Interview with Matt Barr

Matt Barr is the Director of Athletic Performance with Rugby Canada where he oversees the strength and conditioning, sports science and sports medicine for all national sides while also having a practical role with the National Womens Sevens side. I spoke to Matt late last year when he was Lead Strength and Conditioning coach to Canadian Football League side the Toronto Argonauts.

ES: Hi Matt, Thanks for taking the time to chat. To begin could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you got into strength and conditioning.


MB: I am a strength and conditioning coach who works primarily in the football codes at the moment. I work in a professional Canadian football team which is a version of grid iron football, that’s almost the same as American football. (We have a couple of minor rule variations that make it technically a different sport.) I’ve been working in football for the past, approximately three and a half years. I worked at a university before, the University of Manitoba and I worked at Rugby Canada for approximately four years in a full-time role prior to that. I spent a couple years working at another university and then working part-time for Rugby Canada as well. So I’ve been working as a professional strength coach for about ten years now. Academically, I have a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Manitoba, Masters from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD. from Edith Cowan University. Research has been a big part of my career as well as I’ve always been working professionally as a strength coach but at the same time have done research that was directly related to my work, so I tied the two of them together.


ES: One thing I noticed reading some of your papers is that they are very practical based.


MB: Yeah, they always are. It’s always a challenge when I get my work published because it’s tough going through the review process because there’s some sort of academic gold standard that I should of went through but they were done in a practical setting with high-performance athletes. So every paper I’ve ever done has been with athletes that I was actually training so it was done to solve problems that I was actually facing and trying to determine how to make a program. I have done this probably a hundred times and some of them ended up being good studies so I turn them into papers but I’d do this on a regular basis anyway so it’s for my own, I guess, curiosity.


ES: Your papers are just the result of your everyday work…


MB: Yeah that is basically it.


ES: Can you give a brief insight into your current role with the Toronto Argonauts and what it encompasses?


MB: It’s probably a little bit different than some of the other football codes around the world in the role the strength and conditioning coach plays. It is something very specific in the Canadian football league. There’s a collective bargaining agreement between the Players Association and the League that the players will only spend four and half hours per day at the team’s facility. That’s all they have to be there for. So two and half hours typically covers their meeting time and then practice time. Any physical conditioning you do outside of that four and half hour time period is actually voluntary with the players. The other piece is that off-season is also voluntary, in that the players do not have to be with the team until the first day of training camp which is actually the first day of practice. So we essentially don’t have a pre-season or at least when you compare to maybe Rugby Union, we would miss the first three-quarters of pre-season. We’re basically at the point where we are moving heavy into just practicing and playing pre-season games.


The only players that essentially do mandatory physical training are those who are injured. Once a player has been injured he’s placed on a six game injured list. But the physical conditioning work we do is considered part of their rehab. There’s a lot of injuries in professional football so at any given time I’m working with between 5 and 10 players as an active part of their rehabilitation and also I’ll do sessions in the morning and afternoon after practice. Quite a few players come to them but they’re actually technically voluntary sessions.


So we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep guys healthy because the injury rate is high. The Canadian football season is quite long, it’s actually two games longer than the NFL season, so it’s a 18 game regular season. So trying to keep players healthy is a major part of what we do.


The other activity we do is we use GPS. Basically, all 55 of our players wear GPS units so myself and my assistant download the data from practice every day and make reports to give to coaches to give them an idea of what the practice load is.

Matt working with the GPS units at the Argonauts

So it’s a little bit different than some of the work I’ve maybe done in rugby. It’s limited on actual time to work with the players, we just have to do it better than the Hamilton Tiger Cats or the BC Lions do. So that’s where we’re trying to look for edges within the time that we’re given. And at the same time make an environment where the players trust us and they’ll actually come and do the voluntary sessions with us.


ES: Derek Hanson has said that sometimes in sports such as professional Football it becomes a maintenance project with players, that you maybe don’t necessarily get massive improvements out of them because you don’t have the time. Does this apply in your case?


