Anna Craig - NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Season 7 Episode 22

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*D and Anna Craig, CSCS
Coaching Podcast March 2024


In this episode with Associate Head Coach of Athletic Performance, Anna Craig, you will learn how “Annual Strategic Planning” improves the professionalism and unity of the University of Texas (UT) Olympic Strength and Conditioning Department. Craig shares her coaching philosophy and talks about the role of mentors during her tenure at UT with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon. This episode stresses the importance of building autonomy in student-athletes and having humility to effectively manage staff dynamics within collegiate strength and conditioning. Learn about how Craig’s off-campus work, coaching in the private sector, allows her to grow professionally. Tune in for some useful tips on staff and facility management.

Connect with Anna on Instagram at: @annaecraig or by email at:| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or LinkedIn: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“I want to encourage anyone who is a director of their team or anyone who is in charge of hiring or in charge of longevity—I want to emphasize just the importance of coaches being in their position for a period of time to really make an impact on the place that they are and to really make an impact on their programs and teams.” 5:47

“My philosophy, in life and in my coaching, is that I would like to—if you gave my athletes an exit interview or if you talked to somebody who knew me and you asked them, are you a better person and a better athlete having been coached by Anna than you would have been otherwise?” 11:23

“I want to intrinsically motivate my athletes to seek significant change within themselves and confidence within themselves to be someone at the end that they are proud of.” 12:32

“And part of that is just getting them comfortable with giving each other feedback too. Having hard conversations and giving feedback is uncomfortable. And if they can’t do it in an incredibly controlled situation within the weight room or within strength training, then they have no chance doing it in a heated situation on the field. They’re probably going to handle that incorrectly, not say anything. And so, I want to teach them how to be good communicators. I want to teach them how to be responsible.” 17:35


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:04.25] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, season 7, episode 22.
[00:00:11.03] Having hard conversations and giving feedback is uncomfortable. And if they can't do it in a credibly controlled situation within the weight room or within strength training, then they have no chance doing it in a heated situation on the field, right? They're probably going to handle that incorrectly, not say anything. And so I want to teach them how to be good communicators. I want to teach them how to be responsible.
[00:00:39.00] 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.
[00:00:50.08] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon, and today we're joined by Anna Craig, associate head coach of athletic performance at the University of Texas. She works with women's tennis, women's soccer, and men's and women's diving. I got the opportunity to connect with Anna at the UT Sports Performance Clinic a few weeks back. Anna, welcome.
[00:01:12.83] Thank you. It's great to be here. And it's good to see you again, twice in about a month for us.
[00:01:17.95] I know. We're really front-loading this year right now. It's awesome that we can connect. And I think I first met you at the CSCCa National Conference. And see some of the stuff you put out there on social media. You do some cool stuff with your teams. And you've been on my radar for a while to have you on the podcast. So Thanks for being on.
[00:01:37.37] Thank you. It's an honor. So UT Sport Performance Clinic, you guys do this every year. It was my first time. I learned there that you'd been doing it for about a decade now. How did that come together? You've been a part of this staff for a while and helped put the event on.
[00:01:54.47] Yeah, so it did. It started 10 years ago. This was our 10th anniversary. And it really-- the genesis of it was me and the director, Donnie Maib, talking about ways that we could connect better with people around the Austin and Central Texas area, bring in professionals, so get continuing education for ourselves, and then also become a bit more visible as a department.
[00:02:20.51] So 10 years ago, a lot of athletic-- now it's very common for performance clinics to happen, for podcasts to happen, to bring in consultants. A lot of those things are happening pretty frequently now. But 10 years ago, we weren't getting as much of an influx of some of that stuff. And so for us, it was really a way for us to be able to connect with people at a high level from around the country and around Central Texas. And it's been a huge success for us.
[00:02:52.25] Every year, we kind of discuss-- we have our normal jobs of training our teams. That's our number one priority. And we always reevaluate year to year, is this something that we still want to do? Do we still find this valuable as a department? And the answer year after year is absolutely. We get to connect with people like you and people that we just get to learn a lot from, selfishly.
