NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 112: Stephanie Mock

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Stephanie Mock
Coaching Podcast November 2021


Stephanie Mock, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance at the University of Pittsburgh, talks to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about growing a comprehensive sports performance program. Topics under discussion include tips for interviews, graduate assistantships, staff development, and the ongoing collaboration with academics to advance sport science initiatives at University of Pittsburgh.

Find Stephanie on Instagram: @_mockstephanie_ or @pitt_sportsperformance | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“I always try to tell the interns now, when you interview for a position, you never know who knows who. You may not be the right fit for that role in particular, but Susie Q could know Joe over here that needs this role, and you're the right fit for that. So never, ever go through an interview and end on bad terms.” 8:58

“I told my staff, one of our goals is, whatever sports or teams that you have, making it to one practice a week to showcase in their space and that you respect what they do.” 19:48

“And my job is to look at myself in the mirror as a head person and be like, "What are my strengths and weaknesses and how can I make my staff well-rounded based off of what I bring to the table?"” 39:12


[00:00:00.78] Welcome to the NCAA Coaching Podcast episode 112.

[00:00:04.95] And my job is to look at myself in the mirror as a head person to be like, "What are my strengths and weaknesses, and how can I make my staff well-rounded based off of what I bring to the table?"

[00:00:16.87] 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.

[00:00:28.06] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we're joined by Stephanie Mock, the Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance at the University of Pittsburgh. Stephanie and I have been connecting recently on sports science initiatives, and some of the cool things going on at Pitt. So Stephanie, welcome.

[00:00:46.96] Yes. Thanks so much, Eric, for having me on. It's been good, between the webinar and now the podcast. Great chain of events going on so far. It's really exciting.

[00:00:56.53] For sure. Yeah. The webinar we had with University of Pittsburgh Masters of Sports Science program and in collaboration with the Pitt performance program. And so just diving into some of the collaboration between the academic side and the sports side. But before we get into some of that, I want you to tell your story. How did you get into the profession, and what led you to where you're at today?

[00:01:23.70] Yeah. So I got into the profession when I was at West Virginia University playing volleyball. And if I stand up, I'm like five foot three. So being at a Power 5 school, I really knew that I had to tap into the weight room and my training to maximize my potential on the court. I wasn't just like physically gifted to be 6' 6" and have a vertical of 10' 7", you know? That's when I really started to embrace and love the weight room and find my leadership role in that space. And I was lucky to have a really great strength coach when I was there at West Virginia.

[00:01:57.59] I had Corey Twine. He's actually in the tactical side of things now, but Corey was great and really a huge influence, not only in the weight room, but also from a core values and work ethic standpoint. Really bled into the court as well. So he was a really good role model from when I went into the college system of what I wanted to be. And he actually, after a couple of years, left to go to Michigan.

[00:02:18.29] So whenever he left, it was really a sad day and that's when I really realized like, "Wow. Strength coaches have a really heavy role on people's collegiate careers." So he really inspired me off the rib. And it was funny full circle, full tilt forward, whenever I called him to let him know, like, "Hey. I want to get into the field of strength and conditioning." And I wanted to intern with football at WVU with Mike Joseph.

[00:02:39.50] I called him to let them know that I was going to get into the field he was like, "Are you sure you want to do that?" And he really questioned whether or not it was something that I was committed to and wanted to do, or I thought it was just going to be like something fun and exciting. And he actually advised against it, which I was super surprised. I was like, "Wait. What? You were my mentor and someone I looked up to and you're kind of trying to talk me out of it?"

[00:03:00.50] But he was just warning me of the long hours and what it was going to entail. So it was just an interesting moment in my career that sticks out. And then I interned with football in Olympic sports at WVU. Their setup was interesting because Mike Joseph, that's still there to this day, he's over the whole entire SEC department as that football role. They didn't have a director of Olympic sports. So I was there to intern for a period of time throughout the fall and into the spring.

[00:03:29.45] Then in the summer, I actually came up here and interned for Kim King at University of Pittsburgh. So in 2013, I interned for the summer. And even when I got here and took this job, I went back to the back closet area where I used to put my stuff. That was, quote unquote, "my desk." I was like, "Oh, my goodness. Now I'm back full tilt and in charge." It was a really cool experience.

[00:03:50.70] But I interned here in 2013. I'm from Pittsburgh originally, so I lived at my aunt and uncle's house so it was free. I could intern in the summer. And then after that, that's when I made the trek down south to South Carolina to Clemson University and I worked for Dennis Love and Rick Franzblau. They were both directors at the time that I was down there. Super thankful for them.

[00:04:11.24] I started as an unpaid intern, and then I was a graduate assistant, and then I was an assistant, and then I was the assistant director. So it was a really unique opportunity to be able to project up in one place, because we all know that can be pretty tough nowadays in the field. So I was able to elevate myself up at one school through multiple positions, which was really great. I had a different team responsibilities, different administrative responsibilities.

