Top 4 Lessons From My Internship

Pitching cages, sprinting on turf, long tosses, base stealing techniques, and med ball work. These all sound like the development of the newest baseball training facility. But it’s not – all of these things can be found at a “high-performance training facility designed by athletes for athletes” in Hudson, MA, about an hour out of Boston.

For the past 4 months, I’ve had the opportunity to intern at Cressey Performance, one of the top innovative gyms in the U.S. according to Greatist.com. Below I’ll divulge my 4 greatest lessons that I’ve come away with from spending time with some of the best trainers in the New England area.

(What makes Cressey Performance so special? Well, just this past winter semester, CP has seen over 100 different professional baseball players from almost every organization in the league. It not only comes down to managing arm care in pitchers, but also getting athletes bullish strong in the process.)

I utilize this time to go over things that I have done in the previous days or weeks to expand upon, or generally reflecting over any “lessons” during my time here. Almost everyday there is a situation that has brought something new to the foray, whether it was indirectly or directly learned.  It’s nearing the end of my internship time here at Cressey Performance, and here are my top four lessons that I’ve taken away while here in the New England area.

1. What do you see?

Starting off with the biggest lesson – what do you see? Whether you want to call it joint centration, path of instantaneous center of rotation, or stacked joints – movement is movement. It is our jobs as coaches to determine if movement is crappy or if it is athletic-looking. When a former intern who came into get a lift in was helping a previous athlete, he asked the most open-ended question and non-rhetorical question of my internship, then only 4 or so weeks in – what do you see? The exercise then didn’t necessarily matter, but that one question shattered my view on new “exercises”.

If there is a new movement introduced to you, figure out the purpose of the exercise, and look at the exercise from a “big to small” approach:

If coaching a GCB Back Squat to Box is a new exercise to you, you have either two options – grab another coach, or think fast. If you are flying solo, you are left with the latter option. The “big picture” approach would see the bar on the back, performing a motion similar to sitting down to a box between the feet.

The detailed approach would look at bar setup on the traps/scaps, leg and feet width, and then the individual movements – from filling up the lungs, a relatively stable angle of the spine during ascent and descent, hip flexion upon descent, activation of the external rotators upon ascension, and then lockout of the squat will exhibit full hip and knee extension.

Creating this objective view on an exercise is one way to dissociate yourself from it. Many trainers have their “go-to” lifts or exercises, and by marrying yourself to one kind of exercise, you may be blind to the actual pros and cons of whether or not someone should be performing said exercise. Further, applying this approach to an assessment or screen will help identify improper movement patterns as well.

How You Can Apply This in Your Practice:

I like to take a whole-part-whole approach to coaching and cuing exercises. In particular, if you are coaching a new exercise, it can be difficult for newbie coaches to see what exactly is going on.

With a whole-part-whole approach, let’s dissect a movement, such as a reverse lunge.

Whole: 
Does the movement look correct?

Or are they compensating by shortening the trail leg (or the back leg)?

Is there a forward lean?

-Cue accordingly to correct for such errors.

Part: 

Is there adequate hip flexion at the bottom of the movement?

Is their back extended?

What does their neck position look like?

Did they lose tension at the bottom of the movement and are having trouble recovering?

-Take a second to observe and see if it happens continually.

Whole: 

After your cues, what is the result?

Did they respond favorably, or are they still lost?

-Cue or give tips accordingly after the exercise has been completed to continually improve the exercise.

Outside of the coaching perspective, you can utilize the whole-part-whole approach as a solution to problem solving.

By utilizing both of these approaches simultaneously, as a coach or trainer, you’ll be able to assess if the lift was successful, and if not, where they began to falter and how to fix the movement (either by coaching cues, or regression of the exercise).

2. Environment and Community

Creating an environment is a vital key to creating success. I feel as if my own intelligence has gained +100 points just by being around Eric Cressey and the other coaches of Cressey Performance, all of the in-services we’ve had, seminars I’ve had the blessing to attend, interacting with the other interns, and +20 points for my biceps just by being around Tony Gentilcore. Just kidding. But not really.

