Ask the Expert: Adam Mattiussi (The Royal Ballet Company)

Adam Mattiussi is part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team as a Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coach to The Royal Ballet. Over this time Adam’s position has adapted as two years were spent in a split role between The Royal Ballet Company and The Royal Ballet School. Adam is now full time at The Royal Ballet Company delivering S&C services in both a rehabilitation and performance context to elite ballet dancers.

1)What has led you into youth sport/performing arts?

I began my journey by studying an undergraduate degree in Strength and Conditioning Science at St Mary’s University. This was followed by a postgraduate degree in Sports Rehabilitation, also at St Mary’s, while acting as a Graduate Assistant teaching on a number of the undergraduate degree programs. During this time I was fortunate enough to work with a variety of sports at different levels. I am currently no longer involved within youth sport but I historically shared a split role between The Royal Ballet School (upper school) and The Royal Ballet Company for two years. I have now returned to a full time role with The Royal Ballet Company, which I also held employed under a different company, prior to the split role.

I originally came into the split role as the school and the company were going through a transition in regards to their support services. With an increase in funding from the school, they were keen to expand their healthcare services beyond physiotherapy, Pilates, and gym instruction. This coincided with a strategy to link the healthcare services of The Royal Ballet School to The Royal Ballet Company, with the end goal being a consistent thread of healthcare across the associated institutes. This lead to my position being created, which offered a fantastic opportunity to influence the development of the strength and conditioning services at The Royal Ballet School.

2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport/performing arts?

The research produced by both Rhodri Lloyd and Avery Faigenbaum around youth resistance training. Within this, developing movement literacy and exposing athletic artists to a high variability of movement strategies. This is especially important in classical ballet as it has a deep rooted culture of early specialisation alongside barriers around aesthetics, which include a fear of hypertrophy (muscle growth).

3) What is your particular area of interest?

Currently my areas of interests can sit beneath the umbrella of data management. We are constantly looking for new ways of understanding, interpreting, and acting on dancer information. The scope of this can span from wellness and training load data to tracking specific kinetics of countermovement jumps. I hold a builder licence for our data management system, smartabase, and am therefore heavily involved in the development of this system within our environment. 

I am particularly interested in tracking different jump kinetics during a return to performance pathway following injury. We are interested in understanding the characteristics of how these dancers jump and how this may have influenced their injury. For example, we track metrics such as loading rate (peak landing force / time to peak landing force) longitudinally with the intent to reduce this value, or improve the symmetry of it if looking at unilateral jumps, by the time they return to full dance. Therefore, part of my role includes coming up with engaging strategies to visualise this information whist continually reviewing which values are emphasised.

4) How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletic artists? 

This can apply to youth athletic artists and athletes alike in a multitude of ways. For example we tracked heights and weights longitudinally to facilitate our understanding of maturation within our environment. Because we use the same data management system across all institutes (specifically lower and upper schools of The Royal Ballet School), we are now able track individuals throughout their time at Royal. While this data collection is still in its infancy, it is driving forward a culture that accounts for the physiological changes associated with maturation. One future goal would be to utilise this information to bio band artistic classes such as pas de deux, a class in which partnering between a male and female dancer is taught. 

In regards to profiling and tracking jumping at The Royal Ballet Upper School, these dancers are at a critical stage of motor learning as they start to increase the volume, intensity, and technical demands of the balletic jumps they are completing. This number will be in the hundreds every day, far exceeding any plyometric guidelines that strength and conditioning practitioners adhere to. Therefore, using this data to address any issues as early as possible, may be important to protect these dancers from impact related injuries and ensure longevity of their career. 

5) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Not specific to youth athletes but it was from a previous St Marys lecturer called Jon Goodwin and he said to not judge what other strength and conditioning coaches are doing based on a snap shot, such as a social media post, as you do not know the constraints of the environment they are working in, nor do you fully understand the goals that they are trying to achieve.   

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

I have been fortunate enough to work with the ballet equivalent of the academy and the first team. I would always have the student dancers asking about the dancers in the company and the types of training they were doing. Knowing that the students looked up to the dancers in the company, I would use examples of best practice to gain buy-in. Essentially, find what motivates your demographic and if you can incorporate this into their training, then do so. Considering that strength and conditioning was a relatively new way of training for many of these student dancers, it proved to be a great strategy to break down barriers.

7) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?

Strength and Conditioning for Youth Athletes; Science and Application by Rhodri Lloyd and Jon Oliver is a great place to start. As previously mentioned, Avery Faigenbaum has produced some great landmark papers around resistance training so they are worth looking into. Finally, @JeremyFrisch twitter account provides some great content exploring movement literacy for the youth athlete. 

8) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)

Feel free to follow me on twitter, my handle is @adammattiussi

Thanks to Adam for take the time to provide his insight and expertise on youth performance artists!

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