NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 104: Dr. Josh Secomb

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Dr. Josh Secomb, PhD
Coaching Podcast June 2021

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Dr. Josh Secomb, lecturer in exercise and sport science (strength and conditioning) at the University of Newcastle, talks to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about being a self-aware and authentic coach. Topics under discussion include finding new areas to employ different skillsets as practitioners, the value of training progressions and understanding your athletes, and his unique opportunity to research and coach surfers.

Find Dr. Secomb on Twitter: @37Seco | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“We want them to be doing it in 12, 15 years time. And still doing what they need to do, making those gains along the way. And still finding it enjoyable. Then I can't hammer them too early.” 00:05

“So because essentially in surfing, the more water you displace-- the harder you push on the bottom of the board, the more water that is displaced. The judges determine that is how much power there is behind the maneuvers.” 18:03

“We know from all of our GPS, time-motion research that pretty much no matter what type of wave it is where you are in the world, so whether it's Europe, Hawaii, Australia, pretty much 50% of the time that you're in the water surfing, it's paddling. So, again, we know from that 20 to 30 hours. So it's 10 to 15 hours a week just of paddling. Again, there's a lot of issues around-- also just wear and tear and sort of fatigue around the rotator cuff.” 22:59

“I can be too talkative. So I said, I need to be aware that particularly when giving feedback, giving cues. Because whilst I try to practice and make sure that I keep my cues as minimal as possible not to confuse them.” 42:37

Transcript

[00:00:00.00] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 104.

[00:00:04.05] We want them to be doing it in 12, 15 years time. And still doing what they need to do, making those gains along the way. And still finding it enjoyable. Then I can't hammer them too early.

[00:00:18.16] 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.

[00:00:28.75] Welcome to the NCSA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. And today we have Dr. Josh Secomb with us from Australia. He is a lecturer at the University of Newcastle. He's also a strength and conditioning coach of the Newcastle Northstars, an ice hockey team. He's done some work with Surfing Australia. And you might remember Josh from the 2020 Coaches Conference, where he did a presentation on work in the frontal plane. Josh, we're excited to have you, man.

[00:00:55.32] Thank you, mate. Yeah, I really appreciate the chance to be on here, a real humbling. So, thank you.

[00:01:01.71] I remember connecting with you briefly back-- it might have been my first day on the job here with the NSCA-- and my head was spinning with all the goings on at Coaches Conference. But I thought it was great. We had that collaborative talk with the ASCA. And you were a part of that event. So I'm really happy to have you here today. And I want to give you a chance just to talk about your path into the profession. And then we'll take it from there.

[00:01:27.84] Yeah, perfect, thank you. Yes, I started, I did my undergraduate in 2009. Finished it in 2011. Actually did it here at the University of Newcastle, as well. So in a roundabout way kind of came full circle. So I did the undergraduate. The way it's set up over here in Australia, I think it's different for the Northern Hemisphere. But we do the three year undergraduate. Then, we have an opportunity to do a one year honors research project. So, essentially, it's sort of an alternate pathway from a master's. Obviously, the masters is a two-year program, either coursework or research based.

[00:02:08.17] Whereas the honors year here is just a one-year research project, kind of like a hard and fast version. But it's actually a graded one. And then provided that you get usually around say 80% or better for the thesis, then it kind of gives you that one year earlier entry into a PhD. So I did that all here at the University of Newcastle. Did my honors-- actually, when it came time for the honors, I had two options. I could either potentially go and do it with our local professional rugby league team, the Newcastle Knights. Or I also had a bit of an interest and an opportunity in surfing.

[00:02:48.96] I was sort of throwing, tossing the two up. Grew up with rugby league as the background, is very much the local working class sport here. But then surfing was also just the more hobby sport. I'm still pretty rubbish at it. But it was just that one where it was just an opportunity to do that. Dr. Jeremy Sheppard had just started in the role up at Surfing Australia as well as head of strength and conditioning in sport science there. And luckily I had the chance to meet him.

[00:03:21.78] And he said, I'll jump on the honors project, give you a bit of a hand with it. And then if it all goes well, we get on, I like you, that kind of thing, then there's an opportunity to do a PhD up at Surfing Australia, through them. So luckily it all went well, really enjoyed it. And then had an opportunity to go do my PhD up there, just up northern New South Wales. So I had the opportunity to do that, and finished the honors year, went straight up there. And luckily my co-supervisor, just due to their relationship, was Dr. Sophia Nimphius as well. So I was lucky to, I guess, stumble into a scenario of having two really great mentors. And, yeah, just got super lucky in that.

