by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Adam Parr, CSCS
Coaching Podcast July 2023
Learn about expanding developmental pathways and career opportunities within Major League Soccer (MLS) in this episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast. T...
Learn about expanding developmental pathways and career opportunities within Major League Soccer (MLS) in this episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast. The Charlotte FC Head of Performance, Adam Parr, shares his experience with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, including the key relationships between strength and conditioning coaches, sport scientists, and international influences on the growth of soccer within North America. As athletes today become more accustomed to data feedback on their performance, Parr explains the process of effectively embedding technology in the team setting. Listen in to learn more about how you can break into a growing area of the field in professional soccer. You can connect with Adam on Instagram: @aparrfitness or LinkedIn: @adamcparr| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
Learn about expanding developmental pathways and career opportunities within Major League Soccer (MLS) in this episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast. The Charlotte FC Head of Performance, Adam Parr, shares his experience with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, including the key relationships between strength and conditioning coaches, sport scientists, and international influences on the growth of soccer within North America. As athletes today become more accustomed to data feedback on their performance, Parr explains the process of effectively embedding technology in the team setting. Listen in to learn more about how you can break into a growing area of the field in professional soccer.
“I really enjoyed and gravitated towards understanding training loads and stimulus and recovery and how it all fit together. And we started putting together pieces of how are the coaches going to plan training based off of the training loads that we’re getting from the heart rate and different drills and things like that.” 25:00
“When we’re able to show them, I think, that we’re individualizing as much as we can, then they understand, OK, like, they’re doing it for my best interest.” 31:55
“They may be running GPS with a few teams, but not necessarily have the time to really sift through the data and make use of it and make it actionable. So is that something that you can craft out for yourself? If that’s something you’re interested in, can you say, hey, you know, like let me figure this out. Let me do this for you. Because you can create an opportunity for yourself to not only learn the tech and learn the procedures and kind of the best practices, but then also become a valuable part of what they’re doing. And you never know what that’s going to turn into, right? It could turn into an employment opportunity or a recommendation or referral to somewhere else when someone asks.” 35:05
“I think the other thing is just being adaptable, you know, like, willing to flex and adapt, not only to jobs and things like that as far as what you’re doing day to day, but situations, circumstances. If you’re very rigid in what you do in your approach, you’re probably not going to succeed in this space.” 37:50
[00:00:04.20] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, season seven, episode seven.
[00:00:10.47] They may be running GPS with a few teams, but not necessarily have the time to really sift through the data and make use of it and make it actionable. So is that something that you can craft out for yourself? If that's something you're interested in, can you say, hey, you know, like let me figure this out? Let me do this for you, you know? And you never know what that's going to turn into, right? It could turn into an employment opportunity.
[00:00:31.49] 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.
[00:00:42.47] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast. And I'm Eric McMahon. Today we're joined by Adam Parr, the head of performance with Charlotte FC of MLS, Major League Soccer. We haven't had a lot of guests on the podcast from Major League Soccer. Excited to dive in and learn a little bit more. Adam, welcome.
[00:01:00.77] Eric, thanks for having me. Excited to chat a little bit with you.
[00:01:03.50] Yeah, you're a podcast guy, man. Excited to have you with us. This will be fun. And I want to dive into your background a little bit. How did your path lead to the MLS?
[00:01:15.65] Yeah, so I kind of like to say, sometimes I have a kind of a, not necessarily a traditional, yet semi-traditional path. You know, I think a lot of people in our industry are used to going and doing your undergrad. And then if you go do a master's graduate assistantship somewhere, things like that, and then kind of working your way up. Mine was a little bit different. I did my undergrad at San Diego State. Obviously, a big basketball game this Saturday. In the Final Four for the first time. So go Aztecs.
[00:01:45.77] But I did a bachelor's in kinesiology there. And initially, I was really kind of thinking I was going to go into PT. I kind of for a long time wanted to work in soccer. I played it at a pretty high level, won a national championship in high school and wanted to be part of that, and thought being a physical therapist was kind of the way in. Because I hadn't been too exposed to performance in general.
[00:02:09.50] But did kinesiology thinking was going to do PT and wound up kind of realizing I didn't want to deal with the insurance side. And fell in love with the more the performance side while I was in undergrad. And then afterwards, moved up to LA and, luckily enough, about six months after I graduated, got an internship with, back then it was Core Performance. When it was Athletes' Performance and Core Performance, it's now EXOS, obviously.
[00:02:35.15] But that was when there was only, I believe, three locations. And obviously, now EXOS is huge and all over the world. And so it was nice. I was there when there was a lot of the big names, you know, Mark Verstegen was around from time to time between the facilities. And I got to meet a lot of different people who are high up in the company now and just did a lot of my foundational kind of methodology as a performance coach through that internship.
