by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Jesse Wright, MS, CSCS, RSCC*E
Coaching Podcast November 2022
Learn the path towards working as a National Basketball Association (NBA) strength and conditioning coach, from coaching veteran Jesse Wright. Wright ...
Learn the path towards working as a National Basketball Association (NBA) strength and conditioning coach, from coaching veteran Jesse Wright. Wright is a former President of the National Basketball Strength and Conditioning Association (NBSCA), and talks about how being a part of this group with fellow NBA coaches has improved advocacy and representation for strength and conditioning coaches in the NBA. Wright also shares his research relating to sociology and cultural topics to strength and conditioning. If you missed his presentation at the 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference in San Antonio, TX, Wright recaps this topic as it connects to the coaching experience. Tune in to learn steps towards becoming a more adaptable coach. Connect with Jesse on Instagram at: @jessekwright and on Twitter: @wrightstrength | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs and Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs To learn more about strength and conditioning in the NBA, check out the National Basketball Strength and Conditioning Association (NBSCA). The Intent Is To Grow: A Young Coach Is Guided Along The Path To Becoming A True Professional
Learn the path towards working as a National Basketball Association (NBA) strength and conditioning coach, from coaching veteran Jesse Wright. Wright is a former President of the National Basketball Strength and Conditioning Association (NBSCA), and talks about how being a part of this group with fellow NBA coaches has improved advocacy and representation for strength and conditioning coaches in the NBA. Wright also shares his research relating to sociology and cultural topics to strength and conditioning. If you missed his presentation at the 2022 NSCA Coaches Conference in San Antonio, TX, Wright recaps this topic as it connects to the coaching experience. Tune in to learn steps towards becoming a more adaptable coach.
To learn more about strength and conditioning in the NBA, check out the National Basketball Strength and Conditioning Association (NBSCA).
“And that represented the first kind of corporate partnerships, ever, for the association, which represented some real income, some real funds coming in, in addition to the vendor show that happens at the NBA combine this year. So I say all of that because there's a very real business element to an association like that. There's business operations.” 12:17
“So we're all a product of the people that we grew up around, the geography that we grew up in, and all of the culture that we were exposed to our whole life. And the model then describes what happens when we're presented with something different. How do we react to that?” 19:49
“So maybe it's not written into your role, when you were in that interview process and you applied for G-League strength coach role, you probably never thought that a line item or a bullet on that was to be kind of a regular rebounder for guys. Or to be in an assistant coaches pocket to set screens for a screen and roll drill or something like that.” 39:18
[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:04.30] Welcome to the NCAA Coaching Podcast, season 6 episode 14.
[00:00:10.42] Maybe it's not written into your role when you were in that interview process and you applied for G-league strength coach role you probably never thought that a line item or a bullet on that was to be kind of a regular rebounder for guys. All of a sudden you're in that environment. You recognize there's just limited bodies. And to really service the players and be a great teammate for what that organization needs, you step into that type of role.
[00:00:36.88] 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.
[00:00:47.68] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast I'm Eric McMahon. Today we're joined by Jesse Wright, veteran NBA strength and conditioning coach. We got the opportunity to connect a couple of times this year at the NSCA Coaches Conference and recently at the NBA Combine. Jesse, welcome.
[00:01:07.08] Eric, thank you so much for having me on. I've been a fan of this podcast for many years. I'm humbled and honored to finally be a guest.
[00:01:17.21] Yeah, it's a lot of fun doing this podcast. I joke with a lot of people that coming into this job, I never once aspired to be a podcast host. Like many coaching opportunities, you get thrown into the fire. And I think one great thing that's come from it is that you get to connect with a lot of great people, a lot of professionals doing great work in the field.
[00:01:42.07] And it just brings a lot of experiences full circle that, when I'm out at events and connecting with people and just being able to rehash those for everybody listening in. So typical podcast fashion, Jesse, just want you to jump in and tell your story a little bit for our listeners. How did you get into the profession, into the NBA? And what are you up to now?
[00:02:05.26] Yes, I would love to the chance to. Started off in the profession. I was the, probably, prototypical undersized high school football player that got really interested in formal program design and strength and conditioning from competing on a power-lifting team in the off season in high school. So it was a master's deadlift champion that kind of led the club, the powerlifting club.
[00:02:34.15] And it was my first chance to train under somebody that knew what they're doing and got me super interested in the program design, the nutritional component of strength and conditioning, and that led me to want to pursue it as a major.