[00:04:09.99] And then spent the three years up there. So the way it was set up at Surfing Australia was that there was a relationship between Surfing Australia and Edith Cowan University. Where provided that we sort of qualified for a scholarship, then we're able to be based full-time at Surfing Australia. So we just needed to cross that three years to complete our PhD. But then at the same time, we're just given a role in the high performance game there. So essentially Jeremy was there on a day-to-day basis. Soph was managing all the sports science aspects from ECU, providing that link between the uni.

[00:04:48.72] And then it was myself and four other PhD scholars at the time. So you just had that set up where doing a PhD is having a role. So that was myself and another guy. Tai Train doing strength and conditioning, leaner, longer, and in biomechanics. And then Oliver Farley in physiology. So just a really great scenario having two great mentors. And also just that opportunity to have that integration between the PhD and that high performance environment.

[00:05:21.64] So I did the three years there. Then signed on and did another-- was I there for another year and a half? So the idea was that once I'd finished the PhD then I signed a contract to stay on as assistant strength and conditioning coach and sports science under Jeremy. And then he actually left. Got the offer to move back home to Canada, be closer to his family, take on a role with the Canadian Sports Institute.

[00:05:49.50] And then I kind of got sort of thrust into the head of S&C type role. Which I think, at first, it was one where I was just like, oh, this is great. This is going to be great for the career. And the way it was set up was, he was always head of S&C and sports science manager. So they essentially split the role. Soph took the sports science manager role. I had the head of S&C role. And that was sort of how we did it for about 18 months.

[00:06:20.25] And then there was a couple of issues there as such. I guess probably everyone can relate to. The people making the calls have a different direction to the way we think it's going, a few sort of funding issues, that type of thing. And then next thing you know, kind of looking for a new job. But it was a good opportunity. It was one where-- I guess I sort of touched on it just then-- it was nice, in my head I was like I wanted to have that opportunity to sort of lead a program. But then there was times when I was like, I'm probably not ready for this. But at the same time probably really thankful for that opportunity. Because it just gave me-- I guess through making quite a few mistakes-- gave me a really nice opportunity to almost do like a strength, like a SWOT analysis on myself as such.

[00:07:12.80] I think you go through and-- straight out of university going straight into a high performance role. You kind of think, OK, it's high performance aspects, sort of easy. It's an easy pathway. But then when you get thrown into a role in hindsight you're definitely not ready for, it just gives you that chance to probably just push the reset button a little. So, yeah, some really good-- or good learning stories, not great stories. And I think we might sort of touch on a little bit later.

[00:07:47.52] But definitely some ideas around sort of-- and as I said in that role-- just ideas around, and some really good learnings around, how research can sort of fit into the performance environment. Also working alongside coaches and understanding the culture of the sport and integrating that in from a high performance and a research standpoint. That was probably the biggest sort of area that I gained in, in that. And I'll be happy to share some stories later when we get into those topics potentially.

[00:08:20.12] But after that I then went up to Queensland Academy of Sport, part of the Olympic system over here. And that was a great role, great pedigree, awesome coaches. And, unfortunately, due to family circumstances I was only able to stay there nine months. It was pretty much a two hour commute each way for me every day. My wife was pregnant with our third kid. So it was one where, as much as I loved that role-- and that was really cool going from that head S&C role then back into being one of 8 S&C coaches. Having that opportunity to share and learn and just get out of the bubble I was stuck in for about six years was a really great one. As I said really enjoyed that role, got to work with a huge range of sports as well. But due to the family, the travel side, I couldn't justify four hours away from my wife and kids on a daily basis for that.

[00:09:25.69] After that, then took a role with the police force, which is sort of like a rehab type role. So officers that were off on injuries. Some of it was sort of psychological injuries, but then a lot of them are ACL rehab, shoulder reconstructions, that type of thing. So working in that scenario, had the opportunity to do a lo more sort of rehab. And also just see the mental health benefits a bit more of exercise. Definitely not something I could possibly go in and do again. I found it quite draining. And I probably just didn't take care of myself in those instances. But, again, some really good learnings from that.

