by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and MS, CSCS, RSCC*D
Coaching Podcast June 2023
It is time to catch up with 2019 NSCA Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, Ashley Jackson, on her recent career move from the Univer...
It is time to catch up with 2019 NSCA Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, Ashley Jackson, on her recent career move from the University of Michigan to Texas A&M, as the Assistant Director of Olympic Strength and Conditioning. Jackson talks with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about leadership pathways for coaches and how to gain professional opportunities, from mentorship to earning promotions and taking the next step in your career. This episode explains the importance of the assistant strength and conditioning coach role, not only as a career stepping-stone, but also as an opportunity to practice being both an effective leader and follower. Tune-in and learn more about how you can gain valuable leadership experience, regardless of your current career stage, through involvement with the NSCA. Use this link to look up NSCA Contributor Opportunities and get involved! You can connect with Ashley on Twitter @txstronger| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
It is time to catch up with 2019 NSCA Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, Ashley Jackson, on her recent career move from the University of Michigan to Texas A&M, as the Assistant Director of Olympic Strength and Conditioning. Jackson talks with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about leadership pathways for coaches and how to gain professional opportunities, from mentorship to earning promotions and taking the next step in your career. This episode explains the importance of the assistant strength and conditioning coach role, not only as a career stepping-stone, but also as an opportunity to practice being both an effective leader and follower. Tune-in and learn more about how you can gain valuable leadership experience, regardless of your current career stage, through involvement with the NSCA.
Use this link to look up NSCA Contributor Opportunities and get involved!
“For leadership styles and skills, I'd say make sure and surround yourself with good leaders.” 6:23
“But it was just taking that 30 seconds of being brave and introducing myself to Joe Schmo at University X, and not caring who they were, where they coached. Was it football? Was Olympic sports? Was it a junior college? Was it-- did they work in the private sector? I was able to take knowledge and guidance from any coach that would let me chew their ear.” 12:17
“I wouldn't want to be around anyone that's not an open book and doesn't want to share. So I would say definitely keep that in mind of who you're giving your time and energy to if they're not willing to share everything with you.” 15:38
“There are opportunities around us where we can continue to positively influence what our salaries could and should look like. And like I talked about, having representatives at the highest level of administration within our athletic departments will help show those that have say and those that can change salaries and salary grades, how important and integral we are to the athletic department.” 27:35
[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:04.38] Welcome to the NCSA Coaching Podcast season seven, episode six.
[00:00:10.74] But it was just taking that 30 seconds of being brave and introducing myself to Joe Schmo at University X and not caring who they were, where they coached. Was it football? Was it Olympic sports? Was it a junior college? Was it-- did they work in the private sector? I was able to take knowledge and guidance from any coach that would let me chew their ear.
[00:00:38.88] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.
[00:00:49.80] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast, and I'm Eric McMahon. Today we're joined by 2019 NSCA Assistant Coach of the Year. Ashley Jackson won the award at the NSCA Coaches Conference. And she was a coach at the University of Michigan for about 10 years before her current role at Texas A&M University. Ashley, welcome.
[00:01:16.16] Thanks, Eric. Thanks for having me on today.
[00:01:18.20] Yeah. I'm always excited to talk to an experienced coach in the profession. And I think that's-- it's pretty cool when you see someone who has worked at one institution for going on a decade, you know?
[00:01:33.25] I think we can all say we know you're doing something right to have that kind of tenure in one place, and a lot of things have to work out for that sort of career build to happen, and wanted to connect with you today about-- you made the move to A&M. You're the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning. Tell us about that role.
[00:01:54.94] Sure, yeah. I came down to, or back to, Texas A&M. This is actually where I went to undergrad school. So got my Exercise Physiology degree from here and scooted out of town as soon as I could afterwards-- wanted to explore the world. Landed in Michigan at the University of Michigan.
[00:02:16.15] I always say I got tricked into coming out there just with the weather. That was really a pain in my side for however long that was. But it was the people that really made it special for me, and the athletes and the coaches that I got to work with.