[00:04:34.97] And then I remember getting promoted to the assistant director role and my plan with Rick was like, "All right. Hey, Steph. We're going to have you in this role for two to three years. I'm going to get you ready, and then we're going to send you off to be a director." Because that was my end goal. Well, it was like eight months in that position and I got the call from Mississippi State. And I was like, "Oh, man. This really wasn't the plan, though, was it?"

[00:04:57.44] So I go to Rick, and I'm talking with him to see what his thoughts are of am I ready for this role, is this a good step, is this the spot, and really getting his feedback and weighing out the pros and cons. So I went to interview and I ended up taking it, so it was great. I was able to take someone with me. One of my interns from the past time Erin Duvall. He was actually at Texas at the time, working for Travis Fuentez in the sports science realm.

[00:05:25.37] And I called him and I was like, "Hey. You could come and be a hybrid role with me. Are you ready?" And I talked him into it. I went to Mississippi State Was there for three years. Definitely a unique situation. I've never been to Mississippi prior to that. I remember Corey Twine, going back to him. He told me when I went on my interview to count how many Walmarts were on campus, because that's how you could tell if you were in civilization or not. He's like, "All right. If there's only one Walmart, I don't know if you could work there. But if there's more than one, if there's two, you could do it. You know you're in civilization."

[00:05:57.41] There was like one and a half, because there was a Walmart and a market, or whatever it is. But, yeah. My time in Mississippi was great. I was really able to grow significantly in a short period of time, and that led to me coming to take this role at Pitt as Assistant AD for Sports Performance. Sports performance equates to I'm over the SSE department, and then I'm also over sports science and building that out, and that's part of the masters piece of being over these students and working with Matt Darnell and just a lot of great resources here at Pitt. And that's what really lured me into coming up here is just all the opportunities.

[00:06:33.66] I think we can really build and grow even just outside of the athletic department, you know. Whether it's the academia side with the sports science masters, hopefully building some kind of PhD down the road, and also having a heavy influence with the innovation department. Evan Thatchers. He's fantastic. And whether it's inventing new pieces of equipment and this, that, and the other, there's just a lot of resources and great people that I can learn from.

[00:06:57.68] So that's, I know, a very long, drawn out answer, but there we go.

[00:07:02.71] No. That's great. And I think there's so many relatable points in there, from just the value of internships, and I want to ask you about that, but also just professional path and mentorship and who you're working with. I know Rick at Clemson, they run a great internship program there, and it's great to see-- And I've worked with a few Clemson coaches over the years and they're very well prepared in the field to-- It's just great to see you got an opportunity, maybe ahead of where you thought, and now you're in your second director position.

[00:07:40.81] But one thing I do want to ask. You went to Pitt early, and then you got some experience, you went out into the field, and now you're back. How has your perspective as a coach changed? And you kind of got into that a little bit when you were talking about getting into your office and seeing where you were before, but relate that for us.

[00:08:04.51] Yeah. Prespective-wise, I just think back to-- One thing that really stands out in my mind is I remember I interned here in the summer. And I kept interviewing for different GA spots all across the country. I applied to like 50 or 60 positions as I was trying to make my next step. And I kept getting like, "No. No. No." I get down to the final two candidates. "Oh. Sorry. We have to go a different direction."

[00:08:29.05] I remember at one point towards the end of my internship in the summer, I was like, "Man. Is this really for me?" Because I kept getting turned down multiple times. "You don't have enough experience. You're not the right fit." This, that, and the other. I remember talking to Kim King that was in here and she just told me to stay at it. I think that's corny to say sometimes, but it's true. I got turned down so many times and I was at the point of like, "Am I going to get another opportunity?"

[00:08:55.85] And then it was crazy. I always try to tell the interns now, when you interview for a position, you never know who knows who. You may not be the right fit for that role in particular, but Susie Q could know Joe over here that needs this role, and you're the right fit for that. So never, ever go through an interview and end on bad terms. Because actually, I interviewed for a GA spot and the person that I interviewed with, he thought I was great just not the right fit. And he called Dennis Love at Clemson and was like, "You got to hire this girl. You've got to get her down there." This, that, and the other.

[00:09:29.06] So I think there's just so many opportunities that you don't even realize sometimes that you're interviewing for one job, but you're really interviewing for a whole other job just based off of people's networks. So I think that was super unique. And it was crazy to think back then I was like, "Man, am I really cut out for all this?" And luckily, I stayed with it. Coming back, it's really cool to see throughout the different leadership styles of athletic directors, like Heather Lyke is here now. And I think back to when I was here at Pitt first time and there really weren't too many teams doing all that great for Olympic sports. Top 25 wasn't really something that was happening back then.

[00:10:08.20] Not to discredit anybody that was here at that time, but it was really cool when I came to interview and see things come full tilt. Like right now, volleyball is ranked right number two in the country. And then soccer, they went to the College Cup last year. They're in the top 25. We just have a lot of teams seeing a lot of success. So it's pretty cool to see back then when I was here, not as much so. And now coming back full tilt, it's really cool to see because I'm from Pittsburgh.

