NSCA’s Coaching Podcast Special Episode – The Importance of Mentorship and Mental Health with Connor Agnew and Scott Caulfield

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D, Connor Agnew, CSCS, and Scott Caulfield, MA,CSCS*D, RSCC*D
Coaching Podcast September 2022


Connor Agnew, Director of Basketball Performance at Appalachian State University, and Scott Caulfield, Director of Strength and Conditioning at Norwich University, joins the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon on this Gatorade Performance Partner Special Episode, highlighting “The Importance of Mentorship and Mental Health” in strength and conditioning. The discussion emphasizes the need for coaches to cope with adversity and rely on trusted mentors along their professional journey.

Connect with Connor on Instagram: @strengthcoachconnor or Twitter: @CoachConnorSC | Connect with Scott on Instagram: @coachcaulfield or Twitter: @scottcaulfield |  Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs | To learn more and join the Gatorade Performance Partner Community, visit GatoradePerformancePartner.com.

Find additional NSCA resources in the areas of mentorship and mental health, you can stream the NSCA Coaching Podcast and select conference sessions on NSCA.tv.

Show Notes

“And I think the people that really helped me out the most were the coaches who show me that we're supposed to be having fun as well when this is happening. It's not everyday process where you're supposed to grind and everything's supposed to be uncomfortable. You can have fun. It's a very fun profession overall.” 13:15

“And I think the biggest thing is that athletes understand when you're being genuine and when you're not being genuine. So I think don't be influenced by what you see everybody else posting.” 22:35

“It might just be reaching out to someone that you look up to and you're trying to ask them some questions and just interview them. And maybe, who knows, those conversations can sometimes lead to mentorship. And I think that's the thing I would tell younger people too, is don't be afraid to reach out to people, especially in today's day and age of social media where it really is a good opportunity to reach out.” 27:50

“Mentorship, it's truly a calling of strength and conditioning coaches to connect with your athletes deeper than just reps and sets.” 35:53

“We see them probably more than the head coach will see them, and that's a really big piece. And so we have to make sure that when we're discussing with them any life lessons or coaching them on a daily basis that we're bringing positivity and, really, a growth mindset for them as well, too. And I think sometimes, too, recruiting visits get me a little excited because you get to meet their parents, and you get to meet their family and understand that it's not all just about athletics. It's about people growing overall throughout their own lives and understanding that these parents are trusting us to take care of their kids as much as possible and help them out as much as possible, too.” 44:40


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:04.36] Welcome to this special edition episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast.

[00:00:09.76] We see them probably more than the head coach will see them, and that's a really big piece. And so we have to make sure that when we're discussing with them any life lessons or coaching them on a daily basis that we're bringing positivity and, really, a growth mindset for them as well, too. And I think sometimes, too, recruiting visits get me a little excited because you get to meet their parents, and you get to meet their family and understand that it's not all just about athletics. It's about people growing overall throughout their own lives and understanding that these parents are trusting us to take care of their kids as much as possible and help them out as much as possible, too.

[00:00:50.53] This is the NSCA 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.

[00:01:01.37] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today is a special Gatorade performance partner collaboration episode. We have two awesome guests. One who you probably know very well, the original host of the NSCA Coaching Podcast Scott Caulfield coming to us now as the director of strength and conditioning at Norwich University. Scott, nice having you back.

[00:01:23.65] Thanks. Great to be here.

[00:01:26.28] Our second guest is Connor Agnew, who is also now on the East coast as the director of basketball performance at Appalachian State University, where he works with both the men's and women's basketball teams. Connor, awesome having you on the podcast.

[00:01:42.00] Thank you. I've been a long-time listener, so I really appreciate the opportunity.

[00:01:45.23] We appreciate that. Today's episode focuses on two very important areas for strength and conditioning coaches-- mentorship and mental health. We're going to talk about these important areas for the strength and conditioning field, and specifically the importance of building a strong support system to better navigate your coaching career.

[00:02:07.10] Connor, I'm excited to get to know you a bit more. Let's kick this episode off with your background in the strength and conditioning field, and some of the key mentors and milestones that you've experienced.

[00:02:19.81] Absolutely. So I initially got interested in strength and conditioning-- I think like a lot of strength coaches, I wasn't very athletic. And I found out that the weight room was going to help me out a ton throughout my career. So I initially played football, track and field, and wrestling. And I got really invested in the weight room from there.

[00:02:37.37] And then I went to Temple University for exercise science, and I started my first internship at University of Pennsylvania. And then from there, I did a summer training camp with the New York Jets. And then I went to University of Tennessee to get my Master's degree. And I worked with both football and Olympic sports there, and then transitioned to Texas Tech, and then now at App State.