[00:10:12.07] And then at the same time I was doing that I actually got asked to contract back to Surfing Australia. Which was a fun conversation when nine months prior you're being told they don't need you so your jobs been made redundant. Here's your payout. Then nine months later you get a call going, uh, we've got 10 athletes. Any chance you can come back and work with them? So luckily I only live 400 meters from the facility. Plus, as well, a lot of those athletes that I went back to work with-- the ones that I'd worked with in that previous five to six year period, so a lot of the juniors that had come up, made the world tour-- so I had a duty there. And it just fit.

[00:10:54.16] So I did that for about nine months. There was the joke in my family that I was pretty much doing maternity leave contracts. That I had three jobs in a row where I was doing nine months, one, the commuting one, that one. And then we actually, by that stage, we had the three kids. And then all our families is back in Newcastle, where we're back now. Had a job offer to come back and work at a private high school here, to run the strength and conditioning there. I figured why not. I've done every other career path we can really go down in S&C. So I may as well give that a crack.

[00:11:34.60] But we came back. It just was a really good fit for the family. Came back, and, again, did that one for nine months as well. Felt bad, but then had the offer to come to the university. And academia was always something where, when I did the PhD initially, it was sort of a combination of things. The research side is one of my hugest interests. I always of struggle between enjoying the research and doing the relationship aspect of coaching. But the research was a really important thing to me. So the opportunity to come back and do this, it's a lot better for the family, hours all that type of thing as well.

[00:12:17.26] But, in saying that, being back, it was initially sort of a little hesitant. Because, as I said, I always had the thought that I'd maybe try to do sport until I was 40, 45. And then probably try to go into academia. The offer came up. And I was still I think 30. And I was like, am I sort of throwing the coaching towel in a bit early? But it was just one where, I just sort of felt that it was the right decision. And in saying that, I've been in the job I think about 18 months now. So it's the first time I haven't taken a nine month job for a long time. So that tells me that I'm doing the right thing. But as well I'm really, really enjoying it. I really enjoy the teaching, the education side.

[00:13:05.71] It's the one where whenever I'm say working with a team, working with athletes, I can maybe, hopefully provide benefit to 20 people. Whereas hopefully by working with the undergraduates and the research students, if we can maybe share them and help them develop some skills-- and a lot of the teaching I do is a list of all the mistakes I've made, try not to make these. We've got roughly 400 students. So, hopefully, if those 400 go out into some type of coaching role, whether it's sports, clinical, whatever the scenario, if they're working with 20 people then hopefully the overall benefit is better.

[00:13:46.83] That's awesome. You're still young. And you've really taken on a lot of different roles in this field. One thing that kind of jumps out to me from your story, and you mentioned that you had great mentors that let you into the sport of surfing. A sport that we don't typically think about with strength and conditioning. I think it's really cool when you find these, call them untraditional type sports. It's not really a ground-based sport. But there are ground-based elements to foot contact with the board.

[00:14:15.75] And it's a very fluid dynamic. It's a water sport. I don't think a lot of American strength coaches really think or aspire to work with surfing. But I think these are really cool, almost case studies in a way of, how would I approach a sport like that? And if you would just break down the sport of surfing from a strength and conditioning standpoint, kind of a basic level of how you guys approach training for those athletes. And I think that will be really cool to hear.

[00:14:45.05] I'll backtrack a little bit. So when I was saying where I had the opportunity to go rugby league or surfing from a research standpoint, obviously, the mental side was a huge selling point. But the other part was pretty well where you touched on. Where I was saying I was looking at it, and there was pretty much no high performance culture when I went and started. That was February 2013 when I went up to the High Performance Centre. Up until that point-- literally in my honors research -- we just did GPS on surfing. That was my honors.

[00:15:22.34] And I think I was able to reference maybe five studies total across surfing. It was that one where there was nothing there. Or not nothing, there was some really great work but a lot of work from the late 80s, early 90s, and nothing through the early 2000s. So it was one where, I saw there was a bit of an opportunity there. When we went into surfing, it was very much as I said, no high performance culture there. Which on one hand, you might look at and go, OK, well that's an issue. But it was really amazing sort of for two reasons. The first one being that we could kind of go in and almost sort of set the culture that we wanted.