[00:10:29.02] You have a certain level of pride that you want Pitt to do well. And I'm coming back at a time that, yeah, those things are happening. And I was talking with a couple of coaches. Like the goal is, for all our Olympic teams, let's get them all into the top 25. Because that creates a really special training environment here. Because nowadays there's not too many settings on campus that are multi-team settings, right? Everyone has their facility, their soccer facility, baseball. The weight room is the one place where different teams get to come together and train and see one another.

[00:10:58.52] So I really see it as unique and a really great opportunity. But, yeah. It's really cool to see coming back around, and having my couple of stops in between, what I've learned and how I've developed and conversations to be had now. And even there's a couple of coaches-- There's only like two people that were here in 2013 that I worked with back then to coming back now. Actually, I had [INAUDIBLE] Coach Fish. Dan Fisher, he was one of them that he had just gotten hired in the summer and then I come back, start as intern, come back as the person in charge.

[00:11:28.91] So it's just crazy. As we all know, athletics is a fast-paced environment. So, yeah. Yeah. It's been great.

[00:11:36.28] Yeah. At Summer Strong, you were talking about your time at Mississippi State and the stages of building and implementing your program and your philosophy over multiple years. Now you're in this new role with Pitt and you're doing it all over again. What does that look like second time around? How are you approaching it? Are there any differences? Talk about that a little bit.

[00:12:03.76] Yeah. I think the settings are a little bit different, right? So when I was at Mississippi State, I was inheriting a situation that-- I really appreciate, actually, Bryan Neal. He was in the position before me and he left a letter in the desk that said, "I put a lot of time into this place and invested a lot and I hope you do the same, and leave this place in a better place than I found it," type of thing. I really appreciated that note. It's kind of like, "All right. Yes. I'm going to carry that through," then same thing. I kept the note, actually, in the desk when I left Mississippi State. But when I got in there, it was like Brian was there, the director. There was one other full time, and then everyone else was GAs.

[00:12:43.44] Just the state of the state of there weren't many full time positions. Like all the head coaches were used to having GAs and a lot of turnover. And one thing that I wanted to do when I went to Mississippi State was create more full time positions, create a little bit more longevity for the strength coaches working with some of these different teams, rather than having the consistent turnover all of the time. Like having a different strength coach every year. I wanted to create, really, a playbook that the sport coaches knew what to expect when they came into our space.

[00:13:09.99] So adding those full time positions, I was able to create and build a whole new weight room, renovate that space, because it was just, I don't know, a fresh face coming in. I was able to-- When I got hired, we did a SWOT analysis. There were two different weight rooms at the time. There was the one facility for Olympic sports that was like a big horseshoe shape. Wasn't very safe. Wasn't really ideal. And then there was the other weight room that was like a big rectangle.

[00:13:35.83] So walking administration through, I had the chance to take the AD, the CFO, all the other strength staffs, walk them through these two spaces and really paint my vision of what I thought was going to be great for Olympic sports. So I took that opportunity, was really detail-oriented, put together that presentation to best spell out to administration why the weight room is a really important place for the student athletes. Doing that, I had to start planning that, actually, I was still at Clemson because I had to do that in the first week.

[00:14:04.89] Just facility-wise, getting things caught up. Staffing-wise, getting things caught up. And then now coming here to Pitt, it's really great, because we actually have a lot more full time staff already here. I really appreciate Tyler Carpenter that was here prior to me. He took the director job at Ohio State. We already have three full time staff members in Olympic sports, along with the head position. I added an associate head position, actually, under me, as well, with adding lacrosse. I had two fellow positions. I actually explained to administration the process of-- I'm really big on the grassroots approach. Creating and getting people to understand my system, and then, hopefully, promoting from within and sending them out to bigger and better places.

[00:14:46.35] Really just investing in people, as well as, of course, the facilities. But I think just the personnel that I'm walking into already, it's at a high level. I have a lot of really good skilled players, so I'm able to assign responsibilities accordingly, versus at Mississippi State it was like starting from zero and building it up. I'm coming in here and I'm at a little bit higher standpoint, and I have some personnel that can do some special stuff. So it's my job to now organize things. Like, "All right. Frank, you're really good with return-to-play. I want that to be your niche. Taylor, you're really good with rotational sport athletes. I want that to be your niche."

[00:15:23.40] Just really taking the personnel that I have, assigning them to certain areas, and then even team assignments. I had to come in and realign some of those pieces, as well. I think that's the biggest difference that I've seen between the two places. I'm starting a little bit higher here at Pitt. So hopefully, I can kind of move. I know I talked about the three year process within that high performance model. I'm starting a little bit further ahead, so that's kind of nice. And I really look at things from the book Good to Great as the flywheel concept, right?

[00:15:52.29] It takes a lot of momentum to get that wheel going, right? It takes a lot of work on the front end. But once you get the wheel going, then it's just keeping it going. I think the whole work on the front end now is just getting everybody working off the same playbook, using the same verbiage, progressions, onboarding the master's students, the interns, all the different people that we have come in and out throughout the year. But I think that's the biggest difference that I've seen so far.

