Ask the expertYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert – Jamie Salter (York St John University)

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

I knew from quite a young age that I wanted to work with athletes and in sport so I decided to study the BSc Science and Football at Liverpool John Moores University. I loved it and wanted to get going straight away and thought I knew it all when I started my first role in pro sport at Barnsley FC Academy and quickly found out that I had a lot to learn. After a couple of years here I stumbled into education and have taught in Colleges and Universities ever since. I have taught a range of subjects within Sport and Exercise Science which really helped me cement my subject knowledge and apply that within my coaching. Not wanting to be the teacher that says a lot and does nothing I remained active within the field working within professional rugby league and more recently back in football with Middlesbrough FC as Athlete Development Coach. Along the way I have picked up an MSc in Strength and Conditioning and become accredited with the UKSCA and NSCA. My experiences have been varied, sampling both performance and developmental environments but I feel I am in a good place at the minute which enables me to develop as a coach.

 2.What has been your biggest influence in your practice?
It’s a strange answer but I think the biggest influence as to how I coach now is my own maturity. Initially when I started I thought I knew it all and wanted to prove this to everyone as well as keep everyone happy by doing whatever they wanted. But, over time you realise that it is impossible to keep everyone happy and you cannot always do the things you want. I have learnt to pick my battles, look for small wins and develop better relationships with key stakeholders which earn trust and respect. These lead to better results and working relationships rather than trying to show my skills and knowledge by changing things. This has come through experience and age as well as observing other coaches and how they interact with people.
 3.What is your particular area of interest in sport?
I am particularly interested in training load around maturation. Within my practice I see a lot of non-contact adolescent injuries that are commonly associated with overuse and overtraining but as a profession we are reactive towards this rather than being proactive. There is an abundance of research into training load now but the vast majority of this is with adults. I am starting a PhD this year exploring the links between maturation and training load with the aim to help practitioners better manage load to prevent the overuse type injury in adolescent athletes.
 4.How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?
We shouldn’t expect a biologically less mature athlete to respond to a stimulus the same as a more mature individual, but yet we often prescribe the same training sessions to them. The research currently has gaps around how we manage load during paediatric and adolescent sport so hopefully I can contribute to filling that void to enable us to prevent injuries and optimise physical development from this perspective.
 5.What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an athlete or coach?
I have heard a lot of people say the same and I have only recently heard this but I firmly believe the quote ‘Do the basics savagely well’ although it escapes me who coined this?? For me, the basics are communicating with people (coaches, players, managers), arriving on time and organised with a positive attitude and working hard. If you arrive on time, develop good relationships, stay organised and have a good attitude to getting the job done people will want to learn from you and they are all things that don’t cost anything. I work with a lot of students and these are the soft skills that I try to encourage in them through placements and opportunities – those that manage this generally do well.
6.What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?
I sound like a broken record but talk to them. Learn about the young players and the stresses in their lives. It is highly likely if they are in a high performing team/system that it take as huge part of their time/social life up. So we need to make it an enjoyable place to be and try to remove the stress and anxiety from it. Of course, we demand effort, concentration and commitment as coaches but if they trust me and like me as a coach I’ll get it. They aren’t small adults and treating them as such won’t work as they often don’t have the ability to express how they feel as clearly so we need to observe body language and mood to instigate conversations.
 7.Can you recommend any particular resources for personal development?
I like reading journal articles and watching videos around my subject area and some of my favourite books are Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett, Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications by Marco Cardinale and High-Performance Training for Sports by David Joyce and Dan Lewindon. But for me the most powerful learning tool is social media. I steal loads of pictures, quotes, articles and comments from it. I particularly like twitter because it is bite sized information – one tweet is one article, one picture or one quote and you can decide if you want to add that to your collection or not. I was put onto the ‘ExcelTricksforSports’ YouTube channel via twitter and it’s a game changer. I have developed new spreadsheets and tools for monitoring in excel that simplify everything I do, great so daily management of data – highly recommended. Podcasts are awesome too. I drive around an hour to and from training so I often listen to podcasts to get a daily CPD fix – my go to podcasts are:
Pacey Performance
Complementary Training
Physical Preparation
Youth Athlete Development
Iron Game Chalk Talk
Historic Performance
 8. Where can people find out more about you and your work?
I don’t have a website or blog as I cannot commit the time to keeping it updated, but I am quite active on twitter @jay­_salter so this is the best place to follow what I am up to – at least you’ll be able to see what I am stealing there!
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