New Strength and Conditioning coach helping athletes raise the bar
Bowen Assman interviewed Josh Crouse on February 4, 2019.
BA: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to StFX?
JC: Okay perfect. Well I grew up in the south shore of Nova Scotia playing a lot of different sports, however hockey and volleyball were my primary focus. In grade 12, I was offered the chance to play volleyball at the University in New Brunswick. After two years there I found it just wasn’t really a good fit for me, so I ended up transferring to Acadia University. While at Acadia I took part in the exercise physiology program. Part of the program included a practical component where we were required to get so many hours of volunteer service within different areas of exercise physiology. One of the areas within the practicum that really sparked my interest was Strength & Conditioning. It was then that I discovered my passion for training athletes. I graduated from Acadia in 2015 and was actually hired upon graduation. It was kind of right place at the right time as the guys role who I filled ended up moving on to work for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. He’s now doing his PhD over in New Zealand working with professional level athletes. Needless to say he was a pretty cool guy to learn from. After graduation I worked at Acadia for three years under the guidance of Elliott Richardson who is the head Strength & Conditioning coach there. While at Acadia I worked with volleyball, both basketball teams, swim and cross country as well as ran a private business and was the Assistant Coach of the Women’s Volleyball team. In June the job opened up here and I decided to take a stab at it and I’ve been here since July.
BA: As the head Strength and Conditioning coach here, do you work with every single team?
JC: I work with all 12 teams here. So, around 350 athletes.
BA: I was talking to a rugby player, and they usually would have volunteer coaches or the head coach would do their Strength & Conditioning. Now, it’s just all through you?
JC: It’s all through me. Yeah. So basically, in the past, I think there was, five or six teams that were working with the strength coach previously. But when I got here, I made it a priority to make sure I was looking after all 12 teams. In the past, not all 12 teams were training. So now all 12 teams are training in the weight room up to four times every week.
BA: Do you have any goals of starting up a private performance training business here?
JC: Yes, we actually have already started a little bit of a private business. We have six kids right now that train with us that are from Dr. J.H. Gillis. And then we have a few others who are coming from away as well. Right now, we only work with them twice a week. But my goal is when we get a new facility is to grow this business. Now, this summer we will be starting to train a lot more youth athletes from the surrounding areas, and then maybe a few professional athletes as well on top of our StFX athletes that stick around for the summer.
BA: Are you looking forward to any changes or improvements to our current strength and conditioning program here?
JC: Yeah, for sure. I guess I just started here in July. So I didn’t want to change too much too quick. My number one goal when I got here was to get every athlete training and we’ve succeeded at that after the first semester. I guess the next goal is just to try to get a little bit better at everything. I really want to try and grow the internship program. We currently have 12 interns, and then I have an assistant Ian McNeil who helps me with football, rugby and our private business. Right now we have at least one intern with every single team. Now my goal is to get that to two, I’d like to have one senior intern and one junior intern. So junior being a first or second year and then senior being a third, fourth or fifth year. Right now, our internship is predominantly made up of males however I want females to feel more comfortable getting involved with strength and conditioning. In the past, my female interns have often been some of my best interns.
BA: Do you work in conjunction with the athletic therapists?
JC: Yes, for sure. This is one thing that I also want to develop is more of a Integrated Sport Science team (ISST) within our athletic department where strength & conditioning, therapy and sport nutrition can work together as more of a unit.
When I first got here, everyone was kind of doing their own thing in a sense. I think we’ve done a better job of opening up communication and making sure that we’re working together because in order for an ISST to be successful, we all need to be on the same page in order to make sure our student-athletes have the best experience.
BA: That internship program started just this year?
JC: Actually, no, the previous strength coach started the internship program. There was seven interns when I first got here. So we have five more now. It was a good starting point but there is definitely room to grow.
BA: So the goal is to have each intern specialize in a sport?
JC: Sort of. Basically, I’d like to have it kind of like the therapy program where you have two or three people with every single team so that way they can be there for the day-to-day logistics. Right now, our interns only mainly help in the weight room. But I’d like to have them be at practices and games so they can run warm-ups, cooldowns, and perform recovery or return to play work on the sidelines with injured athletes.
BA: With the success this year of the football, cross country and rugby team, what part or what role do you think you played?
JC: I mean, I’ve only been here for a couple months so I definitely can’t take credit for their success. However, we have made some significant changes in the day-to-day logistics of the athletes training schedules and recovery.
BA: But you notice any changes?
JC: I’ve had a lot of really good feedback from the athletes and coaches thus far. The biggest thing I want to do is help the athletes realize their potential. Before, I think there wasn’t a lot of understanding on how to take care of their bodies day-to-day. In my opinion that can be the small difference between an athlete being good versus being great. You have to learn how to do all those little things on the side when no one’s watching. So that’s my goal is to be able to help our athletes understand how much work it takes in order to get to an elite level. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some pretty high-end athletes and that’s the biggest difference I notice, is they all do the little things extremely well.
BA: Do you think being a recent graduate from university helps you relate to athletes?
JC: That’s the big thing for me is I was in their situation not that long ago. So, I find it easy to communicate and relate with our student-athletes. There’s a lot of coaches out there that played say, 20, 30 or 50 years ago, and now coach. Things have changed significantly in the last 10 or so years so it can sometimes be challenging for these coaches to be able to understand and communicate with today’s athletes. Now granted, I’m not saying they can’t coach because they most definitely can but it’s definitely easier for me being fresh out of school.
I find the biggest change is the day-to-day stuff on how busy and distracted we are now, as student athletes. It can be really challenging to get things done as well as stay on top of the social pressure that is now placed on today’s generations. One thing I often hear and was guilty of saying myself is, “I don’t have time”. However, there’s always a way it’s just a matter of being organized and making it a priority to manage your time efficiently.
BA: Do you help the athletes with time management?
JC: Yeah, I mean, I will have a lot of athletes pop in to my office every day, whether it’s just to chat or ask a question. I make it a priority to get to know the athletes and make sure that I take the time to have those conversations with them. Because a lot of times, they come in with some really good questions. And it’s important that you kind of guide them through the process. For example, I’ll have a lot of athletes that come in and want to talk about nutrition. Often the first thing I’ll ask them is how many meals they’ve had today or the day before. Often times they will say one or two and I tell them how they need to get to four or five. The first thing they usually say is “I don’t have time” so what I do is sit them down and show them where they can fit these meals into their personalized schedule and also discuss how they can purchase more affordable options in order to understand that it is possible. Our sport nutrition team has done a really good job of getting the information out there now, and they are in constant contact with the athletes. This has helped me a lot, as it takes that stress off of me to do the nutrition education as well.
BA: Okay great. you have anything else to say?
JC: I guess the big thing would be giving a couple shout-outs and thank yous because I wouldn’t be able to do this without help. Although, I’m the only one under contact it’s not a one-person job by any means. My assistant Ian Macneil and my interns Jordan, John, Ryan, Bo, Liam, Jenna, Keegan, Kieran, Taylor, Syahrul, Dave, Iris & Blake have all played a huge role in making this happen. It takes a team effort, and they’ve all been great helping me through my first year. I’d also like to thank the athletes, coaches and rest of the athletic department as well. They have made the transition for me very easy.
They have been very open and receptive to feedback and criticism as they all just want to get better just like me. There are some times where you walk in as a new guy and it can take a while to earn your place, but everyone here has been very welcoming since the day I got here and I thank them for that.