[00:16:18.43] When coaches are getting into the field, they know they need internships. They know they need experience. And I think young coaches have a pretty good idea of what an assistant strength and conditioning coach job might look like. Even eventually you get experience. A head strength and conditioning coach position, but maybe there's a little less knowledge in the field about what the day-to-day of a director role is, especially with working across multiple sports with the bigger staff. Take us through that a little bit, just leading a program and now you have sports science added into the mix. What is your day look like?

[00:17:01.87] Yeah. My day is quite hectic. I do still have some teams. Because I think that's the biggest question I get since taking this role, is like, "Do you still actually train teams on the floor?" I do. I have one team. I have wrestling. So actually, they're great because for my role and being so busy and going to different meetings, this, that, and the other, they don't need much travel. They don't wear catapult units where you have to to daily reports. Their stuff's just a little bit more low maintenance. I still get down to practice and stuff like that.

[00:17:32.91] But I have one team. I am covering volleyball, as well, because I have one assistant head. She just had a baby. So that's really exciting, Mary Beth. So I'm covering volleyball too right now. I come into work, I train my team in the morning, and then really from there, there's a lot of committees here at Pitt, which I think is great. I'm part of the performance team committee. I'm part of Pitt's [INAUDIBLE] for life. And a lot of these committees have administrators within the committee. We meet biweekly and we talk about how can we really educate some of the other areas in the athletic department of what we do?

[00:18:07.29] And the performance team committee is assembled with sports science with Matt Darnell, strength conditioning, nutrition, sports med, and the mental side. So that committee was already-- It was really nice. I walked into that committee being set up, which a lot of places that's not the case. So with that committee, we talk about different initiatives, like our performance team newsletter and things like that. Usually, I have some of the committee meeting throughout the day.

[00:18:34.62] And then I really try to get to different practices for different teams other than my own, just to show face and talk with the sport coaches informally about some different things. I think when you set up formal meetings sometimes that the conversation isn't as great. But when you're coming to practice and you're trying to just watch things and see how they go, you have conversations that are really important and a little bit more organic in nature.

[00:19:00.66] I meet with our head of performance bi-weekly. His name's Chris Hoff. He's fantastic. We talk about where we want to go with things, how can we fundraise money. The one big thing that's different in this position than historically by others is meeting with the head of philanthropy, so fundraise money for our new facility or sports science pieces. I'll maybe sit down with him and do some presentation about what are we looking into the field? How can we fundraise money for a couple of 1080s? Or how can we fundraise money for AMS? And he can more talk about, like, "All right. I think this donor, they want to give this amount of money, and I think that we'd be interested in this piece of technology."

[00:19:37.96] So if I put 10 things out there, that's another responsibility that I have that historically I haven't. I'll usually meet with some type of administrator throughout the day. I try to go to practice. Like I told my staff, one of our goals is, whatever sports or teams that you have, making it to one practice a week to showcase in their space and that you respect what they do.

[00:20:00.24] On Mondays, we have our staff meetings. On Wednesdays, we do staff professional development. So whether that's like today, we actually just got the new Hawkin plates going through that training. We were going through [INAUDIBLE] network fundamentals course. We do, once a month, some staff professional development call. Then usually Friday, it's some type of creative, like someone's presenting on something. Our one sports science fellow down at basketball, he's going to talk about isometric training. What's important? What time of year do you do it? This that, and the other.

[00:20:29.67] But really just organizing personnel is really important and me just touching base with head coaches, administration, going through hiring processes, being a part of hiring processes for all the performance areas. Right now, we're actually hiring for a women's basketball position. I'm over that as well. So getting that head coach and talking to him about expectations. How do you see success in this SEC position for women's basketball? I can apply the talent pool and give it to him. Then we set up the Zoom interviews and go from there. Yeah. My hand's in a lot of different pots.

[00:21:02.52] I'll go over to the neuromuscular lab, too, and talk to Dr. Nindl and Matt Darnell and some of the PhD students over there of what they're working on. We're actually doing a DEXA bone study with them right now with some of our student athletes. Those are just a few different things, but this is usually a weekly basis that I'm tapping into some of these different areas.

[00:21:21.44] It's exciting to see the collaboration with the sports science program that maybe you don't see at every major university. I'd like to hear more about that. How do you integrate the Masters of Sports Science students in your weight room program and with your coaches?

[00:21:40.53] It's been great. In the Fitzgerald Field House weight room, the Olympic sports weight room, we have three master's students. They just got here end of August, like September. And we call the first phase of them coming in just operations, right? We get them in the space, we onboard them with different pieces of technology, like how to use the GymAware and problem solve with that. We just got force plates. How to run an athlete through testing. We make sure that we introduce them to all our teams so they know who these people are just like our S&C interns, because they're going to be around them at practice a lot, especially the teams that have catapult.

