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Leo Tiernan, NADA Athlete/Player Development Coach

Interview: Leo Tiernan
Company: National Athlete Development Academy
Position: Athlete/Player Development Coach


What qualifications do you have? How did you become an Athlete Player/Development Coach?

I studied Exercise and Health in WIT and when I finished I was still unsure of what I wanted to do. Some of my classmates and friends were going on to get their masters in various fields but this option was not possible for me at the time. I was put in contact with Barry Solan, now a friend and colleague who at the time had just begun working with the Laois Senior Footballers. Barry invited me to training to observe and help out with the gym sessions. I learned a lot from working with Barry and soon realized this is what I wanted to do. From there I went on to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association).

I was then fortunate enough to get an internship as a Performance Specialist in Athletes Performance in Phoenix, Arizona. I spent four months at the facility and this where I learned the bulk of the skills required to be an Athlete/Player Development Coach. It was here that I met with Martin Kennedy for the first time. Martin who is the founder and CEO of NADA (National Athlete Development Academy) was in the states with the Dublin Senior Hurlers and came to visit the facility and meet with the coaches.


What does your role within NADA involve? What are your day to day responsibilities?

My role within NADA is to help the athletes and players who come in reach their goals. At the minute I am working with the Dublin U21 Hurlers and the Dublin Ladies Footballers. Both of whom are in preparation for Championship. My responsibilities include periodisation, programme design, implementation of gym sessions, pitch warm ups, conditioning and generally trying to have the players healthy and ready to play. This can be challenging as the demands on GAA players are huge. However, it is a challenge I enjoy and both groups are a pleasure to work with. NADA is also responsible for the coaching of individual athletes and the most recent Inspire Programme has just finished. The Inspire Programme is for players/athletes who may not be involved with a team to come in for coaching twice a week. I also have been working with a tennis player who is having great success at underage level.

A typical day for me may start at 5.00am if I have a gym session at 6.ooam. Most of my coaching is either done before or after normal working hours. Depending on the day, I may have more coaching during the day or else I would catch up on some reading, it is important to keep up with the latest research and improve your coaching knowledge every day. I may also have to put together some new programmes or training plans. If there was a pitch session scheduled for that night I would also prepare for that. I would also interact with the management and physiotherapist in relation to training and the status of injured players.


What skills are needed to be an Athlete/Player Development Coach?

A good work ethic is a must. You must be passionate about training and genuinely want to help others. It also helps if you have some experience of playing sport so that you understand what an athlete/player is going through. You must be able to communicate well as there are up to thirty players on a panel, that means there are thirty different personalities in which you have to work with and try get the best out of each one. It is important to have excellent knowledge of the human body and how it works. Some coaches may disagree but I feel it is very important to practice what you preach. I would not prescribe a programme to an athlete without completing it myself. If you can demonstrate an exercise to an athlete with good form it will make it easier for them to learn the movement.


What do you find fulfilling about your role?

I love being involved with teams as I enjoy the competitive environment. It is very fulfilling when the team does well and just the fact that you can see the players/athletes improving in the gym week by week.


Why would you recommend being an Athlete Player/Development Coach as a career path?

I would recommend it if you genuinely have a huge interest in sport and training. The industry is constantly growing and it is a very rewarding industry to be involved in.