Ask the expertYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert – Mark Laurie (Specific Strength & Fitness)

1.    Give us a bit of background on yourself… (sporting career, qualifications, coaching experience) 
 I didn’t get into fitness until I was 27.  I started with running and lifting weights in a split routine body building style – because I didn’t know any different. I then got into playing five-a-sides and going to a local boxing club. Finding the fitness bug led to me applying to enrol on a Fitness, Health and Exercise course at college. After two and half years at North Glasgow College I progressed to a degree course at Edinburgh Napier University. I graduated with a 2:1 BSc Honours Sport & Exercises Science in July 2014. 

During my years of study I completed several vocational certificates and qualifications. I worked in a local authority gym, as well as freelance as a fitness coach and also part-time Sport Science positions with football teams.
2.    What has been your biggest influence in your practice?
Over the years I have taken nuggets of information, drills and practices from different trainers, courses, coaches, research and lecturers. Trial and error has been a big thing for me with developing my coaching style, more so because I never came up through a sporting system so I didn’t experience being coached.

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

Developing strength and power. This can be a lengthy process though and I begin with working with my athletes until they can move through full range of movements, stabilising joints, correcting muscular imbalances etc. Building the foundations to build the house basically. I’m also very interested in injury rehab.

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

If a decent S&C coach is able to work with youth athletes they can instil good habits, such as regularly performing injury prevention routines, from a young age. Building a strong base of physical literacy with youth athletes to build on can only better their sporting career prospects.
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an athlete or coach?
One of my first college lecturers told me to never give an athlete an exercise that you can’t provide solid rationale for. 

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

Keep it simple. Get them moving and functioning properly, whether that’s with running mechanics or resistance exercises. Make sure they master the basic squat, hinge, push and pull movements before progressing. Why rush? 

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

Among a few qualifications and certificates that I completed over the years, I did a 1st4Sport Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Strength and Conditioning for Sport. I found this pretty worthwhile in terms of learning to coach Olympic lifts in particular. Part of this could be down to the two people who delivered my course though. 
Other than that my advice would be to coach at a lower level of sport to develop your own style and work without pressure. In addition, to volunteer under a good, knowledgeable, approachable coach at a higher level of sport would be a good combination. You really need to learn by doing, learn to think on your feet, learn to manage a squad, learn to work under limitations of time and resources.

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

I own an S&C facility in Glasgow called Specific Strength and Fitness ; Twitter: @SSFScotland ;Facebook: Specific Strength and Fitness ; Instagram: @marktrainspecific .
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