[00:16:06.29] Obviously with a lot of your professional team sports there's certain things that's just ingrained. And I'm sure you've heard it. I know probably with baseball there are certain things where it's like, oh, well, this is just the way we do it. And you're like, oh, yeah, but maybe we could do it this way? Or why? And it's just like, well, no, that's the sport, mate. And that's just what we do. And it's very sort of similar to some of the sports here where there's just certain things that are ingrained in. And then it's sort of filtered down over the last 20 years. So then you've got the 15, 16-year-old development athletes coming through with that culture.

[00:16:38.11] And then trying to break that can be a bit of a difficulty. So I think the-- and I've sort of spoken about this a bit before-- with our professional rugby league teams and the contact sports from 13, 14 years old, they're in the gym. They're lifting heavy. They're getting stronger, getting bigger. But then when it comes to trying to sell the mobility, the range of motion, the taking care of your body, that can be the difficult sell. Whereas with surfing it was probably the opposite. Surfing, before we came in the high performance training, was doing yoga and maybe sort of partying in a way that's not optimal from a performance standpoint. But that was pretty much it. So it was that one where we kind of came in, and we didn't have to sell them on the mobility or that type of thing. They were pretty well taking care of that aspect themselves.

[00:17:32.57] But then we'd come in, and we're like, OK, going to do strength training. And we sometimes get these looks like, no, you're kidding. What's that? We're doing yoga with a weight vest? And I think that's what they thought we were going to be doing. But one of the studies that I probably most enjoyed out of mine was just looking at the relationship between the countermovement, jump squat jump, mid-thigh pull. And how it related to the scores that athletes got in competitive events. So because essentially in surfing, the more water you displace-- the harder you push on the bottom of the board, the more water that is displaced. The judges determine that is how much power there is behind the maneuvers.

[00:18:14.36] And that's one of the major scoring components. So then we had the research there. And then the ability to translate it to the athletes and the coaches. Saying, it was like a .8 correlation between people seeing a countermovement jump and mid-thigh pull and the scores, ranking for scores. So then we had the foundation there where rather than just saying to them, well, we need to squat so you get stronger. We had the research to go, if you get stronger and can produce more force in these qualities, in these tests, we know that you're going to score more highly. Obviously, the more highly they score the more chance they have of winning competitions and so forth.

[00:18:55.83] And then the other key component-- and this was one of Jeremy's first ideas-- was, again, we know that the faster you sprint paddle, the earlier you can get onto a wave, the more waves you are going to catch. Obviously, a massive component of surfing. And the main research that came out of his work and also Joseph Coyne's was essentially the stronger you are in a pull-up, up to about 1.3 times body weight for 1 RM, the greater transfer you get to sprint paddling performance. So those are the bases that we had. And set the building blocks for our training programs.

[00:19:33.56] And then going come back to your original question, our training programs, to be honest, don't look too dissimilar from the majority of other sports. Because we know that the stronger, more powerful you are in the lower body, the better you're going to be able to do in the wave riding component. We know that the stronger, more powerful you are in the upper body component, particularly pulling, that, therefore, you can catch bigger waves. You can catch more waves, get into it with greater speed, which also significantly benefits your performance as well. And then the other parts are looking at things like adduction, abduction, ratios.

[00:20:11.09] And we've done a retrospective study identifying that the athletes with significantly reduced adduction to abduction had a greater risk of MCL type injuries, which is a big issue in surfing. A lot of Lana's work was around landings. And we saw that the combination of mid-thigh pull strengths are pretty much-- if you're about 3 and 1/2 to 4 times body weight on a mid-thigh pull, you need a wall greater than 15 centimeters. Then it significantly reduces the loading you get from a drop and stick task. And we know that that translates into say landing aerial maneuvers.

[00:20:53.27] So quite often you've got athletes landing aerial maneuvers from 4 to 5 feet above the water and then landing down. And, obviously, a solid board and at that speed the water's pretty solid as well. It's not giving too much. And some pilot data we had, you're looking at from even just a 2 foot drop, from the top of a wave to the bottom, you're looking at around, at the ankles, probably around 8 to 9 times body weight in force. So, therefore, the majority of the aerials nowadays are from 4 to 5 feet in the air. So we could only hazard a guess at what types of load you're seeing there.

