Saturday, 8 August 2015

The New Role

So as many of you may now know, I am currently in New Zealand. Whilst working with Harlequins I managed to get a position working with Northland Rugby for their 2015 ITM Cup campaign. It is technically another internship, but they did however pay for my flights and also are paying for all my accommodation and bills.

My title is Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, and this is my role within the ITM structure. I am however also acting as the Head S&C for the Development Squad.

So my week is very busy. I work the daytimes with the ITM Squad, attending all their gym sessions, rugby training, and also analysing and issuing all the GPS and RPE data throughout the week.
Then I also work Monday & Wednesday nights with the Development team, as well as attending their fixtures.

So they are keeping me very busy, but it's really good for me in terms of progression as I am able to get heaps of hands on coaching time, as well as the opportunity to program weights, speed and conditioning for all the development squad.

It's a step up from Harlequins from a responsibility standpoint and that's exactly what I wanted it to be.

Tim, my boss, sat down with me early on and said what his expectations were for me whilst I'm here, but he also took on board my feedback about what I wanted to get from it.

So far it has been awesome. The ITM Squad are all a great bunch of lads, and the development are also in a really good position to challenge this year and develop a lot as players to push on and make the next step either throughout this year, or next year.

The house they've put us up in (my girlfriend Rachael is here with me) is good. It's nothing fancy but it does the job. We are living with some of the other players and their partners so it's nice for Rach to have some female company to get away from all the rugby chat.

It's a very social house too with a lot of the other players dropping from time to time so there's always someone about to have a chat to.

Anyways - that's about it for now. Just wanted to give an update of where I am, what I'm doing, and I'm hoping big time that it will lead to something full time somewhere in the World. If not then I'm lucky enough to have Reach Fitness London to fall back on when I return to the UK in December this year.


Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Internship Year

My Internship Year

Ok, so in June 2014 I was lucky enough to be accepted as a Strength and Conditioning intern (technically a volunteer but intern sounds better) for Harlequins Rugby for 2014/15 season. I was absolutely over the moon when I found out, because I had originally applied for this position in 2011, straight out of university, but didn’t get it.

When I didn’t get it first time round it was tough, I thought I had everything one would need to be suitable for this role. But after visiting the club shortly after, and even more so looking back 3 years down the line, I had absolutely no clue about Strength and Conditioning as an industry, no experience worthy of noting, and was duly told this.

So I was sent away with simple messages:
1.     Get some experience coaching S&C
2.     Start off down the UKSCA or CSCS/NSCA path
3.     Build a knowledge base through your own trial and error

So that’s what I did. I worked with the University of Worcester Men’s Rugby team, Men’s American Football team, Malvern College rugby, worked privately out of City Gym Worcester and Hill Performance Centre, started training for strength rather than the regular bodybuilder type training, and I researched the UKSCA.

Now I am fully UKSCA Accredited, have a year of experience in Elite Level Rugby Union, started my own business, am a personal trainer in London, and am off to New Zealand in June to be the Assistant S&C Coach for Northland in the ITM Cup.

So the internship – is it worth it?
I hear this all the time, and I read about it all the time online with people out of uni saying “I couldn’t get a job, but I’ve got a degree, should I do an internship even though I don’t get paid…”
My response would be “Yes.” Simple. This internship has been absolutely invaluable to me, it’s hard to really explain it but I’ll try.

What I’ve learnt throughout this process hasn’t necessarily been new information; I already had an understanding of physiology etc due to university, but it has been eye opening in terms of application and starting to realize the complications that arise in elite level sport.

Even now, one year on working within this structure, I feel like it would be a big step to head up an S&C Program because of how much of this information was new. How to piece together the programming for weights, speed, conditioning, recovery etc. Then the inclusion of rugby, how to cater for injuries, different fixture dates and how to adjust the training week.

So many small things you don’t even think about when you’re new, but that hit you and you suddenly realize how in depth it can all be.

A lot of people then go off talking about the role of an intern; will I just be there to do all the crappy jobs that the coaches don’t want, will I ever work with the first team, will the players like me, what happens if they don’t?

Now, I have heard some horror stories of “internships” where people basically just did all the bitch duties. Cleaning, setting up and clearing away etc.
Don’t get me wrong; we’ve had our fair share of those duties this year too. But with the bad comes the good.