[00:02:49.42] So Exercise Science degree from Temple University and got engaged with the strength and conditioning staff there because I worked in another role with the football and basketball teams there as a student manager. And that's kind of what got my feet wet with being in a Collegiate Division I weight room and seeing how things operate, from how they manage schedules and led athletes to-- we were by the book, multiset, periodized, Olympic lifting.
[00:03:19.90] We were on the platform two days a week with the football team. And I learned every aspect of coaching, clean grip and wide grip Olympic lifts, and long-term athlete development programming and periodized model. And it was everything I wanted at that point in time to stay engaged with athletics after making the decision not to play in college.
[00:03:41.68] And that led to an internship with the Philadelphia Eagles for my degree. And I spent nearly a full year with that team as a-- first, an intern and then an assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. And that was awesome because it was my first exposure, my only exposure to working within a high-intensity training program. So they were single set to failure and at that time about half the NFL subscribed to that philosophy.
[00:04:06.49] And I learned from two incredible mentors and coaches, Mike Wolfe and Tom Kanavy, at that point. And I still thank them to this day for what they taught me about that philosophy.
[00:04:16.51] And then they also presented me with an opportunity to go over to NFL Europe. And, again, this is going back to the year 2000. Minor league system for the NFL at the time and I was the Head Strength Coach for the team in Barcelona for a season.
[00:04:30.76] So that was my first opportunity to be a head strength and conditioning coach, which was great. And all the challenges that come with running your program for the very first time, which had very little to do with writing a program and everything to do with leadership and that component of being a reputable coach.
[00:04:50.02] And then I went to Hofstra University. I was the Head Strength Coach for the football team there for a season. I was out of strength and conditioning for a year. I worked for a sporting goods company.
[00:05:01.42] And then I landed with a private sports training organization which had as many as four training centers outside of Philadelphia. It was called Summit Sports Training Center.
[00:05:10.99] And I had a bunch of different roles there in my time, from just on the floor performance coach to a general manager type role, overseeing operations of a couple of centers. And then they also negotiated a couple of high-level strength and conditioning contracts, one of which was with Saint Joseph's University. And, again, this was in the 2000s, mid 2000s, one of which was with the Philadelphia 76ers.
[00:05:34.09] So both of those organizations hired this company as their strength and conditioning resource instead of their own full-time staff. And I served in those consultant roles in different capacities. That's how I got introduced to the Philadelphia 76ers. So I was a strength and conditioning consultant for that team for four years while working for the other company. And then the team picked me up full-time after four years.
[00:05:57.73] So all told, with the Sixers was 14 total years. Nine of those were as the Head Strength Coach. And then five were in a role titled Director of Performance Science, which kind of bridged the gap with strength and conditioning and wearable tech and sports science and kind of had a big role in our team nutrition and reported to an incredible sports scientist, David Martin, and learned a lot about that evolving area of professional sports these days and everything.
[00:06:25.67] It was a tremendous opportunity to work in a growing staff, both medical and performance.
[00:06:31.00] And for the last two years, just been doing a number of different consulting projects for different organizations, all somehow tied to high-performance sport. But a couple of different descriptions, couple of facility-design projects, still engaged with the NBA combine, fortunately.
[00:06:49.15] And did another combine over in South Africa for a private organization which brought together a number of different sports to assess different athletes and their opportunities to maybe get scholarship opportunities at American Universities. So it's been a mixed bag and radically different for the last two years than working for team sports, which was the first two decades of my career. But it's been a fun challenge, yeah.
[00:07:14.97] There's a lot there I want to follow up on and ask you about. One thing I really like, just hearing your background from where you started is there's a little bit of old school in there. And there's a little bit of new school, all the way from powerlifting in the early days, just kind of finding your interest and getting into typical college strength and conditioning environment with Olympic lifting.
[00:07:36.87] But then all the way up through a role as a director of performance science, integrating technology, sports science concepts. And so you've really worked across the full spectrum of the field.
[00:07:49.09] And one thing that's interesting, just knowing your role and involvement with the NBSCA, is that you've done a lot to advance that organization over your time in the NBA. And it's really a lot different now getting into the NBA, NBA's strength and conditioning, than the path you really carved out for yourself of getting in through a consultant role with such a unique path into the NBA. A lot of people might be surprised to hear that.
[00:08:20.65] I think it's also really cool you had that NFL Europe experience. Not everybody knows that was a thing, nowadays. That was cool. I remember seeing those games on TV at the time of year when you wouldn't really be expecting to be watching football and things like that. So just a really cool background. You've done a lot in the field.
[00:08:43.92] Talk about the NBSCA and just how that organization has evolved in your time, your involvement. You were the president of that organization during some really pivotal years. And just what that organization means for the NBA strength coaches today.
