Ask the expert

Ask the Expert: Brendan Chaplin (Youth Strength & Conditioning Association)

Brendan Chaplin is a strength & conditioning coach, coach educator, entrepreneur and podcast host. He has over 12 years experience working with young people in a strength and conditioning capacity through national and regional roles with British Tennis, England Golf and many other teams and governing bodies. He is also the founder of the Youth Strength and Conditioning Association (YSCA).

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1)What has led you into youth sport?
I started coaching young people in my teens when I was training in early era mixed martial arts. The kids classes in the gym started before the adult classes and I got involved and enjoyed helping out
In a more serious and professional way was when I was working for the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) in 2007, my role was to lead the S&C programmes in the north and the midlands. When you’re working with performance tennis players you’re basically working with children, so I had a duty to upskill myself on best practise in the area. I found that I really enjoyed working with young people and I’ve been working with kids of all shapes and sizes ever since.
I founded the Youth Strength & Conditioning Association in September 2016 and the reason was plain and simple…there are no courses that teach and develop coaching skills to teach fitness, movement and S&C to children, the children need it, and we are battling a widespread obesity epidemic here. The mission of the YSCA is very simply to improve the health, well-being and movement quality of every young person in the UK. We know the link between health and academic achievement, but what is more marked is the link between fitness and confidence in yourself. The YSCA is not an elitist organisation, our coaches can work with every level of individual from the kid who has never done a session in their life, to the aspiring elite athletes looking to make a mark on the world stage.
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To improve the wellbeing of our youth, we need to train the coaching workforce that is able to do just that. So phase 1, is to get qualified coaches in all schools, gyms and communities. We teach the Triple E coaching methodology on our courses and the vision is that every single child in the UK is within 5 miles of someone who they can work with and start improving.
Phase 2 is then to develop youth health and performance centres across the UK and we will be recruiting for regional directors who are passionate about the growth of the YSCA to help us grow and can educate their community.
Phase 3 is then international expansion.
2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?
Without question the biggest learnings I’ve had have come from working with, watching and learning from sports coaches. These are the real experts in their sports specific movement but more importantly very often they are the masters at communicating and connecting with their audience most effectively.
Some great coaches who I’ve taken a lot from are (in no specific order):

  •  Steve McGlouchlin – LTA coach education
  • Steve Robinson – England Golf
  • Narelle Sibte- S&C coach at British Tennis
  • Kelvin Giles- my mentor at British Tennis
  • Vern Gambetta- All round legend.
  • Mike Boyle- building programmes and culture.

When you work with elite coaches it’s key to remember they are not you and you need to add yourself into your coaching. Within this remit it’s possible to learn and apply from anyone who crosses your path.
3) What is your particular area of interest?
How to connect with people most effectively. Lots of people are super smart when it comes to the science but what really enables people to buy into your programmes and ultimately enjoy their time with you is your ability to connect with, influence and engage with people.
My friend Nick Ward came up with the “Triple E” Coaching model, which I’ve adopted and embedded in the Youth Strength and Conditioning Association as well as SCE (Strength and Conditioning Education). Our sessions need to be exciting, we as coaches need to engage with our populations, and our programmes must enable people to achieve results. It’s super simple but to check yourself on this, think of the last client, athlete, young person with whom things didn’t go as well as you hoped. I guarantee one of the three E’s was an issue. Maybe they weren’t excited by the sessions or perhaps you didn’t connect with them. There will be an area of your practise that you need to work on and this model will expose it provided you’re honest with yourself.
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4) How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes? 
It’s literally everything. No doubt everyone reading this will have a memory of a particularly person or coach that made a real positive impact on them from their youth. That person connected with you through a combination of the specific message being delivered, the timing of that message to you, and the packaging of that message. Somehow, they got it right for you and it’s stuck with you.This is an art and runs far and above the technical skills and knowledge we have.
Sure, we need to know the hard science and the technical skills for the different facets of the role, but above that is the leadership and coaching skills to actually get people to do what they need to do and come back for more on a daily basis. Not only that but actually want to come back for more and be excited to do the work in front of them. The person who can achieve that, now there’s a great coach.
5) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Three nuggets that are simple but not necessarily easy to adhere to…

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  2. Seek first to understand before being understood.
  3. Balance the need to do with the nice to do.

6) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes? 
The goal is to get people to enjoy the sessions, create positive experiences and long-lasting memories for them from the work we do. If we can achieve, this we leave people better than we found them and the profession is in good hands.
In the short term this means our young athletes must enjoy the sessions and look forward to the next one. That means there’s no room for boring and we must remember that boring is in the eyes of the beholder, the art of coaching is understanding the individuals you work with, so you are coaching them through their eyes and seeing what they see.
In addition to that I would say look outside the profession for your learning and learn how to present yourself well. By that I mean look the part but also be able to stand in front of people and present like a professional.
7) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?
I have to mention the Youth Strength and Conditioning Association here. Myself and our Chairman Ben Haining, along with our faculty of world renowned coaches created a pathway that addresses everything I’ve talked about in this interview. It’s a non elitist organisation where anyone from soccer mums and dads to full time professional youth S&C coaches can find their place. We need passionate coaches to get involved and help us to grow.
Let me set the scene a little bit before I go into the courses and the content because this is all about WHY we are doing what we are doing…
It’s actually really worrying what’s happening out there. Sports coaches are selling more and more sports coaching to kids, when what they need is fundamental movement skills to help them in life and sport. PE teachers deliver sports sessions where the talented kids thrive and the less-able children fade badly.
S&C coaches don’t want to work with kids, everyone wants to work with elite athletes, which is a real shame too because working with children is incredibly fulfilling work. In addition, if you’re a personal trainer or S&C coach you’re probably not likely to even be legally allowed to work with kids from a fitness or S&C perspective. Check the details of your insurance, I guarantee they wording will say something like “you are covered for everything you have been taught or are qualified to deliver”. This is the insurance companies way out if anything goes wrong.
What happens when little Johnny puts his shoulder out doing olympic weightlifting and you turn round and say “I’m able to deliver this through my qualifications”.
What do you think that parent is going to say “But have you done a specific course on how to train children, are you insured to deliver it to them?”  
You have to turn round and say “no I haven’t done a specific course for training children”. The insurance company will not back you for a second.
Sorry to be the bringer of bad news but it’s really important that we raise the standards of coaching and in turn the well being of the children and to do this we are coaches need to be able to coach with confidence. Our coach pathway gives insurance at all levels from assistant coach through to coach and then finally, specialist.

The YSCA coaching pathway

The assistant is for parents and teachers who want to know the basics. We teach how to coach basic movements, put together productive warm ups, and introduce the triple E (Excite Engage Enable) methodology into your sessions. We also teach what not to do.
The coach course is for sports coaches and PT’s who want to learn more and deliver sessions to children within their business. There are sessions on strength and power, movement, speed and agility as well as business development and planning training. All the content is specific to youth population and we help  to visualise and plan how to implement this into your lifestyle and business when you get home.
The specialist course is designed for people who want to work with young people full-time, it is a high level coaching course. You’ll get advanced coaching skills and tools here including olympic weightlifting for children, advanced “Triple E” coaching, monitoring tools to use with groups and individuals and in general a higher standard of coach emerges from this course.
If you are a beginner you can go right through our pathway and come out as a full time youth coach, we are seeing this time and again and it really is changing the game across the UK and we haven’t even begun this thing yet! We now have over 200 coaches that have gone through our programmes and the word is beginning to spread…
Other than that I’d say go and watch coaches working with young people. Observe how they communicate, how they blend their sessions together and take what you can from them.
8) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)
My social media is all under @brendanchaplin in the usual places, Instagram, Twitter  and Facebook. Or you can get me through @sceducation or @strength_success on Instagram.
The websites are: Strength & Conditioning Education and Youth Strength & Conditioning Association and finally Strength and Success for my business coaching. The podcast is called The Strength and Success Show. 
Thanks to Brendan for his time and expertise. He is really pushing the standards up for youth strength & conditioning coaching! We look forward to seeing how this progresses!
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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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