[00:02:58.18] My biggest mentors-- I have a couple, and I have a few that may have a few choice words for me for not mentioning them on this podcast. But the two biggest would definitely be Dan Worth, who's the director of Olympics strength and conditioning at University of Tennessee, and Darby Rich, who is the men's basketball strength and conditioning coach at Texas Tech. Both of those guys have been massive parts of my career and have really helped me through some tough times. So I really appreciate everything that they've done for me.

[00:03:26.23] That's awesome. I like hearing that multi-sport background. And now you're working on the basketball side, but you really can pull from a lot of different areas there. Scott, in your long-time role at the NSCA, you've had the opportunity to meet thousands of coaches across the profession. Speak to some of your mentors, how these relationships have evolved for you across different types of roles that you've had.

[00:03:51.28] I've been super fortunate, I feel like, to have the people that I've connected with. I look at a lot of the kind of early on mentors. And why I wanted to get involved in NSCA honestly was people that I met through the organization really stepped up from the day that I met them and offered different types of mentorship, whether it be advice or just support, or showing me how it's done.

[00:04:21.88] One of the first people I ever met in the organization when-- back in the day, the NSCA used to do these symposiums at different sites. It was essentials of strength training conditioning in New York City. And that was one of the first ones I ever went to back in the day in the early 2000s. And Doug Lentz, who's one of our long-time conference workers, was there. And Mike Barnes, who was actually the education director of the NSCA at the time, was there.

[00:04:50.63] And I just remember them talking shop with me and just being super willing. And I was like, hey, could I send you a program sometime? And they were like, absolutely. Send it. I'll check it out, give you some feedback. And that was the first initial experience for me with the organization.

[00:05:08.12] And then going to another conference six months or a year later, and they remembered me and remembered my name. And they were like, it's great to see you here. And they told you, hey, go to this session, or go see this coach. That was really initially the kind of experience and relationship that I got from the NSCA, as I call it, people that I associated with it.

[00:05:33.19] And being at the headquarters and being around so many different people, that was the coolest thing of having that reach of the organization when you're at the headquarters. But I was also there at a time-- and I feel super fortunate that Boyd Epley, who founded the organization, came back to work there when I was-- he was actually there before I got there.

[00:05:55.55] So when I went there, he was in the building every day. And he became a huge mentor for me. And not exactly in X's and O's. We talked plenty of strength and conditioning, but I learned more from Boyd. And we worked out together for a few years, so we were training partners, which was awesome. Getting to work out with the guy that founded the organization is just unbelievable.

[00:06:23.27] But we had talks about everything. He told me stories about how they did things. And he was talking about administrative things, and management things, and supervisory things. Nothing under the sun necessarily about how to squat, or how to bench, or how to program athletic programming. It was all the other things that you don't get a lot of mentorship on sometimes.

[00:06:46.58] And so that was invaluable to have Boyd. And I think he was at that time really helping. We were trying to get people, trying to get strength coaches back to the organization. And he was saying, you need to be the person out there needing more coaches, and talking to more coaches, and letting them know that the NSCA is for strength conditioning coaches. So he was huge about that.

[00:07:10.39] And we were just making fun of my good buddy, Joe Kenn, before we started recording. So, luckily, we won't play that part. But he's been someone who I looked up to coming into that role. And then through my evolution of my job at the NSCA, we've become super tight. And I consider him a huge mentor.

[00:07:32.65] I called him and talked to him before I took this position at Norwich. He was one of my biggest sounding boards as I looked at the career moves. And now anything related to my day-to-day, big picture stuff, I have no problem texting him or calling him. And he does the same for me.

[00:07:54.13] We get together at national and go train at West Bank Athletic Club. So it's been a really neat evolution of a mentorship and friendship. And it goes both ways now, which is really the cool true evolution of mentorship, in my opinion.

[00:08:13.66] I think that mentorship to friendship or maybe colleague is somewhere in the mix there is really interesting. And a couple of things that you touch on, obviously being connected with the NSCA headquarters. One of the cool things about that is it connects you with the history of our field. And our field is not that old. It goes back to the 70s, when it got organized. And that history, for young coaches, seems prehistoric. But for us sort of in the middle of our careers, it's tangible and we can relate to a lot of those lessons learned.

