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Finding the balance

At the last weekend I attended this year’s UKSCA conference. Lot’s of kudos should go to everyone involved in the organisation and planning of the event which ran incredibly smoothly. The speaker list was superb; John Goodwin’s talk on sprint mechanics, Mike Stone’s on hypertrophy and Mike McGuigan’s on power assessment were all first rate, it’s always great to hear experts talk with such enthusiasm about their areas of expertise. I think the one presentation that everyone will remember most though was that by Dan Baker, the strength and conditioning coach at the Brisbane Broncos.

The Broncos are arguably the most well known and successful rugby league team around and Dan Baker has been their S&C coach for the last 15 years (please correct me if I got that wrong). It’s obvious he knows his way around the weights room and how to get the most out of elite athletes. He also presented data from 17 published articles of his, he also knows his way around a stats package. A key part that I took from his talk was the need to find the balance between the science and the practice, a balance he has definitely struck.

Working in an aggressive contact sport with the very top rugby league talent, he knows how to motivate his athletes to get the best out of them and has fostered a training environment that pushes everyone as hard as possible. He gave an example of one of his athletes complaining of a sore knee and saying he couldn’t squat test that day, all he said to him was “read my t-shirt”, it said ‘harden the f**k up’. Small things like making sure everyone performs max effort lifts one at a time and everyone in the room cheers on each guy in his set, or only letting the guys train shirtless once they reach a target bodyfat score were effective motivational tools. Obviously you couldn’t do this with every sport but it appears a perfect rugby league environment and the team’s consistent performances reflect this.

For me though, the major part I will take away with me was the pure energy and enthusiasm he showed as he spoke. It was truly infectious and it spread throughout everyone in the room as I’m sure it does when he coaches. Great presentation Dan.

Neil Welch

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