MB: Yes and no, for some they’re usually at the limit of their generic potential anyways. However, half our roster is Canadian, half is American so we have a ratio that we have to maintain as essentially half of our players always have to be Canadian. Most of our American players are guys who’ve come out of the NFL. They were marginal NFL players, they’ve lost a contract or something like that so we end up signing them for a few years. We actually use a draft system to sign our Canadian players but all the Americans are signed as free agents. So a major part of what we’re trying to do is trying to extend the careers and in particular those of our Canadian players because if we can extend their career by a year or two it means we don’t have to draft someone else in that same position and can save a draft pick for another area of need. A 21 year old Canadian coming out of a Canadian university isn’t as physically developed as a 25 year old who’s coming out of the NFL who has played in a major American university on a team that had 4 or 5 strength and conditioning coaches and went to the NFL to a similar setup. Where as with a guy that is coming out of a small school in Canada, we might have a lot of work that we can do with them, so there’s a bit of variation with the players on our team and we kind of all approach them a little bit differently. Some guys it’s very important that we develop them physically, other guys it’s just straightforward maintenance and we’re just trying to keep them healthy, keep them playing and add on any years we can onto their career.


ES:     It must be a challenge having just yourself and one assistant coach working with 55 players?


MB:    The fortunate part of all the voluntary sessions is at the moment the most we might be able to handle in our facility at one time is around 30 players. The upside of that is they’re not kids, that these people have typically been lifting weights for 10 years so they know what they’re doing. There is a lot of individualization that goes into the programming and a lot of giving players options that they can pick from because they know their own training history better than we do. We will have a bit of a conversation with them, there is definitely different amounts of technical coaching that needs to be done with the younger players and individualization of programs is a big part of it. It is certainly a big challenge. In particular, with the guys who are on the injured reserve we have to spend a lot of time day-to-day changing the program trying to get them back healthy.

the closer the relationship the forces that are produced, as well as the type of force that’s produced, is going to be related to the activity that you’re trying to train for.

ES: Can you talk through how you quantify athletes training age/ability and your method of categorising exercises into categories and how these two relate. I know on Andy Franklin Millers podcast you spoke of three exercise categorisations, General, Special and Specific.



MB: Yeah, the idea was that there was general, special and specific classifications. Basically, the idea was that it’s the sliding scale of how well something is going to transfer over and you stated it, it sounds intuitively obvious that at some point some things are going to work better than others. You know if you’ve ever coached people who have no strength training background or little training background it doesn’t really matter what you do with them they typically get better whatever the training program but if you keep that programming up as they develop physically you actually stop seeing those changes. You can start relating to a lot of the elements of specificity as well; that the closer the relationship the forces that are produced, as well as the type of force that’s produced, is going to be related to the activity that you’re trying to train for. And there are other elements in there like posture as well that are going to be related to it.

So the big one I looked at was when I took developmental athletes between 16 and 19 years old who didn’t have a strength training background and I would put them through a basic beginner’s program. I was doing training with a barbell and a little bit of plyometrics, they learned variations of the Olympic lifts, they’d squat, they’d do different presses, we do a small amount of primarily concentric plyometrics when they were just doing stair jumps or box jumps. We’d also do some exercises like chin-ups and do a bit of supplemental work maybe of hamstrings and abdominal muscles and that was it. And usually the athletes I had found that if we focused on you know maybe 6 or 7 exercises,they were actually getting quite strong with them that they put on muscle mass, they got quite faster, vertical jumps went up and it carried over to performance and it was quite easy and quite simple doing that. I thought I’m a very good strength and conditioning coach I’ll just do this and I’ll just continue doing this with everyone I work with and they’ll get better. But the problem is you’ll keep working with those same athletes and then they’d find out you start getting diminishing returns and then you recognize that maybe lifting 3, 4 times a week and running only once a week in addition to playing rugby is probably not enough and we need to change it, we need to do more speed work. And if we’re trying to actually get them better at sprinting then we maybe need to change our exercise selection that’s going to address some areas. We need to strengthen up their hip extensors and their hamstring muscles and start including specific plyometrics that are going to be related to them being able to reduce ground contact time and develop horizontal forces, develop vertical forces against high eccentric loads. As you start incorporating more of those exercises they’re more likely to start carrying the improvement over. We could do them with developmental athletes but we don’t really need to because the basic programming that we did worked well and at the same time it also made them stronger and they put on muscle mass, which for a contact field sport athlete it’s pretty important so it wasn’t necessary to go there.