[00:09:01.26] Sure. Yeah, I actually enjoy talking about this. It's a bit of a history lesson. And I'm, gosh, so grateful and thankful to be a part of that and served on some of the executive boards in different capacities. I think it's first important to know and give a nod again. I got in the NBA in 2006, 2007.
[00:09:22.86] And a small group, four individuals took it upon themselves to kind of reform a new version of the Strength Coaches Association in the NBA and have to pay them their due. Daniel Shapiro, Sean Windle, Mike Curtis, and Keith D'Amelio, who were all full-time strength coaches in the league at the time and were younger. And all learned under great veteran strength coaches that led them at one point.
[00:09:49.98] But took it upon themselves to reform and structure the association in the, I guess it was around 2007, 2008, and secured an attorney and really, really laid a foundation and built some real structure to the organization that exists today. So it starts with them.
[00:10:10.41] And Daniel served as the president for those very first two years and then passed the presidency off to Sean Windle, I talk about these first three. I ended up being-- served as the third president in that newly formed association. And each of the presidents, and probably even to this point in time and everything, identify different targets.
[00:10:34.06] And some of it was forming the association and developing a mission statement and a vision statement. And what does this association want to be? What do we want to do for the members?
[00:10:45.20] And, again, I would think, going back to those years you probably had 20 to 30 members total, maybe not even representation from every NBA team in those early years, all the way up to now, where I would guess it's probably 60 or 70 members strong, maybe even more. And with two and three members from each team. Maybe even more with assistants, and G-League coaches, and everything. And the growth is just something really, really to be proud of.
[00:11:11.71] But those early years, I go back to Shawn taking over the presidency.
[00:11:14.95] He secured a really remarkable attorney that did wonders for some of the foundational components that I think any association would want to provide for their members and passed it off to me where we identified-- we want to do at least-- build some type of-- call it a rainy day fund, some opportunity for a pension, or something to take care of the members that put so much time into their roles with their NBA teams and then dedicate time to the combine and any type of initiatives as part of the association.
[00:11:51.10] So we were able to lay the foundation for that in addition to the first-- again, this was under my time as presidency alone. And, gosh, taking the lead from our attorney at the time, Michael Goldberg, where we were able to establish the very first structured partnerships, one of which was with the NSCA. Scottie Caulfield and I worked on that agreement together.
[00:12:13.36] The other one was with Gatorade. And the other one was with Adidas, at the time. And that represented the first kind of corporate partnerships, ever, for the association, which represented some real income, some real funds coming in, in addition to the vendor show that happens at the NBA combine this year.
[00:12:29.08] So I say all of that because there's a very real business element to an association like that. There's business operations. And we're all strength and conditioning coaches, all coming from our biomechanics, and our physiology, and our motor learning. And we don't know a whole lot about the business side of anything, really. We're just not taught that, at least formally, anyway. So you really lean on some people and some more knowledgeable individuals to help guide that.
[00:12:53.69] And it really is, it's a part-time job for the time that you serve on those boards. And, again, I'll call out Daniel Shapiro, again, who serves as the current president and was also named NBA Strength Coach of the Year just recently, just a couple of weeks ago for a lot of the dedication and the passion that he puts into advancing that association. And it's a lot of time.
[00:13:15.70] There's a lot going on. And it's even more advanced now at this point in time, what-- 15 years into its development? I might have that number wrong. But, yeah, it's a lot to put into it. But it's all for the benefits of the membership and to grow an organization where you feel like there's real unity. There's real connection with your equivalence, your colleagues, and your network of strength coaches within the NBA.
[00:13:43.21] It's funny you mentioned the business aspects of running an association. And that's something that, unless you have a lot of coaching experience, maybe, in the private sector on the business side of things, you may not be familiar with the tools, skills, needs of just being able to hold events on an annual basis. Being able to have resources and put them out there and have a website, maintain that.
[00:14:14.57] One thing, and I'll relate this from my perspective when I came on board with the NSCA, we are a non-profit organization as well. And that's something that, as a coach in the field for many years, I didn't really hear that perspective communicated to the coaching world, that the NSCA supports coaches but it's a non-profit organization.
[00:14:38.30] And being that it's a nonprofit organization, there's a lot of involvement from members, and volunteers, and committees, and task force groups that really are the decision factors that drive our organization. We have Board of Director elections going on right now. Those are long-standing committee members, volunteers, that make that ballot. And they elevate through, really, a pathway of involvement through the organization.
[00:15:11.60] You were there at the early stages but a lot like your members do, working with the NBSCA. And a lot of people listening in may not realize the NSCA has connections with these, really, advocacy groups for strength and conditioning coaches at the professional level.