[00:02:31.93] I spent as long as I did up there despite the weather because I was really never able to say I've stopped learning. I've stopped reaching-- being able to reach for new things. I've stopped being supported. I always felt like there was something I could continue to gain from my time and from the people I was around.
[00:02:53.05] There was people training for the Olympics. There was coaches of the year. There was my director, and our strength and conditioning staff specifically, were an amazing support staff for me, and to really mold and mentor me. I started there as a young coach, and they really helped me develop into who I am today.
[00:03:14.04] So assistant director title-- and we've seen this evolution of job titles in the field. What does that entail? What teams do you work with, and what kind of oversight do you have?
[00:03:25.71] Yeah. So here at A&M, I work with women's soccer and then women's tennis. And came to A&M with the title of Assistant Director. Really had been looking for, quote unquote, that next step in my career. And it was hard for me to think about taking a lateral step.
[00:03:47.16] And it's not all about the title either for me, though. It was important as I continued in my career to know that I was a valued part of the staff and that I would continue to be challenged. And what I really wanted to be challenged in was my leadership and my mentorship and my ability to guide other staff members.
[00:04:09.36] We talked about having been done this for a while. So I wanted to be able to utilize those skills and start to pass those on. So that kind of just molded in with the title.
[00:04:22.44] I love-- I really enjoy working with the two sports I have. It allows me to spend a lot of time with both of them individually. So I get to see them at practice. I get to see them at competition. I get to be in some of their team meetings, really get to the gritty parts of what the culture of the programs are, what the coaches' expectations are, and what they expect from those student athletes day in and day out, and not just seeing them at 7:00 AM lift twice a week.
[00:04:52.36] I think it's really hard to develop relationships and get out of what you want them-- those-- the high-level expectations that you have for them. It's hard to get that when you see them for 60 minutes total a week. So this has really allowed me to get some great relationships started and be around the sport programs as much as I can.
[00:05:14.33] You touched on leadership progressions for coaches. And I think when we get into this profession, there's an element of pay your dues. Keep your head down. Keep the equipment clean. Do whatever you're told to do. And leadership challenges that a little bit, especially in an assistant coach role where you hopefully are gravitating towards opportunities to grow your leadership potential.
[00:05:41.18] And you can do that with your teams individually, but that grows to a department level as you move up the ranks. How do you look at building leadership skills as a coach? And how do you suggest aspiring coaches put themselves on that pathway?
[00:05:58.73] Yeah. I mean, I think assistant coaches, and even myself in this position, there's two things we're asked to do simultaneously, and that's follow and lead. And to be good at both of those things I think is pretty tough. But once you figure out how to give both of those significant time and effort, then I think they tend to come a little easier.
[00:06:23.21] For leadership styles and skills, I'd say make sure and surround yourself with good leaders. There's a man that sits next door to me, Bo Sandoval, he's someone I've kind of followed around the country. We were at Michigan together, and then we took positions at Texas A&M at the same time.
[00:06:41.31] And that was a big part of me moving back down south is knowing that I would have his support and guidance as I continued to want to be a better leader and a more confident coach, and really shine up my coaching package. I knew that he was the guy I wanted to continue to be around.
[00:07:00.92] And just looking for those opportunities to support yourself, whether that's being around great sport coaches, great administration, other good strength and conditioning professionals-- that was something I really tried to not limit myself with at Michigan.
[00:07:15.65] I said we had a great staff there with strength and conditioning. But the sport coaches that we were around every day were just phenomenal. And to be able to have coffee with Carol Hutchins, or go and watch a hockey game with Red Berenson coaching-- like, there are some all-stars that were walking the halls of our athletic department.
[00:07:39.02] So being able to learn from them and just see how they carried themselves in leadership positions, how they spoke and opportunities that they were given, how they guided their programs and really left a lasting mark on an already remarkable institution was something I've really tried to keep with me.
[00:08:00.81] I think there's a lot of cool points and takeaways in what you just said. And you're naming sport coaches. And I think-- gosh, I think back to college and leadership books that were really popular at the time-- Coach K and all these-- Pat Summitt-- all these iconic coaches, and they put books out there on leadership from the sports side.