[00:21:31.97] So we knew that ankle mobility and strength through the whole lower body was important for that aspect. And there's been a lot of research done by Jeff Nessler over at the University of California, San Marcos. I think it is. Can't remember off the top of my head. I'm pretty sure it's that one. But they've done a lot of work in a flume looking at paddling performance. And just seeing that essentially you can see from that research, the high loads that are placed on the rotator cuff, particularly the infraspinatus. So, again, from that we saw that research. Also know that one of the major complaints we get from our athletes was a lot of upper trap tightness, a lot of fatigue through the shoulders.

[00:22:15.71] So they're making sure we're doing a lot of work in that space. So you can see from that, it's all around that force production, force absorption. So we'd always be doing Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, single-leg squats, a lot of pull-ups, a lot of upper body pulling, all different types of rows, and then a lot of work for the adductors, abductors trunk stability, and rotator cuff. So that was the foundation, but with that, the energy system conditioning. That was probably where it differed a bit, because the professional athletes, anyway, are usually surfing 20 to 30 hours in a week. So, obviously, really high training load.

[00:22:58.68] We know from all of our GPS, time-motion research that pretty much no matter what type of wave it is where you are in the world, so whether it's Europe, Hawaii, Australia, pretty much 50% of the time that you're in the water surfing, it's paddling. So, again, we know from that 20 to 30 hours. So it's 10 to 15 hours a week just of paddling. Again, there's a lot of issues around-- also just wear and tear and sort of fatigue around the rotator cuff. And, as well, we saw that once they got to 15, 16 years old, their aerobic capacities were pretty well maximized. So whatever their aerobic capacity was at 15, 16, it really didn't get any better after that.

[00:23:43.27] And it also didn't need to. It wasn't a quality that we needed more of. There was just a minimum threshold. So based on that we never really used to do a lot of paddling, paddling conditioning, or paddling work. Because the sport pretty well took care of itself in that regard. So the only time we use paddling conditioning is if the athletes, for example, were going to a big wave location-- to Hawaii, Tahiti-- where they needed more sprint paddling. Then, we might do a little bit of work around that. But, again, more that sprint interval type work. Or if, for example, they just didn't surf for three or four weeks, then we might look at incorporating some.

[00:24:20.40] But most of our conditioning type training was more like a mixed methods, mixed methods type focus. A lot of sled, sometimes some block intervals, battle ropes, that type of thing, more like that mixed methods type conditioning. We're essentially just trying to jack the heart rate up and then recover quickly. Because from that physiological standpoint that heart rate control-- being able to increase the heart rate to nearly max and then recover as quickly as possible-- that was more where the relevance to the sport came in. And we didn't want to just jack up the shoulders too much. So that's where we looked at those other methods.

[00:24:59.86] That's a deep dive. I'm ready to hit the waves, man. That was awesome.

[00:25:05.44] Talking to John from Colorado.

[00:25:09.22] Yeah, the waves are at 14,000 feet here. So it's a little bit different. But, no, it's really interesting. And like I said, I've always really enjoyed those-- whether it's a case study-- or just those challenges outside of traditional sports that most of us work with. And I thought there was a lot of really great messages in there, like avoiding too much too soon when you're working with athletes that aren't accustomed to traditional strength and conditioning, identifying KPIs that you're going to emphasize during your training process. And it also speaks to recognizing opportunities for looking into new areas in the field.

[00:25:54.01] Surfing was pretty much untapped without a lot of information. And you were able to really-- on this podcast-- but just in your work really provide a lot of context and support for anyone in the future who wants to work in this area. And the other area you touched on was just looking at common injury trends in the sport. Because obviously health and performance are usually the key areas that we're focused on as performance professionals. And so one thing I want to ask you, your process-- you've spoke a lot to the lessons you've learned as a practitioner and a coach. But this sort of paralleled your research in your dissertation. And these were very intertwined processes for you. Is that the common path for strength and conditioning coaches in Australia to be very connected with sports science research? Or was that unique to your path?

[00:26:50.42] I'd say maybe like a 50-50. It's becoming a lot more common. And I think, to be honest, you'll see it maybe ramp up again just sort of in regards particularly to professional sport post-COVID. Just with the idea that essentially it's a lot cheaper for the organization to have a student come in, undertake a research study where essentially the uni is going to be picking up a portion of the funding. So rather than say having to outlay another 70 80 grand for an assistant S&C, potentially they can bring in a research student in strength and conditioning. And maybe they kind of share the cost. So it might cost them say 20 grand a year or whatever. So I think we might start to see it come a little more in like that.