[00:22:14.94] But really introducing them to everybody, even the sport coaches, as well. We take them out to practice, really the day-to-day operations. They meet every Wednesday with my one associate head, Aaron Duvall. He's over their curriculum, and then he's the main connection with Matt Darnell. Matt will even come over. He's also the dietician for the Steelers, so he's a busy man. But he'll come over and meet with the sports science master's students in our weight room periodically, just to touch base with them.

[00:22:40.44] Phase one is just that operational phase, and we're actually still in that. Getting them onboarded and able to create reports and things like that. Then phase two is really just talking about execution. That's kind of going into the winter time. This is when we actually talk about moderating growth, educate them on some of the acute to chronic workload ratio pieces, Excel tricks, how to better report. They actually meet with our Pitt IT and work through Tableau training, because we have that access through the University. So they'll do training with some of the IT students as well as an extra resource.

[00:23:16.05] Then the phase three piece is just optimization, you know? And that's going through RA. We're preparing them for going and taking the position after this. Are you able to work on your portfolio, build out reports, and start applying for positions and feel confident? And are you able to go to the performance team meetings with us? If I'm going to the performance team meeting, let's say, for wrestling, are you able to sit in there-- and I have the reports in front of us-- you go in and you actually talk on some of the reporting pieces as the strength coach feels comfortable with that.

[00:23:46.92] We're adding an AMS system so I know that'll be a big piece of them helping build that out as well. I get the system built and then also helping develop new jump assessment programs and staying on the up and up. Strengths and weaknesses through data charts We built our curriculum based around, of course, the new book, the new essentials book for sports science, so a lot of the different pieces that's going through. They'll take turns reading chapters and presenting to the group and their staff meetings on Wednesdays and talking about that.

[00:24:19.69] So I think trying to layer it so that at the end, they can go take the exam. So coming soon, as we get through, send them off to do that, since they've been working with us the whole entire year. But that's all working hand-in-hand with Matt's curriculum for the master's students, which Matt, myself, and Aaron met on like in the summertime around July or early August because we all just got hired, and talked to him about how can we complement one another with the curriculums?

[00:24:44.95] I think the one great thing that makes our relationship work is like none of us have egos. We're all open-minded to like, "Hey. What class can I change? What class should I remove and add, maybe?" And it's not going to be all of them, clearly, but always trying to develop and change things. And even to the point that Aaron's looking at next year being some type of adjunct professor, and really connecting that academia side and athletic side. Because I think that's something that, if you talk to your chancellors at your universities, they're all about. If we can find ways to really connect those two areas, we're doing something special.

[00:25:19.89] You've touched on a number of pieces of technology that you're using. I can think back to early in my coaching career, we were testing, but not optimizing the process of applying the information. And I can think back to just an Excel spreadsheet getting thrown down on the in and the coaches room. Now with the growth and advancement of technology in the space of sports science, how do you put technology in buckets or apply it to your program in a way that isn't overwhelming for your coaches, for your teams, for your athletes, staff? Do you think about that at all?

[00:26:02.00] Definitely. Especially coming in as administration, it's handing to me the keys of, like, "We need you to come in and--" Over the next six months, we'll be hiring our director of sport science in hopes, as long as COVID stuff doesn't get too crazy, right? But hiring a director of sports science, and really creating buy-in is what the administration has tasked me to do coming into this role, since I'm over both areas. And that's something that they haven't had the resources historically to be able to do. But they know and they see the importance behind it, so they fully support me funding-wise and things like that. It's my job to educate not only my staff and all that [INAUDIBLE] areas, but also the sport coaches. So how to approach all these different coaches is going to look a little bit different.

[00:26:46.46] I know philosophy is a very corny way of thinking about it, but my philosophy is looking at that feedback loop. I know I talked about it a little bit in SummerStrong, but this is how I simplify things with sport coaches. I talk about, "All right. Hey. We're collecting a bunch of information," whether it's sports specific metrics. For, like, baseball we use diamond kinetics and this, that, and the other. We're collecting objective and subjective information. Then we're working around the feedback loop into analyzing and interpreting the data. So like what are norms for positions, thresholds, preparedness trends.

[00:27:22.34] Then after that, what adjustments do we need to make? Because I think a lot of the times sport coaches are already doing this, just like the coaches eye. But let's back you up and really make you feel confident in some of these adjustments that you're making. Whether it's more or less, like alternate supplementation using catapult, for example, with soccer. And then just implementation. Finishing out that feedback loop in a sense of training, competition, recovery, and the education piece I think has been really important. And I know Auburn, actually, our dietician, does a really good job with the education of supplementation and where things are in that space.

[00:27:58.46] I really try to simplify things with where do things fit in in that feedback loop? If you make it into quadrants such as that, they can figure it out a little bit easier. When it comes to actual testing and assessment, so whenever we're talking about it as a staff, we split it up in a few different thresholds. We split it up as diagnostic testing as our first area that we look into. We have a NordBord. We're getting a [INAUDIBLE] and contact thread, but that's the first level. The second level is going to be more of the autoregulation and profiling that we look into. Using the GymAware, using catapult.

