By Mike McCullough BS, USAW-1, ACSM-CPT
This past summer I experienced a taste of my dream job working in the NFL as a temporary employee in the strength and conditioning department for the Oakland Raiders. I had several roles for the staff and the team, as the Raiders strength and conditioning staff are fully committed to facilitating a high performance environment. My roles were emphasized and deemphasized according to the changing training periods. We were in organized team activities in the early summer, which was the height of off-season training. I started off with the typical intern duties; setting up the weight room for lifting sessions and cleaning after, but quickly picked up on the expectations for all of our responsibilities. Early I was in charge of the performance nutrition program, making sure every player had access to our performance snacks at optimal nutrient timing windows.
As soon as I learned the names of all 90 players, I progressed to getting real NFL coaching experience in the weight room. I helped improve their technique in weightlifting derivatives, warm-ups, and movement sessions, and explained their importance whenever possible. The middle of the summer was somewhat slower. During this time I had several small research projects that looked into the potential effectiveness of different training and monitoring devices.
Towards the end of the internship we were in training camp, where the intensity of the whole organization picked up as the season drew closer. I balanced the responsibilities I had been gaining over the internship, while adding new ones. I started to run several of the team’s athlete monitoring programs, including GPS tracking, body composition trends, and hydration status. Running a GPS system for 90 men during 2-a-day practices, 5-6 days a week, with 2 lifting days on top proved to be an exciting challenge. It was all worth it, because as a team we built a database combining all of our training load data and physiological markers into one file that will allow the Raiders to track trends, and get a better idea how each player’s stress affects their ability to perform. The staff can track and analyze this data in a clear and timely manner, so they can share it with the football coaches and change how the team conducts practices and training to truly maximize effectiveness.
I felt very prepared to excel in the internship thanks to what I had learned in only two short semesters at ETSU. I understood that we needed to promote an atmosphere that allows every player every chance of being the most successful. Whether it was lifting instruction, or education on proper sleep and nutrition habits, we were there to do anything possible to help the athlete reach their peak. What I learned most was how to apply my skills among a group of outspoken, big, and strong, grown men. I learned to sell how our training and monitoring, and how it would help each individual perform their best on the field. My tactics varied with each individual, but it was a fun challenge building relationships with the team and trying to individualize my communication to be most effective with each of them.
When I graduate, I want to work in a very similar setting with a highly competitive college or professional football team. Working with such a large group in my favorite sport, with all the pressure as well as all the support, was an amazing experience and really brought the best out of me.
By Mark Swartz, BS, CSCS
I completed my internship at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, FL this past summer. I assisted in leading dynamic warm-ups and fitness sessions. The full-time tennis students trained in the weightroom, including plyometric exercises, lower/upper body lifts during the time when the camp students completed basic strength and movement training on court. I learned not only how to structure workouts to include mobility and injury prevention exercises, but also how to train younger students that are pre-pubescent. For those athletes, we did basic movement patterns to improve mobility and range of motion to set them up in proper hitting positions, and prepare them for loading when they are older. Overall it was a wonderful experience and I look forward to applying what I learned to my work back at ETSU
By Jackson Rhudy, CSCS, USAW-ASPC
As a Master’s student in ETSU’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science I had the option to complete an internship in the field of strength and conditioning/sport science in order to graduate. Beginning in June I chose to take an internship with Science Hill High School Football,and am fortunate to still be working with them this Fall. Science Hill, a class 6A school in Johnson City, TN, did not currently have a full-time strength and conditioning coach. This was a unique opportunitybecaseu I was in charge of all strength and conditioning activities for a football team unlike many internships in the collegiate, professional, or private setting which entail working under the close supervision of an senior strength and conditioning coach with little to no responsibility. Though I do work under Athletic Director, Keith Turner, and head football coach, Stacy Carter, they have allowed me to take control of this aspect of football preparation and make executive decisions.
I am lucky to have followed other graduates and coaches that have been influenced by our sport science program. They have accomplished the hard part and paved the way for me to successfully continue in the program. On my first day it was such a relief to see a large percentage of the team actually squatting below parallel! However, there were still many imperfections and opportunities for me to practice coaching hands-on.
A typical day in summer lifting consisted of three back-to-back hour-long sessions with up to 50 athletes per session. There were other coaches there to help me monitor safety, but most of the coaching was up to me. During the leadership experience there was an energetic atmosphere that necessitated high-intensity coaching, which was the most valuable part of the internship. Frequent schedule changes along with the high density of athletes per session forced me to become adaptable and make adjustments on the fly, bur what I have learned at ETSU has helped me to make those adaptations without sacrificing the intent of each session. Despite the large volume of athletes, the new facility,equipped with 15 half racks, allowed us to execute each sessionthrough efficiently. Most of the athletes were willing to put in the work to get stronger, but others did not see strength training as essential. I tried to use competition between athletes as a short-term motivation while education was my long-term approach. I tried to explain reasons behind the programming in hopes to get them intrinsically motivated.
When outside the weightroom I made sure to attend all football practices, home and away games, and my activities on the field wererunning dynamic warm-ups, leading football-specific drills, and learning as much as I could about coaching football. Being active at practices and games seemed to have built more respect and trust between the athletes and myself. When my focus during lifting sessions is on coaching technique, safety, and adherence, it’s important to build those relationships outside of the weightroom. Science Hill has been a great environment for self-improvement,working alongside coaches that are open-minded, respectful, and that trust me with our team.