By the Coach for the Coach: The Ladies Take Over

TAGS: profession, Melissa Moore, for the coach by the coach, Caylee Williams, todd hamer, strength and conditioning, women, Julia Ladewski

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

In my current position, I try to serve on as many university committees as I can. As I'm writing this, we're in the middle of Women's History Month. I serve on this committee and try to create university activities throughout the month. With this going on, my wife just finished editing Julia Ladewski’s new book. Julia spent eight years as the director of Olympic sport strength and conditioning at the University of Buffalo. Over the last few months, as my wife was editing Julia's book, we talked often about being a female in this profession. I've had female interns but have had a tough time finding females who are interested in strength and conditioning as a career.

So I decided to let the females take over this month's article. I contacted a good friend of mine, Caylee Williams of Oklahoma State University, and asked her to interview some female friends in the profession about their positions. Without further adieu, I hope you enjoy these.

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Melissa Moore

Our first interview is with Melissa Moore, who is currently the associate head strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana State University (LSU).

TH/CW: Tell me about your journey in the field of strength and conditioning. How did you get your “foot in the door (i.e. internship/volunteer position, graduate assistant position, first full-time position)?

MM: One of my college professors saw the potential in me and urged me to intern my senior year at Southern Mississippi (2000). My internship eventually led to a graduate assistantship position at my alma mater. I was offered my first full-time job by a former Southern Mississippi graduate assistant (Keith Caton) at Elon University in North Carolina. Early in my career, I attended conferences and visited other strength coaches to learn from them, including Tommy Moffitt and Gayle Hatch. Through these contacts, I was recommended to Eric Ciano at Georgia Tech. I spent two years at Georgia Tech working with softball and women’s tennis. In the summer of 2006, I was hired by Tommy Moffitt to work with women’s basketball and softball.

TH/CW: Who has influenced your training philosophy/career? Who were your mentors? Who did you go to for advice?

MM: Coach Gayle Hatch, head coach of the 2004 USA Olympic Weightlifting team, has been one of my greatest mentors. I spent more than five years training under Hatch to learn his methods. I still visit him on a weekly basis to talk shop. I also spent the first five years of my career at LSU assisting with football to learn from Tommy Moffitt. In addition, I owe a lot of credit to my first full-time boss, Keith Caton, who had a background in powerlifting, and Charlie Dudley, the very first head coach I worked for as a graduate assistant who set an exceptional example for me in regards to organization and management.

TH/CW: Why did you want to become a strength and conditioning coach? Have those reasons/motivations changed over your career or are they still the same?

MM: I simply loved working out and wanted to teach others what I loved to do so that they could find greater success. I found the collegiate setting to be the most rewarding because I could work with athletes who had enough physical talent to learn complex training methods, but they were still inexperienced enough to see significant gains from their training. Over the course of my career, I've gained a greater appreciation for how the psyche of an athlete is impacted and improved through training the body (i.e. mind over matter).

TH/CW: What is one thing you know now that you wish you would have known when you were first starting in the field?

MM: I wish I knew that I really could do things my own way! When you're inexperienced, it's hard to believe in your abilities, knowledge, and judgment.

TH/CW: What habits/practices do you feel have made you successful?

MM: Physically learning from those who I consider to be the best in the field has helped me the most. Also reading, watching videos, and researching the internet has helped. When I began my career, the internet was only a few years old. Resources were very limited. Now, people can spend all day visually researching strength and conditioning. I think the internet has positively impacted our field more than anything else in the past ten years.

TH/CW: Please elaborate on your responsibilities/duties in your current position. What teams do you train? What administrative duties do you have?

MM: I'm an associate head strength and conditioning coach. I oversee the daily operations of one of LSU’s three weight rooms. I'm the head strength coach for women’s basketball and softball. I have one graduate assistant who assists me with my sports and is the head strength coach for men’s and women’s tennis. I also have an internship program and maintain two to three interns per semester.

TH/CW: Please describe the philosophy behind your training methods.

MM: I have a multi-faceted approach to training athletes. In regards to strength training, I have incorporated methods from Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman, and functional training. In regards to speed/agility/conditioning, I've learned and borrowed a lot from my sport coaches as well as from track coaches. Before the days of strength coaches, it was our sport coaches who did most of the conditioning for their teams. Strength coaches used to pretty much stay in the weight room. I have found that sport coaches have some good ideas and good drills to pass along and they've inspired me to come up with ideas of my own. Track coaches have been a tremendous resource to me in regards to speed development.

TH/CW: What is your opinion on coaches continuing to train as they continue in our field?

MM: I think it's important for any able-bodied coach to be able to demonstrate what she wants her athletes to do. While time takes its toll on all of us and most of us have experienced significant setbacks due to injury at some point in our careers, it's important that we set a reasonable example for our athletes.

TH/CW: In what direction do you see our field heading?

MM: I see our field becoming more and more sport-specific and specialized. As strength and conditioning departments expand, coaches are training fewer sports and getting less diversified experience. More frequently, sport coaches are being allowed to hire their own strength coach, typically someone who has spent the bulk of his or her career working with that particular sport. Even in the private sector, there are coaches who specialize only in speed work or just in agility/quickness.

