Sports Coaching Lecturer: Jon Cooper - Expert Of The Week

Sports Coaching Lecturer: Jon Cooper - Expert Of The Week

We showcase a top practitioner in the industry as we want you to get an inside scoop on what they do and how they do it. We always aim to give you access to the best information from the people who own it!!

This week we are talking to Jon Cooper, an Associate Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Southampton Solent University.


A bit about Jon:

As a teenager, Jon was swept away with the sailing bug after heading out on his grandpa’s boat around the solent. Competing in Leicestershire and on the National sailing circuit, studying a BSc in sport science and interning within professional sport, led Jon on his path to becoming a Strength & Conditioning (S&C) Coach for Olympic Sailors, conducting training all over Europe with athletes from several nations.

As well as having completed a MSc in Athletic Development & Peak Performance, Jon is a ‘Senior Sailing Instructor’, ‘Strength & Conditioning Specialist’, ‘PowerBoat Instructor’ & has kicked it with the Crystal Palace Football Team! Something you wouldn't know, is that this guy also has bought, read & given out so many copies of Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Alchemist’, he should be a stockist!


Hey Jon, how long have you been an associate lecturer in sports coaching for?

I started lecturing in Jan 2017. I got this role after completing my MSc and being on the professional sailing circuit for a few years as a coach.


How did you get started in sports coaching?

As a teenager learning to sail, I started to help out on youth and adult sailing courses with basic instructing of techniques on how to steer around a course, basic manoeuvres and how to begin racing. At that time I was taking part in national competitions in places like Plymouth, Bridlington, Carsington & Penzance so this experience directly helped.

After Uni, I felt like I had the basic knowledge of the biomechanics, physiology and the psychology of sport but I really wanted to have experience in applying high performance coaching and S&C. Luckily, I managed to gain a role as a Sports Science and S&C Intern for Crystal Palace Football Club in their 2012/13 championship season.


What was interning at CPFC like?

Interning gave me a great introduction to what professional coaching could be like in sport, around full-time athletes where every day mattered. I was helping to make decisions for athletes in their training plans based on heart-rate monitoring, osmolality testing, pre-habilitation routines and cardiovascular fitness monitoring. Working closely in the gym with footballers such as Danny Gabbidon, Aaron Wilbraham and Yannick Bolasie taught me a lot about putting the player first and working within a high performance environment. 

One thing I have learnt over my experience is how important it is in coaching to ‘read’ and understand your athlete, something I fully embraced as a Strength & Conditioning Coach for Sail Coach. Here, I was coaching professional sailors from countries such as Moldova, Bahrain, Egypt and South Africa (who didn’t have national governing bodies for sailing) who were aiming for the Rio 2016 games. Moving around the European Sailing circuit, I prepared the sailors for competitions, monitored athletes’ training & physiological tests and provided individualised strength & conditioning sessions with them.


What does a day in the life of a Strength & Conditioning Coach for professional sailors look like?

I’ve written a little bit about this for anyone interested in a career in sports coaching but essentially at the off-season base camps in Lake Garda, Valencia & Malta, we would coach the athletes on the water 5x a week, plus provide them with daily strength & conditioning sessions in the gym, or sometimes on the beach! As sailing is such an individualised sport, I set up pre-habilitation warm ups with the whole squad but develop individualised training programmes with each athlete so that their strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness was on point for achieving the best possible result in competitions.

There was a lot of fitness testing and analysing how my interactions with the athletes was helping them achieve their aims, there was a lot of adapting programs depending on the weather and being tactical with recovery sessions. On the more practical side of things, I drove more on the ‘international’ side of the road than ever before when planning athlete's travel throughout Europe with their boats in tow.
I loved coaching the sailors, and seeing them achieve great results when competing, including watching a few athletes compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, was a huge bonus.

Want to know where's good to sail in Europe? Have a read here.


What is your wellness philosophy?

Practice what you preach! As a coach I aim to be strong enough & technically able to demonstrate the exercises I’m trying to coach someone to do. I’m not so focused on being the biggest or strongest person in the room, I’m also not there to compete with the athletes I’m training. That would be a mistake! I also make sure that I have tried a training session or exercises before conducting it with an athlete. I do this because like to know what the training session feels like, where it's going to hurt and how much it is going to hurt, so I know how to coach it effectively.


As a Coach you often hear me saying:

‘Posture’ & ‘Breathe’!!! I have found that athletes tend to focus on the outcome of a lift but they might struggle or lose technique, typically within their posture. Also, when you're pushing hard, we can all forget to breathe. Sailing is a predominantly aerobic sport so you need to be able to maintain posture, stiffness, muscle tension whilst still being able breath.


If you could only do 3 exercises, what would they be?

Ooh, that's hard to choose. Definitely a deadlift.

A 45 degree leg press with free weights that you can load up.
A bent over row to top it off.


What’s your favourite pre-workout breakfast?

Scrambled eggs on toast with Philadelphia & a banana or strawberry yoghurt. Plus a black coffee!


Top tips for motivation?

Athletes I’ve worked with are very self motivated and if they buy into their training program, they’ll do it! There's no need for me to be Mr Motivator, I just need to be there technically for them. I would make sure I match my attitude and energy to fit the athlete, how they are feeling and the aims of their session, so if you're training for max strength today and it looks like they could safely do another 4 reps, then yeah, go for it. But if it's a recovery session and you're there trying to beast them into more reps, you could risk injuring them.


What 3 songs are on your workout playlist?

I’m mostly listening to Don Bronco ‘Everybody’, Guns & Roses ‘ Welcome to the Jungle’; or for a hard session or a big lift Metallica ‘ Hardwired’. These songs usually wake me up and give enough motivation for the gym.


If I wasn’t a Lecturer / Strength & Conditioning Coach / Sailing Coach, I’d be:

I’d love to race in Formula 1. Actually I’d BE Jenson Button.


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