[00:08:22.06] And when I look at strength and conditioning now-- and we can maybe joke about this, but there's a lot of strength and conditioning coaches talking about putting books out there now. And there's more of a leadership lesson and more takeaways coming from our field and our profession, and I think it speaks to the maturity of what we're doing now.
[00:08:44.19] And maybe just generationally, we're growing up as a profession. We're realizing maybe some of the errors of our ways in the past, but we're bringing in some of those leadership lessons. And so I think that's really cool to talk leadership in strength and conditioning because it is different.
[00:09:00.88] And you mentioned it from a follow and a lead side of things. Because we're not the head coaches. But how do you lead from an ancillary position? I think that's such an interesting discussion to have.
[00:09:16.41] Another thing you said, talking about Bo Sandoval, and he's obviously a huge contributor to the NSCA over the years. And I think there's this element in our field of, I'm going to get my education, and then I'm going to find someone to sort of hitch my wagon to and progress along with them and get-- they're going to give me recommendations. They're going to guide me through that.
[00:09:44.62] But the way you were speaking about that relationship, it's more the mentorship value of that over time. And I think it speaks to building that relationship with a mentor, and not just blindly following a leader in the profession. Maybe that's not the right leader for you, for some coaches. And I think on that maturity of leadership conversation, there's something to that.
[00:10:14.00] And so what I want to ask you is, how do you find a mentor in this profession? You're a young coach in the profession, someone's listening to this podcast, and maybe you don't know anybody. Maybe you're in an exercise science program. Maybe you're not. You're just getting exposed to the field. Where do you seek that out?
[00:10:32.77] Yeah. And I think this is definitely a space where our profession has improved in the past decade or so is creating those opportunities for the young coaches, even if it's specifically going to a conference where we have a first-timers convention or first-timers happy hour. That's an amazing opportunity for young coaches to kind of be in the spotlight of the scenario. And for more veteran coaches in the field to be able to go and meet them and mingle.
[00:11:01.30] And then I think you can't just grab someone off the street and be like, yeah, you're my mentor. I'm going to follow you. I don't know what you do yet, but it sounds cool. I think that some people kind of rush into those relationships sometimes, where it's got to be pretty mutual. I'm going to give, you're going to take. You're going to take, I'm going to give, and agreed upon from the front.
[00:11:25.78] But I would say get in a weight room of any sorts that you can as soon as possible, whether that's the rec center at your college, whether that's sending an email to a local junior college. Like, get in a weight room and start meeting people, start watching athletes train, start watching coaches coach. You're going to start to pick up on a lot of things.
[00:11:45.23] And the more that you're around and showing that you're interested in and invested with your time, people are going to take notice of you. I think that's definitely something even I could have done better as a young coach.
[00:11:56.26] I didn't really know anyone getting into this field. I wasn't surrounded by a great group of supportive coaches who took me under their wing and introduced me to everybody. So I had to claw and kick a little bit to get into those groups of probably the people I call my best friends now.
[00:12:17.35] But it was just taking that 30 seconds of being brave and introducing myself to Joe Schmo at University X, and not caring who they were, where they coached. Was it football? Was Olympic sports? Was it a junior college? Was it-- did they work in the private sector? I was able to take knowledge and guidance from any coach that would let me chew their ear.
[00:12:43.87] I like that. I like that perspective, and I can connect with that. I came from Vermont. You may not know that. And there wasn't a lot of strength and conditioning in the state growing up and getting exposed to this profession. I realized pretty early I was going to have to live my life in another state or go somewhere else.
[00:13:04.70] But I considered mentors anybody I was gathering information from. Whether I was personal training, and it was just someone who was CSCS certified working at the gym with me. Or when I joined the NSCA, and I started reading the journals.
[00:13:20.32] And then I remember Allen Hedrick would write a lot of articles in the Strength and Conditioning Journal for years. And I never met him until I actually worked here 20 years later. But I would consider that a form of mentorship, where you're gravitating towards someone's content or someone's leadership and the profession, their path.
