You’re Persistent, Most People Would Have Given Up By Now!
Steve Gordon, a student from the mentorship programme, has recently been given an impressive opportunity to meet Nicholas Gill, the All Blacks strength and conditioning coach. Read Ste’s inspiring account below.
With the 2015 Rugby World Cup in full flow, everybody is doing their best to get selfies and photos with the world’s top players. Rightly so, getting behind these kind of events is great and showing players your support will mean a lot more to them than you probably think. For my home town Darlington, we have been a bit more excited than most because we have been hosts to the mighty New Zealand All Blacks! The team everybody loves to watch and the team others really want to beat. Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club have gone all out on getting the town behind this occasion by offering tickets to open training sessions, getting local school children involved and also getting other parts of the arena involved like DL2 Crossfit and D.B.M.A.
While this is going on I’m working to set up another meeting. A meeting with a member of the team who is often overlooked by the general public. A person who is in charge getting the players in top physical condition and keeping in contact with the coaches so the training sessions are geared towards giving the right amount of training. As well as these two major jobs, he is so much more! In my eyes and experience a very under appreciated role from those on the outside but a role that is crucial to the success of any athlete/team. That role is the strength and conditioning coach, and I had the pleasure of having a coffee and chatting to the man behind that role at the All Blacks.
Nicholas Gill has been at the All Blacks for over 9 years now. That is a huge amount of time in professional sport and also with a team that is classed as the best in the world. My goal was just to chat about training and getting the best out of athletes.
When the host towns were announced back in March (I think) and I learnt that New Zealand were going to be in town I set about getting a meeting organised. I saw an opportunity and acted upon it. You see some are fortunate to have these types of meetings land on them, some of us may have to fight and work to make these things happen. I sent Nic an email asking if I could shadow a training session (don’t ask don’t get). He said with the schedule that wouldn’t be possible but he was happy to have a coffee.
Great news, so as the months roll by I continue to develop my skills as an S&C coach through Brendan Chaplin’s mentorship program and securing an internship with rugby union premiership outfit Newcastle Falcons. I was working hard to better myself professionally, learning the ins and outs of structuring a strength and conditioning program for high level athletes. These skills I learnt and am still learning have seen my gym jump to a new level. The training members receive now is vastly different from this time last year. They have seen there training go from strength to strength and getting results that are literally life changing!
October came around then the game of email tennis began between myself and Nic. Trying to pin each other down for this meeting was far from simple. Every date I suggested he wasn’t available and vice versa. Knowing the All Blacks time in the north east was coming to a close I needed to sort something quick; suggesting even a Skype meeting if we couldn’t meet in person. Not ideal but better than nothing. We finally got a day sorted then Nic got sick, I couldn’t believe it, I started doubting it would even happen but still persisted. Then I got an email Thursday morning 7:30am at the team hotel. Boom!
I made my way to the meeting going over questions I would ask, even thinking would he be pissed off that this green as grass S&C coach was hounding him for a meeting. We met in reception, shook hands and I took the time to say thank you and apologising for the email tennis. The first thing he said was ‘you’re persistent, most people would have given up by now’ which I took as a compliment as it’s a character trait I’m happy to have; it means I will always work hard to reach my goals.
We went into the drawing room (posh hotel) and sat down. At first he’s asking me questions about me and my roles within S&C. At first I felt like I was in a job interview and didn’t want to come across as a bit of an idiot. Soon relaxing, we started chatting about training. I asked him about his weekly set ups and how he managed the teams training. Nic explained the structure he has in place hasn’t changed in 6 years! Testament to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ saying. His reason behind this was it made things easy to plan and also gave the athletes a schedule that wouldn’t impact on the mental preparation which is vital for high performance. We then talked about how to talk to athletes and facilitate a good training environment. This is where I was able to discuss my approach and my philosophy of training. He smiled and nodded his head and replied “its great to hear that. You sound like your doing a great job and are on the right path” (yup, my ego got one hell of a boost!).
Continuing to chat through training we discussed recovery methods, managing injuries, using GPS and training the general public. One thing that I felt during our talk was ‘wow I don’t feel out of my depth at all’. Everything I had learnt so far had accelerated me a lot further ahead than I thought. I was sitting here with a bloke at the top of his game and everything he was saying I was doing in some shape or another. He even said he was going to pinch one of my ideas and put it into his gym back home.
Sometimes its easy to get trapped in a ‘get better, improve’ mindset without actually taking time to reflect on where you have come from. This is something I was discussing with Dave Hembrough and Brendan Chaplin the past weekend. How its great to keep pushing forward but sometimes take a step back and measure where you’ve come from. When training athletes/clients you track their progress, so you can show how far they’ve come and actually prove that what your doing is working. Professional development is no different.
As we were finishing off our conversation, I asked him how he uses GPS? Does he plan training around it? Does he go deep into the analysis of the results? He looked at me and laughed, “Keep it simple, I use it to monitor training sessions and relay back to the skills coach about what intensity they were working at. Making sure that its not too much or too little”. That’s it, keep it simple! Where is my time better spent? Sat behind a laptop analysing loads of numbers, or actually interacting with the players and ensuring they are getting the most from the training sessions’.
This was great as the one thing I try and do with everything is keep it simple. Do the basics and do them really well, from there you won’t go far wrong!
We finished our coffee, and got up to leave. Once again thanking him on taking his time out to chat to me, “no problem, now I know your a cool guy keep in touch and feel free to send me an email asking advice. Don’t be offended by the short replies as the problems that need fixing are 9 times out of 10, really simple solutions”
This was certainly a great meeting, not just because I met a world class S&C coach but more the verification that what I’m doing is on the right track and that if I continue in this direction I know I can succeed in the cut throat world of S&C.
Take home points:
- Find an opportunity and be relentless in your pursuit
- Keep it simple
- Work hard and trust your abilities
- Self reflection is important so you stay motivated
- Learn from the best so you can better yourself