[00:15:28.76] Coming in from the baseball side we had the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society. There's the NBSCA for the NBA, SCAPH for the NHL. And then we have a professional football group.
[00:15:41.00] These are such impactful groups and a great way for our field to really, in a way, learn from the best as we might think people that really have that elite sport experience and want to share it. And just one perspective I'll bring from the baseball side to this conversation is, there's a lot of coaches working at the professional level that are looking for that avenue to share their experience and knowledge, just like you are, Jessie.
[00:16:10.40] And it is really great to hear that because, I think, if you work in college strength and conditioning, or another area of the field, you may not even realize that these groups for coaches exist. And, no, it really is exciting. You talked about Dan Shapiro. He's the current president. I think he's a second-time president--
[00:16:33.98] And maybe a second time Coach of the Year Award winner for the NBA.
[00:16:38.96] The only-- in the history of that award --the only two-time winner of that award.
[00:16:43.83] Yeah, and he's an RSCC* coach. Been doing this over 20 years, which, I think when he applied for that I joked with him because I was like, I didn't think he'd been around that long. He got a real early start.
[00:17:00.85] Yes, he did.
[00:17:01.28] But it's really exciting just being involved with the NBA combine, seeing what you all do. The fact that strength coaches are not only involved with just workouts during the season but the scouting process and funneling that information to front office members. Just another area that strength coaches have value within professional organizations. So I'm excited about it. I'm excited that we're talking about this.
[00:17:29.72] Gatorade was a sponsor for your session at Coach's Conference in 2022. It was a pre-con session. We were excited to have you. Why don't you break down some of that for us?
[00:17:43.76] Yeah, again, just what another tremendous opportunity. So thankful to Gatorade for considering me and, certainly, NSCA for having me speak there. And in the position that it was, early in the conference and everything. That's a fun spot to be in.
[00:18:01.82] Yeah, so the topic and the theme, it's the one that I'm most passionate about, talking about with a couple of side projects that I have going on right now, my passion projects that keep you going when you're not working on the technical stuff, is just this concept of interpersonal skills. That who you are as a person and how you connect with athletes, and colleagues, and leadership. And gosh, there's this whole bucket of those skills that we know are critical to being a successful coach.
[00:18:32.27] And that's what I enjoy talking about. That's what I'm most passionate about, to compliment all of the amazing technical speakers that are out there. And they were lined up at that conference, in particular. So what I chose to talk about, what the representatives from Gatorade and I kind of agreed on, was this intercultural sensitivity model. It's a sociological model.
[00:18:56.42] And it was a bit of a risk in going at that topic because you have a room and a world full of strength coaches watching online. And you stand in front of them and you talk about a sociology topic. And I guess everybody's looking at you kind of crooked. And where is he going with this? But where it came from was a little bit of research for my book in the last 18 months that I put out.
[00:19:19.05] And what I came across was this really interesting model, that I thought, as soon as I came across it, had real application to high performance sport. And it's called the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. It has six different stages. American sociologist named Milton Bennett created it back in the '80s. And in its original form it basically just describes how we all receive and interpret cultural variance.
[00:19:49.96] So we're all a product of the people that we grew up around, the geography that we grew up in, and all of the culture that we were exposed to our whole life.
[00:20:01.32] And the model then describes what happens when we're presented with something different. How do we react to that? And many people don't react well to cultural difference. If you're kind of rooted in what it is you always did and there's this brand new something that's presented to you, a lot of times there's resistance to that.
[00:20:20.41] And we see that in high performance sport. That's where I drew the parallel, was that we are always, as strength coaches we're tasked with presenting new stuff, new opportunities to get better to athletes, whether it's progressions on a movement pattern, or whether it's technology, or a new supplement we're reading about that we think can be helpful or something.
[00:20:40.74] It's literally part of our role. I don't know if it's one we'd ever write into a job description but we do it every single day. And we need to be good at it. And we need to be prepared when people are resistant to those new ideas that we believe can be helpful. We genuinely feel that it can benefit someone or the team or we probably wouldn't bring it to the table.
[00:20:59.53] So what do you do when people resist that? And I think the model describes how to treat those people and those examples in those cases fairly well. And that was the nature of the talk. How can you take those six stages, which go from the most resistant stage denial where somebody goes, I don't even want to talk about that new thing?
[00:21:23.57] You want to tether a gym aware to a trap bar? I don't want my velocity measured. I ain't doing it. And that's a real scenario.