[00:13:46.48] I think it's-- I think we've come a long way. There's more of us, I think, willing to share nowadays than early on, that-- less secrets in our profession. Do you feel like that's something that's important, just our ability to share? Maybe this speaks to the value of being a mentor.
[00:14:06.72] Yeah. I want to give a shout out to the NCAA Women's Committee. I was a part of that. And we weren't able to do it while I was there, so huge shout-out to Sarah and the staff that's on there. But they've created a mentorship opportunity within that for young coaches and mentors.
[00:14:22.95] I think both sides are important, being a mentor or intern leader and supervisor of the program. I've learned more from the young coaches that I help out every day than they'll ever know. So I think it's definitely two-sided what you get out of that. But absolutely, props to them.
[00:14:41.16] I think that coaches all around, especially after COVID, are just craving ways to work and talk and be around each other. We all sat behind computers for so long, and we were away from our athletes, and away from education opportunities where I think the coaches decided that that was something that was necessary to their healthy lifestyles of this profession that we've chosen.
[00:15:11.38] So I think for sure there's opportunities abound in that. Even some are paid right now. Like those that can find a little bit of a jingle in their pocket from creating relationships if they work, more to them. But I think with the internship program just at the base level, whether it's college or a private facility, that's an easy way to get in and start to meet people.
[00:15:37.20] And I wouldn't want to be around anyone that's not an open book and doesn't want to share. So I would say definitely keep that in mind of who you're giving your time and energy to if they're not willing to share everything with you.
[00:15:54.73] Yeah. I think that's interesting. And you spoke about 2020, and just the-- obviously, we had a global pandemic, and that changed a lot of the way we communicate with each other. One thing that happened during that time is coaches were online more and gravitated towards a lot of continuing education in the field.
[00:16:18.90] And I think one evolution that's happened from 20, 30 years ago to today, and it's because of the access to information, is there are-- it's information overload. We have so many different courses we can take. We have so many different credentials we can get now.
[00:16:37.78] How have you navigated just the vast realm of offerings that exist in education today? What do you-- what advice do you have for coaches that are maybe on the front end of that process and a little overwhelmed by all the things they think they need to learn?
[00:16:57.11] Yeah. I think I really leaned on and looked into people who were doing what I thought I wanted to do. So at the time when I was a young coach, I wanted to be a director at the Division I level. And so I started to seek those people out, see what their credentials were, see what their experience was like.
[00:17:15.86] Did they have a master's degree? Did they have all the certifications? Were they doing extra continuing education outside of the minimum? And were they involved with committees? Were they on boards? How deep were they diving into really driving forward the strength and conditioning profession?
[00:17:35.69] And Mike Favre, my director at Michigan, really helped me kind of open my eyes. I feel like I knocked on his door probably every day. I was probably that annoying young coach.
[00:17:47.36] I'm like, Mike, Mike. I want to be the best. Like, what can I do? And he's like, well, have you done the work I asked you to do today? I'm like, yeah, yeah. Not yet. Not yet. I want to be the best. What can I do? And he's like, OK. Go take care of the work you need to do today.
[00:18:00.95] I'd come back the next day. I'd be like, Mike, Mike. I want to be the best. And he's like, have you take care of Tuesday's work? I'm like, OK. I get it. I get it.
[00:18:08.63] And he's like, look, if you want to get new opportunities on your plate, and we don't have them for you, here are some other places that you can seek out, whether it's a volunteer opportunity within our oversight-- our educational oversight-- whether that's with the NSCA, whether that's with CSC-- sorry-- CSCCA-- how far into those organizations have you looked?
[00:18:35.72] Are there opportunities for you to begin to lead and practice these things you say you want to do, even though I can't give them to you right now? I was like, no, I haven't done that. So yeah. He was a huge driver in, get your name out there, get out of my doorway, and help yourself.
[00:18:54.30] So really with that, he helped me drive like where I wanted to pick to spend my time and my money. I think that's a huge thing, too, is depending on what kind of funds you have available, you've really got to be selective with where you're investing those.
