All In

My first two months as an intern at MBSC have been a total trip. I have been thinking about how to put it into words, and I think the best way would be to liken it to a language immersion program. Everyone always tells you that the best way to learn a foreign language is to go to the source and immerse yourself in it. I actually did this and I can say I agree. The summer after I graduated from high school, I traveled around Spain for 6 weeks by myself. It was intimidating at the time because I did not know anybody and I was shaky with the language, but looking back, I’m very glad I did it because and learned more about the language and culture in that time than I did in 6 years taking Spanish classes in school.

My experience at MBSC has been much the same thing, only instead of learning to speak Spanish, I am learning how to speak coach. I came into the internship with a similar level of preparation as I had going to Spain. I had done a lot of reading from various different coaches, but as we know, book knowledge does not always translate well into the real world. Real world knowledge can only be gained through experience. I came to MBSC to get the experience. I was very excited but still a little bit intimidated just because it seemed like everyone else there knew so much more than I did. They had their system and knew exactly how to do things, and I felt lost. It was just like being back in Spain.

When you immerse yourself in something, however, you learn at a much faster rate than you do when you merely dabble, IF you do it properly. That’s a big “if.” I have friends that went to foreign countries with friends and did not learn a thing because they spoke English the whole time. I purposely went alone because I wanted to force myself to get the full experience. I took this same approach with the internship. I have been given a tremendous opportunity in front of me and fully intend to milk it for all it’s worth. The day I started, Nicole Rodriguez, the intern coordinator, told me that I would get out what I put in. With that in mind, I have gone “all in.”

Going “all in” means a few things to me, mainly sacrifice and commitment. There is the obvious monetary sacrifice that comes with being an intern, but there is also a huge time sacrifice. I have effectively put the rest of my life on hold to focus exclusively on learning as much as I can and becoming the best coach I can be. This means showing up early and leaving late. I work six days a week. When I am not at work, I can either be found reading about coaching and training or trying to network with other coaches to hear about different perspectives. It is all coaching and all learning, all the time. When I tell my friends about my schedule and my daily routine, the usual response is “that sucks dude.” I disagree. If I could work more, I would. Like I said before, the more you put in, the more you get out. It is not easy by any means, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Commitment, however, is more than just punching the clock. Anyone can go through the motions. To me, the most important part of commitment cannot actual be quantified. It is about attitude. You have to be hungry to learn and be doing whatever it takes. If you have that desire, the MBSC internship will provide you with more than enough opportunity. Our day is packed with all sorts of different learning opportunities. Here is an example of my typical fall day.

1. Wake up, do some reading, check e-mails, eat breakfast, shower, yada yada yada.
2. Head into work to grab a workout. While I am working out, some of the senior coaches often give me pointers about what I am doing and offer helpful suggestions about how I can improve. Three days a week, Nicole actually brings us through the athlete’s workout and teaches us not only how to perform the movements ourselves, but importantly, how to coach them correctly.
3. Go to staff meeting. Once a week, we have a 90 minute staff meeting where Coach Boyle talks about different topics, whether it be logistical stuff we need to address or training related topics he wants us to learn. This is the stuff people pay big bucks for. Jealous? You should be.
4. Set up the gym floor to get ready for the athletes.
5. Train athletes. We get an incredibly high volume of people coming through the door every day. Groups begin every 15-30 minutes and groups contain anywhere from 3 people to upwards of 18. There is also a good deal of personal training going on but interns do not generally take these clients. Groups range all the way from young kids with no prior gym experience to advanced athletes to older, overweight adults looking to get in shape. We really see it all, everyday. To top it off, there are experienced coaches all around us showing us the ropes and telling us how we can be better. Talk about the fast track to getting experience.
6. Clean up gym and go home.
7. Shower, eat, read more, go to sleep. Rinse and repeat.

As you can see, the entire day is one giant learning opportunity, if you allow it to be. However, simply putting on the shirt each day and breathing the gym air will not make you a good coach. It’s about putting in the work and getting the most you can out of every opportunity. It’s about pride in what you do. Pride comes from knowing you did your best. When you have pride, you are “living the dream.” I saw a neat picture that relates to this.

Living the dream does not mean life is all peaches and cream. You have to work hard to make your dreams into reality. Dedication, responsibility, education, attitude, and motivation: that’s what it takes to live the dream.

In one sense, it’s hard work. In another sense, it really is not even work at all. At my previous internship in finance, I dreaded going in each day. My day consisted of watching the seconds tick by just counting down until it was time to leave. Now when I wake up, I really can’t wait to go in and the time flies by. I spend a good portion of the day smiling, laughing, and making jokes. It’s not all fun and games by any means, but even the parts that are not so fun are good learning experiences. My “dresscode” is a t-shirt, gym shorts, and sneakers. I listen to music all day and hang out with a bunch of like-minded people. Best of all, I am constantly learning: learning about the logistics of coaching, learning about how a gym operates on a daily basis, learning about different training ideas, learning about injury prevention and rehabilitation, learning about the different facets of the strength and conditioning industry.

Most importantly, I am learning about building relationships. Coaching is so much more than knowing the X’s and O’s. Some of my brightest professors in school were horrible teachers. It is one thing to know something and something entirely different to be able to teach it to someone else. The only way to learn to coach is to coach. I did a ton of reading prior to this internship, but that all went out the window the first time I took a group. We were doing half-kneeling kettlebell presses and the smallest kettlebell we have (8kg) was too heavy for one girl so I asked her to go get a 10 pound dumbbell.

Her response: “What’s a dumbbell?”

Back to the drawing board. I have had many experiences like this so far. I am learning how to coach all sorts of different people with different abilities, ages, injuries, etc. I use each interaction I have as a chance to learn and a chance to build rapport. You cannot learn this stuff in a book. We see such a high volume of people each day that you really see it all. It feels like I have already crammed a year’s worth of experience into just a few months, and it is really just getting started. When I started the internship, I was unsure if I would like it or not. I am already confident about my decision and cannot wait for the next three months. I’m all in.

I will continue to write about my experiences as the internship progresses.