Usually by this point with the development athletes we had 3 or 4 years and we’ve done all our basic barbell lifts female athletes might have put on between say 4 and 7 kilos and male athletes might have put on between 8 and 11 kilos on them and they’re actually moving faster at this point.


ES: In moving from the development stage to the more specific stage what changes in your programming?


MB: So trying to get them to the next level, to increase their speed again it becomes hard. We need to do a lot of sprint training at this point and we need to be very specific about the exercise we’re doing to serve the phase of the sprint that we’re trying to improve. If their top end speed is lacking, we need more plyometrics that emphasize eccentric force production in the vertical direction or if the need is the  acceleration phase we will need more concentric horizontal type work and we need to then pick strength training exercises that support that as well. So usually depending on what level athlete I’m working with the exercise selection will vary greatly. Something that we’ve also evolved over time is making sure athletes can step off of both feet. Most steppers that you look at, when you take a look at the moment right before their foot comes off the ground they actually get a pretty big distance between their center of gravity and where their foot’s pushing them off so knee joint absorbs force on one leg eccentrically and then has to make a lateral push but what’s probably the most relevant part is actually landing in a position they can accelerate out of again. So I give them a lot of plyometric and strength training exercises and do specific change of direction drills to try and teach that and we’ll tie it all in.

When someone has done maybe a year of so with me, they’ve done maybe somewhere between 100 to 150 sessions of just basically getting strong, then we start picking exercises in the program to ensure strength training and the speed program is tied around increasing their acceleration and increasing their max velocity or working on their change direction skills, improving their jumping skills or in the case of rugby they’re increasing their scrummaging skills and we’ll tie-in all the exercises. It’s just a gradual change over time and loosely it ends up being a lot more plyometrics towards the end and and plyometrics done in a really specific fashion to emphasize the direction of force and the rate of force development that we’re sort of looking for.

ES: When you say maybe 100 to 150 sessions in the general phase is it more a case you know they’ve spent a certain amount of time, they’ve got a certain amount of training done or do you have markers along the way they need to reach e.g. a certain strength score before they are ready to push on?


MB:    Usually what I did was I’d written some templates of programs and in most situations, for example if I walked into a university age Canadian or American football team or academy level rugby players I’ve a basic straight forward program that I use. Because it’s based around a pedagogical model of teaching people how to lift weights and gradually introducing the Olympic lifts in a way that I can teach in a large group setting and by the end of it everyone had really good technique. I wouldn’t progress people on to more technical variations until they were ready. It usually took people around 50 to 60 sessions to get through the first program and then usually after that I could probably give people two more programs that were 40 to 50 sessions that were basically really simple, built around barbell lifts, Olympic lifts, and some supplemental work and some light plyometric work. And usually by the time I got them through a third program then they were usually pretty strong at that point and then we could look at more advanced programming. From the time we get people to get through these programs and the time before we get diminished returns it’s usually around 150 sessions.

From the time we get people to get through these programs and the time before we get diminished returns it’s usually around 150 sessions.

Sometimes people would learn quicker, get through it quicker or they’d advance to the senior playing level and there was more pressing concerns that we just needed to address at that point so we would change the programming. But most people followed the normal developmental time which with a university athlete, we have 4, 5 years for them in football or if it’s an academy player then we usually have 2 to 4 years with them as well, then we’d usually fall back. Then we’d move on to the more senior players that’s on the program and it becomes more complex.