This internship has been incredible for hands on experience, and that’s largely down to the fact that all bar one of the S&C team at Quins have previously been an intern at the same club. They know how it works, and know how it feels to be in that position.

On day one – our first job was to clear out a massive container of crap. This was to be expected. I should note that day one was 3 days before pre-season started.

On day two (day one of pre-season) – we were given athletes to coach. Just like that, straight in to the club, still learning names, and we’re in charge of a group of professional athletes.

A few weeks later, the England squad members came back from New Zealand and were training – they were given to us to coach. The highest profile players in the club, and the interns were in charge of them straight off. That is responsibility right there.

Things continued in that way all year. We had crappy roles to do like protein shakes, setting up therapy every damn day, clearing up therapy every damn day, cleaning and filling ice baths, running water on for rugby etc.

But as I already said, it was balanced out with good stuff. Coaching groups of players in the gym, running warm ups for speed and rugby, getting involved on Premiership and European match days, being mic’d up running water for the A-League getting coaches messages out to the players, working at stadiums like Franklin’s Gardens, The Stoop, The Rec, The Aviva Stadium, and the Holy Grail that is Twickenham.

With the players you have to get an understanding of the situation; these guys see new interns come in year on year, like a conveyor belt of over eager rugby and gym nauses trying to make their way in a new industry. One piece of advice I was told beforehand was – know your place. Don’t go in trying to tell them some new magic formula, because you don’t have it. And even if you did, why should they believe you? You’re an intern. They have a head S&C for a reason.

Some players accept you in straight away, some it takes time to earn their trust and respect. That’s just the way it’s going to be – so if you can’t handle that, then don’t do an internship. You’ll disappear half way through the year and your reference won’t come through next time you try to claim you worked at that club.

Another piece of advice I was given – make the most of it. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but being in a setting like this is something not a lot of people have the chance to do. So if you do one, ask questions, learn as much as you can to make you more employable at the end of your time. Network – use your contacts to make more, get in touch with people at other clubs, from other sports etc and ask if you can spend time with them. You’re more likely to get accepted this chance by already being in a good position, so reach out to people and get as much information and experience under your belt as you can.

It can sometimes be a little frustrating, especially when you are working a large amount of hours with no income, but the reward is worth it. For me the best way around these situations was to think about the amount of people who I beat to the role, those people who weren’t fortunate enough to land this opportunity, and to really recognize the fantastic structure I was a part of.

Internship or degree? Personally I would say do both. Neither of them individually will give you the total package, but together they could. So I would say do your degree, potentially try to find somewhere to work in your summers off that makes your CV look better by the time you leave, build up some qualifications and experience whilst you’re there, and then try to slot in to an internship wherever possible.

The degree will give you the knowledge, and the internship will piece together how to apply that in the most appropriate ways. You will arrive with gaps in your knowledge and your application, whether you think you do or not – you will, but you’ll leave a much more complete coach.

Another reason I think internships are a good option is because it allows you to see if it is really something you want to pursue. Some people may think they want to work in a team atmosphere, but when it comes down to it their coaching style may be more suitable for one-to-one work. This is one reason I tried so hard to get onto this internship, because I wanted to be sure that this was the career I wanted to pursue, and it has definitely confirmed that to me.

One other piece of advice I would give though, especially if you are a student reading this, is to make the most of your time! Try to fill your spare time with activities that will make you a better potential employee, this way you will be more likely to find something immediately out of uni. I had some coaching experience during university, but it took me another 2 years until I had enough relevant work experience under my belt to be considered for the position. So get some coaching qualifications, and more importantly – work your ass off to get experience doing the job you want to do.

I think that’s about all I have to say, I think I’ve covered everything I normally hear spoken about online or frequently get asked. To summarize, internships are definitely worth doing, be prepared to work hard – its not all about the glory of being involved but you have to show you are willing to do the hard yards to reap the rewards, your application knowledge will increase dramatically and you’ll start to think of things in a new way, and you will find out 100% if this is the career choice for you.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions regarding internships or anything else feel free to contact me.