[00:19:09.80] If what you've decided is that you need to go to graduate school, and you have just enough money for graduate school, don't try to get three certifications at the same time. That is a scary thing. And as I grow old, that's one of the things I continue to think about is minimizing my debt.
[00:19:30.59] And unfortunately, sometimes within this profession, you have to do these continuing education courses and certifications out of your pocket. So I really tried to minimize that, whatever was coming out of my pocket.
[00:19:43.56] So if Michigan or wherever I was so that they would cover USAW, I'm in. Like, I'm going to do that. It's free. Why would I not spend my time doing that? And there just became so many opportunities to do that were covered, or free, or at a minimized cost.
[00:20:01.37] And then as I began to spend more time volunteering with the NSCA, then I started to see a little feedback with what they were willing to help me out with conferences. I mean, that has been super helpful with investment. It's a two-way street.
[00:20:19.36] Yeah. I like the plug for the NSCA in there, and I know you've been pretty involved over the years. But one thing-- and this came up recently. I was talking to a student group. And I was really impressed by this group because when our staff was sharing about NSCA volunteer opportunities and opportunities to get involved, that's probably not something early in my career I would have jumped at because you have other things going on. You're trying to get your degrees, your certifications.
[00:20:54.38] But they had a lot of questions about that. And that opened my eyes maybe to where we're at with this current generation. I think it's-- we have to know where our future is and what's inspiring to them, so that we can bring them along with us.
[00:21:11.24] But it started getting me thinking about the NSCA and volunteerism within the leader-- within the NSCA as a leadership bridge. And we all want to be leaders of programs. We all want to have director job titles. But we start as interns. We start as assistant coaches. And our institutions maybe aren't always ready to promote us when we think we're ready.
[00:21:37.04] But there are so many opportunities to get involved with special interest groups, professional development groups, committees at the NSCA. And there's a leadership pipeline there that allows you to get that experience just by going a little bit above and beyond your normal daily job responsibilities, and it can be really impactful. And we have so many great volunteers.
[00:22:01.88] You mentioned our Women's Committee. But there's so many groups, and they're really working groups that take on projects, that make recommendations to the Board of Directors. And if you-- for anyone who knows anything about nonprofits and leadership structure, those decisions and those ideas really shape the future of our industry.
[00:22:27.38] I think it's really great to think about the growth we've had the last 20 years in this profession, and I'm going to bridge this to a question for you about maybe where we're headed. But I think it's really great to think that where we're at today, and the success we're having today in this profession, is largely a part of good decision-making 10, 15, 20 years ago that put us on this path.
[00:22:52.80] So what we're working on now at the NSCA is intended to make our future even better, even brighter. So what I want to ask you-- I think there's always areas of growth things we're working on in this profession. What are some things we're doing really well as a profession? And what are some areas that maybe we haven't put enough focus?
[00:23:19.22] Yeah. I'll start with something-- obviously, I'm a little bit more on top of knowledge within the NCAA coaching realm-- is making sure that our strength coaches and professionals are supported, and guided, and really judged on appropriate things to what their job responsibilities are. And making sure that they're reporting to the right people, I think, is a huge piece of that.
[00:23:50.09] There's still a lot of coaches around the country that report to head sport coaches. And I think that can get really dicey really fast. And with the pressure and really motivation of winning seems to be and always will be there within this NCAA system, I think it's tough to hold people accountable and always do the right thing when your supervisor has his job or her job on the line every day.
[00:24:22.77] So making sure really the medical model all the way down to the strength and conditioning coaches is appropriately sanctioned and governed I think is huge. So we'll see that all around. So I want to make sure that that continues to be appropriate. And really that strength and conditioning coaches are represented at the highest level of administration.
[00:24:49.10] That's really going to continue to push us as coaches getting taken care of, and not just financially, but making sure our health and longevity is important to athletic departments as well. Because other than that, you're going to start to see a huge influx of young coaches.
[00:25:10.94] And you've seen-- you can see that with the data little bit. The NCAA released that salary survey talking about the gaps, or showing the gaps of-- there's a huge chunk of young coaches. There's not such a huge chunk of middle-aged coaches. And then those that have been in the years 20-plus starts to dissipate and go down. So I think I'm a little worried about that too, that the health and longevity of our professionals isn't being at the utmost of our time and attention.