[00:02:59.81] And then shortly after that, I wound up actually doing another internship with a Major League Soccer team, Chivas USA, which actually no longer exists anymore. It has folded. For those who know the game, they know that. And new owners bought it years ago, kind of folded it, and then a few years later, rebranded it. And it's now LAFC, who's the team that won the championship last year.
[00:03:23.77] But was able to do an internship there under Jim Liston, who is an amazing strength performance coach. And initially just started through connections, got in there, and met him. And he basically just said, you know, I'm not a big fan of interns. But I have a computer program that I need you to look at. Do you know how to do anything with it?
[00:03:45.81] And of course, me, wanting an internship said, yeah, of course, I can do that, and thinking to myself, I'll figure it out later. And it was the Polar Team2 Heart Rate Monitoring Program. And so I wound up going-- and he just said, you know, it's halfway through the season. Been running this with the guys. Haven't had enough time to really dive into the data and look at it and kind of see what it's showing us, if it's worth anything, if we can make a meaningful change, make it actionable, et cetera.
[00:04:09.82] So, you know, you've got one month to look at this and make it worth my while. Otherwise, I don't need an intern. And I wound up being there for a year and a half. So I must have done something a little bit right. I finished off that season as an intern and then kind of came around and assisted him a little bit more the next year. And really focused on that aspect of it, did some of the performance stuff in the gym with him. But really focused on the heart rate monitoring.
[00:04:34.50] Because this was 2011, 2012, somewhere around there. So GPS hadn't even hit the US yet. So really, this was the only thing, as far as a sports science, so to speak, monitoring system that a lot of teams were using. And so started really diving into that, figuring out what it was, how we could utilize it. And kind of fell in love with it, looking at a lot of the data and the training loads and recovery and all this other stuff that hadn't really been exposed to in my undergrad.
[00:05:05.52] And so it kind of opened up a whole world with me. And then shortly after that second season, new owners came in and bought the team, let the whole coaching staff go. So I continued to work for Steve-- or excuse me-- for Jim, at his place in Pasadena, Competitive Athlete Training Zone, a little bit part time. And I also kind of started doing my own performance stuff in LA and started working in Beverly Hills out of a couple performance gyms, privately having general pop, celebrities, athletes, whether it's youth athletes, college athletes on the summer, or even professionals in their off season, and kind of doing that at the same time as I was working in the performance sector out in Pasadena.
[00:05:47.18] And then Jim got a job in Toronto with Toronto FC, that whole coaching staff went up there. And he kind of said, hey, this is a brand new department, head of sports science. Don't know if have a position for you. So why don't you just stay in LA and keep grinding and doing your thing. And we're gonna find something for you. And so I kind of focused on my performance business for a while, but still really wanting to get back in a team setting.
[00:06:09.99] I had this kind of itch and hunger. And just I really loved being in that and working towards a collective goal, you know, been an athlete myself at a somewhat high enough level. You know, I really miss that. Decided at one point, you know, I'm missing out on a lot of the sports science aspect of things by not being in a team setting for this past several years. I want to be able to kind of level up. And started going looking for a master's degree.
[00:06:34.83] And thanks to actually Natalie Kollars, who's now at EXOS. But she was working alongside me at the performance gym that I was working at in Beverly Hills, alongside with Brett Bartholomew. She just kind of said, hey, you should look at some of the programs out in Australia. Because they're great at mixing S&C and sports science. Found the Australian Catholic University, the master of high performance sport, really looked at that and thought, you know, this is exactly what I would like, the combination of both. And it's really gonna show me a lot of the data analysis side and a lot of the things that I need to just kind of level up on.
[00:07:10.79] And happen to know a couple people around MLS that were either in the process of doing that program or were about to start it, as well, at the same time. And so jumped into that. And it was a fantastic kind of acceleration for my education. And shortly after I started that program, I was actually at a sports science symposium in LA at the LA Galaxy I in 2018, ran into an old colleague of mine when I was working at Chivas USA who is now the current head athletic trainer at the San Jose Earthquakes.
[00:07:41.81] And we spent several days together at the whole conference just going over stuff. And I was telling him about the program. And he kind of mentioned that there was a internship opportunity as a capstone. And he basically came back to me and said, listen, our USL affiliate-- which, for people who don't know too much about soccer, was like a AAA team-- out in Reno, Nevada, we don't have a strength coach or a sports scientist. So we would love to have you go there, do both, basically run the whole performance side under the guidance of our head athletic trainer, who's already there, and get your hours for your internship.