[00:03:15.72] I really enjoyed walking around and talking with a lot of folks that maybe I wouldn't get to connect with during the year. Many are NSCA members. Some may not be. And it was just a great opportunity to connect with some folks from that Central Texas, kind of that Midwest area. But there was a couple folks that flew in from pretty far away. So I thought it was a really fun event. The education was quality. And yeah, I was really happy to be a part of it.
[00:03:44.70] Your staff really impresses me. And you mentioned Donnie Maib. You've had a ton of great mentors over the years at Texas. The one thing that came out, and I talked to a few of you, was you just came out of what you guys called strategic planning for your strength and conditioning staff. This is something we hear in the business world a lot, but we don't really hear that in terms of strategic planning for a strength and conditioning staff. What did that process consist of for your group?
[00:04:19.23] Yeah. I want to back up for a second. You said Donnie Maib, and I want to sing Donnie Maib's praises for a second here.
[00:04:25.83] Awesome.
[00:04:26.76] Everybody on our staff has been at Texas for at least five years. I think five is the minimum, which is almost unheard of in the field of strength and conditioning, especially as assistants as you do want to progress, and you want to make sure that you're continuing to grow. And the way that Donnie has really led our department has created a phenomenal culture and opportunities within our department to continue to grow.
[00:04:50.89] So everybody on our staff has a different role that they are in charge of. We have someone who is in charge of the internship program, someone who runs the budget, someone who runs the equipment and maintenance of the weight rooms. And it really just-- and I could go on in those tasks. Obviously, there's others. But it's really created a sense of-- a sense of balancing the load. It has created a good sense of camaraderie between us.
[00:05:20.98] We conduct ourselves very professionally, I would like to believe. And we have a lot of experience on our staff. And that really serves our student athletes very well. I have had a sport that has experienced I want to say five athletic trainers in five years, and I have-- and I've been with them the entire time. And that consistency really, really serves the student athletes well.
[00:05:46.52] And so I want to encourage anyone who is a director of their team or anyone who is in charge of hiring or in charge of longevity-- I want to emphasize just the importance of coaches being in their position for a period of time to really make an impact on the place that they are and to really make an impact on their programs and teams.
[00:06:09.31] And then, with that, kind of going into the strategic planning because I think the strategic planning aspect is kind of worthless if we're disorganized, a revolving door, and don't pursue professionalism. And so because of all of those things, we are able to reach outside what I think the normal scope of strength and conditioning is. A lot of people just kind of view us as the meatheads down in the weight room.
[00:06:39.76] And we even have a business plan within our department. We have facilities, the way that they function. We have things that I think make us be viewed a little bit more organized and a little bit more professional than maybe the typical strength and conditioning connotation is.
[00:07:01.17] And so within our strategic planning, we'll talk about the X's and O's of our actual staff. So how are things functioning? How is the weight room functioning? How are teams scheduling functioning? Is there anything that we can logistically do better? Then we'll talk about things like budget needs. Or are there ways that we can pursue more excellence within what we're providing to the athletes within the next year?
[00:07:28.33] We'll look at sports science. We'll say, are we utilizing those things effectively within our staff? And then we'll also look at things like our opportunities, our threats within the department, things that we're doing well, things that we feel like we could have improved upon, people that we would like to bring in as consultants within the upcoming year. So really, our strategic planning spans pretty wide and spans a good scope for what we're doing throughout the year.
[00:07:58.03] We always start with-- this is Donnie again-- we always start with some personal things, not too personal, because we still work together. But just personal things as far as, how was the last year for you? How did you feel like-- how did you feel like you did personally and professionally? Did you feel like we grew in the way that we wanted to? How did you-- can we have hard conversations with each other?
[00:08:22.93] And that's another thing that I think our staff does really well is communication. We're not perfect. Nobody is. We all have different coaching styles. And it takes a lot to make sure that everybody's working out of one weight room effectively and peacefully and happily with one another.
[00:08:42.06] Wow, that's awesome. It sounds like you're really organized. And the professionalism, I love when coaches talk about professionalism because maybe for a number of years that wasn't enough of a emphasis within our field. Do you feel like bringing that level of organization and professionalism to your staff helps how your department is received by your administration and the athletic directors? Are there any conversations along those lines?