[00:25:44.00] There's a lot to unpack there. I think it's really interesting to think about the causes of attrition in our profession. Why would someone leave this profession? This is something that we-- usually, we're pretty motivated to get into this career path. We-- maybe through our athletic experience, or through a-- have a great coach that inspires us, and so it's something that really connects with us.
[00:26:10.02] And so when you see coaches leaving the field, it makes me think that a lot of times it is the financial aspects, or just being able to make ends meet in this career path, having to move around too much. I have a family. You have a family. That wasn't probably part of our decision-making in the first few years when we started coaching. And now, it's obviously a huge part of that. What do you think about that?
[00:26:43.66] It makes me think-- so a couple of years ago, it was the first million dollar strength coach. It's tough to-- I mean, thinking about $1,000,000 for me, that would be like winning the lottery. But I'm also like so happy for those coaches that continue to push the bubble of-- pushing that ceiling for us. And it doesn't trickle down as quickly as I think we would all like to.
[00:27:10.73] But we also have to be in reality of knowing that if you work for Power Five university that wins a national championship every other year in football, there's a lot of money going in. There's a lot of money going out. And so there's going to be big salaries there. And it's just not fair to compare yourself to those.
[00:27:33.95] But I think that there are opportunities around us where we can continue to positively influence what our salaries could and should look like. And like I talked about, having representatives at the highest level of administration within our athletic departments will help show those that have say and those that can change salaries and salary grades, how important and integral we are to the athletic department.
[00:28:06.91] And there's another coach two doors down, Raychelle Ellsworth. She's been here for 20-plus years. And she has some crazy stories to share about what things were like 20, 25 years ago, about what sports coaches were coming in, and what they were making, and how quickly that rose with their success.
[00:28:30.82] I think another great thing that helps with that is a performance-- basically, a performance bonus within your sports. I know that there are some universities that do that, where the sport coaches and all the assistant coaches get a performance bonus, depending on how well those sports do in their postseason and their competitive season.
[00:28:52.18] So I definitely think that we should be a part of that. If fingers can be pointed to us on how we haven't done well, I think we should definitely be able to point to us and say, you're part of the reason that we did really well this year.
[00:29:06.05] So I'm in my coaches' ear all the time-- all my coaches, all the time, of making sure that we're involved in those important decision-making processes. And I don't want to be the weight room troll that just sits in my office.
[00:29:21.52] I'm out and about. I'm at matches. I'm at practices. I'm at team meetings. I'm chatting with recruits. I'm chatting with parents. Like, I'm around as much as I can because I'm trying to create a positive influence and not just be a dictator in the weight room.
[00:29:39.38] But I feel like that our influence is much-- could be and should be much broader than just sets and reps. And that comes, I think, one coach at a time, one institution at a time. And for people to just continue to be stubborn and continue fighting. And those that are making million-plus continue to fight for their assistance. Because as those averages continue to go up, it forces other institutions to be competitive. So I hope that-- I hope it trickles down and continues to.
[00:30:12.04] And I think that's an encouraging way to look at it. And it would be easy to say as D2, D3 coach, oh, well. That's Power Five, or that's football. Well, we'll never get there.
[00:30:24.50] But when we look at it year after year, our profession does get better. Our jobs do get better. More opportunities come about. And it is a slow game, and not everybody is benefiting from that equally at the same time. And I think that's the challenge we see.
[00:30:40.54] So I think it speaks to something that comes through loud and clear, just the way you've kind of given us a tour of your building by office by office of just the people you talk to on a daily basis. You're on the go. You're moving around. You're not chained to the weight room.
[00:30:58.89] You know your campus. You know your administration. You know your coaches. You're in their ear. And I think that's a really cool aspect of strength and conditioning, is that we are cross-functional. It is our job to work across the sport coaching staff with the head coach, with the assistant coach, position coaches, maybe connecting what we do to specific drills. There's always a lot to talk about.