[00:08:15.45] And as long as you don't screw it up, like, we're gonna give you the job full time. And kind of it's a, you know, no-brainer. I was ready to leave LA anyway and dropped everything and went out there. And it was a fantastic experience for me because I was still doing my master's. You know, I was doing it mostly online. I had to go to Australia for a couple weeks to kick it off.
[00:08:30.90] But I was doing my studies in the evenings. Going through everything, reading research, you know, going through all of the modules and everything. And then was able to apply that the next day with the team. So it was a really, really kind of fantastic opportunity for me to really get my hands dirty, applying a lot of the stuff I was learning.
[00:08:48.18] And also, it wasn't at a full MLS level. So there's a little less pressure. You can kind of experiment a little bit more, see what works, and try some things out and not have to worry. You're not working with million-dollar athletes and high-level players. And so it was just a fantastic opportunity for me. I wound up being there for 2018, 2019 and then wound up getting called up and getting a job with Minnesota United in Major League Soccer to get back to MLS in 2020.
[00:09:20.28] So I wound up going up there as the assistant performance specialist and really focusing on the gym aspect. It was basically, I was the strength coach for the team, which was great but it was 2020. So I moved there in January to a place I didn't know anybody, halfway across the country. And we basically went through pre-season and the first two weeks of the season, and then everything shut down. And kind of thinking, what did I get myself into? Because I'm locked up all day, and also our athletes are.
[00:09:51.99] And this was the time, obviously, where they couldn't even use their own apartment gyms or anything like that. So I'm running workouts via Zoom multiple times a week with these guys. And we don't know when the season is starting back up or anything like that. And so it was one of those situations where they don't teach this in school, you know? And trying to make the most of it and having to flex and adapt.
[00:10:12.48] And then our season started back up again, The MLS is Back Tournament. My boss at the time decided to leave the club for family reasons. And we had lost our sports scientist just before the season started to another team. And we had been in the process of looking for someone when everything shut down. So the club came to me and said, can you do all three roles, for the time being? Because obviously there's no fans in the stadium. We don't have any money.
[00:10:37.35] Like, and I just said, yeah, of course. I did it in Reno, I can do it here. And for me it was kind of a gut check of can I do it at this level all on my own? Obviously, it's one thing at a lower level, but now you're in the big leagues, so to speak. But we were really successful in that tournament, and then the entire rest of that season went into the Western Conference Final. And, I mean, if anybody pays attention to MLS, we were up 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the Western Conference Final, should have been in the final, and wound up losing. But it's the best that that team, the Minnesota United has ever finished the season.
[00:11:10.22] And so it was a really positive experience overall, especially for me, and also gaining the trust of the players, the coaching staff, the front office, everyone, you know, that I was the right guy and that could move things forward. And the following season, the club decided to bring in somebody from Europe to be kind of a high performance director and oversee a lot of stuff. And that didn't go so well. So about five months later, he was let go. And they kind of turned to me again and said, we need you to kind of take over everything again. And so I did that and righted the ship, so to speak, I guess. We wound up making the playoffs.
[00:11:47.26] And I had done well enough in those two years and kind of met enough people and made it known that I was ready for my next challenge. And I wasn't sure if Minnesota United was the place, as much as I enjoyed my time there. And my current boss Jon MacGregor is the Director of Performance Sports Science here at Charlotte. He gave me a call out of the blue. I didn't even know him. But I had been referred to him by several people.
[00:12:10.46] And he said, listen, we got an expansion team in Charlotte starting. And I've been named the director. And I'm asking around. I need somebody who can be a dual role of a strength coach and sports scientist. And, you know, you're the guy. So let me tell you about this project and see if I can convince you to come along.
[00:12:27.35] And the more and more we talked, the more and more we discussed it. And the more and more I discussed it with my now wife, who was just my girlfriend at the time, it kind of seemed like a no-brainer. It was one of those things that, it's almost a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-career opportunity, right? Like, you get to be part of an expansion team and kind of build stuff from scratch, especially from on the performance end and culture and things like that.
[00:12:52.32] And so came down here in January of last year and was initially just the assisted performance specialist. And a few months into being here, the head coach and his head fitness coach were let go for various reasons. And kind of took over a lot of the stuff on the performance side again. And we did really well and kind of started out some big projects towards the end of last year.
[00:13:12.27] And at the beginning of this year was promoted to head of performance. And it's been a whirlwind few years. But it's been good. And it's been a fun ride. And I'm really enjoying my time in Charlotte. It's been a wonderful experience so far. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how we continue to progress. Because I feel like we're on a huge upward trajectory.
[00:13:33.26] Coming off the World Cup last year, a lot of excitement around soccer. And NSCA recently, our 2023 Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year was Megan Young with the Seattle Sounders. So we've seen a lot of growth around soccer in the US over the past few years. Your background really speaks across really the last decade. And just the amount of growth that has happened on strength and conditioning, but also in the sports science space.