[00:08:52.58] And it's pretty cool when you can connect with all the-- Boyd Epley gets credited as the founder of the NSCA and the field and the profession and hear the things he was thinking about when the NSCA first started. I remember he would talk about the 78 original members and he joked that anybody in the room counted, from the exhibitors, to the wives, to the people working at the hotel, like anyone who was there happened to be a member just because they were trying to grow and build support. And it's pretty cool to look at it now when our network is over 60,000 strong and just to see that growth over time.

[00:09:35.56] You mentioned a lot of key names and mentors. Joe Kenn, talk about someone who just cares about the profession so much. Another name, Ron McKeefery is a coach. I can think of so many people who have been mentored by him, coming up as GAs. And that sort of brings me to this other connection more towards the mental health and sustainability of the profession, that there's a strong push in this profession, that we have to pay our dues. We have to put the time in and it's long hours. A lot of times it's low pay.

[00:10:16.96] Whole staffs can get wiped out with coaching changes. There's a lot of challenges associated with that. And we look to our mentors, the people that guide us, for advice at these times of how to navigate some of these challenges. Connor, speak to some of the roadblocks, challenges, stressors that you've had just navigating the early part of your career with some of the different stops. Share that and then we can relate it to the field as a whole.

[00:10:48.96] Yeah, so the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the biggest roadblocks in the early part of my career would be when I started at Texas Tech. That was my first full time position. I was a part-time with University of Tennessee and I had cheerleading and that was about it. I was the assistant for every other program. So I had never really had a full program where I was integrated in to that level.

[00:11:15.55] And so I got to Texas Tech, and it was during COVID, so I was kind of tucked away in a hotel for the first couple of weeks that I was there. I wasn't really able to spend time with the coaches or the players and get to know them. And so it was a stressful time. And then, unfortunately, the staff that I was hired by was actually let go within the first three weeks of me being there. And so that was a really daunting task for me to undergo because all of a sudden it was, three weeks with me being there, it was myself and our athletic trainer acting as the Director of Ops, assistant coaches doing every role possible.

[00:11:49.86] And my experience with basketball growing up was I pretty much fouled out every game in eighth grade, and I didn't really do much else. So I was kind of at a loss. And you talk about the importance of mentorship, I'm forever indebted to Dan Wirth because of how much I was able to reach out to him and call him and ask him questions on just silly stuff, but things that he was really willing to be there for me and help me out in a ton of ways. And so it was difficult because I hadn't really even gone through that relationship building process with teams before and all of a sudden, I'm doing it with a team where I'm the only coach that's there. And it took a couple of weeks for a new head coach to come in.

[00:12:30.97] So that was, by far and away, probably one of the most stressful points in my career. But it was also one of the times that I grew the most because I had to go through that challenge but also because I had the help from Dan. And then talking about paying your dues, I think that's something that a lot of coaches that are in my age range struggle with because there is a large mental health movement of knowing your worth and getting paid for what you do. And I think it's a great movement that needs to happen and making sure that these interns are able to actually do what they need to-- are compensated in order to be able to continue with their profession.

[00:13:09.06] But my first two years, I worked for completely free. And I was actually paying to be there because of student loans. So that was definitely a challenge. And I think the people that really helped me out the most were the coaches who show me that we're supposed to be having fun as well when this is happening. It's not everyday process where you're supposed to grind and everything's supposed to be uncomfortable. You can have fun. It's a very fun profession overall.

[00:13:34.98] So I worked with Craig Fitzgerald at the University of Tennessee football. And I think anybody who knows him knows that he's a guy who likes to have a lot of fun and he can also work really hard at the same time too. And so paying your dues was tough but being surrounded by younger strength coaches who had similar visions and then working with older coaches who were able to kind of remind us that we're supposed to enjoy the profession we're within was a big piece of that.

[00:14:02.03] I like that you really touched on something that I think strength coaches identify with really well is that stress and adversity equate to growth in the long term. And that's something that I think there's this investment mentality in strength and conditioning of I know this is going to be a challenging internship or a challenging time frame for just paying rent or whatever it may be. But it's going to be worth it on the back end. And

[00:14:34.97] I'm also glad you mentioned Coach Wirth, Tennessee. I've heard phenomenal things about him and had the opportunity to talk to him on the phone a few weeks back. Ryan Metzger, '22 assistant strength coach of the year, recently went over there from Clemson. And just had a great conversation with them. And so yeah, that's one of the cool things about this role at the NSCA is a lot of these conversations come full circle. And you just hear about a lot of phenomenal coaches in the field that have a huge impact, not just on our athletes but fellow coaches.

[00:15:08.39] Scott, I want to ask you a similar question. You've been in a couple of different director roles now and this connects to the leadership side of running a department, coaching athletes. What's the most stressful part of your job and how do you overcome that stress?