Rob Nitman. BSc. ASCC.
Twitter – @nitman89        |        Instagram – @rob_nitman

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Oh the times they are a changing

Things are starting to shape up a little bit differently nowadays at Quins,

First off - Therapy has changed shape. So at the start of the year therapy looked like a load of mats laid out for individual players, with bands, balls etc available for use.
This then changed to it being structured into what they would be performing for the first 10 minutes to make sure every player is hitting the big target areas - Glutes, QL, hips etc.
Now it has changed again - it is now structured but also has three separate stations. The first is the individual mats with balls and bands, but the exercises and focus points have been decided by the coaches.
Second station is a foam rolling station, but again the focus is decided in advance.
Third they do some activation work, working on proprioception, ankle stability, knee stability, shoulder stability etc.

In my opinion there are pros and cons to this. Pros - we know exactly what everybody is working and know that at least something is getting done. Cons - It isn't specific to individual players. Some people have certain work ons that because if this new structure don't get hit as much as they would.
But its one of those things - sometimes its better just to make sure everyone is at least doing something constructive.

Moving on from there - it has been an interesting time recently in the fact that we have a lot of movers and shakers. Some players re-signing with the club, some leaving, and the announcement of some new signings for next season.
We've also got some time off coming up, because our failure to reach the next stage of both the ERC and the LV Cup, we now only have Premiership fixtures to focus on. As I write this I am about to have a whole week off, with a lot of the players taking the chance to go on Holiday (numerous off to Cancun for Spring Break - lucky buggers).

For us interns, as I mentioned in the last post, its about the next step. And things are looking up - I'll leave it at that


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

into 2015 we go

Ok. I have now proved that I am pretty poor at keeping up with these blogs. So I'm not going to bother trying to claim to get better at posting more regularly.

My last post was back at the start of December, a whole 2 months ago. And there has probably been a ton of interesting stuff that happened in this time.

So - lets get going shall we.

First up - the international players all came back from duty, and as expected they were pretty beat up. Thankfully no major injuries, but they all needed a bit of rest. This didn't happen though as they were straight back into European duty.

Now then - the European cup. The two games of this we played in December were back-to-back against Leinster. First up at The Stoop and despite being underdogs we overcame the odds to win. This was a really brilliant performance. Our defence was huge from start to finish, and we really put them under pressure. We also took our chances when they were handed to us.

I was lucky enough to go along to the away game. This was played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. I've always wanted to go to Dublin, and I jumped at the opportunity. So I flew out a day after the squad, on the morning of the game. Working the game was incredible. The facilities they have at the stadium are fantastic, and the atmosphere was totally insane. Such a loud crowd and it was like a sea of blue in the stands.
Now - this trip ended in a bit of humiliation for me, as I went out on the town that night with some of the players, and last years Quins intern Ciaran - who happens to live nearby so knows the area very well.
This led to me missing my flight home. I slept through 4 alarms, yes 4! Waking up at 10:20, after my flight left the ground at 09:30. Awesome. So I booked myself a new flight and went home - with a very sore head.

Since then we have had a bit of a mixed bag in terms of performances. We've had some where we've looked fantastic, and others where we really don't. As a result, we are now out of the European Cup, and the LV Cup. Only leaving us with the Premiership to focus on. Which is bad in ways as it would be great to still have a shot at other competitions, but at the same time it is also good as we can focus on rising up the table to gain a Euro spot for next season.

The squad has also picked up a few more injuries recently, which is never good and hard to see. We've had a few new faces come through, a couple of props, a new scrum-half, and a back row player. It's kind of cool to have a few new faces about as it freshens things up a bit. But sad in that they came in to replace injured guys.

It's also the time of year where players are making career decisions for the future. A large number of guys have been re-signing at the club, which is great, but a couple have decided to move on elsewhere. Quins have also started looking outside for new people to bring in - such as the announcement of James Horwill, former Australia Captain, signing for after the 2015 World Cup. I personally think this is a really good signing and should sit in our pack quite well.

Personally speaking it's an odd time of year as Henry, Richie and myself are all starting to think about "What's Next?" I don't think there is going to be any opportunity to stay on at Quins unfortunately as I don't think any jobs will be opening up, so we have all started doing the daily scrolling through job sites like the UKSCA, UKSport, Times Education Supplement, BUCS and the LinkedIn Job Board. It gets a little tedious, but it has to be done as everyone in our position around the UK is in the same boat and looking for work. I've also been emailing around a few other clubs trying to see what might be opening up for the 15/16 season, but not having a lot of luck.

Ok, so I think we're now up to date.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy.

Please feel free to get in contact with thoughts (or job offers) ...