[00:21:33.30] Or take some other piece of technology. The one I used in the talk was wearable tech. Built into the collective bargaining agreement in the NBA is they don't have to wear the technology that you present to them. It's optional. So how do you manage that situation? And we did have some older veterans in my time with the team that resisted and chose not to wear it. And that's OK.
[00:21:53.70] But how do you handle those situations all the way up to the final stage, these adaptation integration or stages five and six where they've embraced the new idea, whoever it is that might have been resistant to it at first. They've accepted the new idea, your presentation of it, and they may even be so compliant at that point that they become advocates and they start talking about it.
[00:22:14.31] And, again, the fun example is the veteran person, the veteran athlete that maybe was a poor eater early in his career. Maybe you saw him as a rookie. And he was the definition of, like, fried food, and desserts, and poor pregame meals. Maybe he walks in with a McDonald's bag or something. And then throughout the course of his career he realizes he just can't sustain performance in health eating that way.
[00:22:41.13] He adopts the new way, changes his patterns. And he may figuratively or literally put his arm around the new rookie and go, hey, learn from me. You don't want to eat this way. There's real benefit from listening to the dietitians, some of the patterns and the strategies that she or he is introducing to you and everything. And let me talk to you about how it helped me. And he becomes an advocate for the new way.
[00:23:07.96] So that was the topic of the talk for sure. Got some good feedback. But like every presentation, you never hear from the people that didn't like it. So maybe there was a room full of people that were like, yeah, OK. Take that with you. Go somewhere else with it. But the people that I was able to engage with, and the debriefs and all that stuff, it was fairly well received, I think.
[00:23:28.35] Don't worry I'll grill you here and give you a few points now.
[00:23:32.22] [INTERPOSING VOICES]
[00:23:34.89] What you're talking about is adaptability of coaches. And that's something that comes up often as an area that-- coaches need to be adaptable in that there's a lot of shades of gray there.
[00:23:48.57] If you're working at the professional level, you gave a really good example on the tech side. Being adaptable to our facilities is one that a lot of coaches can connect with. You can't just come in with, here's my program all the time. You may not have that facility when you get a job or-- I remember at Springfield College we were warming teams up in the dorm lounge next to the weight room.
[00:24:17.86] We didn't have every piece of equipment we needed to get that done. But the goal was to just move them through and get them into the weight room. So being adaptable-- and that's what I want to ask you --what steps should coaches take to really identify where they're at in just being adaptable?
[00:24:36.44] And how do they move along that continuum so that they have an open mind when they need it but also can stay proactive and engaged with when they need the gas pedal, when they need to push like we do as coaches? I think there's a real balance there in coaching where we need to be planners.
[00:24:57.38] We need to come in with a plan A, plan B, plan C. But, as you know, sometimes we get to that plan Y or plan Z and that can wear on us a little bit. How do coaches navigate that?
[00:25:13.71] Yeah, I'll start with the first part of your question. I think all evolution comes first from recognition. If we're going to grow and develop, it starts with recognizing the areas that we may need to grow and develop. Or areas that could potentially be developed.
[00:25:30.30] So I think, with that in mind, starting with this idea that there are many different potential successful solutions to most situations, I think is just a good mindset to have, that our current method of doing things is just one of many possible solutions. And that's actually rooted in the model, where there's six stages.
[00:25:54.23] But Dr. Bennett bucketed them into two little three-stage packages. And the first was ethnocentric, where you believe your way, your culture, the one that is your reality, is the way everybody should view the world, those three stages. The way I see things is the way everybody generally could or should do it.
[00:26:17.67] And then you move to the second three and that's ethnorelative. And that's where you generally are wired. You just enter everyday going, your current view is just one of many possible solutions. And I think if we can live our lives on that side of the continuum, I think it just sets us up for this adaptability that you're talking about.
[00:26:38.06] Again, I'll go back to my 22, 23-year-old version of myself where I talked to veteran guys, maybe you, too. Where you leave your undergrad or you leave your first strength and conditioning experience and you're like, cool. I know at all. This is exactly how to train athletes. And that's what I thought.
[00:26:56.85] I spent two and 1/2 years under a wonderful-- two, again, coaches I consider mentors, Chris Hudak and Scott Fitzsimmons. And they were rooted in multi-set periodized Olympic lifting. And that's what I was reading in the NSC journals at the time. NSC journal, you look back to Tutor Bompa and all the early journal articles and everything, that's what I read about. And that's what I thought was the way.
[00:27:20.94] And then you leave there and, again, go right to the Philadelphia Eagles, the second organization I was fortunate enough to work for. And the entire weight room, like you didn't even have a squat rack in it. With Smith machine, but it was a philosophy that was rooted in machine-based work. A lot of Nautilus, not a lot of hammer strength. And it was a very popular philosophy at the time, single set to failure.
