The Internship


I’ve had this idea for over a year now and it’s about time I made it a reality.  Originally I was going to build a website specifically for the task, but as its not as important as my paid job and my workload is forever increasing, in the words of Seth Godin I just need to get on and “ship”.

Seth Godin

The basic idea of this thread is to write a weekly post and discussion aimed at up and coming coaches who may or may not have an internship already and are looking for some extra direction and thought around practical application of S&C.  If you intend to follow, I actively encourage you to comment and hassle me each week to engage in good discussion and make sure I keep to my commitment!

Experience isn’t everything but it sure counts for a lot. Whilst I can’t provide experience online, I can give similar guidance I gave to previous interns and provide a structured development path that many internships simply don’t offer.  I’ll never imply that I know everything and still consider myself young in my career as a coach.  The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t yet know and am sure my coaching will forever be evolving.  However I am very happy to hold a lead role with a National team and my experiences of how I got here are still pretty fresh; so I feel like I’m in a fairly good position to try and help others get ahead too.

the more you learn

Last year I was fortunate enough to have 2 volunteers help me as I led the Strength & Conditioning at Worthing Raiders RFC in National 1.  The roles were part time and unpaid – I won’t devote a post entirely to the controversial topic of unpaid internships but for now I will mention that I believe they’re necessary (for the moment) and I’m sure you’ll get a better understanding of my stance below:

Unfortunately whilst sport is continually becoming more professional there aren’t enough jobs to support the ever-growing abundance of “wanna-be” S&C coaches.  Whilst there is a lot of money in some sports, for the majority, budgets are very tight and to pay an extra pair of hands is hard to justify when so many are willing to do it for free.

Secondly, coaching experience is the single most important thing in making you a better coach.  Just like playing sport, a musical instrument or computer programming, accumulate your 10,000 hours and you will be a better coach.  Everyone’s got to start somewhere and with so many coaches already ahead of you, in relation to unpaid internships think of your pay as the necessary experience you need to learn and develop as you practice your skills as a coach.  In one of the next few posts I’ll discuss the pros and cons of personal training for S&C coaches too.

So, quickly to mention that I accumulated 3 years of unpaid internships with professional rugby clubs before securing a paid position.  Before and during that time, I also gained as much experience as I could with individual professional athletes and amateur rugby clubs with the view that the experience was reward enough.  I don’t believe that just because I, like many coaches before me went through the unpaid roles of gaining experience, that means that others should have to do the same.  I do understand that some people are more fortunate than others and unpaid roles are certainly better suited to individuals who’s families/parents can support them during this time.  However, speaking from experience, it is possible for those who have no support to work their arses off and do it if they really want; and it is those coaches whom I believe will be the most successful, as they’re the ones who really learn the value of hard work which they will carry forth into their lives and pass on to their athletes.  There’s a great coach, Nick Gallagher, who’s now in charge of the Academy S&C at London Irish.  I swear he used to be at the training ground first and the last one to leave, 5 or 6 days a week, he was the hardest working guy at the club and all he got for it was the odd protein shake.  He gave up every spare evening to work with the Academy and supported himself by working in a clothes shop on Sundays and the evenings he wasn’t at the club.  Come the end of the season, its safe to say he earnt the role he holds now.

“He who rises before dawn 360 days of the year, never fails to make his family rich”

I learnt an incredible amount from my times as an intern and am extremely grateful to top coaches such as Lee Eldridge and Rob Palmer for giving me such opportunities.  Also to Rich Husseiny for encouraging and helping me start my journey many years ago, both he and Lee remain in my close network of coaches who I still speak with regularly.

However from my knowledge and experience of various “internships”, like many things in the world, they can always be better. Regardless of monetary reward (or food in most cases), I believe there should be:

  • Set learning outcomes,
  • A gradual increase in roles and responsibilities,
  • Regular opportunities for discussion and questioning to understand practice and philosophies,
  • Plenty of opportunity to practice coaching skills, pushing the intern’s development,
  • A contract outlining the agreement, signed by both parties.

Here’s a copy of the document I used with my interns last year:

Raiders’ Internship

So that’s what I aim to provide through this blog thread. I’ll start by writing about ways to get ahead, network and commit yourself to personal development.  Then I plan to cover a broad range of sports and topics including rugby, diving and skiing as that’s where the majority of my experience lies; as well as my own particular areas of interest such as speed & agility training, sports psychology and many more.

Smart coaches like Brendan Chaplin, Nick Grantham and Keir Wenham-Flatt understand how difficult it is to get a job and are now providing seminars/mentorships/books on how to do so.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all three and can tell you they’re all great guys with a lot of knowledge that I’m sure you can learn a lot from.  I have no intention of charging for this service, let’s just see if it gets much interest and if people find it as useful as I hope it will be.

Thanks for reading and good luck.



Filed under Development, Strength & Conditioning, The Internship

2 responses to “The Internship

  1. Trevor Christian

    Hi Matt

    I was very inspired by many of the articles I have read on your site and I am looking to make connections with other S&C coaches to share ideas and accelerate my development as a coach.
    I look forward to hearing form you soon.

    Kindest regards

    Trevor Christian BSc ASCC

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