ES: So really it’s a combination of, having gone through 150 sessions, the training age is going to be there and also the strength adaptation is going to be achieved as well.


MB: Yeah, and that’s based on most of my sessions being a full body session. It might make sense to do only upper body some days and maybe lower body some other days but 150 is based on typically being full body sessions each time.


ES: Within the group you’re coaching do you determine markers for position specific work to then act as a guideline to dictate the kind of training for each individual?


MB: I wouldn’t use record boards but what I have is positional standards and I usually end up setting them as absolute measures. I looked at using relative ones in the past however, if someone’s undersized for their position they probably need to be extra strong anyway. I would put absolute markers based on what would be the proto-typical person or player for that position and then they put them on the board and a really motivated player will sometimes sneak in extra work be more focused on them. We’d take maybe 7 or 8 different exercises and put positional standards for all of them and I’d tell players they need to hit positional standards on every single exercise. So this helped change the focus to having a really well-balanced athlete strength wise rather than say in football where a really common thing is emphasizing a really strong max bench press. They also then need to be worried about being explosive, of having strong legs. We would always test with one repetition maximum chin-up, so we’d take body weight plus external load added together and by doing that then they would actually focus on that as well so I wouldn’t get guys doing a lot supplemental extra chest work, they’d make sure they were training their backs and we weren’t getting overuse injuries. We’d also test shoulder press and things like that so their upper bodies would be relatively balanced by it. Sometimes you would get really high-level athletes who just don’t quite hit them but they still can play and that’s fine, sometimes we get people who are really quite gifted that they hit them all right away too.


It’s a little bit different with senior players. When I was with the national rugby team most of the players had come through our academy system at one point so I knew them and there were some older players in the team like Jamie Cudmore. There was never really a time we’d really bring him in and strength test him and to be honest it didn’t really matter at that point, we weren’t going to make a substantial change in Jamie Cudmore in the limited time that we had. We actually had quite a bit of information on most of the younger guys before they moved overseas or if they’d moved over young even though we’d had them for a while when taking them back for extended periods with us we’d just go back to work and keep looking to identify areas.


The situation I’m in now with the Argonauts, quite often players went through a very structured high school strength training program. They went through a very structured S&C program at the university level and are probably in their second professional team. We don’t really test as we are not actually allowed to because of the collective bargaining agreements. The best we can do is just take a look at what’s happening on the field. Look at positions and how we can look to can change things, based on technical aspects, and just watch how they move and then make assumptions from there. Watch them train, recognize when they’re weak in one area and maybe have a chat about it with their positional coach and then we just emphasize it with them.


ES: You could probably just take an estimate one of their 1RMs from what they lift in sessions?


Matt: Yeah that’s it, most of the time with those guys, some of them have probably had well over a thousand strength training sessions over the course of their career and so they usually know themselves pretty well at that point. It’s not like they are 19 year olds who are lifting weights for the first year, sometimes we don’t even know the goal percentage of the max we just know if we’re going to a heavy set of three. They know exactly within 5 or 10lbs of what they’re going to hit that day more than I could ever tell them or suggest to them. I end up treating them more like adults probably than any other athletes I’d every worked with because I respect the fact that most of them usually know their own body. Like I said there are some young Canadian players that we have who are still pretty green and really don’t know so I tell them exactly what they need to do. I’m very specific about it. But yes, some of the older players they definitely know what they’re doing and so it is a completely different approach than you probably will end up doing with any of your athletes or what I’ve typically done with any of mine apart from a couple of senior national team rugby players.

We’d take maybe 7 or 8 different exercises and put positional standards for all of them and I’d tell players they need to hit positional standards on every single exercise

ES: In setting those standards when working with absolute standards are you setting them based on information from other squads, research or internally on what your players have done?


