Head S&C Coach for the Los Angeles Kings shares his wisdom about
working in the NHL
CSCA – How did you get your first job working in pro sport?
I’m currently in my first pro sport team position. I worked in the private
sector training elite athletes after my undergraduate degree, and then after
completing my master’s degree in 2007, I began working with our National
Olympic athletes for the next 7 years. I was able to get an interview with the
LA Kings through my colleague Ryan van Asten, who was leaving the role I was
seeking for the Calgary Flames, and my extensive professional network aided in
I didn’t start working in Pro-sport until I was 36 years old. At that
point I was ready from a skillset standpoint, but also my network was wide and
deep enough to get my name on the desk of the right people.
CSCA – What skills do you need to be successful in this area?
In Canada, our S&C is very physiology/science-heavy and light in the
areas of social and coaching skills, in my opinion. There are a lot of resumes
out there that have more certifications and qualifications than you can shake a
stick at, but at the end of the day, very few athletes care about where you
went to school or what certifications you have. Coaching, relationship
building, communication, organization, trust, and empathy will get you and your
vision a long way when working in the Pro-sport environment. Your education is
a pre-requisite, not a game-changer.
At least in my working environment, but common in most pro sports,
players have a significant amount of power concerning the daily training and
game environment due to the CBA (collective bargaining agreements as structured
by the players’ union). Our job as the S&C or Performance Coach is to
convince the athletes that our ideas not only make sense but would be advisable
for them to try them out. Educating, empowering, and create a more autonomous
student of the game is a critical skill of the pro sports strength coach.
CSCA – What are 1-2 of the differences between roles in this area
compared to previous S&C jobs you have had?
The biggest difference between the athletes I worked within my last team
job (Canadian Alpine Ski Team) and my current group of athletes (LA Kings
Hockey Team) is income and working rules. This might seem obvious, but it
impacts what you can do over a training cycle, your long-term development plan,
and the motivation of some athletes. Having to race for your next paycheck is a
lot different than an 8-year guaranteed multimillion-dollar athlete. I can say;
however, that pro hockey players are awesome to work with.
The NHL athlete has evolved immensely over the last decade and we now
inherit incredibly well-prepared young players with solid educational
backgrounds in key areas of sleep, nutrition, and training, not to mention the
sky-high skill sets they are bringing to the table.
CSCA – How do you upskill your knowledge and network as an S&C
This can be a super challenging area when working in pro sports. Often
the competitive environment and hectic schedule can isolate you from a lot of
outside interaction and ability to travel to conferences, etc. Fortunately, the
status that comes with being a professional S&C coach also opens a lot of
doors and connections that are harder to establish sitting in another
The key for me is to continue to scan journals monthly to stay current
with the literature, and maybe a little ashamed to admit, I use Twitter a lot
to follow the people I trust and respect, to see what they are talking about.
In my fast-paced world, I find this a bit of a cheat to fast track to certain
topics or resources that might otherwise take me too much time to track down
Finally, I’ve tried over the last few years to do more speaking at
conferences. I’m finally at the point in my career where I think I have some
useful experience and philosophies that others might benefit from hearing
about, as well, it’s an incredibly effective way to challenge your systems when
you have to verbally articulate your thoughts and have others critically review
your presentations. This might be the most impactful learning experience for me
CSCA – What advice do you give individuals just entering the field who
desire to work in the same area as you?
While it might not be everyone, it must be a very high percentage of
young S&C coaches who aspire to work in pro sports or with pro athletes.
And we all know the knocks on millennials and Gen Z folks, patience isn’t a
I don’t have a magic bullet to help anyone get where they want faster,
and the reality is, for a job like mine, there are only 31 positions in the
world. So, on top of a sparkling resume and vast experience, the chances of
landing a pro job are still super rare. All you can do is put yourself in a
position to succeed. While hard work is a little bit of a vague pointer, it is
non-negotiable at the pro level. If you can’t work and put in the time, you
won’t survive. But to get here, you need to spend time working with a variety
of athletes at different levels from different sports.
I think spending time personal training can help your coaching. I think
facility management and design are critical experiences as well. Finally, be a
good person. Most pro sports teams will have an unwritten rule of “No Jerks
Allowed”. You’re a part of a team before you’re an S&C coach. The team or
the players are trying to win, not be the best in the gym. Jerks cause friction
and conflict and winning is too damn hard, so teams won’t tolerate it. Be a
good person, put good mojo into the world, and the profession will take care of