[00:15:28.69] Oh man, tough question, what's the most stressful part? I feel like I have one, I feel like I have a lot less stress in Division III than I did in Division I. I think it's an evolution of your career growth and what you want out of it. So I shouldn't just say that it's just because of that. But being director for 22 teams and having one full time assistant, our hours could get pretty long and that can be stressful.

[00:16:01.21] I think it's important to be able to set boundaries and have coaches know that, and have support from your-- Luckily, we have super support from that AD and even presidential level of what we're doing here. I'm very lucky to have that level. I mention the president a lot and people are always like, wow, that's impressive. And that's one of the benefits again of being at a smaller school, right? He picked us up, Alfie and I, my therapy dog and I, on the way to work yesterday and drove us in on his golf cart. So that's the kind of thing that happens on a regular basis around here.

[00:16:46.90] But I think it's easy. I started, and some people who know my story were like, I started when I got out of the military. I started in the strength and conditioning field. So I graduated college when I was 30, my bachelor's when I was 30. So I was behind the eight ball in a lot of aspects in this field. And I feel like it's a double edged sword with the whole working for free versus not.

[00:17:16.36] And I wouldn't say it because I did my time and I put my dues in. I don't say everybody has to. I don't know that that's the right answer. But I do know that I was brought up in the way that I was brought up. I knew people that worked two or three jobs and it wasn't uncommon. You did what you had to do to make your way.

[00:17:38.48] And what I thought as was I'm going to do whatever I have to do to get to where I want to go in this field. And if that meant that I had to pick up a bartending job or work at a private sports performance place and volunteer at Dartmouth College, which I did volunteer with football for an entire year before I ever got paid. And I was there at 5:00 in the morning to early morning football lifts, and I was going to a private center to work during the day and train clients and athletes in the afternoon, and coming back for a team at night at Dartmouth.

[00:18:13.57] When I look back at some of those years, it's like, Holy cow, how did you even do that? But I have no doubt that all of those things are what set me up for the position and the place that I'm at today. You know what I mean?

[00:18:29.68] Yeah. The thing that made me laugh, you talked about Alfie your dog. I think this episode could really benefit from a quick list of benefits from having your dog in the weight room. If anyone follows Scott on Instagram, Alfie is a big part of that Norwich University strength and conditioning program. What kind of role does Alfie have, Scott?

[00:18:56.09] Yeah, I would 100% advocate for athletic departments getting on board with having animals around more often. We're super fortunate. She is actually a certified therapy dog. We just did that this summer. She's got a certificate and everything, so it's official.

[00:19:17.21] But it's a game changer. Again, we're at schools where kids are away from home, they're away from their family pets. They're stressed out for whatever reason. And having a dog that just wants some attention and love from them makes everybody's day change automatically. You see the face as soon as you walk in, even if they just see the dog in the corner.

[00:19:41.90] But I think that's the other thing too, all stress is stress. So I think part of this too is how we can educate ourselves. And I've been thinking about it in terms of how I talk to some athletes about wearables and different things and understanding, hey, just because you're getting that feedback that you're stressed out, your sleep was bad or whatever, that doesn't mean that we just shut off and we have to go back to bed today. That means we need to figure out what are the tools and resources that we're giving you to turn today around.

[00:20:14.90] I realized today, now I just saw that on my wearable whatever, what do I need to do now to take care of myself to make this day even better because now I'm aware of it? It doesn't mean I can't train, I can't do anything else, it means I need to be aware of how to better manage my day to turn this into a better score. And if a therapy dog can help with that, I'm all for it.

[00:20:39.30] Yeah, I think that's always cool seeing your Instagram feed, just seeing what the athletes are doing. I'm obviously from Vermont and so it brings me back. I used to play against Norwich back in my days at St. Lawrence, so pretty cool having you there. Connor, I want to ask you, what are some of the other challenges that you see for strength and conditioning coaches in the field? And for young coaches looking into the profession, what are the things they should know to prepare themselves for some of these challenges?

[00:21:14.02] Yeah, so I was just on the phone the other week with somebody who's getting their first full time job. And one of the things I told them, I said, I'm going to tell you this right now so that when you experience it later you're not going to feel upset or you're going to recognize Connor already told me this was going to happen, that I think a lot of times something I struggle with too is wondering if what I'm doing is good enough or if it's accurate or if it's helping the athletes as much as possible.