[00:27:46.15] And it was-- you can't call it the opposite. But a radically different philosophy on how to improve athletes. And guess what? Guess what? That one worked, too. You know what I mean? In terms of injury risk reduction, in terms of performance enhancement everything, we saw huge benefits, huge gains from our guys, with that philosophy, as well, when it was implemented.
[00:28:05.32] So it's like all of a sudden that was like my moment. Call it a tipping point. Call it an aha. And it's like, gosh, there's a lot more out there than what I thought I knew even a year ago. The young, arrogant version of myself thinking I knew everything.
[00:28:21.03] So I use that example because, to answer your question, it's like once you understand that there's so many different ways out there to successfully navigate a strength and conditioning program, or to run a warm up, or to implement some type of objective monitoring for within a weight room setting or something like that, now you're wired to go, OK.
[00:28:43.83] I'm open to hearing about new things. It doesn't mean you have to accept every single one of them. But I think at least open to learning about what's out there because there's just so much. Gosh. And we know it. Our field is moving so fast all the time. If you want to take a new technology direction, great.
[00:29:01.62] But just from a learning perspective, with the online certifications that are there. And you've got so many reputable coaches pumping out content. And maybe it's coaching queues or just how to-- a new perspective on how to coach a hip hinge or something like that. There's just always new things to learn. And when you're wired with the mindset that you're opened and readily available to take those in, I think that's a successful strategy.
[00:29:34.89] This talk on adaptability, I think it connects with the philosophical side, what's your coaching philosophy? But it also connects on the training side. Like you're talking about with technology or in professional sports where you're not these players first strength coach. They may come in with thoughts, ideas. They're adults. And you're dealing with adult decision makers in a training setting.
[00:29:58.60] So being adaptable really, really works across everything from our planning stages to how we implement sessions on a daily basis. How we make the decision to scrap what the plan was and move on to the next thing. Those are a lot of experiential learning, obviously, a part of the strength and conditioning profession.
[00:30:22.38] I want to ask you about your work. And you mentioned this a little bit with high performance. But your work is part of interdisciplinary teams. Probably when you started there weren't as many staff members, dietitians, chiropractors, physical therapists. They've added athletic trainers. And just the number of positions on the performance team that are in the mix today, how does the strength coach navigate that? What's your experience with that?
[00:30:53.38] Yeah, the personnel and medical and performance are growing everywhere. Staffs are adding people to provide more, maybe, personalized care and attention to athletes, certainly at the pro level, I know. And I say this all the time. I've said it in many different forms. For my first seven years with the team, with the 76ers, we were four deep in medical and performance. It was two athletic trainers, a full-time soft-tissue therapist and myself, the only strength coach.
[00:31:25.39] And then fast forward five years from that point in time, which would have been my year 11 or 12-ish, we had as many as 16 or 17 in that same department. And we brought on more strength and conditioning coaches. And we finally added some full-time physical therapists to the staff. We added people at the G-League level, the growing sports science element. And some director of leadership, as well.
[00:31:54.61] And that brings about-- you go back to the previous model and you're just so busy. It's more of a generalist model where you have to wear many different hats throughout the course of the day.
[00:32:05.83] And you're caught up in doing the job for 15, it was 15 athletes at the time. Very rarely do you have time to argue or have long term, big long meetings at the start of the day or anything. Because there's always guys coming in. There's always something to do. And I remember those years. Many, many times going, man, I wish I had more time to do this. If I had just a little more time I could grow this area.
[00:32:32.57] Maybe it's musculoskeletal screening. Or maybe it's like team nutrition, which, obviously, as I had a lot of strength and conditioning coaches where, along with maybe a dietitian consultant or somebody else that provides that level of oversight, counsel. So now you fast forward to that larger group. And you've gone from generalists to specialists.
[00:32:55.24] And now, with many people on staff, you have a very targeted role it's now much more refined to where you have to play a role on a larger team and do that very well. And with a growing staff, obviously there are, just like we had, incredibly smart people and firepower. You start to bring in these experts in their field.
[00:33:18.97] Again, our team was physical therapists, physiotherapists that came in from international countries. We added a couple of soft tissue therapists. You have a sports science element. You've added strength and conditioning coaches with new philosophies and. visions and ideas on how to implement programming with our guys. And we've added athletic trainers and interns. You had lower-level staff, as well.