[00:09:12.07] I really believe so. It takes a lot on the front end. Anybody who's trying to do some of these things, I believe that it's probably fairly invisible at first and probably a fairly thankless task at first. And those things take a lot of time in order to work themselves all the way up the totem pole. So I think that we don't do a lot of those things because we think, oh, nobody's going to see it, nobody's going to recognize it.
[00:09:41.07] But first, you're trying to be effective as a department. You are trying to serve the student athletes. And then within that, conducting yourself professionally will eventually bring itself all the way to the top. So for us, every now and then, we'll get a comment about Donnie's podcast, or we'll get a comment about, wow, I didn't realize that you guys put on a whole performance clinic every year. So-and-so said it was great.
[00:10:07.83] Or they'll get a clip on social media. Or they'll ask a question, and we can directly refer to our strategic plan and say, we actually talked about that; we have an answer for you. So I think that it takes time. But I do think that eventually a respect grows, and a professionalism grows about your department.
[00:10:30.32] You alluded to your coaching philosophy in a way, and I have to preface this by saying I saw your social media recently, and you did a really cool thing. I think it was your women's soccer team, where they were doing some agility out there on the field, and you had the quarterbacks of the football team out there throwing them some pretty solid passes. It was a fun session to watch on social. So I know you like to have fun. But how would you describe your process, your philosophy working with athletes?
[00:11:02.71] Yeah, I absolutely love to have fun. I tell my athletes I think working hard is fun. Winning and working hard are fun. Obviously, one is outcome-based and one is process-based. But my coaching philosophy is not too far from my philosophy as a person. I really don't think that you can divorce the two of those.
[00:11:22.25] And so my philosophy, in life and in my coaching, is that I would like to-- if you gave my athletes an exit interview or if you talked to somebody who knew me and you asked them, are you a better person and a better athlete having been coached by Anna than you would have been otherwise?
[00:11:44.48] And I know that sounds like a little bit of a vague statement, but within that, that requires both the tactical portion of am I competent? Can I program? Can I make sure that there is an effective outcome of what I'm doing? And within that is very adaptable. We are a service. We are a support staff member.
[00:12:10.44] And so I am always working in the direction of my head coach I think there's a million ways you could skin a cat. And so I want to make sure that I'm always working towards the vision of my head coach but also simultaneously staying true to myself, which is to be an effective tactical coach towards my athletes.
[00:12:28.88] And then, number two is going to be the art of coaching, the personality of coaching. And within that, I want to intrinsically motivate my athletes to seek significant change within themselves and confidence within themselves to be someone at the end that they are proud of.
[00:12:52.74] And within that, I believe that I have to uphold a lot of those things myself. So I have pillars within my own life that I will circle back to within my coaching because we all veer off track sometimes as we encounter something difficult or we encounter that challenging athlete or that challenging group of individuals. Sometimes you get the lightning in the bottle, and everybody's going in the same direction, and everybody's hyped to be there, and they're working hard.
[00:13:21.63] But sometimes you have to bring yourself back to what your own coaching principles are in order to figure out how to handle a situation. So some of those things for me are trying to be a resilient personality, being someone who finds a way, so giving creative effort and having hope for my athletes, serving others, being compassionate.
[00:13:47.45] So within my coaching philosophy, it's a little bit more on, how can I develop myself tactically and within knowledge and competency? And then how can I develop myself within character and believing that that will shine towards my student athletes?
[00:14:07.55] Yeah, I really like that. And I like how you started with a basic question of, am I an effective coach for you? Do you feel like your experience with me made you better? I think there's a whole art and science of putting together a coaching philosophy. But starting with something so basic really does allow you to say, how good am I doing right now? Am I serving my team and my head coach as well? Am I serving my department well?
[00:14:38.00] And we serve a lot of people in this business. It's not something that we just have one boss to impress. We're accountable to our athletes too and our teams. And they're talking about us in their dorms or out on the town when something comes up. So you're part of their life. And it is really-- I like that, just keeping it simple from a philosophy standpoint. I want to ask you about weight room hacks. What's kind of your go-to weight room hacks or process that you like to use when you're working through sessions in the weight room?
[00:15:16.58] So all of these questions kind of blend into a similar philosophy for me. But I touched on I want them to develop into somebody that they are proud of and can have confidence within themselves. And I believe that within a team setting. And thankfully, in college athletics, even individual sports are team sports. And I like to treat them as such. I think that we are-- even though you can have individual goals and those are important, you're always going to get further together than you would separately.