[00:21:40.94] But there's this big push on social media to post everything that everybody's doing. And sometimes it can look like really high level stuff. And my programming itself is very basic. And so sometimes I'll look at that and I'll say to myself, is this good enough? Am I doing enough for the athletes? Is my program at a high enough level? And once again, going back to mentorship, that's where I can really lean on my mentors for a big help from them. And I think the biggest lesson I learned throughout this process is that you just need to be genuine and you need to do what you believe in.

[00:22:14.51] So I run basically 5 3 1 and a little bit of triphasic and I just stick with that. And I've noticed that when I try to step out or if I do something that I just saw on Instagram, people get a lot of questions or it doesn't seem like I fully bought into that process, if that makes sense. And I think the biggest thing is that athletes understand when you're being genuine and when you're not being genuine.

[00:22:40.60] So I think don't be influenced by what you see everybody else posting. I think Pitt has an amazing Instagram, University of Pittsburgh, and sometimes I see that stuff and I'm like, man, I'm getting blown out of the water by Pitt right now. But don't let that doubt what your own abilities are and don't let that interfere with what you believe in and what your program is.

[00:23:03.70] I like that we're talking about mental health and touching on that. But we're not really talking about it in the way that shies people away from the topic. Mental health can turn people off. You start thinking of hospitals or doctors or just being kind of pushed out of the team environment of, Oh, this person can't cut it or hang with what's going on. We're actually talking about resilience, setting and achieving goals, working hard, all the things we value as coaches and trying to find ways to stay on course and not get distracted from those things.

[00:23:47.04] Self-doubt can do that at times. Like you mentioned, just things you see on social media can derail you from your goals, or where you want to be. And I think maybe that's one of the true benefits of athletics that we aim to uphold in our athletes as strength coaches. We're behind the scenes. We're pushing athletes. We get to see them at their breaking point more often than you ever get to see on a sport field. And I just think that's so valuable that we almost reframe the mental health topic in sport to be productive and positive and actually get back to performance on the field.

[00:24:30.02] Scott, I want to ask you from a leadership side, and this may relate some to your experience at the NSCA, a thing I like to say is that we want to develop young coaches to become leaders in the profession. We've all been in that seat where we've had lofty goals in the profession or seen job descriptions that we weren't ready for but we aspired towards. As leaders, as mentors, how should we help guide young coaches in a way that's healthy, considering mental health and well-being and most beneficial to their development as professionals but as people in general?

[00:25:10.58] Yeah, well first I want to just say off of what Connor was just saying too, I think that exact feeling or thinking is exactly why mentorship is so important. We all have that and, whether we call it imposter syndrome. I feel like if you don't have a little kind of healthy dose of that sometimes, that maybe you're not keeping yourself in check. But you have mentors that you can go back to and they reinforce the fact that what you're doing, Connor, is perfect, it's what you need to be doing. And they're supporting that when you're having these offline conversations with them.

[00:25:54.53] And you can ask them about other stuff that you saw on social media or something that maybe made you think, Oh man, I can't believe we, our training sucks. Look at what those guys are doing. Oh gosh. And you got to remember that part. And it's partially self confidence and learning some other tools that might help support that.

[00:26:22.79] But like I laugh because when I saw that on the show notes, I thought about that. And I was waiting for 10 years for someone to show up at NSCA headquarters one day and be like, wait, that's that guy from Vermont, get him out of here. He's not supposed to be there. But you can't let that stuff sink in too deep. And I think that's the key part of why we need young people who are interested in this profession to seek out and find mentors that are going to set them on the right path and set them up with success, whether that be you need xyz, OK, well tell me what your aspirations and your goals are.

[00:27:12.44] And then those of us that have been in the field, all right we can help point you, is there a specialty certification that you need to support you in whatever that path might be, or is it not that, is it that you actually do need some different experience coaching. Maybe it's a different team. What if you've never worked with a female team before and now we need to gain some sort of experience in how you interact with those groups of people. I think that's where just that mentorship initially finding somebody that you can connect with.

[00:27:49.55] And maybe, it's again, there could be different levels. It might just be reaching out to someone that you look up to and you're trying to ask them some questions and just interview them. And maybe, who knows, those conversations can sometimes lead to mentorship. And I think that's the thing I would tell younger people too, is don't be afraid to reach out to people, especially in today's day and age of social media where it really is a good opportunity to reach out.

[00:28:18.59] Again, I think having a professional presence on social media is important if you're a young coach. And trying to show them that having that professional page can be separate from your personal page and you can still keep stuff that you want to keep with your friends on there. But being able to show that, helps grow yourself in a different way. Because again, we know if we're hiring people, all of us on this, the first thing we're going to do is we're going to go start looking at their social media right now. So it's important that we kind of build these things in.

