If you are an Undergraduate or Graduate student, you probably have the opportunity of taking a practicum in your field of course to supplement the course load you are taking. Practicums are often seen as a break, but should be seen as a huge opportunity. Not only are practicums a chance to explore areas that might be of interest for future jobs or further study, but they give you the chance to practice professionalism, interviewing skills, and problem solving, while most importantly allowing you to make mistakes with the excuse of it being in the name of "learning". The following is a quick write up of my practicum experience at Revolution Human Performance, a niche gym in Calgary, with a roster of professional athletes looking to enhance performance to the general population looking to improve themselves.
Mission, goals and objectives of the project
Revolution Human Performance has quite the standard name for a private gym in Calgary offering such unique services and staffing some of the most brilliant coaches I know. Before being introduced to the owners, brothers Morgan and Dion, I had worked at other boutique-style gyms around Calgary, before moving my way up to being hired at my dream job: Canadian Sports Institute (CSI). While CSI is known for having some of the best coaches and Integrated Support Team (IST) in the country, I knew I needed to find somewhere outside of my comfort zone (which CSI had become), to learn and expand my resume. The alpine coach at CSI recommended I go talk to his good friend, as he owned his own gym and appeared to be doing really well for himself. I agreed, and set up a date immediately, feeling pressured to start my Spring practicum for my Masters. The meeting consisted of me shyly telling Morgan my personal goals for the practicum, and him firing back at me with his philosophies on training, his background experience in sport, his opinions on athletes and the psychology behind their learning, styles of coaching he preferred using, and their developing model, beliefs, and values as a starter-gym. He promised that their IST (which consisted of an osteopath, an athletic therapist, a chiropractor, a graphics design expert by day - parcour athlete by night, a previous Olympic athlete for Bobsled, and a retired professional basketball player) could teach me a lot, and I didn’t doubt it for a second. My goals were to be able to better “see” movement, in terms of what was wrong, where the problem was stemming, and how to correct the problem, either through verbal cues, manual technique, or modification of the exercise. “Rev” was the perfect place where I could learn from great coaches, work with a majority athletic population, and find out how their model could transfer into general population clients as well.
Challenges and surprises
It had been awhile since I was the “new guy” at a job, and for me, being thrown into new environments has always been a stressor. Being a student at an unfamiliar place felt as though there were no dumb questions, that I was expected to know only basic information coming into the practicum, and as soon as I said something semi-intelligent, I felt praised like a god.
This was the case at Rev, and although it was a Masters practicum that requires less supervision than a typical practicum, I felt that I was surprised by the amount that each coach wanted to teach me and explain to me.
I discovered through this practicum that I have many strengths. The model at Rev follows four major categories including Hardware, Software, Insight, and Habit. Morgan praised me for being the one that understood the model as a whole and could apply the model to situations, as well as bring my knowledge practically to the model.
One strength I brought to Rev was my fascial stretching certification and experience, because it allowed me to add value to my time at Rev, rather than feeling like I was in the other coaches shadows. It allowed me to help athletes work through nagging pains, or to increase range of motion during sessions. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a therapist, I realized at Rev that I enjoy breaking up the coaching aspect to do hands-on sometimes, too.
A personal discovery during my practicum was the fact that I realized I have been craving a female role model. Before Rev, my main mentor was a coworker at CSI and former lab instructor at UofC, and those who worked the closest with me at CSI were all males. At Revolution, there was one female trainer (the athletic therapist) who worked for Rev, but her schedule was opposite to mine, and she was never able to attend group meetings. Although I realize I’m in a male-dominated field, being at Rev around men the majority of the time reinforced my desire to find a female role model. Unfortunately, I did not get to find a female mentor at Rev, but with that being said, I am thankful to know that Morgan will forever be a mentor to me and someone I look up to in this profession!
New knowledge & insight
It was definitely refreshing to be immersed in a team of people with such a huge pool of knowledge as a collective. Although I some days feel as though the more I learn, the less I know, it felt good to be able to have conversations with coaches that come from such different backgrounds about topics including anatomy, psychology, theories, physiology, physical literacy, and athletics.
During my time at Rev, Morgan took the Functional Range Conditioning Course (FRC) created by Dewey Nielsen, and the abundance of knowledge that he brought back to the gym and shared with us was incredible. The first day back from the course, Morgan taught each one of us coaches the foundations of FRC and began to implement it into every athlete’s warm up and program. FRC was a piece to the training puzzle that I had been missing, and it felt good to fill it in.
Recommendation and overall impression of the practicum experience
I would recommend this practicum to my peers who are looking to bridge the gap between the classroom and being a coach who knows how to put the pieces together. In school, not enough is taught about assessments, training programs, and how to treat injuries for athletes who have different levels of conditioning and strength, are prone to different types of injuries, and are attempting to compete in different sports at various levels. Tying all of the pieces together doesn’t happen overnight, but this practicum was an excellent place to start.