Whether your endeavor is to be an elite athlete, or to be a great coach, environment has a large factor in how you learn and grow. Having others give you productive criticism, along with seeing where they may fall, are huge elements to creating a successful community. Also, getting hype during lifts doesn’t hurt either.

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How You Can Apply Environment in Your Practice:

Create a welcome atmosphere, and embrace the idea of working hard for clients and athletes. Energy, charisma, and attention to detail are just a few words that can describe the staff and my co-interns during our stay this past fall.  Whether that requires creating an intense and hard-work oriented atmosphere for your high school athletes, or a more easy-going and dedicated “bootcamp” hour for the 9-5‘ers, environment and community will remain key points in any fitness endeavor.

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3. Continually learning.

The coaches of Cressey Performance still attend seminars to learn from others. That statement alone is a sentiment on how we should be approaching our own craft. EC isn’t overhauling his methods with every new seminar and new approach that pops up, but his principles stay the same – in what ways can we approach baseball [pitching] by avoiding injury, and getting bigger, stronger, and faster? So whether that means learning how to breathe correctly, setting up a proper throwing program, or simply referring out because the problem may be out of his scope of practice (such as manual therapy), the best methods that have the highest “ceilings” for success will dictate the means.

Yes, there is always something to learn, but it is difficult at times to see where you are within your own learning continuum – if you are just starting out in the field, learning myofascial anatomy may not be the first textbook to pickup, as it is not as applicable to your current situation of just learning how to coach. On the other hand, if you are dealing with baseball players on a daily basis (a very specific population), picking up one of those big books of exercises to see if there are any new exercises to try may not be the best idea either.

4. Show up and hustle.

There is something about someone who continually hustles to improve his or her craft. Being booksmart is one thing, but to hustle to get to a new level of knowledge, to help out a particular client, or to get a new certification that can set you apart from the crowd is another altogether.

During my time in the internship, I was never the smartest person in the room, and I made sure of it. So an often unheard of lesson that was expressed via the internship was that in order to receive certain opportunities, you had to simply show up.

 If all it took (for success) was to drive for hours on end to commit a chunk of the year to learning – I could do that.

Or showing up for work before the sun rises – I could do that.

Stay for 14 hour work days multiple days out of the week – I could do that.

Looking back on those early mornings and long days, it was rough at the time. But I did it and I feel it helped me get a better grasp on what it would take to be successful in this game. If you truly love what you do, and are committed, certain things will fall into place for you.

How You Can Apply Hustle to Your Practice:

-Success favors those who show up. See what “everyone” else is doing, and do what they won’t do:

-Wake up at 4:30am to show up for a 5am client.

-Network with local businesses to create a bootcamp class.

-Replace “I can’t” in my vocabulary with “I’ll find a way.

-Simply observe what the best of the best are doing – even if it takes hours on hours to get to their facility.

5. Don’t be a biter.

This is the last tip, and while not part of my initial top four, it certainly came up unexpected – flew under the radar if you will. Basically, in the dance community, there is a phrase out there called “biting”. Among the grand array of human movement in which creativity is certainly encouraged, biting or copying is the biggest no-no of them all. If you were to “bite” a particular move or set of someone else’s moveset or choreography, there would be epic beef would transpire – and we ain’t talking about the grass-fed ground beef kind.

OM NOM NOM

OM NOM NOM

To translate this to running a business or just how you act as a coach or trainer – don’t copy someone’s style outright. Certainly business models have the ability to be replicated with moderate success – look at all the commercial gyms out there that have done exactly that. But when it comes to creativity and passion in starting up as a business, there can be no two high end products at the end of the day.

For example, there can never be another company JUST like Apple, or Amazon, or Zappos – and there can never be another company JUST like Cressey Performance. From the camaraderie ranging from the high school level to the pro level, all the way to how the staff interacts with each other – you cannot simply replicate the aspect of community that has been developed over time at CP.

How You Can Apply This:

Understand how the top 65 successful people in your field work, absorb the information, and then flip it. If you like what you see, take what is awesome, and flip it to your own liking. Creating your own flavor and putting your own personality on it is vital to being successful.

Whether it comes down to working on your specific craft, continuing to learn, creating an environment, or just straight up hustling to get things done, these are all invaluable lessons that can be applied to help facilitate success in one’s career.

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