[00:15:49.50] So I work with divers, I work with tennis players, and I know that they have individual aspirations. But they're still a little team. And so within that, one of my weight room hacks is to build co-coaches and to build loyalty within my athletes. And I do that by everybody having a part. Everybody plays a role. I want to be able to coach my athletes so effectively that if I weren't there, they would be able to function effectively without me.
[00:16:20.60] Sometimes I think that we have this view of ourselves where if we're not talking and doing and coaching, then we're not doing something. We feel like we always need to be constantly involved within the process. But sometimes I think that there's value in sitting back and seeing how things are functioning. What you've created, right? Like, what's the machine that you've created.
[00:16:48.20] So for me, I do little things. I even tell my interns, you do not clean things up for somebody. You help them clean things up. So if they're switching their weight, you can go to the other side and switch their weight. But you're not picking the rack up for them. You're not doing something for them. And so it's little things like making sure that they know how to clean their rack back up, making sure that they know how to put everything away.
[00:17:12.44] I want them to coach each other. So I'm constantly saying, OK, your partner is going, you're resting. Now talk to them and tell them what they did. Teach them to do something. And then you'll get the, looks great! And then I'll say, and you can't tell them it looked great. They're like, oh, darn.
[00:17:35.62] And part of that is just getting them comfortable with giving each other feedback too. Having hard conversations and giving feedback is uncomfortable. And if they can't do it in an incredibly controlled situation within the weight room or within strength training, then they have no chance doing it in a heated situation on the field. They're probably going to handle that incorrectly, not say anything. And so I want to teach them how to be good communicators. I want to teach them how to be responsible.
[00:18:06.47] So just kind of circling back on your question. My weight room hacks are everybody has a role. Everybody is setting up. Everybody is coaching. Everybody is putting away. And I want to be able to not even be there and have them know what exercises are, know how to coach each other on the exercises, and have them all play a part. And we all want a purpose. So I think that even in that, there's this tendency to want to take control of things.
[00:18:35.31] But in reality, everybody wants to feel purpose. Everybody wants to feel like they have a role in what's happening. And so I'll just try to give them those roles along the way.
[00:18:49.38] On that topic of building co-coaches, if I'm a new athlete on one of your teams and I come to the University of Texas, what's that experience like, that first few sessions or that first semester? How do you coach up the athletes to really know what the expectations are before you really get into the meat and potatoes of training?
[00:19:14.02] I'll review my weight room rules, simple things, like make sure that the longhorns are turned up. Make sure that you're doing all of these kind of details correctly. So I'll give them an overview. And then usually I'll have a private conversation, it can be very quick, with my freshmen of make sure that you let me know if you need anything; make sure you let me-- I always say there's good pain and bad pain. And if you're experiencing good pain, if you're sore, if you're fatigued from the workout, that's OK. If you're experiencing bad pain, I want to know about it. And I don't want you to be in pain. Because I also think that incoming freshmen sometimes feel like they just need to suck everything up.
[00:19:52.67] And so I want to break down that barrier of, you can speak to me. You can make sure that I'm looking out for you. I want you to feel confident in here. So my goal is to-- one of my coaching sayings is, don't demean me, coach me. Don't make me feel small; make me feel big. And so I want my freshmen to come in and feel empowered that they have the tools that they need to be successful.
[00:20:21.82] So within those workouts, too, I'll kind of give them a buddy. I'll say so-and-so, you're going to be with so-and-so today. They're going to be looking out for you. So I'm going to teach you all of the exercises. But I have 25 other athletes that are here right now. And so if you need something and I'm not there for you, make sure that you ask this person. And then this person, make sure you're with so-and-so every step of the way and you're helping them out through their workout. And by week two, then they're in the mix, and they're just like everybody else.
[00:20:55.44] So you're providing a lot of mentorship and teaching to your athletes but also to the interns, as you mentioned. Who were some of your biggest mentors? You've had a lot of people at the University of Texas, obviously, a lot of names. But I'll let you mention who's impacted you the most.
[00:21:13.35] My biggest mentor is a man you've probably heard of, Bennie Wylie.
