Top 5 takeaways from St. Mary's onsite
Hi! I just got back from St. Mary's University in London, England, having spent the past 10 days or so for my final summer onsite of my distance Masters of Science in Strength and Conditioning. Every year, this is the week I look forward to most, even though it is has year end exams, or presentations. It's bittersweet to have defended my research and be done my masters, however, I came away with some important ideas, and takeaways, that I thought I could share.
1. Some of the best discussions and information sharing happen away from the lecture hall
Dan John, Dan Baker, and Steve Magness are all visiting lecturers of the program, and each summer come onsite to present their most recent thoughts, topics to us. However, I find that there's incredible value that they provide in the discussions after the lectures. Each night they would head to the 'Alexander Pope', a local pub, and continue their talk, and share more off the cuff material that makes you think, shapes you as a coach. I'm thankful for these gentlemen, along with professors like Dan Cleather and Stephen Patterson who would come and interact, and share their thoughts.
2. Reaching the top doesn't happen over night.
One of the questions I asked the Dan's over some drinks was where they were at my age (30ish), to get some context on the path they took to where they are now. To some people's surprise, they weren't the best, most recognized at that age. It took them years/decades to reach the point where they are now. For Dan John, it wasn't until 2010 where he finally 'made it'. He just worked his butt off, helped people, put out great content for years, and eventually it paid off. It's a good reminder that you can't expect quick results, but when you look back, you'll be surprised at what you accomplished. I'm fortunate to be where I am now, however I know that I need to continue to work like I'm a nobody to take that next step forward.
3. It's not just the big names who have big ideas
Despite their being big names on campus, I most enjoyed the conversations with my fellow students. We have an absolutely top notch group of coaches on this program, and it showed with the discussions we had each day. We shared ideas, strategies, frustrations, and professionally debated the merits of what we do compared to what someone else might be doing. If anything else, the best takeaway is just being open to other point of views. You never know when you'll have your light bulb moment.
4. Re-learning stuff is as important as learning material for the first time
Despite having seen most of the talks several times before, I sat in on 'old lectures'. I see tremendous value in doing this, since every time I do it, I pick up a new nuggett, or tidbit of information. Despite having seen Dan Bakers Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) talk, I picked up a simple variation for implementing MAS with court sport athletes - simply just increase the changes of directions [remember to take off a sec for each one!]. You'd think that would be intuitive, but sometimes you need the pro to show the way.
5. Defending your research is fun!
The primary objective of going over this year was to present my poster for my research [another post, another time], and to defend it to my supervisors. I was a bit nervous, but was looking forward to it. The viva [English academic term for oral exam], was less intense then I thought, and quite an enlightening experience. A previous intern of mine, James Young, always remarked, that if you can't have a conversation about a topic, then you really don't know it. I think this is spot on, and often at the undergrad level, we just memorize and regurgitate information, but don't 'own it'. The viva forced me to take a deep dive into what my research was, what it meant, how it related to the body of research, and went down a philosophical rabbit hole. I left knowing more about the area then when I came in. It was a great experience, and I'm thankful for the quality of supervisors for drawing out my knowledge in the area that I couldn't initially find.
6. Bonus: winning #science is fun!
Humble brag moment. If you didn't know, I ended up taking some hardware home from my trip. My research topic titled "The effects of 5% difference in intensity on strength gains in collegiate football players" won the prize for top research project among my cohorts. I've never won an academic award like this, so it was humbling, considering other topics that I learned about from my classmates. My main takeaway from this was that if you just focus on the process, and try to add something of value, and in the end, help people, you'll position yourself for success. It wasn't my intention to win the award. Instead, I only wanted to find better ways to train my athletes, and add to the field of strength & conditioning, that I love so much.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I wish I could go back to this every year. If you have a thirst for knowledge and want to become a better coach, the easy answer is to enroll at St. Mary's for their distance based program in strength and conditioning.