Welcome to World Athletics

This week has meant so much to me that it is really hard to sit down and just “write about what I learned”.  There was so much complexity, simplicity, epiphanies, comfort, excitement, wonder, understanding stuffed in it, that I have to just kind of let it flow out if I can hope to share what a week of being around some of the best coaches and olympic level athletes in the world was like. It was an immense blessing to me edcuationally and professionally to sample a small taste of their vision, their professionalism and basically the fact that I got to do something not common; be around true masters. John Godina, Dan Pfaff, Stuart McMillan and Adreaas Behm are masters. Coach Andreas might say he’s not there yet, simply by virtue of being the youngest coach. The collective experience and wisdom to draw from was pretty fucking amazing.

Coach Andreas Behm

Coach Andreas Behm

For anyone that has read Mastery by Robert Greene, and the concepts and timeline he outlines in that book, you can better appreciate the value this week had for me.

I really hope that in sharing my experiences I can be true to the essence of their vision. Not just for sport, but for professionalism and also for life.

First off, I’ll give a brief introduction to how I found this coaching apprenticeship program and why I wanted to attend.

I first heard of Dan Pfaff from Bret Contreras. Instantly after reading a bit about Dan and his approach to coaching, biomechanics, sport etc, I wanted to know more. In any profession you need mentors. You need people to emulate. I was looking for someone/s, and the minute I read Dan, and in turn Stuart McMillan, I knew that was what I wanted.

Picture 1

Coach Dan Pfaff

They were who I needed to be around. Their approach matched the vision I had in my head of “being a good coach”, and they were also the best in their field. Thanks to Bret and his interest in SnC, I have heard about a lot of the people I *should*, as he keeps close tabs on the SnC world, which frankly is nothing like the Fitness world. Being a former SnC coach, and now working mostly in personal training/fitness, I still haven’t decided which direction I want to go specifically, so we’ll see. Either way, its the same principles, the methods just vary, obviously.

Picture 2

Coach Stuart McMillan (actually almost called him Stuart McGill a couple times lol)

When I started posting some of Dan’s stuff, someone in my network was a former colleague of his! A strength coach from Vermont, David Kerin. He told me that if I could get around Dan I should, and that there were coaching internships from the World Athletics Center in Arizona. I applied immediately.

Coach John Godina

Coach John Godina

I was scheduled to go originally in April, and it got pushed back because of life and work. I will admit, that there were times that I was tempted to just say forget it, and do something educational but closer, and that would cost less (flight, food, bring my sister for the kids, bus tickets, gas, etc etc), but then I would just re-go-over in my mind why I had applied the minute I had seen the opportunity.

Bear with the rant a bit.

Dan calls this your KPI’s. Key Performance Indicators or Inhibitors. I’ll get into that more later, but the gist is that you need to know what matters to you for your success. What are your “guiding lights”? What are your principles that you adhere to professionally and personally? For athletes it’s from a performance standpoint. KPI’s are what they HAVE to do for their sport? What does their sport demand they be successful in? What are principles you have to hit? What are the laws you can’t defy? And vice versa. What are key inhibitors? What can shut down the process?

Well, to put this in a “life” way; you have to know what matters to you. Dan said that one of the weaknesses he sees in young strength coaches is that they don’t know their own KPI’s. They don’t know what really matters to them, and they don’t develop or think about their “driving” philosophies. This doesn’t mean that they will be fully developed, it just means that you need to know what matters to you in your own life and chase that. He said this in one of the poolside chats:

“We don’t fight for the KPI we believe in. The great ones are risk takers. They fight their ass off to stay true to their KPIs.”

Here’s a couple of my KPI’s. And when I reminded myself of why I wanted to do this internship, this is what I was being true to:

– To be good you need to be around good.

– You need to get out of your comfort zone (as a personal trainer and nobody in the SnC world with limited SnC experience and none on a high level, I was pretty nervous about being around this caliber of coach and athlete and also just whether the week was going to be worth it. But after reading and following the work of several Dan and Stuart, there was no doubt.)

Everytime I got nervous about the cost of the trip, the planning it was taking, making sure it all went smoothly, and even just the stress of losing a week of work, I reminded myself of why I had wanted to do it in the first place. And then I made the commitment. Part of the process was the verbal commitment I had made earlier in the year. Everytime I asked myself “why”, I had a solid reason. It felt right. I had to stay true to my KPI’s and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

And boy, jesus christ, am I glad I did!!

Here is how our daily schedule went for the 5 days, and then I’ll get into specific days and share the notes on a variety of topics. Some of these posts might get long, but its helpful for me to write about it, not only to process it better, but to retain a lot of what I learned, and cement it even better in my mind. I took reams of notes on my computer, and by hand, and have lots of videos as well. Not sure about posting the videos, I will have to check in with John Godina before I do so.

8:30-11:30 am

We were trackside watching the manual therapy, warmups, drills, and track training for that day. This varied by athlete and event of course, and we had free reign to move around and observe and get involved in whatever we wanted. We could go hang out with the throws coaches, and then over to the pole vaulters or hurdlers, then watch the acupuncturist (right there by the track) or massage therapist, or just stand by the coaches and listen. We could ask questions whenever we liked (though attention to the athlete always took precedence) and often coaches would show stuff we particularly wanted to see, or go off on tangents we asked them too about specifics. Every single one of them was welcoming to any question or discussion. In the day 1 prep talk, Nick Sheuerman emphasized to us how this experience was driven by us. By what we wanted to see and learn, and to be sure and engage as much as possible. Get up close, start conversations and get involved. For instance,  Dan worked on someones foot per my request and talked about foot mechanics, and lower leg anatomy. Stuart showed us his low back, pelvic and hip assessment on several athletes. What he looks for, sees etc.

11:30 – 1:00

We would go over to EXOS (formerly Athletes Performance) where we would watch the weight workouts for the athletes that had them that day. This was awesome because Stuart talked a lot about how he programs. John Godina showed us one of his athletes yearly periodized plan and how he organizes it, flipping through his excel sheets so we could see. This was definitely a highlight of my day.


Meeting room lecture. There was a different speaker every day.


Lunch and poolside lecture. The “poolside” lecture wasn’t really by a pool. It was 105-111 degrees outside (got up to 114 one day), so no one minded it not actually being poolside lol. This is where we just got to sit and chat and ask questions. Got so many one-liners out of these, lol. The coaches talked freely and openly about everything.


We could train at EXO’s if we liked. This was a massive and beautiful facility with everything you could want.


FREEDOM. Just kidding. I had a full social schedule 😉 Got to see colleague and friend Steve Kleva. Went and trained at Revolution gym, and met Matt Peltz. Spent an afternoon with Bret Contreras talking all KINDS of stuff and training hard. And then spent an evening drinking and swimming with the other female intern there. All in all, a really good time.

To be cont…….

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  1. Wow, what a cool experience! Looking forward to hearing more 😉

  2. Joy,

    Can you shoot me an email at athletesfuelsc@gmail.com? It is strength and conditioning related. Thank you. Great read about the World Athletics Centre. Top notch.