[00:21:18.57] Awesome, yeah.
[00:21:20.44] I've known him ever since I was 19 years old at Texas Tech University. I worked with him as an undergraduate in football and then also had the privilege in working for him at the University of Texas with the football program. And the reason why he has been so impactful for me is I have never seen someone be able to be as demanding on their athletes and simultaneously love them as well and get more buy-in from their athletes.
[00:21:51.33] And that really resonated with me. I do it in a different way. I'm not Bennie Wylie. But that has inspired me a lot of-- I can demand a lot from my athletes. And I believe that all of us can. I think that some of us believe we're getting into this new generation of us not being able to push our athletes as hard. But I think that it's leading with the carrot instead of the rod, as John Wooden says.
[00:22:20.20] I think that we just have to be maybe more genuine, maybe more creative. But we can absolutely be as demanding on our athletes as we ever have been. But with that demand, you also have to simultaneously love your athletes just as much or more than what you're demanding of them. And then an athlete will run through a brick wall for you. And he was the person that I really saw exemplify that.
[00:22:50.14] Yeah. No, that's a great point about how we as strength and conditioning coaches are able to effectively push our athletes. I think back to playing high school, college football, and it's one of those where we got pushed pretty hard. But maybe the art and science of coaching and strength and conditioning wasn't what it is today.
[00:23:16.68] There's a lot of competing voices in the weight room now, from traditional strength training to recovery modalities, things where athletes are working with strength and conditioning coaches maybe during their summer months or when they're home or who they worked with in high school. And so they're hearing a lot of-- hearing a lot of different thoughts and opinions.
[00:23:38.70] Do you feel like that's a more of a challenge now than when you first started, is really explaining the why behind your exercises and your programs? Where do you feel like we're at in terms of our coaching abilities to today's generation of athletes?
[00:23:58.38] Yeah. I guess I believe it's a positive. Our athletes are asking more questions. They probably have more knowledge themselves I think just by the influx of social media. And there's readily available content out there that's coming at them at all times on videos of the way they should be training, the science behind training. And so I think that they also have a little bit better idea of what's going on than they previously did.
[00:24:28.12] And then they also-- yeah, they want to know why. And I don't blame them. That doesn't offend me. And so I think that we should have the why behind what we're doing. And depending on the athlete that you are coaching, maybe you need to lead with the why. Or maybe it's just being able to respond to the questions that they're asking. And I agree with you that there are more voices than ever. I think that being in a great relationship with your fellow support staff members and your coaches is hugely important, which requires a lot of humility.
[00:25:04.45] So I think that that's also something that my mentor exemplified. I always saw Bennie being very collaborative with his athletic trainers, giving his assistants underneath him autonomy in certain groups, trusting them. And then also being willing to change things up when they weren't working or just being willing to take in other voices, and especially your head coach. Like I said, they're under a tremendous amount of pressure.
[00:25:33.13] And I am not the one that is being asked about our wins and losses from our athletic director. It's the head coach. And so, ultimately, my job is to understand what their vision for the team is and to educate the coach on my area as well. So if you are big into something that I think that we need to rethink, then hopefully I can have a conversation with you. I can educate you on it. And then, at the end of the day, my belief is that you need to go along with what the head coach's vision is for the team.
[00:26:07.31] And so if that doesn't align with yours, I believe that you need a bit more adaptability and humility and obviously taking care of the student athlete. There's boundaries to that statement. But yeah, I think that times have changed definitely with the athletes. And maybe we just need to be a little bit more creative and make sure that we have an answer for all of those whys now.
[00:26:34.04] Yeah, so we had an episode recently where we talked about name, image, likeness. This more open-minded mentality does come up from time to time on the podcast. And I think it is an area that we've taken steps forward. We're making better decisions with our athletes. We're listening to them. We're accepting more opinions from the outside. And obviously, there's some boundaries to that at times as well. In your opinion, what's an area we still need to improve as a profession? We've come a long way, but there's still a lot of things to work on.
[00:27:12.03] Yeah, I mean, the biggest one that comes to mind is within the Olympics side of strength and conditioning, it's hard to get to a point where you are making a salary that you are completely content with. You see that differently within football and basketball and obviously the revenue sports. And then also, outside of that, the hours, making sure that it's something that is doable in order to have a life outside of coaching.
