English Institute of Sport (EIS) Head of Strength & Conditioning Alex Wolf has outlined the key attributes aspiring practitioners require to work in high performance sport.
Wolf’s Strength & Conditioning team recently staged a ‘What it takes’ event at the EIS High Performance Centre in Bisham to help discover and educate the next generation of potential coaches.
Conditioning work for elite athletes takes place behind closed doors because maintaining a competitive advantage is critical but the ‘What it takes’ event provided a rare snapshot of what life is like for practitioners working in high performance sport.
“We decided to stage the ‘What it takes’ event to introduce the concept of the EIS as a potential future employer and also to illustrate what the high performance environment is all about and what it entails to work in it,” explained Wolf.
“The event was open to people from all areas and we had around 100 attend on the day. That ranged from people in the middle of their undergraduate degree to people who had completed their Masters. We had people working for their own companies as personal trainers and coaches and even some people from the military.
“It was a really diverse field of people and that was purposeful because if you want to come and work for the Institute, we can help you build a pathway to becoming a Strength & Conditioning Coach with us.
“We explained what the EIS is, what our discipline is and why we work in the way we do. We discussed the positives of our roles but also provided a clear illustration of what life is like working in the high performance system.”
Wolf explained that it was important to give an insight into the high performance system so aspiring practitioners are clear on what skills and experience are required to work in the sector.
“It is difficult for people to get a glimpse of what we do at the Institute and how high performance sport works because we cannot give away competitive advantage,” he said. Given that people don’t know what we do, it is difficult for us to show what we require from future talent that we want to come and work for us.
“While we can’t break down the walls, we have got to lower the walls enough for people to get a good understanding of what we do and how we operate on a day to day basis. It is good because if you are five or so years away from applying for a role with us, you have a real opportunity to guide your future development which gives you the best possible chance of being successful when applying for a job with us.”
Wolf also gave some top tips for those looking for a career in the EIS.
“The biggest bit of advice I always give is about accountable coaching,” he said. “Accountable coaching is more than hours and hours of coaching, it is about being accountable to an end goal or accountable to a series of individuals. It can be to an athlete or to the coach and it can often mean that you have to align your thinking and what you deliver to the coach’s philosophy and actually measure your impact on how aligned that is and how much of an impact it has on that philosophy rather than how many gold medals you win.
“Secondly, the bit people struggle to communicate is the how and the why.
“Most people tell us the what but we are not really interested in how many reps and set they did. We are interested in the rationale for why they did something and the context in which that sat and how they can apply that into the next role they have or the next group of athletes they work with. So we are more interested in hearing about why you did what you did and how you achieved that rather than the actual content of it.”