Networking is not about taking or getting something, it is a lifelong journey of curiosity, of finding ways to help people.
CSCA – How did you get your first job working in pro sport?
In the early 1990s was
fortunate to study at Concordia University and work in the Athletic Department
under Scott Livingston and Ron Rappel, learning the foundation of Athletic
Therapy and Strength & Conditioning. In my final year of university,
I met Gaetan Lefebvre, the Montreal Canadiens Athletic Therapist, and I had the
privilege of being selected for their first internship. I was then able to see
how the theory was applied at the highest level.
Following a brief period
working for Frappier Acceleration (Athletic Republic) I returned to Concordia
as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and Assistant Athletic Therapists,
as Scott left to be the New York Rangers S&C coach. I was meeting new
people in the field all the time and under Scott’s leadership, we designed and
ran “The Hockey Conference”, where I first met Peter Friesen, Peter Twist, and
This is a critical point
for upcoming S&C Coaches, try to put yourself into environments where you
are volunteering or working at conferences or courses. You will develop a much
stronger connection with people when you are a part of the group hosting these
events, as opposed to just attending.
My “eye-opening” moment
came in May of 2002; the Carolina Hurricanes came to Montreal to play the
Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final. Pete Friesen was the Athletic
Therapist and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Hurricanes. I picked
Pete up at the team hotel as we were having dinner with Scott, during the
five-minute drive Pete, a complete ball of energy, had me convinced I needed to
work in the NHL. That prompted a night full of conversations and by the end,
Scott and Pete had lit the fire. Little did I know this would be the start of a
17-year journey as the S&C Coach of the New York Rangers … and to this day
Ron Rappel, Scott Livingston and Pete Friesen are still close friends.
CSCA – What skills do you
need to be successful in this area?
Without a doubt, your
personality and ability to interact with people is the single most important
skill you need. We are surrounded by technology and innovation, but at its
core, this is a people business.
The second skill is having
the humility to understand that you don’t really know that much. You must
develop your own internal system for continual self-improvement. Be hungry for
knowledge and willing to learn, we can gain insight in many ways, be a master
at observing and soaking up information. I also feel that compassion,
communication, and honesty are character traits you must poses if you hope to
connect with the people around you.
Once you are centered on
these characteristics you must have a drive and work ethic that is second to none.
Coach Bill Cower of the Pittsburgh Steelers sums this up nicely with three statements:
Work harder than everyone
Never be intimidated
CSCA – How did you network
with other S&C coaches in the NHL?
We are all busy, the
schedule you keep and stresses you go through are not unique, everyone has
challenges. You must first understand and accept this, then make an active
effort to continually engage with your colleagues, from the perspective of
curiosity and support.
In my case, I was exposed
to this early on from the Vancouver Canucks S&C coach, Roger Takahashi (now
in his 17th year with the team). Roger spent many hours of his own time working
to organize the NHL S&C coaches (along with Mike Bahn, Phoenix Coyotes, and
Ray Bear, Atlanta Thrashers). Roger was the first president of the Strength and
Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey (SCAPH) and after working under
him I was fortunate to lead this group from 2014 through 2019.
Networking is not about
taking or getting something, it is a lifelong journey of curiosity, of finding
ways to help people. When you figure out how to support someone, how to share
your knowledge and hard work in a way that improves people, others will be
drawn to you. Put yourself in situations where your work will expose you to
people and professions that you are passionate about.
CSCA – What advice do you
give individuals just entering the field who desire to work in the same area as
Be curious, compassionate
and a master of absorbing knowledge. Understand that there are many ways to
find a solution, an answer, or an idea. You control very few things in life but
how hard you work and your attitude towards yourself and others is entirely
Many years ago, I ran into
a friend of my parents outside a hospital in downtown Toronto. I was not having
a great day and was taking my girlfriend to a doctor’s appointment. My parents’
friend was smiling, engaging and spent the two minutes we were together making
me feel better about what I was going through. It was not until a few months
later I found out he had brought his wife to chemotherapy treatment that day,
and shortly after she would lose her battle with Cancer.
There are moments in our
life when we are struck with the harsh reality of our true place in the world,
of our miss-aligned moral/social compass. My hope for you is that when those
moments happen you are open enough, humble enough, to see them for what they
are and to use these opportunities to lift and guide you along your own journey
to improve the lives of others.
As a final thought, none of what I have done would be possible without my strong family, a great group of friends and a supportive community. I am fortunate to have an amazing wife and three incredible daughters. This is the most important thing in life, it is what grounds and supports us through the challenges that we all face.
Good luck and enjoy the journey.