[00:28:37.01] The third one, but I know this term has gotten interesting feedback every time, is a load management. Looking at in-depth looks into internal/external loads, breaking down segments of training using some type of submax speed test for some of that load management. Another one is just looking at athlete readiness. That's where we use the force plates that we just got through Hawkin, AMS wellness questionnaires. That's something super simple.

[00:29:04.74] Then the last piece that we look at is just some of the data analysis that we do. Like I said, Tableau, whether it's Power BI. But just looking at different ways to analyze games and training in that respect. I know I just spoke about a lot of different things, but there's the language that we use with the sport coaches, and then also the language that we kind of use in-house as well, within our sports performance team.

[00:29:30.01] Early on, you were talking about your path in the profession and it was largely through Olympic strength and conditioning. Now you oversee a similar internship-type curriculum for sports science that has some different areas to it, like when we're talking about programming languages. How do you encourage coaches to determine which path is right for them from a staff development standpoint?

[00:29:54.67] Yeah. I really talk to some of our younger people coming up, and I'm like, "What's the end goal?" Beause clearly in my position, I have to be able to do some sort of both. I need to be dangerous enough in the sport science realm to oversee it, but at the same time, I came up at a time where S&C was really the only thing in sports science. It was like a thought in the distance. I tell them do want them to be well-rounded? You are a generalist to start. In the field, you're trying to learn everything.

[00:30:24.43] Then I feel as you become an assistant, usually you become a specialist in some capacity because you're leaned on within the staff to be good at a certain skillset. Like I had mentioned earlier, I take my assistants and I spread them out with return-to-play, or Aaron's really good with the data science piece. He got a master's at ETSU in sports science, and that was at Texas. I know he's someone that enjoys the analytics and some of that, and that's why he's over the sports science master's students as co to Matt Darnell. I tell them to start as generalists, then you might specialize a little bit more. Then as you get to the top in my role, you're a generalist again. You have to be able to do a little bit of everything.

[00:31:04.27] I like my staff, even how I came up with Rick. He wanted us to get exposure to all different teams. He wasn't like, "Oh, Steph. You're only helping with baseball, and then the rest of the time you're working on stuff in the back with Excel," or whatever else. He wanted us to be well-rounded when it came to the soccer's energy system development, softball/baseball with rotational training. With track and field, programming and progressing heavy workloads, or heavy weight training. [INAUDIBLE].

[00:31:31.42] I came up in a time and around mentors that wanted us to be extremely well-rounded, because you never know. In my role, I have to walk out on the floor and talk to a diving recruit, to a baseball recruit, to a volleyball recruit. Being able to understand what goes into all these different teams. And I know the one thing that's really cool with our master's students for sport science, they sit with our S&C interns all in the same space. So they're constantly just brainstorming. I'm like, "What are you learning today? What are you learning today?" I think really our best master's students I've seen so far, it's just like they want to take everything and run with it.

[00:32:02.92] They want to learn a little bit of everything. And they're around maybe when the kids come in, or volleyball comes in, they jump on the Hawkin force plates with our sports science master's student, but then they don't go and hide in the back. They stay out and watch training because we're collecting a lot of this information in training. Like GymAware, where we have that on back squat. They're pulling the numbers online. But if they're not watching it live and they see some like crazy number online when they're pulling the data, they're like, "Oh, yeah. I remember Susie Q when she did that squat. The thing was wrapped around 12 times."

[00:32:31.96] I think it's good for them to be around as much as possible to see both ends of the spectrum and be as well-rounded as possible, especially early in time. Because you're just trying to be, like I said, a generalist, just knowing enough to be dangerous in some way, shape, or form. And just having the conversation on the floor with the strength coaches to better understand what we're looking for and expectations. And [INAUDIBLE] same thing when the sport coaches are talking about what drills went well and not so well. Trying to get them around as much stuff as possible, to speak that language and understand what they're looking at, especially if they're coming from a background that isn't sports-oriented.

[00:33:07.39] If it's mainly analytics and then they're jumping into the sports world, or academia and then jumping in. It's like, "All right. You need to be able to get in meetings and have conversations and people feel like they can connect with you." I definitely say I like them to be around as much as possible and just helping out in any way, shape or form, especially at the beginning of times.

[00:33:26.35] Yeah. It seems like there's so much more now that you have to get educated on and study up. And one thing that comes through with what you said. Be well-rounded. Be a generalist first. But it really speaks to-- You've done this the way you're answering these questions. Every institution is adding value to the program you're in the role you have, whatever your skills are. Giving back to that program in whatever way you can and continuing to learn. And that's something we've talked about a lot is the different courses or education, professional development things that you do with your staff now that helped you along the way. What advice do you have for coaches in pursuing, whether it be certifications, education programs, even some things that I think we have very--

[00:34:25.91] Sometimes in this field, we're very critical of new things that just pop up on our radar, sometimes even our Instagram page. How do you look at and evaluate new things in terms of your educational path and what's good for your coaches? And what do you recommend for young coaches to pursue?

