Today we introduce our 2nd presenter for The 2017 Seminar, Michigan Tech’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Matt Thome. Matt spent two years here in Richmond working with me, and from day one I knew he was the real deal. His constant pursuit of a better way to improve performance drove me to be a better coach while we worked together, and still drives me to this day. Matt was also featured at an author in The Manual Vol. 1 this summer, writing a great chapter on respiratory training and giving great programming advice for it. He has also been a guest on the podcast multiple times (Episode 6, Episode 11, and Episode 61). I’m super excited to have Matt on the docket, he’s a big time coach who is very open to sharing. I’m sure his talk with be fantastic.
1) If you could, please give our readers a little background information about you, what your niche in the world of athletics is, accomplishments, how you got there, education, any products you have available and/or notable publications.
I did my undergraduate work at Grand Valley State. We didn’t have a Strength & Conditioning Coach at the time and, to be honest, I didn’t even know that this was a potential career path. During my last couple years I started personal training and was able to work with a few varsity athletes…I had no idea what I was doing. I decided to go on to get my Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Indiana University where I was able to gain valuable experience in a variety of settings: In a private facility (Force Fitness & Performance), as an assistant wrestling coach for a local high school, and I also volunteered at IU.
The turning point, or enlightening moment, in my career was visiting Yosef Johnson of Ultimate Athlete Concepts. Between classes, homework, work, etc., I was continually reading. My “study breaks” consisted of Zatsiorsky, Issurin, Verkhoshansky, Bondarchuk, and many others. I heard that Yosef, who publishes many of the books I was reading, also worked with athletes and was getting great results. So naturally I contacted Yosef and was able to visit him during my spring break. What he was doing was very different from anything I had been exposed to and I wanted to try it out. I applied this system to the wrestlers I was coaching and saw incredible results very quickly.
In conversations with Yosef, he told me about this guy named Jay DeMayo at the University of Richmond who was using these methods with college athletes. So after I graduated from IU, I packed up my car and drove to Richmond. There is absolutely no way I could have predicted how valuable of an experience that turned out to be.
Currently, I’m in my fifth year at Michigan Tech as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for Football and Men’s Basketball and teach five credits per semester in the Kinesiology department. I truly owe my position now, the knowledge I have, and the type of strength coach I am to you and Yosef.
The mistakes that I see are really the same as those that I’ve made myself. Maybe other coaches can learn from this and not make these mistakes again:
– Excessive volume. Many Strength Coaches are beginning to realize that we have, in general, been doing too much. Erring on the side of a little less seems to be working very well in most or all situations.
– Focusing on improving exercises rather than performance. Jay, I know you and I got caught up in this a little and from time to time we all probably do – it’s just cool to see weights go up! We have to remember that the exercises we’re using are a means to an end and we need to keep our eyes on improving performance in competition.
– Overcomplicating the process. Keep things simple. From the monitoring to the training, the more simple and straight forward your program the smoother it will run and you’ll have the results to show for it.
– Not effectively evaluating our training programs. This is something that I’m still working on myself. We need to find better methods of evaluation so we know what works well, what works better, and what doesn’t work at all. The more objectively we can look at our process as a whole, the better we’ll be able to evaluate what we’re doing which, in turn, should lead to better decisions in the future.
– Not focusing enough on your own health. As Strength & Conditioning Coaches, we put all of our efforts into our athletes’ training, recovery, sleep, nutrition, etc. and we need to start focusing a bit more on ourselves. I’m glad that I’ve come to the realization, this early in my career, that if I don’t take good care of myself I’m not going to be effective day-to-day in the weight room and I’ll be too burnt out at the end of the day to effectively progress my own learning. If you want to have a long, successful career, put your health first.
3) What advice would you give a coach to improve knowledge in the lines of continuing education, meaning could you point our readers in a direction to find the scientific and practical information to improve the methods they use to improve performance?
There is so much information out there and it’s easy to find. My recommendation is more of a continuing education strategy. Rather than simply trying to consume as many books, blog posts, and podcasts as possible, try to focus your attention on a single topic occasionally. Find weaknesses in your knowledge or your programming and study them thoroughly. I’ve learned a lot through teaching at Michigan Tech and I come to see the value in putting together a lecture or series of lectures on a particular topic area. Even if you don’t ever intend to “lecture,” a PowerPoint presentation is a really great way to organize your thoughts. When you begin to fill in what you already know on this topic, you’ll start to expose the holes. This is where you can meticulously research the topic to fill in those specific areas. You’ll probably also end up finding many different facets related to the topic that you were never aware of before. It’s also a great way to save “notes” on a topic that you can re-read regularly.
I’m by no means devaluing blog posts or podcasts as they can often be very insightful and interesting. However, sometimes we should increase our attention span and really a hammer a topic down.
In addition to this, finding a good mentor (or mentors) is invaluable. I cannot overstate this! Having a mentor, or even talking to others in the field (constantly) will greatly accelerate your learning and reduce the number of mistakes you make along the way.
4) If you could give a brief description of what our attendees can expect from you at The Seminar?
I want to discuss the GPP programing that I use, specifically, Dr. Yessis’ 1×20 progression. There seem to be a lot more coaches using this program and getting great results. I’m going to elaborate on how I’ve used this system at Michigan Tech, and some of the possible explanations on why it works so well. There appear to be many misconceptions about this program and how it’s used; hopefully my talk can clear some of that up or introduce a new concept to other coaches who might want to try it.
I’ll also discuss a few other concepts and thought processes that I think are important and could be applicable to any type of training system.
5) Closing Thoughts.
Jay, first of all, I really appreciate the opportunity to speak at the greatest Seminar in the world! Second, my goal is to carry on the tradition of sharing. I want to share some things that have worked well for me and some of the things I’m still working on improving. I’m still a pretty young coach and most of the audience will have more experience than me. Hopefully I can introduce some good concepts, but I’m also open to critique. I think that’s one of our next steps for improving this profession. We’re doing a lot of sharing, which is great, but I think we need a healthy dose of respectful disagreement and debate to push things even further. This will challenge us all to get better.
Matt began his role as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan Tech in August 2012. In August 2015, his responsibilities shifted to a 50/50 split appointment between Athletics and the Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology Department. He is currently responsible for the preparation of the Football and Men’s Basketball teams and teaches several courses throughout the year. Prior to joining Tech, Matt worked as an assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Richmond as well as several private sports performance facilities.
Matt received his Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Exercise Science from Grand Valley State in 2008 and his Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Indiana University in 2011. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Matt is also a featured author in The Manual Vol 1, a yearly publication from Central Virginia Sport Performance in conjunction with The Seminar. You can pick up a copy of The Manual here: https://cvasps.com/cvasps-manual-vol-1/
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