[00:31:27.51] And obviously, now with performance technology, sports science, just all the integration, that I think that's one of the greatest things coming from sports science and technology is that it's starting to connect the weight room to the practice field and maybe the game field in a lot of scenarios.
[00:31:48.18] You're at a good-sized school. What have you seen around sports science? How does that get integrated into your strength and conditioning programs?
[00:31:56.24] Yeah. I mean, I am a huge advocate of support staff in general because I understand. And I'm very public with I, as one, as a strength coach, cannot do my job at the highest level without the support of the support staff to the student athletes.
[00:32:12.47] I can write the perfect program. I can implement it to the best of my abilities. But if all of the other variables that we all know interact with how it goes from weight room to competition field or competition court are in sync, then it doesn't matter what we're doing in here.
[00:32:32.45] So I've almost seen like my role, how I think of it as a strength and conditioning coach, to more of like a performance manager. I know what's going on in all of the realms that are really touching the student athletes daily. I know what their nutrition looks like. I know what their data from practice looks like. I know what their sleep looks like.
[00:32:52.65] Are they utilizing their recovery options within the athletic training room? Are they involved with physical therapy? Should they be involved in physical therapy? Are they on medication of any sort-- like, super deep dive into.
[00:33:07.76] So I can't just look at someone on testing day and say, well, you didn't hit a PR today. What's wrong? I know the answers to the questions before they come up. And that takes the time being around everybody, but also just constant communication with your support staff members.
[00:33:26.78] We have a team messaging system that probably blows up more times a day than anyone would like. But we all know what's going on. The dietitian knows what we did for lift that morning. The head coach knows what's planned for post-practice conditioning. They know what average sleep scores look like from the night before. They know what they're going to expect to see. I think that helps a lot with expectations and keeping those at a doable level. So there's no surprises, really.
[00:34:00.43] With sports science specifically, super grateful to have sports scientists on our staff. It allows me to do so many more things than a one-man show that I might have done in the past, where I'm trying to collect the logistics side and the back side. Collect everything, and then put it into a readable format. Share with the coaches. Answer questions.
[00:34:24.49] Sports science here has been amazing with almost forming it into of, hey, coach, what questions do you have? Not, these are the pieces of technology that we have. What questions do you have that we can help you answer? And so that's been a really cool relationship to build with our sports science staff and how they're able to help us really increase the rate at how we're performing and how we keep getting better.
[00:34:57.90] One thing we talk about a lot in this field is communication. And I think the way you answered that highlights the value of technology and the integration of sports science as a way to improve communication across the department to our athletes, just understanding what's going on with them. There's just-- there's a lot of takeaways there.
[00:35:19.83] I know sport technology, sports science, all these terms, all these areas are coming at us really fast right now. But I'm actually really encouraged by how it's getting implemented. And it's a little different everywhere you go.
[00:35:35.53] But there are great professionals, whether they are dedicated sports scientists, whether they're dual roles strength and conditioning coaches implementing technology. I think our head's in the right place as a profession about where this can take us.
[00:35:50.74] We talk about integrated performance departments, collaborating with other areas. And these were aspirations for us for many years. And we're starting to have the tools to be able to really build well-oiled performance machines, these great departments that can really impact athletes better than maybe the resources we had.
[00:36:14.10] So this has been fun. This has been cool to talk shop with you. New role since you won your award with the NSCA back in 2019, and always good catching up.
[00:36:27.15] Yeah. Thanks so much, Eric. Great to talk to you.
[00:36:29.40] Yeah. For people tuning in, what's the best way to reach out? What your-- maybe your social media?
[00:36:36.84] Social media is txstronger.
[00:36:40.92] Cool. So we can drop that in the show notes. And anyone who wants to reach out, Ashley Jackson, Texas A&M Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning, and just a great conversation today. So we appreciate that. Thanks for tuning in. And also thanks to Sorinex exercise equipment. We appreciate their support.
[00:37:07.34] Hi. This is Ivan Lewis, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, the Seattle Seahawks Thanks for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. Don't forget to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts to have the latest episodes delivered right to you.
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