Ask the Expert – Tulshi Varsani

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

I started playing hockey and netball in school but wasn’t really a sporty type of girl. It wasn’t until I started training a lot more as an adult when I become interested in fitness, this is where I started to develop my career as a trainer. I qualified as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, whilst learning the trade I also secured a job as a gym and fitness area manager within Cardiff Council. That position gave me a huge insight into the management side of the fitness industry as well as coaching. I was able to bring another dimension and provide a coaches view point in team meetings. I also started my Masters in Strength and Conditioning at Cardiff Metropolitan University which opened my eyes up to the field of Strength and Conditioning and it allowed me to seek opportunities within sporting populations using research based practice. Since then I have been fortunate enough to gain coaching experience with children affected with cerebral palsy, led stages within youth development programming, coached within rugby teams, individuals within gymnastics, skiing, cycling and general populations.

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

My biggest influences have been the coaches who have taken chances in order for me to develop my craft. I have been fortunate enough to work with some great coaches and mentors who have given me the opportunities to guide my individual practice, make mistakes and implement some of my own programs. The other biggest influences are the support network I have surrounding me, of which I still try to grow. The coaches are well renowned in their field of practice and I try and gain as much information from them to gear it towards my own coaching standards.

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

My particular interest in sport is probably the youth rehab and elite sporting side of things. I love seeing how people move, how elite athletes complete seamless movements with poise and style. Particularly testing as a coach is when I try to rectify poor movement patterns or provide correctives to individuals I work with. This applies when assessing movement patterns especially predominant in children affected by disabilities. I’ve learnt that building a foundation, for anyone, is key, particularly during the early stages of athletic development.

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

Applying the foundations for youth athletes is important because you don’t know what sport they may specialise in. There is plenty of media attention on specialisation; key researchers have indicated that early diversification has a greater potential of minimising dropouts, while maximizing sustained participation. Also for the majority of sports, early diversification with late specialisation is most likely to lead to elite status. Building a diversified foundation of athletic development through a long term process serves the youth athlete to solidify their skill base and enables them to enhance their physical literacy. This also applies to the children within the rehab setting. Many of the children I have worked with require focused work and development in areas that include; coordination, balance and or speed, as well as strength, so we work on the fundamentals first. I was particularly interested in children’s movement assessment for my MSc and my study supported evidence, whereby children who took part in multiple sports were able to gain higher points during their movement assessment (taken and adapted from Kelvin Giles’s Physical Competency Assessment). I also encourage the parents of the children I work with to increase their child’s level of participation in all physical activities. Activities such as horse riding, swimming, gymnastics, climbing and dancing can enhance relationships and a discovery into what their bodies are capable of.

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

The best piece of advice I’ve taken on has been to stay humble. I try and acknowledge those who have helped me along the way too, you can’t possibly develop yourself if you remain alone or stuck in your own thoughts. The coaches who have been able to give me their time and advice has been priceless, my coaching development would have been much slower without their helping hand and guidance. So stay humble and make time for others, because there are coaches who are far busier but are still willing to go out of their way to help you.

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

My advice for coaches who work with youth athletes is to enjoy it, embrace the chaos and have fun. Children are so intuitive; they can sense everything you feel before you speak. They are also clever at picking things up as well as being extremely honest. Children have no filter and I love that about them! So if your sessions suck, they’ll tell you, so you need to bring your A game, even if they aren’t bringing theirs because you may need to raise them up sometimes. Children also need a disciplinarian, setting boundaries is key but that may come over time. Getting to know who they are and what they enjoy is a process and takes some effort in building that relationship.

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

I would recommend to find books outside S&C. Don’t get me wrong I love my S&C books, journals, podcasts, articles etc, there is plenty of information at the tip of our fingers these days and it is easy to get caught up in it all. Find other resources away from S&C which help you as an individual, which help reenergise and develop you as a person. For me in particular I love to read and write, I also follow people like Seth Godin and Dale Carnegie.

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

I am on Twitter and Facebook, no nicknames, just Tulshi Varsani. I also have a website, although the other social media avenues are the best ways to find more information and get in contact with me.
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.

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