[00:27:36.54] I've got a few friends that have been through a similar pathway. And I know that essentially the model that sort of started when Jeremy took up the Surfing Australia that I looked to go through, I think they sort of initially got that idea because the AIS was doing a lot of that. So it's something that's definitely a lot more apparent. In the sports science realm it's pretty well all this. Or not all, but the majority of sport science roles in professional sport over here filled in that model with the strength and conditioning not so much. But there are still definitely scenarios there.

[00:28:14.97] And I've got a couple of PhD students at the university now that are in similar type roles as well. So, for me, I know it was one that I found extremely beneficial. So I think it's one that I'm going to essentially try to give other students coming through that opportunity as well. Because it just gives you that nice balance. Also gives you a bit of an entry into the field as well. But, yeah, I think there's a lot of lessons that you can get from that pathway that can be really beneficial. And also just allow focus on what's important for the sport.

[00:28:57.94] Yeah, Josh, I want to ask you, what are you working on now? What are some of the research areas that you are focusing on at this point in your career?

[00:29:06.82] Yeah, well, firstly, the area that I'm working on personally is looking all around. Ice hockey research, the issue you've obviously got is, out here in Australia, we don't have the caliber of athletes that you have there, obviously, or in Europe. But luckily what we find with our national league here-- what tends to happen is that each year they're national league teams. So there's eight teams across the country. And it runs over your summer so our winter. And each year essentially we're allowed to have four to six import players that we get out.

[00:29:48.09] And a lot of those athletes come from maybe careers from the minors, the AHL East Coast, a few out of NCAA. So what we find is that probably six years ago you just have those import players and you'd have a lot of local players. Whereas now we've got a lot of local players that have maybe spent time overseas. Or what happens for the most part is the athletes that initially come out as an import they stay for two or three years. They find love. Then, they get Australian citizenship. Pretty much now our league is just filled with ex- Canadians and Europeans Americans.

[00:30:24.09] As I said, the issue I've got is obviously just the caliber of athletes. But, for me, it's just I grew up playing rugby league. Then I moved over, started playing ice hockey. We've got a good rink only 10 minutes from my home and just fell in love with the sport. It also helps that about probably 60% of my friends are Canadians. It gives that. So I'm working on a couple of areas in that space. Taking the adductor, abductor work that I've looked at that with Surfing Australia and applying it to hockey. Because, again, obviously just the rate of groin, hip injuries being so prevalent in the sport.

[00:31:02.19] Then, also, looking at a couple of other things, trying to individualize monitoring for some athletes. Are they more frontal or sagittal dominant? And those types of areas. And then the other one for me is trying to work with a couple of sports and a couple of local professional teams and just that one. And I think you said, well, maybe we're going to touch a little bit later but from my time with Surfing Australia, was that one where I really saw the importance and the value of actually going to the athletes and coaches and saying, what's the performance question do you have? What's going to help you benefit your performance? Rather than previously I used to take an approach of, well, this is what I think is important.

[00:31:53.67] I've got to do the research. Then, I'll go hey, look at this data. And then the athlete or coach tells me it's not really that useful. And then I'm there kicking cans. As I said, just know that importance of going, OK, what is it you guys need? What's going to help you? Then, coming up with the research question. And then sort of doing the study. So trying to look more at that. So working, as I said, with more targeted groups of sports. Going to them saying, is there anything I can help you with? And then just trying to answer some actual important questions there.

[00:32:28.04] Yeah, on that last part it really speaks to the value of being a researcher. But also a practitioner that can relate and cater your research areas towards relevant topics that are going to connect with coaches and athletes. And here at the NSCA I get caught saying bridge the gap a lot between science and application. And that truly, that's a quest that we just need to keep working through and keep-- whether it be our journals or any journal. How can we make research more useful on the ground level with athletes and coaches? And I think that's so interesting. And you truly are taking on a lot of projects. And it's cool that you've worked with two very different sports when you look at surfing, and then you look at hockey. And just that foot-to-ground interaction versus you were on ice and then you're on water with a surfboard. I think that's so cool that you've kind of navigated both of those.