[00:28:55.97] And then I think just having, like I said, resources to know how to manage mental health challenges and stress, whether you talk about breathing, meditation, whatever those avenues are. And again, those are two that I just mentioned off the top of my head that I'm into. I try to utilize those to help me as much as I can. So what other tools can we help put in front of these young people to help them be successful? But definitely letting them know that we all struggle with thinking someone else's social media is better than ours or they're putting out more content.

[00:29:32.96] Or like yeah, I see videos sometimes I'm like, oh my gosh. I can't believe I saw this friend of mine, Arianna Luther, Miami, she's been putting out some crazy reels lately. And I'm just like, God, I suck at Instagram. It's like I couldn't do that. They are unreal. So it's just knowing but that's OK.

[00:29:57.59] I know that what I put out there is helpful to some people. And I think that's an important thing is just knowing what you know, that you're still the expert and you know most probably more than 99% of the population. And just to keep that in your back pocket when you're going into these situations, especially if you might feel maybe not up to the right level or maybe you're not qualified is just remembering the experience and education that you've had that you are qualified to talk about this or do this job. And that's important too.

[00:30:34.55] From what Scott was saying, there's a distinct phone call I remember with Dan where we were kind of discussing a problem I was having at the time with one of the teams I was working with. And I remember getting really upset and just when Scott says that you're the expert, that's exactly what Dan told me. And it was you're the one who they are looking to provide that expertise and they want to know what your opinions are. You don't have to say I think or I believe. You know what the best order of operations or process is in that exact scenario. So you're the expert in that situation.

[00:31:11.24] And what I really appreciate about my relationship with Dan is he keeps it real with you but he's so nice. He's like the nicest human being you've ever met. I'm sure you noticed on the phone. So I just remember we were talking and he goes, well, Connor you do have some softer tendencies. And so that's the nicest way anybody's ever called me soft in my life.

[00:31:33.75] But I think with how that happened, what I appreciate about the mentors I have is that they'll be honest with me and let me know when it's kind of on me. I was kind of creating a problem for myself there by not being confident by not approaching it like I was the expert. And that's what really helped me in that early part of my career.

[00:31:55.51] Going back on, Scott you said be proactive in reaching out to people and the goal of that is to build your support network. And going off what Connor said of building confidence from that support network and not letting things like social media, because we get so much more information now. It's not like back in the day where if there wasn't a book on the topic or you didn't find the right article on it, you kind of had to work through it for yourself and figure out what worked and you went to more practical administrative things for your institution.

[00:32:30.28] There's so much information now. Well, that can either build confidence in what you're doing or it can chip away at it. I want to go back on an episode we had on the podcast with Angelo Gingerelli. And a lot of times when we talk about social media on a podcast it's, man, you've got to get off there, there's so much, it's a distraction from what you do. But he was so excited about just all the free information that's available today. That if you can frame that in a positive way for your confidence, for how that can influence your program, how that can influence your relationship with athletes at your institution, it really can be a positive.

[00:33:11.69] So maybe one of the things we need to do as strength coaches is actually reinforce that filter we have for information because it's so relevant today, where we were just happy to get information before. A mentor was just so welcomed to us that anyone who is pouring into us we just welcomed. But maybe that filter now is a little more relevant because we have to now frame it in a way that keeps us positive, that keeps us confident, that keeps us taking our environments forward. What do you guys think about that?

[00:33:49.30] I like it. When I think about when I first was getting in the profession, I had to learn how to Olympic lift and I was trying to seek out a way to learn that. And I was driving from Central Vermont to St. Albans. Eric knows Vermont geography. Sorry, Connor. So I was literally driving like 2 and 1/2 hours every weekend to go meet this experienced Olympic weightlifter to get--

[00:34:22.98] There was no possibility to Instagram or Facebook or whatever. I guess I could have ordered some VHS tapes probably somewhere and done it. But I think that is just a different, people don't have to do that anymore, to some degree. There's so much more where it's at your fingertips. So I think having a mentor who is able to direct you in the right arenas or areas that you want to be involved in. And I think there are other aspects where you're just going to seek out and find some new stuff and new people and then you're going to have to vet that as to whether they really are legitimate or not. And maybe that's bouncing it off mentors, or different people as well.

[00:35:10.10] I think that mindset is exactly how you grow and having a growth mindset and understanding and seeing this new information and not seeing it as something that somebody is doing better than you, but as something that you can learn from. And I think that the biggest issue, and what I mentioned previously, is I would see what other people were doing on social media and I would get upset about it because I was like my program is not that high level.