[00:14:04.52] I thought it was really interesting how you touched on international a few different times in a sport that is so dominant internationally and is really just gaining starting to gain traction here in North America. But we've seen this growth in players are progressing through different pathways now than maybe what we have seen before. We've all gone to high school where there's high school soccer teams.
[00:14:34.08] There's youth soccer. A lot of young athletes in the US start with maybe a soccer team in youth and then go on to playing other sports. I know that was my background. And that's true for a lot of our listeners. But I think that now there's more opportunity to advance in the game of soccer. One thing from you, I've learned, is that MLS is really expanding into the developmental levels of the sport even more.
[00:15:07.63] And I think that's really interesting because you really spoke to the value of working as a professional at the developmental levels and how that allows you to build up your arsenal of skills in a lower pressure environment. And when you look at MLS, initially, it was really just the top level. And that minor league system, essentially, didn't exist as much. We see that in certain professional leagues, where we all know in baseball that there's a lot of minor league affiliates.
[00:15:40.62] But in the NBA, we're talking about the G League or the AHL for hockey, where there really is only one minor league level that's affiliated with a major club. How has the minor league system, if you will, developed within professional soccer? How has that impacted the pathways that players are getting to the top level of sport? And what kind of opportunities now exist for coaches to work at these various levels?
[00:16:13.61] Yeah, no, it's a great question. And you're right, I mean, you know, I was in college-- god, I think I graduated 12, 13 years ago, somewhere around there. And at that time, basically, for the most part, the only way to get into MLS was to get drafted, right, out of college. I mean, there were a lot of youth clubs, obviously, and big name youth clubs back then. And there was some people every once in a while who would go over to Europe. But it wasn't really as well established in the past 10 to 15 years.
[00:16:45.62] You've seen a huge growth in that space. And, you know, through various different organizations, but through MLS now, every MLS team has an academy system, which has multiple teams at the youth level. And like, just for us with Charlotte FC we have a U19s, U17s, 15s, U14s, and then we have kind of a 13s and 12s through a discovery program, which is like locally in Charlotte. And you're getting a lot of the best of the best from different regions who are coming to play for the MLS Next, which is the youth program, the academies.
[00:17:21.12] And sometimes you have people moving across the country to go be in an academy because they feel like that's going to be the best way for them to move up and either get into the professional ranks or potentially be in a better spot for college. And because of that, there are a lot more players who are of higher quality, in my opinion, who have various different routes now. And so you have the players who are the best of the best of the best that come through the academy. At 16, I think we spoke about it previously, like, you can sign a professional deal anywhere in the world, for the most part.
[00:17:57.28] And so you have some players who are going over to Europe, you know, and playing in academies at 13, 14, 15, and getting signed at 16. I mean, the US's best player, one of them, Christian Pulisic, he was over in Germany before, I think he was 14 or 15 playing in their academy, and then signed professionally and was playing at 17 for one of the biggest clubs in Germany. Somewhere around that age, don't quote me on that. I don't know his exact history.
[00:18:22.83] But, you know, and then you can do that here in the US, as well. And so you start to have players who are kind of the high potential players coming through that can sign homegrown deals with the MLS club, basically meaning they're signed to a professional deal, but they're going to continue to develop within that system. And the goal is to move them through the ranks and develop them to play for the first team, the MLS team, at some point in time. Or a lot of other academies are developing players and then selling them to big clubs in Europe for a lot of money, which funds those academies, you know?
[00:18:56.32] And so it's become a completely different world than when I was playing. And because of that, you have all these players who maybe they can't make it to the first team level in MLS or go play abroad, but they're still very talented players. So maybe now they're at a higher level so they can go play at top colleges, top D1 schools. It's easier for the colleges to recruit. Or if they want to play professionally, you know, whether they go to college or not, there's now more established lower leagues.
[00:19:23.92] There's always been lower leagues, but they weren't as well established. But we have what we call the USL Championship, which is basically the second division, kind of like a AAA. And most of those teams aren't affiliated with MLS teams. It's a whole separate professional league. It's just the second tier. And then they have a third tier called the USL League One. You know, and there's even one below that.
[00:19:45.08] And all these players are getting paid. They're professional. They may be super young or they may be a little bit older and they didn't quite have the talent or the luck to make it at the top level. But you can still make a decent living at a lower level, just like you can over in Europe or in parts of South America. So there's just a lot more opportunities for players to live out their dream or play professionally or move up the ranks, hopefully, and develop into whatever their potential is.