[00:34:45.51] Yeah. I think about, in particular, my staff in, let's say, in a normal non-COVID year, all our continuing education money. I saw it as a unique opportunity historically at some schools I've been at. Instead of everyone going to, let's say, the same conference. Not saying [INAUDIBLE] and things like that, but some of the extra money. Try to spread out where everyone's going so everyone can come back and do a presentation on like, "Hey. I went out to the LA Dodgers S&C Symposium." When I come back, I present to the staff on what I learned. Then somebody else goes to TFC, or something. Then they come back and present on what they learned. Having a large staff is a huge benefit, because you can all bring different sheds of light on things.

[00:35:32.87] I think trying to use your staff to the highest ability to gain the most knowledge and just make connections. I think that's one way that's super cost efficient. If you're at a smaller school is we do like the monthly staff social development calls. We just reached out to Tread Athletics last month. That's the one beauty of Instagram or Twitter is you can get a hold of people really easy and you have a lot of resources right at your fingertips. You'd be surprised how many people you can just DM and be like, "Hey. I know you don't know me but I think you're doing great stuff. I'd like to talk more about what you're doing assessment and testing-wise."

[00:36:09.65] Or before you purchase a piece of equipment and it's really expensive, hey. Reach out to some of your colleagues in the field and have some open and honest conversations about some of the stuff. I think utilizing your staff in a high level manner is big, like sending everybody to a different piece. Then also really looking into just using your network and using social media in a positive way. Because I think so many people try to tear each other down and it's like I don't really know. I don't I don't advise of that from my seat that I'm sitting in. I try to really respect everyone's view, and having conversations of I think we are allowed to disagree in our space, right? But, hey, I respect what you're saying but I think this.

[00:36:52.98] Making sure that you are effectively communicating at a high level, that you're still respecting others in the field. You'd be surprised how many people you just shoot them a message and then you hop on and they do a sweet presentation for you. And that's helping them get their thoughts organized. Because I know stuff that I've done, even when I presented at SummerStrong at the end of my time at Mississippi State, I'm like, "Man." I had to really organize my phases, and I did it without even thinking.

[00:37:18.56] During that time, I knew the things that I wanted to accomplish, but how it all flowed. I know a lot of people followed up with me with like, "I want to be a director at some point. What you said really helped me out to know if I'm prepared to go into that role yet, or if I still have a lot of things to work on." I think people always call me and they're like, "How did you know you were ready for a director role?" And I'm like, "Eh, usually, there's going to be things that you have to learn on the fly when you take that position if it's a new position." That's why it's great to have mentors around you that are willing to pick up the phone and help you out when you're trying to navigate situations.

[00:37:50.35] For sure. It's an iterative process at every stage, and I think young coaches don't always realize. Maybe this is an area that our generation of coach, we're a little better than-- I think we all go back to some of these dungeon weight room stories of just all the terrible things we had to do as interns. But I think we're a little bit more aware of things we don't know, and we're OK saying that in our leadership roles of saying, "Hey, those are great questions. I can give you a little insight to it, but these are things the field is still figuring out," or, "We need to ask someone else that has better answers." I think as a field, we're doing a better job with that.

[00:38:42.48] It makes me think a lot. We've talked technology. We've talked a little bit of coaching, and it makes me think a lot about the people skills, the non-weight room skills that are important for strength and conditioning coaches. What are some of those that you see? What do you look for in the coaches you hire and just some of the personality traits?

[00:39:03.24] Yeah. This is a question I get a lot because, I mean, the hiring process is significantly at a high level. Especially when piecing a staff together, like at Mississippi State, I was literally, as I got done with year three, I hired everyone around me. And my job is to look at myself in the mirror as a head person and be like, "What are my strengths and weaknesses and how can I make my staff well-rounded based off of what I bring to the table?" So my personality is super extroverted. I'm pretty loud. I'm not going to lie. I'm completely aware of these things. But I want to make sure I'm aligning. I work with wrestling, a very testosterone-based sport. I thrive with that. But as I hire my staff around me, like Frank, that I have on staff, Brown, he came from a professional soccer, really big football. Like the real football, one would say, mind.

[00:39:54.27] Pairing him up with men's and women's soccer. And he speaks the language at a high level and can talk with our two head coaches over there at a high level. He understands return-to-play. He understands how to take the players game day minus 1, 2, 3, 4 5, all of the above, and what they need to do to cap off some of these thresholds.

[00:40:13.41] Mary Beth, someone that's super seasoned and been in the field for a long time and she can deal with the more difficult sport coaches, one would say, or manage those situations because she's just been through it. Taylor comes from a baseball background rotational. So I think just looking at your staff around you, because it's something that I had to come in and meet with all the heads sport coaches of what they're looking for in their strength coach, how do they define success in their strength coach.

