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ACE master's grad expands athlete development career

For Nolan Harvath, being on the field and surrounded by sports was the ideal life. He grew up playing soccer and decided that he wanted to prepare for the college recruitment process.

To get in the quality of shape that college coaches expected, he needed to dedicate his time to training. What he didn’t realize was how much he would enjoy the process of strength and conditioning training drills.

“I realized that if I could get stronger and really develop my conditioning, it would give me the best opportunity to earn a scholarship,” Harvath said. “That is when I began reading any strength and condition material I could get my hands on.”

The Fairmont, WV native earned a spot on the University of Southern Indiana men’s soccer team. He received his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science in 2013.

“Through undergrad, the more exercise science classes I took, the more I realized how to implement the classroom knowledge into my own training,” Harvath said. “I realized the capabilities of the human body to respond to a stimulus and force the desired adaptations that were sought after.

“To me this was amazing. This is when I realized I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach and share my passion with other athletes who had the same desire to push their bodies to reach their athletic potential,” Harvath said.

Harvath earned his master’s degree from WVU in Athletic Coaching Education with an emphasis in Human Performance in 2016. He credits the faculty, especially Dr. Kristen Dieffenbach, with helping him find his passion.

“[Dieffenbach’s] zeal for coaching and teaching aspiring coaches was contagious,” Harvath said. “She understood what coaching was all about and was able to help differentiate between what the literature says about coaching and the real-world application of coaching. 

“She always encouraged us to think on a much higher level and analyze and critique every aspect of athlete development. She gave us the tools necessary to focus on the big picture first, rather than the short term immediate success that most coaches are so focused on,” Harvath said.

In addition to faculty, Harvath appreciated what he learned in the classroom and acknowledged that the topics were in-depth and focused on long-term athlete development.

“CPASS prepared me for my career through the comprehensive and well-versed curriculum,” Harvath said. “The program covers everything an aspiring coach needs: coaching theory, movement analysis, psychology, strength and conditioning, legal issues in sport and research. All of these are vital components and tools every aspiring coach needs to be equipped with to have a high level of success,” he said.

As a master's student, Harvath was hired by Morgantown High School to work as the graduate assistant head strength and conditioning coach. He oversaw Men's and Women's basketball, baseball, Men's and Women's soccer, track and cross country, wrestling and volleyball, along with the football conditioning program design and implementation. 

During his time working with the Mohigans, he connected with Zach Boone, the current strength coach at Ole Miss University, who was working with Morgantown High at the time. Boone, a fellow graduate of the master’s program, served as a mentor and graduate assistant for the Mohigans during Harvath’s time in Morgantown.

After his work with Morgantown High’s athletic department, Harvath then became a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Condition Coach while working with WVU’s football team. He is also a Certified Physical Preparation Specialist.

In 2018, he was hired by Glenville State College, Glenville, WV, as the director of strength and conditioning.

“My responsibilities are to develop comprehensive strength and conditioning programs and coach every lifting session for all 15 athletic teams that the college offers,” Harvath said.

Harvath's advice for future athletic coaching students is to find literature of interest. Although reading up on the status of the field is important, Harvath also stressed the use of practical experience on the sidelines and in weight rooms.

“Whatever your passion is in this field, find supplemental reading material and learn as much as you can,” Harvath said. “Most importantly, however, get as much practical application of your passion as possible. There is no greater learning tool than applying all of the insight you are gathering.”

Although practical application is crucial, Harvath went a step further and credited writing plans down to improve and hone in on training aspects.

“Don't forget to document and track everything you do,” Harvath said. “Coaching is a science. You have ideas and theories that might work and you develop a strategy of how to implement them. The only way you know if it is going to work or not is based off experimentation. 

“So, when it is successful you want to have the formula/process documented so it can be enhanced and repeated,” he said.

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