[00:20:12.62] And then along those lines, as far as S&C coaches, performance coaches, sports scientists, however you want to term it, there's so many more opportunities now, if you're interested in soccer, to actually be working in that and to be part of that process, right? Because most of these professional teams, no matter what level it is, whether it's the third tier, second tier, or MLS, are all going to have at least one, if not more than one, some sort of performance coach, sports scientist, et cetera, whatever the term is. And then now you have all these academy teams too.
[00:20:44.87] And one of the things that I think is fascinating and I'm a shining example of it, so to speak, is a lot of times at certain levels, you get to do everything, right? You're not just in the gym, right? Or you're not just running the GPS or whatever it is. Like, you can get to at some places, there's some places overseas where you have such a large staff, everyone's very specialist.
[00:21:07.73] At some of the lower levels and even the reserve teams and other places, you get to be the head strength coach, the head sports scientist, the head fitness coach, you know, and even, at times, assisting with performance nutrition, things like that. It just depends on the club and the finances. And so it's a really great place to wear a lot of hats and to really kind of perfect your craft. And also, in my opinion, I think it makes you more employable as you move on. So I think it's a huge opportunity for our industry, for anybody who wants to get into professional soccer at any level.
[00:21:42.32] There's a couple themes there that came through-- soccer as an early specialization sport or as an earlier specialization sport then maybe it was thought to be years ago and also more pathways being developed for players, but also strength and conditioning coaches and sports medicine staff to grow their craft within the sport. And while going back to your story in how you got into the profession, you did all the traditional things you have to do.
[00:22:13.28] You networked. You met people. You made the connections, but you always kept your main goal in mind, which was to get to that MLS level. And you were mobile. And you made that happen. More opportunities now. And now folks like you who really had to hustle to get where you're at are in positions of leadership to be able to help those academy coaches, help those developmental league coaches, really seize the moment of where they're at, and push the game forward.
[00:22:44.92] So I like to think, maybe I think it's my job to give strength coaches and performance coaches way more credit than sometimes we even deserve. But I think soccer is a great example of a sport where we didn't really have soccer developing in North America in the US without a strong component of strength and conditioning, of fitness, of sports science. It really has been embedded from the beginning. And I think your path speaks to that.
[00:23:18.65] You had a sports science role before you progressed into a traditional strength and conditioning role, whereas a lot of us in North America might go the opposite direction, just the way sports science is coming into US in American sport. I'd love to hear your perspective on sports science, just the growth you've seen, obviously the international influences that have made their way into MLS and just some of the things that you're seeing.
[00:23:52.02] Yeah, I mean, I think, to go back to what you're saying, when I was an intern, Chivas USA, you know, Jim Liston, he said, I have this program that I need you to take a look at and figure out how to make it more actionable and more useful than what we've done so far. And that was really the first exposure to what people would consider some sort of sports-science-type thing. Obviously, it's all under the umbrella of kinesiology exercise science, you know? But back then, like I said, it was before GPS had hit the shores.
[00:24:21.31] So my undergrad, we weren't necessarily exposed to much in the sports science realm, if you want to call it that. It was very much exercise science, it's kinesiology. A lot of people are going into PT or athletic training or pedagogy, various things like that. There wasn't a whole lot of, I guess, push or even access to professors or even guest speakers or anything who were saying, hey, this is a route that you can go, right, or these are some things that you can do.
[00:24:54.30] And so I just happened to fall into it, right, and realized, like, oh, I think this is really interesting. I like the data. I like math. I really enjoyed and gravitated towards understanding training loads and stimulus and recovery and how it all fit together. And we started putting together pieces of how are the coaches going to plan training based off of the training loads that we're getting from the heart rate and different drills and things like that. And Jim and his team took it to a whole new level when they went to Toronto FC.
[00:25:28.40] But it was kind of the early beginning. And that's what really kind of caught my attention. And then as I started doing more and more in the traditional performance S&C space, I started really kind of connecting the dots of how much they were so interrelated and knew that that's what I wanted to really focus on, as far as a master's, and really trying to get back in a team setting. Because they are so linked.
[00:25:53.42] And then once I did get back to MLS, even at the lower levels and whatnot, like, obviously GPS is huge now, right? It was only a couple years later, after I was out of MLS initially, that it hit the shores and everybody was using it. And now it's just become, like you said, almost embedded, right, where you have to understand so many of these things, from the external workloads to the internal workloads, and then how you're prescribing stuff on field, within drills, specific days, the microcycles on the field, in the gym, the pre-training, the testing, the readiness, like all sorts of stuff.
[00:26:29.52] It's just all become one big field. And I like to lump them in together because I truly believe that performance and sports science should be. I think that has exploded in Major League Soccer in the past, you know-- I mean, this is my fourth or fifth year back in it.
