super important.

[00:34:33.77] Outside of that, I would say just be adaptable. Things can change very quickly, so you need to be thorough with your plans. We always talk about being agile, which I think is so relatable for strength and conditioning coaches.

[00:34:49.55] I would say also being able to see other's point of view because you're working with so many different personalities. You've got sport coaches, athletic trainers. You need to be able to see things from all sides. Being disciplined yourself, and then that allows you the ability to hold ourselves accountable, not only just you, as a coach, but those athletes. And then just some basic characteristics of be respectful, be punctual, have some great integrity, just overall being a good person at heart, I think, helps a lot.

[00:35:20.57] Athletes are people, and they have real challenges, concerns, problems, good days, bad days. So are the coaches. So there's always that overlap. There's always that conversation, and you know, it's sort of that triage.

[00:35:37.07] When we walk into the weight room and our athletes are there, and you got to survey the scene, and you got to know who you're dealing with on that day. Because the athlete may be at their best, and they may not be, and you may not be. And those are all important factors to consider, just in how that session's going to go and just your planning for the week and so on. So it is really important to think holistically about strength and conditioning and not just what's in the textbook.

[00:36:10.49] There's so many, like, so many times that your conversations with your athletes are going to go beyond all right, you've got another set coming up. So like you said, just thinking holistically of the person first before the athlete. There's so many times where it's like they care a lot when you're like, how did your test go?

[00:36:31.46] How did your speech go? How is this? Hey, how's your sibling? Like, all of that stuff really matters, and it goes beyond the scope of strength and conditioning, but it really is part of our job.

[00:36:44.68] For sure. So I'll ask you one more question, sort of a projection question for our field. So Clemson and other major universities are integrating technology in the weight room more than ever before. This is clearly not going anywhere. Technology is here to stay. What does the future of strength and conditioning look like with regard to technology, and how does it affect the coaching process, from what you've seen?

[00:37:16.45] Yeah. So as you mentioned, technology is a huge piece, and it's only going to become moreso of one in the future. So the future of strength and conditioning I would hope to see is departments branching out to having a sports scientist on staff because all of the technology that we use, it's great, but if you do nothing with the information, it's really useless. And being a strength coach, as we mentioned, you're wearing so many hats already that trying to be that sports scientist and figure out what the best plan of action is for your athletes can be really tricky and overwhelming and very time-consuming sometimes. So I would love to see departments really invest in someone that has the skills to do that and is potentially-- that is their role on staff, is to really digest all of that information, give that to the strength coaches who then are able to put together a plan with the sport coaches.

[00:38:28.46] I've already seen it myself in the technology that we have that we are able to create a lot of buy-in with the sport coaches because we are able to back it with information. It's not me just saying, well, so-and-so looks this way. It's like, no, so-and-so is this way, and this is why. So I think what you will get is the ability to train your athletes better, be more sound in your decision-making, create a lot of buy-in with the sport coaches, and potentially help not plan practice, but collaborate with the sport coaches to come up with the plan that makes the most sense for the athletes.

[00:39:14.46] Because really, at the end of the day, it's about their safety. Teams that win are teams that are healthy. The best decisions that we can make are going to be the ones that can utilize the technology, and then we can collaborate with the coaches and everyone else that we need to in order to put together the best plan for the athlete. And I think that's where we should go with the future strength and conditioning in technology.

[00:39:42.78] You nailed it. You know, I think that coaches are always the delivery mechanism, you know? Sports science, there's a reason-- if the athlete could digest the textbook and just put it into practice, there'd be no need for coaches, right? But that is not where we're at.

[00:40:02.46] But now, we're taking in so much data. We're taking in so much information. We're creating this new layer of analysis as we strive for more objective information.

[00:40:13.60] But you really nailed it, and I see this process of integrating tech is empowering the coach and really reinforcing that coach's eye that we've relied on for so many years. So like I said, every coach I've worked with that came through the Clemson program has been rock solid in terms of their preparation and in level of detail from the technology side to just the quality of coach and individual that they are. But, you know, that's a credit to you and your internship program, and I really enjoyed having you on the podcast today.

[00:40:49.78] Well, thank you so much for having me.

[00:40:52.71] To our listeners, thanks for tuning in today. That was Senior Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Metzger from Clemson University. We'd also like to thank our sponsor, Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:41:07.03] You often hear these podcasts recorded at NSCA conferences and events. Why not join us at the next one? You can get all the details on upcoming events at NSCA.com/events.

[00:41:16.50] And to all of you listening, we appreciate your support. Again, if you like the podcast, make sure you subscribe wherever you download your podcast from. Write us a review, and keep listening in. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you all soon.

[00:41:27.86] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:41:28.81] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D

Strength & Conditioning Coach, NSCA Headquarters, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Miss Ryan Laine Metzger, CSCS, RSCC

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Ryan Metzger enters her second year as the Senior Assistant of Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning at Clemson University. Metzger is directly re ...

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