Arthur Interviews Ed Slattery
Arthur: Ed, delighted you agreed to do this interview with me and I’m quite intrigued to hear what you have to say today. Firstly as I do with most guests I interview, if you could give a little bit of information on your own background for those who don’t already know who you are that would be great? Maybe go back to when you just left secondary school right up to where you are now (be as detailed as you like)?
Ed: Cheers Arthur and thanks for asking me to do this. I’ve been involved in strength and conditioning for about five years now having gone back to college at 23 to study in Thurles. Originally I had studied arts in Mary Immaculate with a view to being an English and History teacher and even tried my hand at studying Business in UL before realizing what I truly wanted to do and beginning down the S&C path.
While I was in college I immediately began volunteering with various coaches to learn off them. I was lucky enough to get to work with great coaches such as Damien Young with Tipperary G.A.A Academy and DJ O’Dwyer and Ross Callaghan with Munster Rugby early on and then continue working with these organisations through college. I interned with DJ with the Tipperary Minor Footballers before completing a season as S&C coach with the Tipperary Minor Hurlers. Most of my work has been with Munster Rugby where I was lead S&C with the under 18 Youths for two seasons. Working with Munster was a huge development in my career and I’ve been fortunate enough to gain experience in structuring training camps, long-term planning and even travelling overseas with Munster teams. Guys like Fergal O’ Callaghan, Gordon Brett and Cedric Unholz were key to my development while working with Munster. On finishing college I then went straight into a six month internship with the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry and simultaneously began working as S&C coach with the Irish Womens Rugby team.
Arthur: Tell me a bit about your current job in the field of strength and conditioning (S & C)? What is it you specialize in and what areas in the field of S & C are you interested in the most?
Ed: My current role is working with the Irish Womens Rugby Team. In this role I oversee the S&C work for nearly 40 players based around the country and abroad while directly handling the coaching of the Dublin based players. I then get better interaction with players when we meet for national training camps. While I don’t want to say I am specializing in any area just yet at the moment a lot of my focus is on movement and its implications on force production and injury prevention/rehabilitation. Having said that a lot of my career has focused on youth development and that is an area I still have significant passion for.
Arthur: Can you outline maybe 2 or 3 key moments in your career that you feel have made you a better S & C coach, perhaps some great piece of advice you were given or some realization you came to by yourself or in conversation with a client(“Ah-ha” moments if you like)?
Ed: Good question!! I’m not sure if I can pinpoint exact moments but recently I have had two moments of realization that stick out in my mind. Working at the Sports Surgery Clinic showed me that the process of initiating change (the how) doesn’t necessarily matter and I think its an important point. Sometimes we get hung up on having to use a certain method or specific exercise to achieve a goal when really the end result is what matters. Now that doesn’t mean to increase a players size I’m going to start using some form of GVT in season but it does mean that we can experiment with various methods and tools and as long as the end result has been achieved (without any negative implications) then the method has succeeded. An example of this maybe someone who needs to achieve quicker contact time or stiffness on mid stance when running. The method of changing this may vary from coach to coach or athlete to athlete but that’s OK as long as the end goal is achieved.
The second realization was the power of strength and conditioning to change peoples lives. Neil Welch said this to me before and initially I was skeptical and thought it sounded a bit of an exaggeration but I’ve seen it work. The dreams of working with top level professional sport can be easily romanticized but strength and conditioning may have its greatest benefit with the general population. We’ve seen how issues such as obesity and its associated problems (diabetes, back pain etc.) can negatively impact society and people lives. The “ah-ha” moment for me was seeing people who had been out of work with chronic back pain for years be able to return to work after only a short period of strength training using basic compound lifts (deadlifts, split squats etc.) instead of relying on medication and injections. Another case I witnessed was a woman who wasn’t able to pick up her newborn child without pain but strength training helped solve this. Making someone run faster or jump higher is great but in the larger scheme of things it will never be as important as allowing people hold their children and earn a living. Corny as it sounds!
Arthur: Here in CityGym we have a number of young S & C coaches learning their trade, any advice you might give to them? Perhaps something you wish someone told you early on in your own career?
Ed: I still consider myself a young S&C so not sure how much I can help here! However if I had to pick two points they would be 1) Get as much experience with experienced coaches and various environments as possible. Some coaches will completely change the way you look at things while others may simply reinforce what you already know but whether it’s a positive or negative you will always take something away. 2) would be to be confident in any situation you are in. I’ve put myself in the situation where I have sat back and let more experienced coaches take over but that doesn’t do you any favours and also doesn’t allow you to prove yourself. In any situation you only know what you know so be confident in it and don’t be afraid to put your hand up and admit to being unsure or unaware of anything you don’t know.
Arthur: You recently completed a Graduate Strength and Conditioning/Rehabilitation Coaching course in the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, Dublin (as a side note I really admire that as you’re continuing your education whilst working which is by no means easy). Tell me a little bit about that course and what you learned from it?
Ed: I spent six months in the clinic and couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone considering applying for an internship there. It is a unique place housing some of the best doctors, surgeons, physios and S&C coaches in the county under one roof. From an outside perspective they may seem to have some strange or unconventional methods but everything they do is backed up with research and the benefit of seeing injuries repetitively through large patient numbers. As an example they see around 700 ACL’s a year so you know they are experienced and are using proven results driven methods. My role was as Strength and Conditioning/Rehabilitation Coach. After a patient had completed initial assessments with the physiotherapist I would bring them through strength and power training to address any weakness/movement issues and provide the foundation necessary to prevent future re-occurrence of injury. I have outlined some important realizations I had while there above but really everyday there was a learning opportunity. The big change I would look to make in my coaching after spending time there is in the way athletes move. For instance if we want athletes to maintain a good posture, avoid anterior pelvic tilt, excessive rib flare and/or move through more of a hip/posterior dominant pattern then we have to reinforce these patterns in all our movements not just our deadlifts and squats. Being strict on a deadlift finish position but allowing poor movement in a chin up just defeats the purpose and allows the body to reinforce bad patterns.
Arthur: What does the future hold for Ed Slattery Strength and Conditioning?
Ed: The golden question! My goal for the time being is to just keep progressing and to keep learning. As I said I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great coaches so I want to keep that going and keep improving in my role. My main focus right now is ensuring the Irish Women are in the best possible position for the Six Nations. Following that I have some ideas for my personal blog (www.edslattery.net) that I have put on hold for now that will look to combine my work in high performance with S&C for the everyday person. This will be done online and through my Facebook page (Ed Slattery Strength and Conditioning) so keep an eye out for that.
Be sure to check out Ed Slattery’s blog (www.EdSlattery.net) for further information about his work.