[00:26:49.51] And then in the past five to seven to eight years, I mean, it has just absolutely, you know, like I said, exploded, where performance staffs, sports science, et cetera, there's just so much going into what's being fed to the coaches, how we're taking care of the athletes, how we're making sure that they're healthy, available, and performing optimally. The money that's gone into it from clubs and the investment and really looking at what's being done in Europe, what's been done in Australia, and trying to, not really mimic it, but almost improve upon it within our own situations and environments.
[00:27:24.59] That's awesome. I like how you said performance and sports science as one and value of that for the industry advancing as a whole I think it speaks to the process we had at the NSCA in developing the new CPSS credential and really trying to integrate all of the performance disciplines and types of practitioners and professionals involved, everybody from the technology space to the academic researchers fueling us with information, while practitioners are the delivery mechanism for that information. And a lot of that comes back to the importance of education and communication within sports science and how that information gets from the textbook, from the research papers, to the athletes.
[00:28:16.81] I want to ask you about athletes today, the athletes you're working with and the dialogue and conversations that you have related to sports science. Do you feel like MLS players and the players you work with are more receptive to data and information than maybe we were as a generation of athletes now that it's part of the game? What kind of information are they seeking from this sports science equation? And how has that impacted the role of you as a strength coach, you as a sports scientist?
[00:28:52.41] Yeah, I mean to answer your first question-- yeah, absolutely. I think that they value data far more than even 10 years ago, let alone anything beyond that, from my perspective. Obviously, I've only been working in it for about that long. But I think the athlete of today is so used to having all of this sport science and data kind of at their fingertips or being part of their every day training that it's not something that is a foreign concept to them. And so they're just used to it. They're all used to wearing the GPS now. Because it's been done pretty much everywhere for a long time now.
[00:29:33.34] And then getting the training reports and looking at them, whether it's the metrics that they hit that day, what they were supposed to hit, where they're at, and specific loading or their match reports, wanting to know what they did compared to their averages, compared to the previous match. And then even things like, we do certain types of readiness testing every week you know. And even something like a countermovement jump, obviously, wanting to know what their scores are, giving them that instant feedback.
[00:30:02.21] And our new strength coach Pete Gorka has been great at that, providing that instant feedback, like basically putting the iPad in front of them while they're doing the test or while they're doing the hamstring or the groin squeeze or anything like that. So they can see their scores and see where they compare to previous-- putting leaderboards up in front of them so that they can compete a little bit, but also showing them where they are compared to standard deviation. Like, they just understand I think a lot more because they've kind of grown up with it now, as far as this generation of player, the ones that are in their early 20s to late 20s. You know, and so I think that part has been great.
[00:30:40.28] And it's a lot easier to, I think, achieve buy-in with a lot of them because they understand it more. And I think they're willing to ask a lot of questions. And it's easier for myself to go up and have a conversation with somebody and say, hey, listen, here's what's going on. Here's what we're seeing from the data. Here's what this is showing. Like, what's going on with you? And trying to kind of work through that to achieve goals, but also like I said, build buy-in and explain why we're doing what we're doing.
[00:31:07.90] We do, you know, post-match runs to try and get high-speed running and sprinting after every match, right? And if you go to a pro soccer game, you're gonna see a lot of teams will do that. The first few years when I was doing that, a lot of the players didn't know why, right? They didn't understand. And so it was kind of a light bulb moment for us, as I've grown and kind of gone team to team to educate the players more on this is why we do what we do, this is why we ask this and continue to have that dialogue throughout the season.
[00:31:37.05] So when players come to me and say, you know, why am I doing this? Or why do I have four runs and he has two? You know, and I can say, OK, well, this is why. Like, this is based on your load for the week, based on your position group, based on what you've done previously. And kind of show them real quick, here's why. And they say, OK, got it, I understand. And so when we're able to show them, I think, that we're individualizing as much as we can, then they understand, OK, like, they're doing it for my best interest.
[00:32:04.70] And at least I've seen that, recently, a lot of players have really picked up on that, as long as we explain it to them beforehand, like, everything we're doing is with you in mind, right? We want to keep you healthy. We want to keep you available. We want to keep you performing at your optimal level, right? The best ability is availability, right, the old cliche. But we want everyone to be healthy and performing. And everything that we're doing is to try and help you stay that way.
[00:32:32.05] And so I think I've seen the change in the past few years of more and more players, especially the younger ones, being more receptive to it and understanding and asking more questions and wanting to really grasp a lot of that data and the knowledge. And not just to compare against their teammates, but to compare it against themselves and understand what's happening with them. And then that way, when we do tell them, give them feedback, especially when it's positive feedback, it's great. Like, you know, you hit a new max speed today. Or you did this or you did that, you know, you hit a new jump high.