[00:27:46.21] The number of people and women and moms that I've seen that have had to leave the field just because of the demands of the job not aligning with what they're able to do in their personal lives or even excellent coaches veering off now and saying, I would be able to provide more for my family if I start my own business or if I do my own private training.
[00:28:11.21] And so it's unfortunate that we see people leaving the field not because they don't have a passion for it anymore but because it just has not been doable with the life that they want to lead.
[00:28:22.13] Yeah. And we hear that a lot about making ends meet as a strength and conditioning coach. And there's a lot of different types of jobs out there. You might work with two or three teams at one school, but you might work with the entire department at a smaller school with less resources. And it really does spread you thin, and it changes what you're able to do in terms of, one, your professional development, other areas that you can dabble into or grow with, but also your personal life.
[00:28:51.97] And we don't really talk about personal life a whole lot here in the coaching world. But maybe that's a pain point for us and something that-- I mean, I have a family. I have four children. I couldn't do it without them. But I know that my thinking about the stage of life I'm in now is a lot different than it was when I was 20 or 25, even my ability to predict where I'd be at in my life now.
[00:29:21.37] So I know this is challenging for coaches, thinking about different phases of our coaching careers. You do some work on the outside of college coaching. You work for a company called the Kollective. And I see that on social media. That's in the Austin area. How did that come about for you?
[00:29:43.60] Yeah. So for me, I had gotten to the point where I had been in collegiate coaching for 10 years, and 13, 14 as an intern and graduate and things like that. And for me, I love coaching college athletes. I think that college athletes are such a fun age emotionally, developmentally. And I was not ready to abandon that as my profession or career.
[00:30:16.83] But you talked about the opportunities to grow outside of your profession or outside of your main workplace. And one of the things that I think is challenging about collegiate strength and conditioning is it is all encompassing sometimes. Some people train eight hours a day on the floor. And then you get home and you say, I don't really have any opportunity to read or to develop myself or to do anything outside of this that could actually make me a better coach. So you get kind of stuck in this cycle.
[00:30:47.46] And I wanted something outside to be able to say I'm just kind of flexing a different muscle. I wanted to work with a different population. I had a connection at this gym where the guy who founded it is actually a former athlete of mine.
[00:31:03.72] Oh, cool.
[00:31:04.59] Yeah, and so I went and checked out the gym. And he kind of talked to me about that they train private clients, they teach classes there. And I said, well, if you ever want someone who has a little bit of a college background, let me know. It would be really fun to dip into the private sector. And he said, are you serious? And I said, yeah, I think it would be fun to just challenge myself in a new way, get some new scenery, and then also kind of have a side hustle on top of collegiate strength and conditioning.
[00:31:37.66] So I guess consolidating all my randomness there for a second, I wanted to be challenged in a new way. I wanted to see if other populations were something that I enjoyed working with. So is working with the general population-- what are the things that bleed over there, and then what are the new challenges that I would face? I was hoping that it would make me a better, well-rounded trainer in general. So better strength and conditioning coach with my athletes, better in the private sector.
[00:32:10.22] And then I also wanted to make some extra income. And so within that, my boss was very supportive. The hours that drive a strength and conditioning coach nuts are the dead times, is the days where you're just babysitting the weight room is what we call it. And the way that we kind of get away from that as a department is we have days where we are a day leader. So Mondays is my days, and I am in charge of running the weight room on Mondays.
[00:32:40.08] So if nobody else has a team, I am there. If somebody needs to jump to a meeting, I'm there to cover it. If I need to step out, then it's my responsibility to make sure that one of my coworkers is covering. And this system is honestly one of the best things that we could have ever done as a department because then it creates freedom to move about on-- move about campus, move about your life on the days where you're not really doing anything.
[00:33:07.99] And so there's no heroes in our weight room. We all work incredibly hard, but there's no heroes in our weight room trying to sit at our desk longer than the other person. If you need to go get your tire changed on your car, that's OK. I'm here on Monday. You can leave in the afternoon. You can come back for your 4 o'clock group. And that's OK. You can be a real human.
