Nova Scotia’s Shauna Forsyth

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This is an interview on behalf of the CSCA with someone I have not met yet but had heard about. S&C is not big in the Atlantic region at the high school level. Most athletes or teams would go to private centers or contract someone for a few hours or search out a volunteer to run sessions. Shauna works at a private school in Nova Scotia and uniquely carved out a position for herself and is making it work as many of us have in our field.   

CSCA: Were you hired as a designated S&C Coach without additional teaching duties? 

SF: Currently I perform strength and conditioning duties only. Outside of the specific hours I designate for the school, I supplement my schedule with outside clients for both strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. 

CSCA: Is there a provincial (or city) support network for others in a similar role as you? 

SF – I am unaware of any local support network for other strength and conditioning coaches in my area. I would say the downside for running a 1-woman show is the ability to connect and work alongside other S&C coaches. 

CSCA: Did you apply for the position or create the position? 

SF – My situation is unique, I left an Asst. Dir S&C position at an NCAA D1 University in the US to move to Nova Scotia for my husband’s job. Hoping to stay in the University setting, I sent my resume to area Universities and when no one replied I was at a loss as to what I was going to do. At that time there were no private sports performance facilities in the area and I was not interested in working in the commercial fitness setting.  

The school my husband was hired at did not have a strength and conditioning program. I approached both the Headmaster and Athletic Director with an S&C proposal.  It also was not in the school’s budget to hire me as full-time staff so we came to the agreement that I would be able to start my own business and base it on campus, out of the school’s athletic centre. From there I was contracted to train the prep hockey program along with the girls’ prep basketball team. In addition, I am available for any other varsity teams or student-athletes that request my services. 

CSCA: Is there a difference in your typical work week between the fall/winter versus the summer?  

SF – There is definitely a difference in my work week and load from summer to the school year. The high school I work with is a private boarding school so my workload truly relies on the school academic schedule. When there are school breaks the majority of my student-athletes go home and are no longer on campus. During the summer, my work load drops dramatically. I may have students who live in the area continue to train with me, but during those summer months, I mainly work with my area personal training clients and local athletes that are either returning from University or other boarding schools for the summer. Some summers my schedule could go from 50+ hours a week during the school year to 25 hours a week during the summer.  

Training in the high school setting compared to a university is a different beast. Athletes most times are not specializing yet and are playing numerous sports year-round. Flexibility in programming design and scheduling are a must. In a matter of hours, I could go from running a high-level dryland session for our boys’ prep hockey team to training a 13-year-old soccer player proper running mechanics. The ability to switch gears appropriately so each team and/or athlete receives a training session conducive to his or her physical abilities is imperative.  

CSCA: What Periodization scheme do you use at this level? 

SF – The majority of my programming follows a traditional linear method. Most of my student-athletes have little to no experience with formal strength and conditioning and this model allows the focus to be on general training, building that solid foundation for more specific programming down the road.  

However, in-season I find the need to shift more towards an undulated model depending on the team and their competitive season. For example, my prep hockey teams in-season could find themselves without a game for up to 2 weeks at a time. Knowing and planning that schedule ahead of time allows me to manipulate the training volume and intensity within that phase to coincide with their game schedules.  

Organization is key, with each team I physically write out their competition schedules for the school year in monthly calendar form from September to June. With that method I find it easiest to physically layout and see their yearly plan and can better design the training phases for the school year and into the summer.   

CSCA: How have the coaches been to work with? 

SF – I have been very lucky with the coaches I work with regardless of the level of athlete I am working with, the strength and conditioning plan is always a collaboration between the S&C coach, the sports coach, and the medical staff. At the beginning of each school year, I meet with each coach and we discuss both team and individual goals along with any injury concerns they may have from the previous year. I have a great school nurse and athletic therapist on staff at the school whom I continue to communicate with throughout the school year.  

CSCA: Where do you go, or what do you do for professional development? 

SF – I fill my professional development requirements a variety of ways. I try to attend at least one conference per year, whether that is a national, regional or local event. I also present one or two times a school year to the student body on both general and sports nutrition. I have also presented to the school coaching staff on topics such as strength and conditioning for the young athlete and dynamic warm-ups. As with most coaches, I try to read as much as I can, especially on topics or research I may not be familiar with or need a refresher on. 

CSCA: If you were to go to another school what would you do differently at the start to streamline or make it easier? What are the lessons learned?

SF – There are definitively a few changes I could see implementing now and, in the future, to streamline S&C programming at the high school level. One of which would be the testing and evaluation processes that I implement with my teams. When dealing with high school athletes, most have other school commitments to work around and their sports team is just one piece of a massive puzzle. Unlike University where you have scheduled times each week with your teams, that is not always the case in the high school setting. Scheduling team workouts and testing some years is near impossible and I’m afraid to say when time is limited, the testing is the first thing cut from our schedule. I am brainstorming now with different ideas, one of which is a possible school-wide testing combine wherein one shot all my varsity athletes are evaluated.  

Shauna is the owner of Maritime Strength and Conditioning, located on the campus of King’s-Edgehill School in Windsor, NS. She is responsible for the year-round strength and conditioning programming for the KES prep hockey programs and KES girls prep basketball team and offers her services to other varsity teams and student-athletes on campus and to area schools.

Prior to relocating to Nova Scotia, Shauna served as the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at Harvard University. She completed her undergraduate degree in sports medicine at Northern Vermont University at Lyndon and holds a master’s degree in Applied Exercise Science, concentrating in Strength and Conditioning from Springfield College in Springfield MA.  

Prior to beginning her career in strength and conditioning, Shauna was a licensed Athletic Therapist with the National Athletic Trainers Association in the US. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the NSCA and holds a level 1 sports nutrition certification with Precision Nutrition.

For more information about Shauna and her company click HERE

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