Ask the Expert: Marcus Hannon (Everton FC & Liverpool John Moores University)

Marcus is an SENr registered performance nutritionist, currently working with Everton Academy and Northampton Saints. Marcus has worked with a range of youth and adult athletes across a variety of sports including football, rugby and boxing. Alongside his current roles, Marcus is also completing a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University, investigating the energetic requirements of Premier League Academy footballers.

1.What has led you into Youth Sport?

I suppose I have been involved in youth sport since leaving school. At 18 I spent a year in Australia coaching youth athletes in a number of different sports. Since then, I have had several different placement/internship opportunities working with youth athletes in different team sports. 3 years ago, I got a fantastic opportunity to pursue an applied PhD in a combined research-practitioner role. This collaboration between Liverpool John Moores University and Everton Football Club has allowed me to provide nutritional support to the academy players, parents and staff at Everton whilst collecting data in this population.

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

100% the individuals I have worked with and also the different environments I have worked in! I have learned from some fantastic academics and practitioners and have fortunately found some of the best mentors possible! The different athletes (and parents) that I have worked with have also shaped my practice. Additionally, there are plenty of learnings to be taken from poor practice, culture and negative situations!

3.What is your particular area of interest?

My main area of interest is the application of sports science to improve athletic performance and have a particular interest in the role that nutrition can play.  Over the last couple of years, I have also become fascinated in the youth athlete and how growth and maturation underpins everything when it comes to this population.

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

If we take nutrition – it underpins the whole growth and maturation process! If a youth athlete doesn’t have an appropriate diet (energy, macro- and micro-nutrients and fluids) they will not achieve a biologically mature state in a healthy or optimal fashion! There are many health and performance consequences of a poor diet (for both youth and adult athletes).

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

I have received lots of sage advice from a number of people thus far and would could not pinpoint one specific piece of advice. Work hard, value people and relationships, always strive to be better, be proactive, take control of your own destiny, surround yourself with the right people and enjoy what you do are all pieces of advice that I have received and are principles that I try to live by!

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

First and foremost, understand the population you are working with – read the literature, understand the growth and maturation process from a physical/physiological standpoint but also the psychosocial aspect of their development, spend time in their environments, learn and use their language when communicating with them. I would also advise those working with youth athletes to look at the bigger picture through a holistic lens and always consider the end goal.

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

The textbook “Growth, Maturation and Physical Activity” by Malina, Bouchard and Bar-Or is a very comprehensive textbook that covers a wide variety of sports science topics focused on the youth athlete. From a sports nutrition point standpoint “Sport Nutrition 3rd Edition” by Jeukendrup and Gleeson is a great text book that covers most of the basic principles in this field. Laurent Bannock and Rob Pacey also both run excellent podcasts that include conversations with many different academics and practitioners in the field. Here is a recent conversation I had with Laurent Bannock that focused on the nutritional requirements of youth athletes.

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

My Twitter profile: @marcushannon92 and my Linkedin profile

Thanks to Marcus for sharing his time and expertise with us!