Archive for August 13, 2009

MBSC Internship with Sam Leahey: “Don’t Count The Days, Make The Days Count!” – Making the Most of Your Experiences

Posted in Guest Authors, Random Thoughts, Training, Youth Training on August 13, 2009 by mboyle1959

     Have you ever looked back on a time in your life and said to yourself “Man, I really could have gotten more out of that,” or “I wish I didn’t take that experience for granted,”  “That time flew bye, I wish I would have. . .?” Well, coming into this internship I knew I’d only have 12 weeks to morph into the ultimate Mike Boyle disciple, so I planned ahead of time and sought out every opportunity available at MBSC. Furthermore, I wanted to do more than an average intern; I wanted to get my hands dirty in everything possible.

“Don’t Count The Days, Make The Days Count!” – Anthony Morondo


Ant (aka Armadillo), the motivator at MBSC 

     That quote was so inspirational for me that I wanted to devote an entire blog to it. Below is an account of how I’m making this summer count instead of just counting how many more 62 hour work weeks are left. I decided to articulate my personal experience so future interns can be advised on how to make the most of their experience. Also, fellow Mike Boyle followers can gain insight into partial life of Mike Boyle The Great! I think my thoughts might benefit future up and coming coaches across the board as well as any coach out there who follows Mike Boylism.

Taking the Initiative in Your Coaching Career

     The normal routine of a strength & conditioning intern in any setting, be it collegiate or in the private sector, is usually to observe first and coach second. This process for some may take a week or nearly half the semester or summer term. For me, I didn’t want to sit there as a newbie intern and just wait for the head coach to say “Hey, kid, you wanna lead the group?” Call me impatient, but I think it’s better to learn from trial and error rather than observatory silence in most cases. So, I gave it one full day of just watching everyone coach, and first group the next morning I asked the head coach if I could lead the group. Taken back with such a request, he looked at me hesitantly at first and then must have decided I couldn’t screw things up too bad.

     Of course, the first training session I led went HORRIBLY! I sucked it up like a pro. I found myself over articulating everything to the athletes and spending five minutes talking about why ankle mobility is important. So much so that Coach Dan head to step back in and take control. That disaster was a humbling experience. Thing is though, the next day I mustered up the courage to ask if I could lead the same group again! The head coach looked at me with a smile and simply nodded. I guess he subscribed to the same trial and error philosophy I do. When the athletes saw me coming I’m sure they said to themselves, “Here comes this over ambitious intern again. He probably won’t last 15 minutes!” This time around, I cut down the volume of words I spoke and was much more succinct with my cues. Though still a rocky boat at times, the workout flowed much better than my first experience with the new strategy in place. Coach Dan only had to step in a few times to get things moving again. By day three, I was entirely on my own. The head coach liked my attitude towards coaching, and believe it or not, would give me control of the group AND THEN WALK AWAY AND WATCH FROM A DISTANCE! Afterward he’d come back and tell me how I could have been more efficient, when I talked too much, and what coaching cues would have worked better.

     Needless to say by the end of summer the head coach didn’t even bother to show up because he knew I could “hold it down” on my own. Getting thrown in the fire early is a good thing, especially when it comes to coaching. I progressed quicker in my coaching competency when I took the initiative and threw myself in the fire first instead of waiting for an invitation to get burned.

Working on Your Weaknesses

    Anyone who’s a strength & conditioning coach knows that you’re not always in charge of every athlete 24/7. Even if you’re the head strength coach at a college, the assistant coach is leading his teams and you’re actually assisting him. Well, at MBSC there’s something called “floating.” As an intern you have periods throughout the day where you are assigned to “float” around the facility and help out where needed. In Sam Leahey’s mind, “floating” actually meant “figure out what I suck at and go learn how to coach it better!” With this definition in mind I made a list of things I could tell right away needed work on and here it is:

  1. Coaching Olympic Lifts
  2. Coaching Movement Drills (crossovers, shuffles, ladder drills, stance & start work)
  3. Developing Coaching Cue Progressions for athletes based on their training age
  4. . . . and a few more that I can’t think of right now

So, during my first “floating” period I floated my way over to the platforms and spend a couple HOURS coaching nothing but Olympics lifts. After each group finished their lift, it was only a matter of moments before the next group behind them came in and starting doing their platform lifts. I coached group after group and paid attention to all the coaching cues every head coach was giving. So it should come as no surprise that by the end of my floating time my ability to coach a hang clean, snatch, etc. was night and day difference then when I first started. I made sure to hit up the platform area a couple more times throughout the summer also.