[00:33:01.20] Whatever it is, they're really taking ownership of it. And they buy in even more. And I think it's just kind of one chip at a time. Getting everybody to do that has been an easier and easier process as the years go by and more and more of them become used to it. Because now most of our stuff is on their phones anyway. And they're on their phones all day. So it's easier to just get everything to them on their phones and have them do it. And it becomes part of their daily habits.
[00:33:28.23] I like that approach of finding the small wins using technology that can create some opportunities to praise athletes or give them feedback related to their performance, but something constructive. Sometimes during a long season or during a long stretch of the season where it can get pretty long and you feel the pressure of the season, you feel the pressure of showing up every day, and something to stay refreshed. And I think part of our role is keeping our athletes engaged and motivating them to continue putting their best effort in so that they can be who they are on the field and be their best athlete.
[00:34:06.87] I want to ask you, we've talked about pathways for strength and conditioning coaches. We've talked about pathways for sports scientists. What advice do you have for some of our younger listeners, young coaches or students who may see MLS as an opportunity, an area of growth that they want to pursue?
[00:34:28.19] Yeah, I mean, the number one thing is to try and get experience however you can, even if it's volunteering, right? Obviously, internships are great. Not everyone is afforded the ability to do an internship. But can you reach out to local clubs, local-- it doesn't have to be MLS. It can be USL, USL League One. It can be local youth clubs. And a lot of youth clubs, especially the ones that aren't academies, don't have a performance coach. Or they may have one running multiple teams.
[00:34:58.49] So reaching out to anybody that's in your area and asking, you know, what can I do to help? How can I help? You know, and especially at younger levels and youth clubs, they may be running GPS with a few teams, but not necessarily have the time to really sift through the data and make use of it and make it actionable. So is that something that you can craft out for yourself? If that's something you're interested in, can you say, hey, you know, like let me figure this out. Let me do this for you.
[00:35:23.78] Because you can create an opportunity for yourself to not only learn the tech and learn the procedures and kind of the best practices, but then also become a valuable part of what they're doing. And you never know what that's going to turn into, right? It could turn into an employment opportunity or a recommendation or referral to somewhere else when someone asks. Because everyone in this industry knows each other, right, even in the soccer coaching community, you know. So I think that is an easy thing to do, high schools as well.
[00:35:55.86] But also reaching out to anybody at higher levels too. And just say, hey, are there internships available? If it's not, we personally, we do it through a specific university. But there might be observational opportunities. Or there might be chances to sit on Zoom calls like this and ask questions-- Where should I start? How should I do this? And you never know what's gonna come about unless you actually reach out to people and try. And so I think that's the number one thing.
[00:36:21.67] And then for me, I always encourage people to try and get involved at the younger levels. Because like I said, you have to wear a lot of hats. So you get to learn a lot on the job. And it's OK to make mistakes, right? Generally speaking, if you're working with a bunch of 11 or 12-year-olds, if you make a mistake here or there, you know-- obviously, it can't be a major mistake where you can get someone seriously injured-- but, like, if you didn't do a warm-up the way that you really wanted to do and you're like, man, I wish I'd done it differently, like, you can try it again the next time.
[00:36:51.42] Or if you didn't understand certain aspects of the GPS, you can go and learn, and then come back and say, you know-- whatever it is that you're trying to hone in on at the lower levels, there's a lot more opportunity for you to just kind of learn as you go and learn from experience and learn by doing with less pressure. Because obviously, like I said, you're not working with the high-level athletes where if something happens, like, your job is on the line, right? And also your job is always kind of on the line because you need to win, right?
[00:37:20.40] And so I think that's an easy one for any young coaches and students who are thinking about getting into it is reaching out to people, but also trying to start at youth levels and really, really perfect your craft, so to speak. And then as you get more and more, gain your ability and comfortable and confident in what you're doing, then that should show. And potentially you're going to start moving up the ranks, whether it's with a club you're at or elsewhere, if you have to move around.
[00:37:49.23] And I think the other thing is just being adaptable, you know, like, willing to flex and adapt, not only to jobs and things like that as far as what you're doing day to day, but situations, circumstances. If you're very rigid in what you do in your approach, you're probably not going to succeed in this space, at least. We were talking about it earlier, but if you just take my 2020 till now, I mean, move to Minnesota as an assistant. And then COVID happened, shut down, no shirt, no idea what we're doing.
[00:38:24.96] Then doing Zoom, you know, workouts, which is not something that we were ever taught to do. Then my boss leaves, take over everything for the MLS is Back Tournament where we lived in Orlando for 41 days and played in a bubble. You know, and then come back and we had to fit an entire season into three and a half months. So we're basically playing every Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday for 3 and 1/2 months, which is the craziest schedule the league's ever had.