[00:40:37.92] Certain people have this thought process and certain personalities, what skill sets do you have, and what they've been exposed to historically. But I know the one person that's been with me the longest period of time is Aaron Duvall. That's my associate head now. He was with me at Mississippi State. And I knew my time is super limited with certain things. I know he's a great teacher, so that's why I put him with the sports science master's students, because he can articulate himself really, really well. And he's very patient and wants to really pour into young people. And the one thing with our staff is we bring in the interns, but also we have the fellow positions that open up in the summer.

[00:41:13.96] So if you come in in the spring and intern with us and do a really good job, we'll want to keep you on board and put you in that paid spot projectability-wise. I think just looking at yourself as a head person wherever you're at, just hiring around you your skill sets that you're missing. Or things that-- I know Brett Bartholomew made the really good square chart of things that are really important and need to happen ASAP is probably something that I need to take care of. Maybe less important and not so time sensitive, you can assign and delegate accordingly.

[00:41:44.04] I look at that chart a lot and I'm like, "All right. The people around me, who can I delegate responsibilities to and know that they'll crush it at a high level and I won't have to stress over it?" I think just really looking at yourself and knowing yourself at a high level and being able to assign accordingly. Especially because I inherited some staff members and I wanted to sit down and really figure out-- One of the questions that I asked all of them was do you want to be a director or a head person? And not everyone says, "Yes."

[00:42:10.21] And that's OK. So I need to put them in a seat at the table that you were super organized and you don't want to be the face, but you're a great go-to person for this, that, and the other. Just getting understanding of the expectations of your staff and what they have in themselves and how you can help them grow and achieve. Because you don't want staff that are sitting there like, "I don't feel like I'm growing year to year, or semester to semester." And you have to sit down and really talk to them about how they define success for themselves and in the field. I know that was a really long-winded answer.

[00:42:40.59] No. It's great. It's something I think about. Early when you first get into the field, you have some big goals. You have some big goals and you're willing to go anywhere for them. Speaks to your journey going to Mississippi, a place you never thought you'd end up. I remember being in the Southern League. And I'm from the Northeast originally, so that was just a different experience for me. We each have these unique coaching journeys, and young coaches have to figure that out for themselves. The one thing I realized is that your goals on the front end really are only as good as how you can communicate them and you're still figuring out that process for you.

[00:43:24.48] In every 5, 10 years, your goals might change. So I love that question of do you want to be a head strength and conditioning coach, or do you see yourself as a director one day? Nowadays, it goes back to what I said before of we're more open as a field to people that have different, maybe, goals than we had. I wanted to be a Major League strength coach. But that doesn't mean that everybody on our staff that didn't see themselves getting to the big leagues wasn't worthy of being there. They added value. There was a lot that they could provide.

[00:44:02.76] And I think that is just something that when we're in leadership roles-- And we talk about young coach progressions all the time, like, "What do you do," and we're always telling the young coaches what to do. But when we're in leadership roles, it's really important that we are a great example. And I like what you said about how you are open-minded to different views that maybe reflect the institution and the different people you have on staff. I think that's really powerful. Stephanie, I enjoyed talking to you. I think there's so much. You're doing some great work at Pitt. At Mississippi State, I could just tell from your presentation at SummerStrong that you had some really cool things going on. I encourage young coaches to get on social media. See what's going on. The Pitt Performance Instagram page and check that out.

[00:45:00.13] But Stephanie, I want to give you a chance to share your contact info if anyone wants to reach out listening in today.

[00:45:07.15] Yeah. Our Instagram page is @pitt_sportsperformance, so check us out. We actually are posting a little bit about our sports science and our master's curriculum currently, and the different phases that we're going through. So if you're interested in that content, we're recently posting that. My Twitter is @coachstephmock. And then my email is smock@athletics.pitt.edu. I'm really, really excited to be on the podcast, and be here at Pitt.

[00:45:37.24] I started in June, but I feel like I've already been here for a hot minute. I think it's a really exciting time between sports science and strength and conditioning. And I tell everyone to just challenge themselves and continue to learn every day. And like, Eric, you just touched on, you can learn from anybody on your staff. I can learn from my interns. I tell everybody on my staff you can have whatever percentage of the program that you would like. It's not 100% Stephanie Mock. It's 20% mine, 20% Lauren, in my intern, like 20% Mary Beth, you know. I think really just being open-minded and respecting everyone's opinion and how they look at things. Because I think the interns, they see things in a different light. You look back to when you were an intern and how you saw things on the floor, it's still extremely valuable.

[00:46:28.37] That's my two cents for the day that's my soapbox. But Eric, I can't thank you enough for having me on and I look forward to staying in touch.

[00:46:34.76] Yeah. For sure. Thanks for being with us. To all our listeners, thanks for tuning in. And we'd also like to thank Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support. 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.

[00:47:06.43] 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, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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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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Stephanie Mock, MS

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Stephanie Mock joined the University of Pittsburgh athletic department in June of 2021 as the Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance. Mock ...

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