TH/CW: How do you evaluate and continue to educate yourself and others you work with?

MM: I evaluate interns and graduate assistants verbally on a regular basis and on paper once a semester. I have educational assignments and tests for interns and graduate assistants to complete, but I think the best way to learn is hands on, so I give my staff as much responsibility as they can handle and I frequently put them in leadership positions. I also have my staff members meet and learn from my mentor, Gayle Hatch.

TH/CW: What do you look for in prospective interns/volunteers/graduate assistants?

MM: A strong work ethic and a good attitude are far more important to me than knowledge, experience, or physical ability. I like to surround myself with others who have qualities, abilities, and experiences different from mine.

TH/CW: What do you enjoy most about your career?

MM: I enjoy impacting the lives of others, helping people find success, confidence, and maturity. I also enjoy winning!

TH/CW: How do you manage a work/life balance?

MM: I have lots of interests outside of sports and strength and conditioning. Right now, I'm learning to play the accordion. Ha! I think it's important to have fun in my free time. Also, it's important to me to take care of my health with good nutrition.

TH/CW: What is the best piece of professional advice that you've ever received—and used or implemented?

MM: I remember an older colleague of mine telling me “you can do anything however you want to,” meaning come up with your own ideas for your own reasons instead of copying others. This advice was simple, but it made me realize that there wasn't just one way to do anything.

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Jami Clinton

Next up is Jami Clinton, who is currently the coordinator of Olympic sports at the University of Mississippi.

TH/CW: Tell me about your journey in the field of strength and conditioning. How did you get your “foot in the door (i.e. internship/volunteer position, graduate assistant position, first full-time position)?

JC: I completed my bachelor's degree in kinesiology in 1997 at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) in Dallas, Texas. I was a four-year letter winner for the Lady Patriot volleyball team. I then went to Texas Christian University (TCU) as an entry level assistant where I also started work on my master’s degree. I trained volleyball, women's basketball, swimming, tennis, and golf. I then headed to Alabama and worked as a graduate assistant where I completed my master’s degree in human performance. At Alabama, I worked with softball, volleyball, swimming/diving, tennis, and golf. I've been at the University of Mississippi for the past eight years. My current position is coordinator of Olympic sports, and I directly train women’s golf, softball, and volleyball.

TH/CW: Who has influenced your training philosophy/career? Who were your mentors? Who did you go to for advice?

JC: Ben Pollard (Georgia State), Raychelle Ellsworth (Texas A&M), Terry Jones (Alabama), Matt Parker (TCU), and Kent Johnston (West Florida) were my biggest influences.

TH/CW: Why did you want to become a strength and conditioning coach? Have those reasons/motivations changed over your career or are they still the same?

JC: I played volleyball at DBU and never had an athletic trainer or strength coach, so initially I got involved to learn more. I'm an admitted “nerd” who loves research and wants to know “why.” I got involved with the athletes and the weight room after my time as an athlete and a light bulb went off. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. It was a “spark.” I still have that same spark for helping athletes that I did when I first started.

TH/CW: What is one thing you know now that you wish you would have known when you were first starting in the field?

JC: I still don't know this, but I feel it would have helped when I first started to know where the field is headed. I think I've known a few times...maybe the field is going scientific or maybe it’s going more specialized. But that’s something that definitely would've help, for me to understand where our profession is headed.

TH/CW: What habits/practices do you feel have made you successful?

JC: Listen first! Always put athletes first. Watch other greats in the field.

TH/CW: Please elaborate on your responsibilities/duties in your current position. What teams do you train? What administrative duties do you have?

JC: I've been at Ole Miss for the past eight years. My current position is coordinator of Olympic sports, and I directly train women’s golf, softball, and volleyball. I'm directly responsible for all hires and fires on the Olympic side of strength and conditioning. I'm completely separate from football.

TH/CW: Please describe the philosophy behind your training methods.

JC: Study the sport first. Study the movement patterns of that sport second. Make athletes efficient at the movements in their sport.

TH/CW: What is your opinion on coaches continuing to train as they continue in our field?

JC: It's so important because most of us were all athletes at some point in our careers/development. We're all competitive, and you must know what “lights your fire” in order to keep that “edge.” It’s very important for a young coach. You must know what an exercise “feels like” in order to implement it. You must know what it means to max out on a squat, perform a full snatch, or run a 300-yard shuttle.

TH/CW: What direction do you see our field heading?

JC: I think our profession will be a combination of sports science and specialized sports performance.

TH/CW: How do you evaluate and continue to educate yourself and others you work with?

JC: I send assistant coaches to conferences and clinics. They must report back to the staff what they learned and then “teach” that to the staff. I also keep up on current research and read a lot (elitefts™, NSCA Journal). I'm currently reading The Talent Code.

TH/CW: What do you look for in prospective interns/volunteers/graduate assistants?

JC: I don't want to hire people with the same philosophy as me or my staff. I want to have a well-diversified staff with different backgrounds so that they can learn from each other, try new things, and challenge their way of thinking.

TH/CW: What do you enjoy most about your career?