[00:33:27.54] And the way that my job works on the side is there are days where I start a little bit later, later being 7:30 or 8 o'clock, and I end a little bit early. And so I'll be able to pair those days with working on the side and find some consistency there. And I've really enjoyed it. I think there's a lot of connotations about the private sector versus the public sector.
[00:33:52.69] People in the public sector think that it's a little bit better than the private or maybe that the private is a little bit intriguing and doesn't have as many problems or vice versa. There's a little bit of mystery and maybe a little bit of arrogance when viewing the other fields. And I have really realized within my job how many competent and professional coaches are in both realms and have a lot that we can learn from, both in coaching styles and in tangible, tactical information.
[00:34:27.49] Yeah, that's a great perspective. And I know coming up through the professional baseball side, I never really considered much on the private sector side of the field, it is increasingly intriguing to me when I meet coaches now, there's some coaches doing some really cool things out there working with clients or in corporate settings.
[00:34:52.03] Do you feel like there's-- I don't want to say a different skill set, but a different-- maybe some different abilities that you get to hone in on when you're working in the private sector that it makes you better there when you're back working with your athletes on campus?
[00:35:11.23] Oh, I definitely believe so. Working with 60-year-old Betty is a completely different experience than working with 19-year-old Cam. And so within that, if I can create an effective program for someone who has-- most of the time, when you get to an adult age, then there are modifications that need to be done. We're working around specific injuries. It's very different injuries.
[00:35:43.31] So a lot of the injuries, as you start working with the adult population, are more chronic injuries. With the athlete population, they're going to be more acute injuries. So you're looking at, OK, you tore your ACL. We had surgery. How can I return you back to 99 or 100%? But when you're working with this adult population, it's not, oh, I tore my ACL. It's I tore my ACL and my meniscus 20 years ago, and now my knee hurts, and I can't do XYZ anymore.
[00:36:14.00] And there's a new challenge there with, what are ways that we can continue to train that part of the body? Is there a way that we can improve that person's quality of life? And in that experience, I'm able to take a lot of that stuff and bring it back to my collegiate athletes. So the way that I handle injuries, I believe, has changed significantly from working with the general population.
[00:36:40.00] I believe that I can train very effectively with injuries, not necessarily-- I'm not even going to call them like injury modifications, because I think that that is a little bit more geared towards injury avoidance or kind of working around the injury. But how can we work through the injury? How can we work with the injury effectively?
[00:37:03.20] And so working with the general population has made me have to be a lot more knowledgeable, a lot more creative on very specific parts of the body.
[00:37:12.44] Yeah. And you really don't know who you're going to work with on a given day, if it's a new client or someone coming in. And they're definitely going to have different background than the one team, probably a consistent set of injuries related to that sport. But it is really valuable working across the lifespan. It gives you a full-circle approach to going back with your athletes in that 18 to 22 or 23 range. No, that's a really great perspective.
[00:37:45.26] Another challenge and difference I see there is you're working one on one or maybe one on two with a client. And you are working with that client probably multiple times a week. And so can you motivate somebody at an individual level? A lot of times in the college setting we're working with teams. And so I'm floating about from individual to individual. I'm not staring at one individual for an entire hour, saying, how can I connect with you? How can I motivate you?
[00:38:17.26] And inevitably, you're going to have a client or you're going to have somebody that you're working with that you just find it hard to connect with, you find it hard to motivate. You're selling yourself to that person. I'm selling you a product. My student athletes have to be there, whether they really like me or not. I want them to respect me and enjoy me and think I'm a good person.
[00:38:40.06] But with a client, you have to give them a product that makes them want to continue to coming back. And within that, the product is effective coaching in, are they seeing the results that they want? And are you effectively connecting and motivating them? And if you don't have one of those pieces, then they're just going to drift off as a client.
[00:39:04.51] And so it's also really challenged me to connect with a broad span of personality. As somebody who likes to talk all the time, how can you recenter them towards the task? Somebody who doesn't want to talk to you at all, how can you connect with them and make them feel like they're important and known? How can you-- on and on. So I think that also the individual aspect of it and the fact that you're selling a product also can kind of change the way that you are able to connect with a variety of personalities in the college setting.