[00:33:33.78] I was going to say, I actually came over for the conference, the one at San Antonio. I did a little stop in LA, a 16-hour stop. Caught a hockey game, and I luckily had a bit of a friend connection with one of the coaches for one of the teams I saw. And I remember going in and he introduced me to some of the team, some of the players. And they're like, so you like surfing? You mainly work with surfing and you love hockey.

[00:34:01.70] They're just like, how does that work? And I was like, initially, I thought the same as well. But then when if you look at the breakdown of positions you are on a surfboard and the types of injuries, there's actually a lot of transfer. The position that particularly the hips in, the ankles in, during say the end of a stride in hockey is actually very similar to a position when coming out of a turn on a surfboard. Just with the fact that you've got that hip abduction at up to 40, 50 degrees. A lot of weight placed over that front leg, going through a high range of dorsiflexions. Yeah, that's how I try to weasel my way into those conversations anyway, just because I enjoy it so much.

[00:34:47.57] No, it's cool. It speaks to the versatility of sports general training. And I think we get so sagittal plane focused at times. And just all the abductor, adductor work, that's very promising for the future of how we better understand movement in the frontal plane. I know that's something coming from the baseball world, that's an area that we-- and the transverse plane-- those are areas that are-- they've always been there-- but they're emerging in terms of our emphasis during the training process.

[00:35:21.87] So I think that's really cool. I want to ask you, before we wrap up here, you mentioned that you sort of hit an audible with your plan to go into academia around 45. You went in a little bit earlier. You have family. And you really value the path that you've taken and want to mentor other PhD students and coaches. What advice do you give to young coaches? Or maybe what's some advice that you got that's really helped you along the way?

[00:35:52.64] Some advice I got was, not making mistakes per se but just not doing certain things. The big one for me was just getting in and actually coaching. And that's been a really sort of prominent issue, and something that we've tried to fix with our program here. Because, for me, it was one where I went through the undergrad did the honors. And then I remember just before I went up and started the PhD, I went and Jeremy was down visiting campuses. About where I am now to where Surfing Australia was, it's about eight hours away.

[00:36:34.58] He was visiting doing some clinic-based stuff with some of the regional areas. And I went along. And he was like, yeah, just come coach with me. And it was at one, and I remember just walking in. And I was like, this is actually the first time I've been exposed to actually delivering exercise. So luckily in the two courses that I teach as part of our degree, I was given the opportunity to totally rewrite them. They're essentially two courses around strength and conditioning.

[00:37:05.96] And we actually started with our new first years last week. And the first session I actually hit them with was they just had to communicate, like actually coach. So there's a lot of them were walking in first day, finished high school last year, kind of crapping themselves. And I just showed them this 4 minute clip. I found of Loren Landow. And we're just doing some 20 meter excel coaching. So just gave them, just based on his video. And then we spoke about it. Just going, OK these are the three key things for acceleration that you want to be focused on.

[00:37:43.81] And then you said no more of that. Grab your bags. We're going over to the basketball court. And you're going to coach each other. And you could just see some of them were just so uncomfortable with that. But I think that's one thing, Is just the more and more opportunity you have to coach. And then the follow up lab that we've had this-- I feel like I was kind of getting a bit like hippy, a bit psychology. But, actually, I've done it a couple of times in a few roles. And then got them to do, which was just doing a personality type test.

[00:38:17.98] Now, again, I know it sounds like, oh man, you're going out of scope of practice there. But I got them to do that. And then sort of from that, like this one I found online that's really sort of quite straightforward. It gives you a really nice breakdown of your personality traits. And it doesn't necessarily group them as strengths and weaknesses per se. But it just says, this personality type, you'll have this trait, this trait, this trait. And then what we do from there is workshop it.

[00:38:49.65] Where I say that the biggest thing for me in a coaching environment-- and, again, through a mistake that I made-- is just being genuine or authentic in your coaching. Because initially I'd gone in and-- I can't be a counsel to use anonymity now because I've said Jeremy's name enough times-- but I still remember the first couple of times I went and was coaching with Jeremy. And I guess I was trying to find my way coaching. Because, as I said, I hadn't done a whole lot.