JC: Helping athletes and having that “spark” that I first had thirteen years ago when I was starting out.

TH/CW: How do you manage a work/life balance?

JC: I love to travel and take trips/adventures. I'm invested in church and family, and I must have positive/supportive relationships outside of work.

TH/CW: What is the best piece of professional advice you've ever received—and used or implemented?

JC: The best advice I ever received was from Ben Pollard when I was an assistant at Alabama. He told me: “Remember, when you start with a team, you can always get easier. It’s difficult and virtually impossible to start easy and get harder. Set your expectations high, and if they don’t reach those expectations quite yet, they’ll still achieve greatness.”

I also think that the generation of athletes we're working with really desires for us to speak the “truth” into their lives whether they actually admit to that or not. They need someone who says, “Yes, you can be an all-star, and yes, you can be the greatest, but you have to work hard to get there.”

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Anne Tamporello

Finally, we have Anne Tamporello, who is the director of Olympic sports at Baylor University.

TH/CW: Tell me about your journey in the field of strength and conditioning. How did you get your “foot in the door (i.e. internship/volunteer position, graduate assistant position, first full-time position)?

AT: I was a soccer player at Texas A&M during the fall as a senior. I was offered a student position in the spring and then promoted to a graduate assistant or “assistant coach” after graduation. I was there for three years and was responsible for women’s tennis and archery and I assisted with football.

TH/CW: Who has influenced your training philosophy/career? Who were your mentors? Who did you go to for advice?

AT: Raychelle Ellsworth and Mike Clark (Chicago Bears), Pat Ivey (Missouri), Larry Jackson (Houston), Adam Davis (Tulsa), Erik Korem (Kentucky), Kaz Kazadi (Baylor), and Chad Dennis (Texas Tech) have been my biggest influences.

TH/CW: Why did you want to become a strength and conditioning coach? Have those reasons/motivations changed over your career or are they still the same?

AT: Originally, I had a string of injuries and wanted to make things better. I fell in love with that. I also wanted to help people become better and bigger and be more productive men and women. I had more of a life preparation mindset.

TH/CW: What is one thing you know now that you wish you would have known when you were first starting in the field?

AT: That I don’t know everything. Just because you have assumptions and conversations doesn’t mean that you have knowledge. Trial and error and addition of adjustments equals knowledge and practical adjustment.

TH/CW: What habits/practices do you feel have made you successful?

AT: I think personal fitness. I continue to lift and train. Also, I think creating and maintaining relationships with trainers, administrators, other sport coaches outside of the sport, human resources, facilities people, and anyone who has influence over a student-athlete. It's also beneficial to have good relationships with local businesses of influence like the barber shop. I try to be proactive in developing those relationships, and I also aim to have balance and be a well-rounded person.

TH/CW: Please elaborate on your responsibilities/duties in your current position. What teams do you train? What administrative duties do you have?

AT: I work with softball and assist with football. I'm the administrative director of Olympic sports. I know all the information about our nineteen teams, and I take care of them. I do whatever needs to be done so that Coach Kazadi can do his job.

TH/CW: Please describe the philosophy behind your training methods.

AT: Eat breakfast. Run fast and often. Squat heavy with great technique and range of motion (“chest up, butt back, knees out”). Use a smart recovery protocol and do full range of motion pull-ups.

TH/CW: What is your opinion on coaches continuing to train as they continue in our field?

AT: It’s a must. It helps you keep your edge. Lift and run and continue to be good at what got you there.

TH/CW: What direction do you see our field heading?

AT: I think we'll see the hiring of staff who have a more integrative/comprehensive approach such as nutritionists, movement analysts (beyond FMS), chiropractors, physical therapists, and sport psychologists. What can you do that isn't just under the bar?!

TH/CW: How do you evaluate and continue to educate yourself and others you work with?

AT: Remember that you don’t know anything. You must do regular staff meetings, lifts (twice a week), and professional development. Understand your staff and what makes them tick.

TH/CW: What do you look for in prospective interns/volunteers/graduate assistants?

AT: I look for energy, youth, and ideas. Bring ideas nonstop. It’s your job to say no! Eventually the 'no' might become a 'yes' if you ask enough.

TH/CW: What do you enjoy most about your career?

AT: I enjoy all of it. Our bad days are better than most people’s good days.

TH/CW: How do you manage work/life balance?

AT: “Work hard and play hard.” You must have hobbies outside of the profession like gardening, hunting, or wine. You have to do “something that gets your shine back.” All hobbies must come together outside of work.

TH/CW: What is the best piece of professional advice you've ever received—and used or implemented?

AT: You're always interviewing. You need to do a great job with your current job and be flexible. Be positive, and be aware of your social setting.

Thanks, ladies! One thing that really stood out to me as I read these over is that each of these women spoke about their mentors. This is an area where, in my opinion, we don't think nearly enough about in our profession. We must have people who we trust and who we can ask for advice or opinions.

A good friend of mine came to speak to a group of my student-athletes this week. This gentlemen is an assistant athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh and four years younger than me. When he was speaking, I was thinking about how mentors can be friends and they can be younger than you. We must all set our egos aside and learn from everyone.

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