[00:33:45.23] And now it's like, how do you share information? And that high performance word, collaboration. Make sure that all that you're doing, you have your morning meetings. And you're talking about the day's events, maybe some of the loading recommendations that we pulled from the data and some of the subjective anecdotal reports that you get from players relative to fatigue, or personal issues, or cognitive stress, or anything you would get from those guys.
[00:34:12.19] And you pull all that information together. And you come up with a medical and performance plan for the day. And you didn't always-- we didn't always agree on all of that. You. have these professional arguments in those meetings, which I think are necessary within a high performance environment to get a really strong end result.
[00:34:32.09] What I think the hard part is making sure that you arrive at a collaborative conclusion in those meetings. That when you leave the room as medical and performance, you're giving a common message. And our message normally goes to athletes, certainly. And it goes to coaches. And then it goes to front office members.
[00:34:52.21] And have your thumb wrestle it out it out with any of the professional disagreements in the meeting. But then leave with a common message. And that's a hard thing to do. That's a challenge, because you have strong opinions. And you have very, again, knowledgeable opinions about, could be a return to play case, could be, again, a loading or intensity recommendation that we would provide on a training day to the coaching staff or something like.
[00:35:17.50] We had a lot of those. And it takes a while, too. It takes some time to get on the same page. But I think when we started hitting on all cylinders you saw that. You've got a good feel for how people work and what they felt strongly about. And I think with people that are wired to want to work within teams and have successful outcomes within kind of gathering a number of different opinions and everything, that it can be a successful environment, although difficult.
[00:35:46.72] Yeah, I think that's great perspective. And I think a good takeaway there is if you're not having those medical performance collaborative type meetings at your school, institution, wherever you're listening from, that's something that might be worth exploring. We all have to have good relationships at the base level with our athletic trainers and our head coaches, in whatever sport we're working in.
[00:36:12.43] You hear more terminology nowadays around performance audits and things, maybe more connected to the technology and sports science monitoring side of things. And those are just really advancements of that concept of just getting together all the stakeholders that are caring for the athlete. Everybody putting the athlete first and trying to-- you go back to what you said before.
[00:36:38.17] Personalized care, I think that's something our field is challenged by a lot. We've been so trained in efficiency and meeting the needs of the team that we're a little torn as to maybe what our role is in serving the individual versus the team as a whole.
[00:36:55.30] Another thing popped in my head when you were talking about that, the generalists versus specialists. I think coaches need to be able to navigate both of those scenarios. In an example, we're talking NBA, great opportunity at the recent combine to meet a lot of G-League coaches who-- they're not going to have as many resources in the minor leagues as they do all the way at the NBA level.
[00:37:24.62] And so being able to navigate that, where it might be just you and an athletic trainer as a strength and conditioning coach. And then a couple of years later you get promoted to the NBA. And you're part of this interdisciplinary team. Well, you're going to have a specific role. There's some career development progression to that. What do you think about that?
[00:37:48.76] Yeah, no, without a doubt. Again, the G-League strength coaches I have gotten a chance to speak with, and representatives of many different teams since that position kind of became a thing in the NBA, those guys, certainly first and foremost, have the kind of conventional role of a strength and conditioning coach.
[00:38:07.66] But they also may drive team vans. And they also may plan logistics on the road and have to navigate getting players on a commercial flight. And maybe they have to help out with laundry. And there's a lot. And, again, that team nutrition aspect of ordering meals and everything which is an incredibly high maintenance role that a lot of us have experienced.
[00:38:30.64] Yeah, just again, it's sort of a mentality. And I think it's wired in. How can I be the best teammate? And if you're in that level of role and that's what's required of you from an organization to not be resistant to that, if you do see that there's limited personnel and you see everybody scrambling just to rebound for players, a shooting drill and there's limited staff that are surrounding the court. And you have an athletic trainer.
[00:39:00.44] And you might have just one or two development coaches and one strength and conditioning coach. And maybe you have a physical therapist. And maybe only one or two video guys. Well, to really run an effective shooting session, you need rebounders. That's what those guys are. Or you're just kind of wasting your time chasing down balls and everything.
[00:39:18.05] So maybe it's not written into your role, when you were in that interview process and you applied for G-League strength coach role, you probably never thought that a line item or a bullet on that was to be kind of a regular rebounder for guys. Or to be in an assistant coaches pocket to set screens for a screen and roll drill or something like that. But all of a sudden you're in that environment. You recognize there's just limited bodies.
[00:39:44.09] And to really service the players and be a great teammate for what that organization needs, you step into that type of role that you really never planned to have to do. But then you're like, OK, cool. That's one more thing that I should probably be open to doing with this organization.