[00:39:23.73] And I sort of saw at that stage-- he coaches a little differently now-- but at that stage, particularly some of the athletes where we were just trying to just hammer that culture in initially. He very much had that sort of old school, not authoritarian, but very kind of hard-- don't know if I say that now. Where he would come in he's like, no, you're doing this, you're doing that. Very direct, very forceful, and obviously I admired his coaching a lot. And then I remember just sitting there one day, it was a Friday session. And I was looking at him. I'm like, this is the coach I respect the most.

[00:39:58.92] That's how he coaches. I've got to go coach like that. And then the next week I came in on the Monday morning. And I'm just trying to be like tough guy. I'm like do this. Don't do that. You're five minutes late, get out of here. And while I was doing it, I was giving myself anxiety. Because I just felt weird. And I remember after the end of the week, one of our most senior athletes came to me. And he sat me down. He's like, what's going on? And I was like, what do you mean? And he's like, is everything OK with Dee? At home? What's up? You're angry.

[00:40:32.55] I was like, oh, no, I'm just trying to coach. And he's like, this isn't you. The other guy that comes in is making jokes all the time. Tells us to do our work, wants to chat with us, and then we finish the session. And he's like, what are you doing this week? You're serious. You haven't made any jokes. And I was like, oh, yeah. Sort of sat there, mulled over the weekend, and I was like, yeah, no, that's fair. I just wasn't being genuine, like trying to be someone that I wasn't.

[00:41:01.71] As I said, the purpose, I got the first years to do that personality type test, as I said. But we go through it. And I'm like, OK, pick out six of the personality traits that jump out. And then let's just chat around them. Because I'm like, there's always things that you can work to a strength. But then things need to be aware of as a weakness. So I did mine two weeks ago, so I was current with what was going to come out in it. And some of the things for me, I like to use humor and essentially just try to relate to people and that type of thing. As a communication style, that makes sense.

[00:41:45.09] I try to make a joke and just genuinely show an interest in what's going on in their life. Because I think from the training standpoint it's like, well it's an hour, maybe an hour and a half out of their day. There's all this other time that if they're better in a mental state and everything else is working in their life, then that's going to make that easier. Their performance is going to be better. So I just try to take that approach. And I like having a joke. It's what I enjoy. It's probably the intelligence stuff that I sometimes say, hey, sir. I just like to use it. I just like making things fun.

[00:42:19.01] But then one of the other aspects is that-- one of my traits was that I can be talkative. And as you can see it's still a weakness that I'm working on. Because some of the questions you've asked, we went about three times longer than I need to. But that's also saying to the students, yeah, an aspect is I can be too talkative. So I said, I need to be aware that particularly when giving feedback, giving cues. Because whilst I try to practice and make sure that I keep my cues as minimal as possible not to confuse them.

[00:42:50.75] Sometimes I need to be aware of the fact that if I'm not 100% sure in what I've identified that I can maybe just talk too much, confuse the athlete more. And then just sort of do more harm than good. So I had them go through that. So I think the biggest advice I have is just making sure-- particularly say graduates, people studying, people new to the profession-- is just getting as much opportunity to coach as possible. But then also doing it as authentically and as genuine as possible.

[00:43:21.16] Yeah, it speaks to the value of how we relate to athletes. But also how we relate to coaches of that up and coming generation, the next generation of coaches, professors, researchers and so on. Josh just an opportunity for you to share your contact information for any of our listeners who want to get in contact.

[00:43:39.67] Yeah, yes, sure. Email is probably the one I'm on the most now. But email is josh.secomb@newcastle.edu.au. Also on Twitter @37seco, sometimes I put intelligent stuff there. And for the most part I just sort of lurk around, just trying to look for ideas. And come to a place where I can find most of the good, new research coming out as well. But I try to be as interactive on that as possible.

[00:44:13.93] Awesome, man. Well, thanks for being with us today.

[00:44:16.88] Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

[00:44:19.15] Hey, to our listeners, thanks for tuning in. And we'd also like to say thank you to Sorinex exercise equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:44:27.22] From the NSCA thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We serve you, the coaching community. So follow, subscribe, and download for future episodes. We look forward to connecting with you again soon. And hope you'll join us at an upcoming NSCA event or in one of our special interest groups. For more information, go to NSCA.com.

[00:44:49.60] 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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Josh is a Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science (Strength and Conditioning) at the University of Newcastle, and Strength and Conditioning Coach at th ...

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