[00:35:31.85] It was because I'm competitive. I think everybody in college athletics wants to be the best. And I want to be the best strength coach out there. So if I see somebody doing something else, I would take it as like, man, I'm not good enough. And instead, you should take a mindset and that approach where it's, OK, how can I learn from them to incorporate that into my program, or is this something that will fit with us so that I can get better from here?

[00:35:53.61] Mentorship, it's truly a calling of strength and conditioning coaches to connect with your athletes deeper than just reps and sets. That's something we talk about a lot. But I don't think it ever gets old that that's our role. We're the ones there when the coaches are out recruiting season, making sure the team's ready for the following year. I think mentorship can really reinvigorate your energy level at say mid-career or later in your career when you're further out from that initial drive to get into the strength and conditioning profession.

[00:36:35.10] I had a coach once that one of his big advice points was always go back to your why, go back to your beginning, why you got into this profession. Because at certain points, you get so distant from that that your why changes or other things in your life take hold. It relates to some of the stress points and things that we talk about. But I think that mentorship really has a calling for strength coaches to connect back to your why, find a new why, whatever it is that keeps you pushing in this profession because that energy is important for what we do.

[00:37:11.37] It's important we have energy in front of the room. It's important we can connect with our athletes on their level. And we know our athletes have to bring the energy. So that's just something I think about, that our confidence, all the things we've talked about today is really important to this profession. How we maintain that and sustain that make this profession more sustainable.

[00:37:35.04] Last thing I really want to talk about with you guys is sustainability of this profession. It can touch a little bit on the mental health side of things but really when we get into this field, our eyes are wide open. We're so excited about the prospects of what is coming down the road and the types of positions we have, when hardship comes, or you're having to move or you have a family or different factors for different people, what are the key challenges that coaches need to be aware of, that need to think about, that can keep the field moving forward, and just some of the areas we can work on from the NSCA that can help these areas?

[00:38:32.33] I think one of the things that I think of sometimes, I think you have to understand, and I would hope that people understand, that if you're getting into coaching, it is a non-traditional profession. You are going to have different working hours and travel, et cetera, than typical professions. So I think for me it's important that we remember all sport coaches have the crazy schedules, potentially, and strength and conditioning coaches too.

[00:39:07.37] And I hate being around to do nothing. So I am big, if we're going to be there and we have to be there, there's a reason for it. But if we don't have to be, we are not going to be there. And so I think being able to set a boundary like that. I think it's important to understand, look, you're not getting into a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job. And I think that's important to understand because if you don't, you're going to be really upset. You're going to have a real rough awakening when you get to a position where you want to go home at 5 and that's just not the way it is.

[00:39:48.05] The way we do things now, I'm like the second shift. So I work basically like 12:00 noon to 8 PM most days during the school year. And that's just the way that we structure things with two of us so that we can keep the facility open the longest amount of time and serve the most athletes. But I kind of dig that schedule right now. And I haven't done that in a long, long time, but I'm kind of loving the way that it works like that right now. And so I think it's important to understand what you're getting into for one thing, but it is also important to be able to educate people about is it really necessary for you to be there for different parts.

[00:40:37.35] I think that one other thing I'll just mention on this is a long time ago I read or listened to Seth Godin's The Dip. It's a book that he wrote. It's a really short, quick, and easy one. And basically the gist of it, it talks about being on that plateau. That plateau for growth is you don't know at what point on this plateau you are before you hit that next uptick, where you go up to the next level.

[00:41:05.52] And it's funny that I mentioned it now too with this, with you guys talking about it. I was chatting with our president last night. I walk home, I joke that I have a meeting with him on central street every now and then. So literally stop on his front porch, just shooting the breeze, and they're basically saying something to the effect of we're about to take off again here. And they were saying you can't go anywhere for the next couple of years because it's about to pop off and we're about to take it to the next level. And I just thought about that immediately and think about The Dip and you don't know where you are along that path before you're going to take that next step up.

[00:41:45.24] And so I used to say it to all the interns that we had at the NSCA too, don't give up what you want most for what you want now. And I say that to myself every day now. Like when I just have an interesting or wild idea, I keep myself in check by reminding myself, don't give up what you want most for what you want now. And that's easy, again, talk about instant gratification, whatever, kind of got to bring yourself back, center, whatever it takes. That's kind of my mantra for that.

[00:42:14.03] But I don't know why that book spoke to me at that time, but it reminds me of that period. You just don't know when you're going to hit that next growth period. And sometimes you need to quit certain things, but sometimes you need to stick it out until you hit that next uptick.