MB:    So the first time I did it, 10 years ago with women’s rugby the standard wasn’t as high and you know around the world there maybe wasn’t a big emphasis anywhere. We might have even been a little bit ahead at that point in Canada. So we would do regular testing, so I’d have a database and I got to get a good sense of what the players were capable of so I set initial standards on that and they evolved over time. I know they have rapidly evolved since then. A good friend of mine Dan Edgar Newman, is one of the S & C coaches on the women’s program. He’ll send me texts with what his players do and I can’t even believe some of the numbers that he’ll send me sometimes because they’re going on 4, 5 years of being a centralized training environment with the professional players and they get a lot of time to train, probably way more than the professional football players that I work with now. So I mean that will end up changing, when I hear a 70 kg professional women’s international rugby player power cleans between 75 and 85 kilos for multiple reps I’m really not shocked at all. I mean that sort of seems like the norm that they can do. And then when someone gets above 90 I’m like, okay that one was pretty impressive at that point but relatively, Seven’s players, because they’re coming on probably 500 to 700 sessions, they’ll end up being quite strong. The trick is finding something that fits, if you set something too high right off the bat then it’s unattainable for everyone and it just can’t be done. So finding something relative to where it gets maybe a national standard is for now and as the standards come up and they start slowly creeping up over time, keeping a well-balanced one in there. Usually what I’ve done at university level is I take a look at it, we’d run through a testing and I would find something that the upper 10 or 15% could do and I would just say that is the standard knowing that in a year if they hadn’t been really trained properly before that then they probably wouldn’t be able to do that a year on from that and re-assess it. It’s a tricky situation doing that. It’s quite easy in say football because in football there has been professional strength conditioning coaches in American and Canadian football since the late 1960s, so I mean there’s a lot of data out there on what people can do. So you know how much is important anyway so it’s not making it up. Women’s rugby is relatively new in terms of that so know I’d say it’s probably very still much on an upward trend as well.


ES: When it comes to individualizing for each player do you have a set structure? For example Ashley Jones has a simple flow chart he uses with players to decide their focus.  It’s a simple enough flow chart but do you have anything like that that influences or really is back to just that training age of the player?


MB: Yes, when they’re learning the basics, the only thing we individualize for them is any kind of remedial corrective work that we do and we take that from their injury history. And I’ll take maybe 10 different body parts, we’ll take groin, we’ll take hamstring, we’ll take ankles, neck work, all supplemental work like that. And then I’ll just have in their program a checklist on the days that we do remedial corrective exercises of which ones they do. So some athletes might get one or two, some might get four, it will vary from athlete to athlete. And if they haven’t had an injury history what I’d do is take a look at injury records for that position if there’s published data on it or with any of the squads that I’ve worked with we usually kept good injury data. So I can just look at that position. Like running backs in Canadian football tend to get a lot of neck injuries and a lot of ankle injuries and a receiver is going to get a lot of hamstring injuries so they do extra hamstring work or defensive backs get a lot of groin injuries so they do extra work in that area. Because if they’ve haven’t had a problem usually they are probably going to get one at some point so we will do remedial correctives.


Once we move players in to the next phase we do a little bit more. Remedial corrective will be individualized and then in their weights program we’ll usually take a look at them in the different areas. If they’re still not strong enough then just getting their legs stronger, their upper body stronger is going to help. We just put them on a max strength focus program. We’ll have a big group, sometimes we might have 30 guys in the weight room. I’ve got pretty efficient at coaching 20 to 30 athletes at a time but still being able to coach techniques, still being able to individualize. So we take a look at the testing results and we focus, if they were max strength deficient then there’d be a split that would come in their program that I might have time allocated to do 8 sets on say back squat. While the people who were max strength deficient would do all 8 and the people who were maybe power deficient or we’re trying to make some changes in their speed or jumping ability they would cut out the last 3 or 4 sets. They would do those and then would do plyometric work. So if they were working on their cutting ability then they would do a lot of lateral plyometric work, if they were doing jumping work they would do a lot of like vertical plyometrics, box jumps or any kind of assisted jumps or other kinds of different variations. If there is a speed deficiency then they would do a lot of bounding work or drop jumps, things that would carry over to whichever phase of speed necessary. We’d actually put them in those different categories right there. And then we’d do the same thing with upper body, I had a few bench throwing machines that I built in our football weight room when I was in Manitoba so we’d just do those as part of the testing but in training if someone didn’t have an explosive upper body relative or upper body strength it was the same thing; the last 40% of the time that was allocated to upper body strength was then focused on upper body power work. So we could split it that way.


If someone is too small for the position it’s a tricky one, because most times when people are big enough or not big enough it is usually genetics and if and what way they respond to training. When people respond to weights they respond to weights and some of the players I’ve worked with now in a professional level we’d literally have to limit how much they lift weights. They’re conscious of getting too big. If they lift 3 times a week for a while they’ll get 15, 20lbs too big for their position. Canadian football has a little bit bigger field than American football so they have to run. We do almost only power work with them. Just some of the players are very gifted genetically like that.


When I worked at the university level football in Canada we would just take freshmen and say we think you’re going to be this position but we’re going to have to see. We put you through your first off-season, we’ll just see where you end up size-wise. Some guys would end up putting on 30lbs in an off-season and someone else might put on 2 or 1 doing the same program. They both have similar dietary habits, there’d be a little bit different genetic variation with it. So there’s some little subtle changes you can make in there but usually, if they were maybe undersized and we just put them on maybe more strength focus program but we’d more or less bucket it like that.


When I was at Rugby Canada we’d have a bit more time with individualization that there were sometimes where we’d have some guys get in extra days of speed and some guys we’d get an extra day of lifting and we could bucket them that way. Or, the big ones if their contact skills weren’t good enough in rugby, one group of guys would go do a big upper body session and the other group would do 10, 15 minutes upper body weights and then we would take them on the wrestling mats and we’d do combative sessions with them and we’d wrestle based on their needs. They would stay strong but it would help them a little bit better on the field so we’d bucket guys like that in terms on what they need to focus on.

Programs that I give out now at the Argonauts players is an individualizing based on position but within the program they have the ability to pick and choose different exercises based on preference or what they feel their individual need is.

It ended up being a great session but nothing to do with physiology. All about logistics and facilities

ES: You’ve a big group of guys and you said you trust them a lot to pick as they go themselves but do you individualize from day one that you’re back training or say in pre-season is the focus on one area and then becoming more specific and individualized the season progresses?


MB: With the Argonauts the only thing I can do at the moment is strength training and like I said they’re voluntary sessions so it’s quite tricky in terms of what we can do there. So we have the days that we come there, the other ones were we lead, we let guys pick which days to come in some guys will come in and lift every single day for 25 minutes so those guys want to do one big session per week or two medium size sessions per week so we kind of like let them put it together.


When I worked in university football I would take a look at the schedule and what we need because there wasn’t too many things that we could do. The players who needed to do more speed work I would have them in doing sprinting 3 times a week and the ones who were a moderate need in the winter off-season we’d have them twice a week and then the freshmen were only once a week and they’d spend more time lifting. In the summer off-season, we would have everyone run 3 times and lift 3 times and part of that was based on the fact that sometimes literally 70 players would have to do physical training. Football rosters are massive, so logistics would sometimes dictate how the training schedule would go and I would pick something that based on the average need of the team and then based on the schedule we’d individualize. I couldn’t write out say a session where one guy was doing speed 4 times a week because where we do speed is a different building from where we do weights so it would be tricky like that. So logistics would always take precedent and then after that, based on what the guys did and the place where, we would then individualize.


ES: Very good. Logistics will always play a massive part in determining what can be done…


MB: It’s number 1, logistics and equipment come first. You need to determine how much time you have, you need to determine days that you have them (players), the facilities that you have. Whether or not you can run and lift in the same session etc.