[00:39:38.49] Yeah, I think that that's spot on. I really appreciate you sharing that. I don't meet a lot of full-time college coaches who have a side hustle in the private sector. I think that's so cool that you're able to do that. You have some really great leadership and a great department. I loved at the beginning of the episode you talked about the support you have and the great leadership you have, everything from strategic planning, even the terms you use, very businessy and professional of how your department goes about its business.
[00:40:12.10] For coaches listening in or aspiring coaches listening, saying, hey, I hope one day to work at an institution like that, where I have a lot of support, what's your advice for young coaches breaking into the field?
[00:40:30.61] I would say at first, there's limitations within being a student as a lot of times you're going to try and intern at the university that you're at and do what's doable in the moment. But my biggest advice there would be to work under a coach that you respect and who is going to support you along the way.
[00:40:53.60] I wouldn't be anywhere near where I'm at without Bennie. And that is going to-- and that's because of the coaching style that I saw and the competency, the art of coaching that I was able to grow and learn a lot from. But then also, ultimately, he was the one that helped support me along the way to get to my professional goals, helping me get my first job, having a connection that ultimately helped me get my position with soccer at Texas.
[00:41:27.49] And so just connecting yourself to really good people. But then, in turn, being an intern that works their butt off. There's kind of a price of admission to strength and conditioning. It is a demanding field. And no matter what way you slice it, and as much as we want to say the hours are demanding, maybe things need to change, maybe this, maybe that, it just kind of is the way that it is right now, right? And you have to work with what you've got. And so as an intern, be willing to work your butt off.
[00:42:01.33] Find a coach that you want to learn from. And then be disciplined, be on time, be eager to learn. So ask questions. Invest in that coach. So spend separate time with them, want to meet with them, learn from them, ask them books that they're reading. And then beyond that, to reach out and to expand your network.
[00:42:29.24] So a lot of times, your network is going to be the thing that's going to get you a job. Someone's going to recommend that so and so is great for a position or they're going to reach out. And so at the end of the day, you also need to make decisions that are going to set you up individually for success as an intern.
[00:42:46.07] And then within our interns, I always tell them that there's going to be jobs. There's a few situations as a 23-year-old where you say, OK, I need to find a job right now no matter what. And I just need to start making money. There's a couple situations where people are like that. But most people at that point have a little bit of fluidity in the way that they're able to take their life. And maybe they can privately train for a little bit longer. Maybe they can intern for another semester.
[00:43:19.10] Don't make the mistake of putting yourself in a situation that you don't actually want to be in. We're all really, really anxious to get our first job. But the person that you work for and the place that you work and their integrity as an institution is going to make a huge impact on you as a person and potentially have ripples down the road. So make sure that the job that you take and the jobs that you apply for are jobs that are creating a situation that you actually want to be in.
[00:43:51.46] Yeah, great advice, being patient for the right opportunity. I would never tell a coach how to go about those big decisions, but it's one of those where it's going to be really challenging leaving a place where you have a lot of support, whether that's on a coaching staff or in grad school or whatever it may be, and then going to a place where you don't. That's going to be a big wake-up call and maybe a place where you won't be able to thrive as much as a coach during those really crucial years where you're getting that experience to keep pushing yourself forward.
[00:44:28.40] So I really like that advice and related to that when you said it. Anna, I appreciate you sharing all this. What's the best way for someone to reach out and connect with you?
[00:44:39.19] Yeah, the best ways would be Instagram or email. If you just want to see what I'm about, see what I'm doing at Kollective and see some clips of my athletes along the way, you can reach me at @AnnaeCraig on Instagram. And then my email at the University of Texas is So if you have more specific coaching questions or want to connect as a professional, that's where you can reach me.
[00:45:06.71] That's Anna Craig, everybody. Anna, we'll put that contact info in the show notes for everybody to reach out and really appreciate you sharing.
[00:45:16.37] Thank you.
[00:45:16.83] We appreciate everyone tuning in. And special Thanks to Sorinex exercise equipment. We appreciate their support. Thanks for listening to another episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We value you as a listener just as we value your input as a member of the community. To take action and get involved, check out volunteer leadership opportunities under Membership at
[00:45:41.60] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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

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Anna Craig, CSCS

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Anna Craig serves as Associate Head Coach of Athletic Performance, working with Womens Tennis, Womens Soccer and Mens and Womens Diving. She came to ...

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