     As for #2 (movement drills) I walked over to the tennis court buildings we rent for our conditioning and movement drills and spent hours there as well. I found it really helpful to actually join in on some of the drills and let the other coaches coach me up! Furthermore, I would ask the head coach of the group if I could lead his/her athletes through the ladder drills for practice. Most coaches were fine with that and gave me some great constructive criticism afterwards. After this summer I definitely understand what Coach Boyle meant by just being a strength coach” and not knowing how to coach movement or conditioning. It’s very important to learn about all aspects of athleticism and be competent enough to teach them.

     Finally, I realized that teaching a first time 12-year old trainee how to bench press is different than teaching a college athlete with a training age of more than 2 years. Therefore, I thought it necessary to spend my next batch of floating hours near the benches, squat racks, and deadlift area. Here I found newbie lifters really needed to hammer away on the basics of lifting, whereas, the vet’s will benefit more from the smaller details of a particular lift. For example, things like “Wrist straight, pull the bar into your back!” on the squat is what I found myself telling the older athletes whereas the younger ones basically just needed to learn how to sit back during the descent. The same goes for other compound lifts like the bench press. My senior in college needed to worry about spreading the bar apart and pulling it down to his chest while keeping the elbows at 45 degrees. In contrast, the rookie lifter simply needed proficiency in keeping his/her feet on the floor and not wobbling all over the bench!

Getting Outside The Box . . . literally!

     As an MBSC intern the days can get long, the weeks even longer, and the months seem like an eternity for some. But as we already established, if you’re making the days count and not just counting the days, then you should have nothing to worry about. I realized this early on, and right away I thought of how I could branch out of my box at the Winchester MBSC facility. I heard Coach Boyle’s freshmen from the BU hockey team were arriving on campus for the summer, so I jumped on the opportunity to go there 3 times a week from 6-8AM and coach’em up. Immediately afterward I would drive straight to the MBSC facility and continue the rest of the workday there. This was such a great change of pace for me as a coach and really allowed me to see blatant comparisons between D1 athletes and the average high school athletes. I needed only say a few sentences before the national champ hockey players at BU did the exercise to perfection, in some cases even better than me! Then I’d drive over to MBSC and have to explain to an athlete 10 different ways the same idea before he finally understood and was able to perfect the technique.

     Next up, I asked if could do 1 or 2 days a week over at the North Andover MBSC facility (the main one is in Winchester MA). This was another great experience and a change of pace for me as a coach. The satellite facility in North Andover is only a quarter of the size of the main MBSC. Here, I learned how to work and be efficient in such a small area and how to keep control of a large group still. If any up and coming coach like myself is doing an internship, then I’d highly recommend you find out how many facilities a business has. See if you can spend time at a couple or a few that are very different. You’ll have a much better experience this way.

There’s More to it than Strength & Conditioning

     Lastly, I wanted to learn more than just strength and conditioning this summer. I yearned for more knowledge on the business side of things. I wanted to get inside the mind of Coach Boyle’s partner Bob Hanson, and look at MBSC through a different lens. In the private sector, the business perspective contrasts sharply with the training perspective. One day I might want to have my own training facility, so doing an interview with Bob seemed quite necessary. I asked him about what he thought was the best way to finance a strength & conditioning facility was to how separate should the business side of things be from the training side, as well as many more detailed questions. All in all, I walked away with a different opinion about opening my own training facility. It was a great long discussion. I’d encourage any young aspiring coach like myself who ponders the potential opening of his/her own training facility to first sit down with a business guy like Bob and take a long hard look at the other side of the coin. It’s not all about sets and reps and having the best training program!

Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT