Applied coachingAsk the expertCoach developmentYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert – Jake Schuster (Well Travelled Wellness)

  1.  Give us a bit of background on yourself… (sporting career, qualifications, coaching experience)

I’m 26, was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and idolize Tom Brady as much as the next obnoxious “chowderhead”. Personally I was a high school standout in Wrestling and Lacrosse, but was not quite big or fast enough to compete above a Division III NCAA level. I completed my Bachelors in Exercise Science with Minors in Sport Coaching, Nutrition and Public Health jointly from McDaniel College in Maryland and the Hogeschool University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. My Masters Degree is in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition from Loughborough University in the UK, while I am midway through my Doctoral degree with New Zealand Rugby, via a collaboration of Universities here in NZ, France, and America.

I’ve coached collegiate, professional, and national team athletes in America, Holland, Germany, England, Wales, Thailand, and now New Zealand. Predominantly have worked in team sports–first American Football, Ice Hockey, and Basketball, later Baseball and Cricket, and now Rugby–but have also coached athletes in Swimming, Javelin, Gymnastics, Triathlon, Netball, and a few others.

  1. What has been your biggest influence in your practice?

Without a doubt the great mentors and collaborators I’ve crossed paths with, while I also feel extremely fortunate to have grown a large network via my podcast and travels, and am able to call upon all sorts of characters when I have a question or need content to fill an idea. Folks I’ve worked under who you could say “mentored” me at points: Steve McCole and Rick Carpenter inspired me and got the ball rolling for me during undergrad and Carl Hulston during my masters, while Eric Cressey and Matt Kritz have been phenomenal vocational mentors for me. Nick Winkleman, Frans Bosch, and Rob Olivar have all been pivotal in helping me (starting to) carve a niche in the area of sprinting and speed development
More folks I look up to and take regular great advice from in the field: Alex Natera, Dan Howells, Nick Lumley, Davie Gray, Dave Wildash, Will Markwick, Ian McKeown, Mark Harvey, Alex Ross, Nic Gill, Keir Wenham-Flatt, Pierre Samozino, JB Morin, Ken Clark, Travis McMaster, Stacy Sims, David Joyce, Lachlan Wilmot, Matt Cross, Kim Simperingham, Eric Helms and Stephen Breisner.

  1. What is your particular area of interest in sport?

Speed. Speed kills! In team sports especially, athletes are getting faster all the time. One chapter in David Joyce’s HPTFS book remarks that at the highest levels of competition, the athlete who executes skills faster than their opponent will ultimately succeed, and I tend to agree. I remember being told when coming through the ranks in Lacrosse that they are recruiting for speed-only these days, and figure they can teach the kids how to become better Lacrosse players once they are on campus–I knew I was doomed then! It motivated me to learn how to become fast, and to show that speed is a skill (though some are indeed gifted) though it took until this past year to niche down on the topic.

  1. How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?

Most athletes don’t know how to run even decently, much less well. Whether it’s a combination of early specialization, sedentary lifestyles, carrying around backpacks, not enough play in youth, or what, you just don’t see many brilliant-looking runners out there these days, and you don’t have to look past the ACL epidemic to see that this is becoming a real problem. When I inherit athletes with a track and field background I breathe a sigh of relief because they will probably run OK, and any youth athlete who learns how to run with proper mechanics will not only be at an advantage and greatly reduced risk for injury, but also set themselves up for real success at the next level. We talk a lot in this field about “proper movement”, but most sports are played on our feet, so lets learn how to run, first and foremost!

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an athlete or coach?

“Don’t be a d****”.
Beyond that, “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Last week an athlete looking to do everything they could before going off to the Olympics approached me and asked if I could review some recovery modalities with them. I dropped what I was doing and took the time to write up and demonstrate with them a variety of different very simple techniques and routines which I’ve known for years, yet can say without a doubt that that interaction had a more profound impact on our relationship–and hopefully their performance!–than all of the fancy speed mechanics drills I’ve ever thrown at them.

  1. What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?

Learn how to deal with parents, get really good at making things fun, and prioritise development (in the athlete) of a passion for sport and exercise over proficiency in either.

  1. Can you recommend any particular resources for personal/coaching development?

Eric Cressey has put out a phenomenal volume of content which can fill your exercise prescription menu for years. David Joyce’s books are outstanding, while Seth Godin’s blog is pretty clever and universal to all fields when it comes to understanding market values, creativity, sales dynamics, etc. Young coaches grinding through internships and secondary degrees (and anyone, really) could greatly benefit from getting into stoicism (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Cato), starting with Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle is the Way”.
The best resource, however, is people: Physical, 3-dimensional (or at least skype!!) people. The earlier list of folks in my network took time to build, and I’ve spent quality hours with each of those folks. Spending a couple of days (actively, productively, asking good questions) hanging out in an elite sporting setup is far more valuable than any book, in my opinion, and I don’t think that’ll ever stop being the case for anybody at any level.

  1. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Well Travelled Wellness and Twitter and Instagram @CoolHandJakeGS and @W_T_Wellness
For more great content please check out our Facebook page.
Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.