Today we introduce our third presenter for The 2018 Seminar, UMASS Lowell’s Head Performance Coach, Devan McConnell. Devan brings a unique track record of working with a vast array of athlete’s at multiple levels. His voyage has brought him from high level basketball to building one of the top men’s hockey programs in the country. Though his stops, Coach McConnell has built an extremely unique conjunctive approach to monitoring and training his hockey guys utilizing them in harmony of each other to provide the best possible adaptations to his student athletes. This is an absolute home run addition to the docket and I couldn’t be more excited to have Devan with us in July. With out further edu let’s meet Devan McConnell…
JD: 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.
DM: My interest in Strength and Conditioning really started back in high school, when I was fortunate (didn’t know it at the time, of course) to take “Weight Training” and “Advanced Weight Training”, and had a fantastic Strength Coach teach me how to train. At the time, I was only interested in it as an avenue to improve my ability as a hockey player, but looking back its obvious that this experience created a spark. Fast forward to college, where my only criteria for choosing a school was where I had the best opportunity to play hockey, and I was again fortunate to end up at a college with an outstanding Exercise Physiology program. The next step was again fortuitous, as I was close enough and lucky enough to secure an internship with Mike Boyle. This is where I realized that you could actually make a living and have a career as a “Strength Coach”. The next steps on my journey were brief but influential experiences with the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, and a few years at Stanford University. Finally, I have spend the last 7 years at UMass Lowell, working primarily with our hockey team as the Head of Hockey Performance.
I have probably become known, at least in the hockey strength and conditioning community, as one of the more progressive coaches with regards to experimentation and implementation of sport science. Holding a somewhat unique position which is almost exclusively “hockey only”, I have been able to grow and develop a “Performance Science” program that encompasses athletic development as well as tactical periodization.
To that end, I have a book in development which will outline a holistic model for sport science implementation, outlining and detailing a flexible model for all coaches regardless of level and/or budget, to integrate and implement a systems based approach to sport science. This book will provide a framework to begin the process of developing a sport science model, or streamline and improve an already existing program and enhance the more than marginal gains that can be achieved with this holistic approach to development.
JD:Discuss with us the mistakes you see made by strength and conditioning coaches in the United States and around the world, and what you feel should be done differently/how to correct these issues.
DM: One of the biggest mistakes, with regard to the adoption and implementation of various sport science applications, is the lack of “big picture thinking”. All to often, a coach or a team will purchase a product or technology, without a question to be answered, and without a system in place to implement, collect data, interpret that data, and create actionable and realistic modifications. This creates frustration with the technology, and a loss of confidence in the tool, and often the strength coach who is tasked with utilizing it.
An understanding of what it is you are looking to better understand is the first step. This doesn’t mean you have to have an absolute, complete understanding of the technology or the space with which it occupies (this will only be possible after using the tool), but a basic hypothesis is key. The next step is setting up a system, a logistic work flow which enables the use, collection of, and interpretation of data within the context of your scenario. Internal and External monitoring wearable’s, which can cost a team thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, have been rendered moot simply because whoever is in charge doesn’t have a streamlined way to get athletes to put the technology on. Basic and simple hurdles like this are a common problem. Developing a simple system, which accounts for these issues is critical.
JD: 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?
DM: In this day in age, the ability to self educate, network, and discover new (and old) information has never been greater. Social media and the internet as a whole has allowed our field to grow by leaps and bounds, and has connected coaches and practitioners all over the world who might otherwise never know that the other existed. At the same time, this massive influx of information has spurred the “internet expert”, who for all intents and purposes, has very little if any real world experience. This can make it very difficult for the young coach to be able to decipher what is real and what is nonsense. Without the benefit of experience to develop a filter, its hard to say which article or blog post is legitimate, and which isn’t. I think the key is to find and follow the coaches who have been in the game for a long time. If someone has been personal training or working in a gym for couple of years, they may very well be legitimately intelligent, but often times they just don’t have the big picture at their disposal. Also, amongst experts, look for the common denominators in what they are saying, not just the differences. We all have our opinions due to our own biases and experiences, but more often than not, those in the know will agree with much of what the other is saying. Look for the commonalities on display at The Seminar between all the speakers, and you’ll begin to appreciate what the big rocks are for just about everyone. This will be a great starting point for being able to filter knowledge in the future.
JD: If you could give a brief description of what our attendees can expect from you at The Seminar?
DM: I plan on presenting on a topic that really interests me; the application of sport science in a holistic manner. I’m passionate about it, and am very excited to have the opportunity to share my experiences and what I view to be best practices. At the same time, I’m very approachable and love talking shop, and that is one of the best aspects of The Seminar. Everyone is interested in helping one another and growing as professionals as well as the profession itself. I hope to be able to paint a clear picture of what I do and why I think our program has been successful, and am looking forward to the conversations that will be created throughout the weekend.
JD: Any closing thoughts Coach?
DM: The Seminar is by far one of the best continuing education events I’ve had the pleasure of attending. I’m honored to get the opportunity to speak at the event this year, but I’d be in attendance anyway, even if I weren’t.
Catch Devan’s Past Posts Here:
Who is Devan McConnell?
Devan McConnell was named the Head Hockey Performance Coach in 2014. In this role, he is responsible for the oversight and development of all aspects of physical develop for the Ice Hockey team, including strength, speed, and power development, energy system development, nutrition, recovery and regeneration, physiological monitoring, sport science, technology integration, as well as coordination of analytics, long term athletic development, and tactical periodization. In addition to this role, he is responsible for the physical development of the Field Hockey team.
Coach McConnell was named UMass Lowell’s first Director of Sports Performance in September of 2011. The position was tasked with integrating a cutting edge sports performance program into the University’s athletic department. At the time, UMass Lowell had never had a dedicated Performance Director or Sports Performance program. Under his direction, a comprehensive performance based model was introduced, focusing on movement quality, athletic development, and injury reduction strategies.
Prior to joining UMass Lowell, McConnell served as the Sports Performance Coordinator at Stanford University from 2008-11. He worked closely with the women’s basketball team, along with men’s and women’s volleyball–all NCAA Tournament regulars. During his tenure, Women’s basketball competed in 3 straight Final Fours, the Women’s volleyball team competed in 2 Final Four’s, the men’s volleyball program won the 2010 NCAA Championship.
While at Stanford, McConnell also served as the Performance Education Coordinator, instructing the Cardinals’ personnel, building a staff library and scheduling guest speakers. He continues in his role as educator, both as an Adjunct Professor within the Department of Physical Therapy at Lowell, and as an internationally recognized speaker on all topics of performance enhancement. Devan has also authored multiple articles on strength and conditioning for ice hockey.
Before his appointment to Stanford, McConnell worked at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, one of the leading sports performance facilities in the Northeast. He also spent time working with two NHL teams, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.
McConnell is a certified Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is also a Functional Movement Screen Specialist. In addition, he is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker on the topics of hockey, physiological monitoring and athlete development and is regarded as one of the foremost experts in the hockey performance field.
McConnell received his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Fitchburg State in 2008. While attending Fitchburg State, he was a standout hockey player, twice recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Player and was in contention for All America honors. He also holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Science, Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention from California University.
A native of Lake Stevens, WA, McConnell resides in Groton, MA with his wife Erica, and their two children, Finnegan and Dublin.
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