[00:40:00.14] And then you may go to a completely different team. Maybe you elevate through the ranks and you're with the NBA team. Or you move over to another organization. And you could go to that and go-- you might walk into a world and they go, hey, man. You don't have to do that here. We don't need you on the court. We got you. We got you. You stay in your weight room, Strength Coach. And that could happen, too.
[00:40:21.38] So there again, that's cultural differences and recognizing maybe what opportunities provide you the best chance to be the teammate that that organization needs for you. And it's different everywhere. But I think, again, I think it begins with a mindset and an open mind.
[00:40:38.10] That's a great story or great perspective. And just to share a funny story, I went to a G-League game a few years ago. And you get the roster when you walk in. I'm sitting down. And I was high up in the stands where you don't really realize how tall people are. And I realized there was three seven footers on the court. I don't think I'd seen that in my entire life in any sport I've ever been a part of.
[00:41:05.85] So I had to go down to court level just to see what that was all about but--
[00:41:10.46] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:41:14.93] Talking about the G-League, you see those jobs come up in the field. Every year there's a position or two open. And for a young coach that's looking to get into professional basketball, those could be great opportunities. An opportunity for you to engage with the NBSCA coaches, guys and girls that have been around for a lot of years doing this. A lot of people to learn from.
[00:41:42.59] I know from the NSCA standpoint we really value our relationship with the NBSCA. And just to wrap things up, Jesse, what do you got going on right now? What are what are some of the projects you're working on?
[00:41:57.96] Yeah, so just came off, obviously, we got a chance to connect. Just kind of debriefing from the NBA combine. Again, super fortunate and grateful to still stay involved with them, kind of in a consultant-type role, reporting to Andrew Murray, who's involved with performance from a league standpoint for the league office and still have an advisory role for all of the strength and conditioning coaches of the league that implement all the testing and everything.
[00:42:28.65] So that event, we're still-- the data is still kind of fresh. Everybody's still picking through it online. And that being a component to the whole entire evaluation process, which is kind of going from just before the combine starts early May, all the way up until the NBA draft.
[00:42:47.44] So the online portal that the NBA built to view all the data and everything, everybody's picking through that regularly and everything. So some questions still come through about our testing at that event. Everything that you need to be prepared to do that. And then we'll do a full debrief on how the event went and everything. And because we're always looking to provide the highest level of service to the league for that event.
[00:43:12.97] So we still have those. So that's the big thing, just tying that event up well. Currently consulting for a recovery product so helping them get that off the ground. It's brand new. So there's a number of different meetings and serve on some weekly calls with different teams and organizations that are interested in it. So that takes up some of the time.
[00:43:35.58] And then there's one or two, again, this nature of potential consulting projects, which you're constantly kind of aware of what might be out there. And maybe putting your name in for some opportunities that you would like to be involved in. But it's more of a proposal-type scenario.
[00:43:53.83] So there's a couple of facility design projects out there that aren't a lock right now but certainly interested in maybe helping some organizations design some weight rooms and everything. So, yeah, it's a mixed bag. It kind of depends on the week and where I decide to spend my work hours each day. But it's, again, I think I said it early, it's a radically different day than what I was used to for a long time. But it's a fun challenge for now. I like the project-based work.
[00:44:20.91] It sounds like a refreshing change of pace for you.
[00:44:24.39] It is. It is. Yeah.
[00:44:26.18] So, Jesse, what's the best way for our listeners to get in touch, social media or best contact?
[00:44:32.25] Yeah, social media wise, I'm most active on Instagram. It's Jesse K Wright is the name of the user account. Involved in LinkedIn, as well so direct message on either one of those, I return messages in a fair amount of time, for sure. And I have a website, Balance The Bar. Again, all tied to interpersonal skills and high performance sport. And you could email that website. It comes to me directly.
[00:44:59.65] So those are probably the best ways to reach out. I love talking shop and love receiving calls, whether it's young coaches or veteran guys. I want to just kind of discuss the field and talk about evolution. And I welcome and enjoy those opportunities. So I would encourage anybody to reach out if you think it's a fit for a cool call and a cool conversation.
[00:45:21.56] Jesse from the NSCA, we appreciate all you do to support coaches, the coaching profession, the NBA coaches, and everyone else.
[00:45:30.08] To everyone listening in, we appreciate you being with us today. And a special thanks to Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.
[00:45:39.78] Hi, coaches. This is Mike Carroll, longtime college strength and conditioning coach, now working on the technical side of the profession. The NSCA Coaching Podcast brings highlights from all areas of our growing field to help you navigate your coaching path. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so that you don't miss an episode. Thanks for listening.
[00:45:58.95] 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's the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.
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