I’ve written strength training programs based on the fact that I only had 2 squat racks and I had an entire squad. When we were in New Zealand for the World Cup they let us use a public gym and gave us 2 squat racks, 3 platforms and I had all the forwards and then all the backs. This day we’re supposed to do some plyometric work and I was thinking “I don’t know how to do this”. There was a basketball court on the far side of this massive gym, I sent half the guys to do a set of squats, walk across the gym to get to the basketball court and they had to jump and touch the rim 3 times. By having them walk across, it gave me enough time that you could actually have 15 guys using 2 squat racks at the same time. So that was a post-activation potentiation session that was solely written based on keeping guys occupied so they wouldn’t be messing around but at the same time, they felt that they were doing really purposeful work. It ended up being a great session but nothing to do with physiology. All about logistics and facilities.


ES: Matt this has been an excellent chat with some really excellent information. To finish can you give an insight in to how the strength and conditioning field is growing in Canada?


MB: Canada’s an interesting place. There’s some good strength conditioning coaches in Canada but we don’t have a formal system that like say they definitely have in Australia or the US or even with what’s happening in the UK or even what’s happening within Irish Rugby at the moment where there’s a real set pathway and an educational development system. It’s really kind of piggybacks off of what the US does. With the Olympics sports there’s a bit of a connection between Australia and Canada where we just sort of follow them. So there’s basically 3 different kind of areas where people can get employed as strength and conditioning coaches. The first one is university level in Canada, which is not quite like the US in terms of money and support but it’s reasonably good. There’s maybe a third of the universities that employ full-time strength and conditioning coaches and most of the ones that do employ them actually employ multiple full-time ones. It’s an area of big growth in Canada at the moment and normally when they hire people it’s usually they have a Bachelor’s Degree, they have a certification that’s the equivalent of the NSCA or UKSCA or something like that and then work experience.


The university I was at last, when they hired me, I was the only full-time strength coach for the whole university. I had a couple part-time assistants but by the time I left there was essentially 3 of us who were there full-time and we had 2 gyms. One for football and one for the Olympic sports. And that’s maybe starting to become more the norm of where it will get to. So most of those places are actually looking to hire people because they are still trying to figure it out and they don’t have it figured out yet. But there are still universities that are hiring their first ever person.


The second levels are Canadian Sport Institutes and the NSO’s (National Sporting Organization). They’re typically run by coaches who are a little more qualified in terms of experience. Usually you’ll get someone who’ll be with one NSO for like quite a bit of time, they’ll become an expert at one sport, they’ll spend a bit more time there. There are 3 major sport institutes, Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, Canadian Sport Institute Pacific and then the one in Calgary. The one in Calgary is more winter sport. The one in B.C. is the split between summer and winter sport and the one in Ontario is kind of summer sport for the most part. There’s also one in Montreal as well but you essentially have to speak French to work there. It exists within the system but Quebec is its own sort of little country within a country!


And the third level is professional sport which I work in now, which is not really structured and organized. A major reason I got hired was because I developed an NFL draft pick. I was a players first ever strength coach and he got drafted to the NFL which doesn’t happen very often on in Canada. Canadian players will go to US schools and get drafted to the NFL but it’s very rare to come out of a Canadian university and when they did a sort of combine testing, he scored the top for his position going to the NFL draft. I essentially got hired because of that.


It’s not at a very highly developed level, if you took what we did now and you compared it against say what Munster or Leinster probably do we’d be light years behind because of restrictions with the collective bargaining agreement.  The other pro teams in Canada are mix of pro hockey teams, some of them have British and Australians in them now, like it’s a mix. There’s not really a system there. And what one team does is totally dependent on what their front office has and who they know and where they’re from. But it’s not a Canadian system by any means at all.



ES: Very good, definitely a growing field. Matt, this has been an excellent conversation with a great amount of information. Thanks a lot for taking the time out to do it.


MB: Yeah, no problem man. I think it was really good chatting to you and stay in touch.


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