[00:38:51.60] And then the next year, somebody comes in from Europe as our performance director, kind of changes everything, wants to blow it up. It doesn't work out. Then I have to take over everything again, put the pieces back in place. And then come to Charlotte, head coach, head fitness coach, not big on lifting, like, at all. And I'm thinking, what am I doing?
[00:39:10.58] Like, how do I build bridges with this and work with that? But also my director is really keen on wanting us to put in place our performance culture. How do I work between the two situation I wasn't expecting? And then they get fired, and so then I take over everything.
[00:39:27.53] And then all of a sudden, we're going with a new coaching staff. And we get on a roll. We almost make the playoffs. We do really well, start putting in place some foundational things for the club and building out big projects-- building a training facility that opens in the summer and getting to design a gym and then Head of Performance. It's like, there's all these things that happen that if you were to just sit here and say, OK, this is what I want to happen, right, and plan it out, right, there's all these things that happen along the way that blow that up.
[00:39:54.69] And so you have to be willing to just flex and adapt and say, OK, cool, I'm gonna run with this or I'm going to go this direction and run with that. And you know, I think that's another thing that young coaches, and coaches in general, but I think young coaches especially need to understand that it's not going to go according to plan. And you have to be OK with that. And the more adaptable you are, I think the more successful you're going to be, at least from my experience.
[00:40:17.94] There's something to that. Thinking about professional sports, I think what you're talking about there is the unpredictability of professional sports. And, I mean, you can be making incredible progress on the performance side and the team goes in a different direction. And you're starting from scratch the next year or really quickly. And just being able to transition, pivot, change your mentality, change your program, build new bridges, make connections with new players and other staff members-- being dynamic is a huge part of the job at the professional level.
[00:40:52.47] I think when we speak to young coaches, and really what I asked was around this is such a growing area. And they probably see that this is an area where, you know what? MLS needs great coaches, you know? It's still relatively in its infancy of soccer in the US. And there's huge opportunities years ahead. And there's careers to be had in that. But where you get your reps, you talked about getting it at the youth level, but finding an environment. And maybe it is better to find an environment that is a little bit more structured to get your reps where it's a little more consistent.
[00:41:32.50] And you can-- to go to your example of leading warm-ups-- and you can lead the warm-up and progress the warm-up in the way that you think is best and find a way to find your coaching style and your coaching voice through that and the types of movements you need to include related to the sport-- something you're comfortable with, something that resonates with the sport, resonates with your athletes so that you're building up that arsenal of tools, of skills so that when you get to an environment that's less predictable, you have more to dig from.
[00:42:11.02] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:42:12.19] You said it a few times, these aren't skills that we necessarily learned in school. We definitely didn't have strength and conditioning classes that we were implementing training sessions via Zoom or on video calls. That definitely was not a thing. I know our private sector coaches and our personal trainers, we do a session every year at our personal trainers conference on virtual training sessions. And that's grown immensely and pushed the fitness field forward.
[00:42:45.52] But on that, we're becoming more dynamic as professionals. We're growing into new areas, new sports. I think it's really exciting to see. It's exciting to hear from someone working in MLS that while some areas of your background are not that traditional, a lot of them are. You had to network. You had to grind. You had to find those opportunities and make those connections in a sport that really didn't have the infrastructure and the building blocks that maybe there are today for young coaches.
[00:43:19.67] But now you're a mentor. Now you're a leader and you get to help the next generation of coaches come into the game. That's also sports scientists. I think it's exciting. And this was really fun to talk shop today and learn. So appreciate you being here. And if you would, give us your social media tags and contact info for anyone who wants to reach out.
[00:43:43.70] Yeah, thanks again for having me. It's really easy for me. Instagram and LinkedIn are the two areas. I haven't done Twitter, I think ever, maybe for about a week 10 years ago or so. But that was about it. And it's easier to reach me on Instagram or LinkedIn than even to email me at my work email address. So my Instagram is @aparrfitness and my LinkedIn is linkedin/adamcparr.
[00:44:12.02] And yeah, I think anybody that wants to reach out, continue this conversation, ask questions, you know, whether you're a young professional student or someone who's been around for a long time, I'm always keen to bounce ideas off of each other and ask questions of other people that are in the field, whether you're in soccer or other sports or in the private sector or special operations, things like that. I feel like the more that we can communicate and discuss what we're all doing, I think it helps to continue to grow the field. So I'm happy to discuss things with people that reach out. It may take me a few days. I'm a little bit busy right now since we're in the middle of the season. But I will get back to you.
[00:44:50.88] That was Adam Parr Head of Performance with Charlotte FC. Thanks for being with us. Also, everyone tuning in, we appreciate you. And thank you 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 NSCA community. To take action and get involved, check out volunteer leadership opportunities under membership at nsca.com.
[00:45:22.06] 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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