[00:42:34.38] I like that you keyed in on your second shift. And I always thought of baseball like that. It was sort of the 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM day. In my mind, the alternative was, at the college level, being sort of a 5:00 AM 5:00 PM strength coach, to work with teams around the class schedule. And it's something that at various points in your career, you might want to seek out, an environment where you can thrive.

[00:43:03.91] You get experience where you can, but you seek an environment where you can thrive that gives you, say a 9 to 5 that fits where you're at in your life and other factors. And that can maybe reduce some of the stresses that come with this profession. Higher division, for example, isn't always a better job in this field. We can have a huge impact really anywhere we are. Connor, I want to give you a chance to voice in on this. What are some areas you'd like to see the field grow and advance towards professional development and just supporting coaches?

[00:43:43.49] Well, I think that is kind of the big thing that a lot of coaches don't really know coming in is that hours piece and how much time you actually have to invest within it. But one of the biggest things that helped me throughout that whole area was understanding how much of an effect we can have on the athletes that we work with and how much we can help grow them. And I think it's a mindset every day that you have to approach, like we talked about earlier with the growth mindset, but also having a positive mindset.

[00:44:14.79] There's definitely plateaus. There's definitely some times where we hit five groups in a row and by the fifth lift group, I'm completely out of juice, and I'm just low energy, and it can get brutal. But then you also have to understand that these are athletes who have dreams and they want to, a lot of them, want to continue on to professional sports. A lot of them want to do great things in life even if it's not related to athletics. And we see them probably more than the head coach will see them and that's a really big piece.

[00:44:42.41] And so we have to make sure that when we're discussing with them any life lessons or coaching them on a daily basis, that we're bringing positivity and really a growth mindset for them as well too. And I think sometimes too, recruiting visits get me a little excited because you get to meet their parents, get to meet their family, and understand that it's not all just about athletics. It's about people growing overall throughout their own lives and understanding that these parents are trusting us to take care of their kids as much as possible and help them out as much as possible too.

[00:45:15.90] So I think that some people kind of ask for maybe less hours or a different work schedule, but I think ultimately, I think it's a blessing to be able to spend all this time with these coaches and with these athletes and really have a second family at your work as well too. And I think that's different than a lot of other fields, what they may experience.

[00:45:39.22] Yeah I appreciate that. I think we tackled two topics, mentorship and mental health, in a way that brings them together. I think they both could have been their own podcast, in a way, but it's cool that we brought them together and really reframed it around the resilience and just drive that strength coaches have to make the world a better place, make our institutions better. Connor, I want to start with you. If anyone tuning in wants to reach out or has any questions, what's the best way to do that?

[00:46:14.50] You can definitely reach me on Instagram, which is just StrengthCoachConnor all one word. And then on Twitter it's @CoachConnorSC. And then if you like funny videos, then you can follow me on TikTok, which is StrengthCoachConnor as well. But Instagram is my more serious of the two.

[00:46:32.43] All right so make sure to check out his TikTok. That's where the action is at. I think is what I'm hearing. Scott, how about you? We already mentioned your Instagram page. Can you give us that?

[00:46:42.09] Yeah, definitely no TikTok. I've set that boundary. I'm not going there. coachcaulfield on Instagram. I spend way too much time there. I tell people if you like anything to do with strength and conditioning, mountain biking, skiing, and dogs, you'll probably like the content I have available. Congrats too to Connor on the Gatorade Pro Partner Captains Program as well. So I wanted to say that. But yeah, @ScottCaulfield on Twitter. I don't do much except listen to the people bickering on Twitter and look for some news tidbits there. So I appreciate it.

[00:47:23.49] We took this episode all the way from VHS tapes, which we might need to define in the show notes, all the way to TikTok. So we really covered the full spectrum here today. Guys, thanks for being with us. To our listeners, we hope you enjoyed what you heard. We would also like to thank Gatorade Performance Partner for fueling this episode and supporting important conversations to advance the strength and conditioning profession.

[00:47:48.51] If you'd like to learn more and join the Gatorade Performance Partner community, visit Gatoradeperformancepartner.com Also, thank you to Sorinex Exercise Equipment, a regular sponsor on the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We appreciate their support.

[00:48:03.90] Hi, coaches. I'm Liane Blyn, the 2022 NSCA College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. You just listened to an episode of The NSCA Coaching Podcast. Thanks for tuning in to hear important conversations about the strength and conditioning profession. Don't miss an upcoming episode. Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play and comment on some of the highlights at NSCA's Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You can also hear full episodes on the NSCA's newest channel, NSCA.TV.

[00:48:35.82] 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 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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