Ryan Wood was searching for a graduate program that focused on the science of coaching. He based his decision in part on the positive testimonials from close friends who have earned their graduate degree at WVU. Wood says that WVU has given him a different perspective on the important role he has as a coach in generating the motivation of students and athletes.
What program are you enrolled in at WVU?
Sport Coaching (online)
How did you become interested in this field of study?
I've been a strength and conditioning coach for close to 10 years. I pursued a graduate degree after my undergrad and did not find continuing my education in exercise science to be helpful to my coaching career and I left after a semester. Over the years I have found that the art/science of coaching is severely overlooked in its importance to being a S&C coach. There is a difference in being proficient in a subject area and then being able to efficiently demonstrate that information to other people. With my undergrad being in physical education I started to explore graduate programs that offered more in the way of teacher/coach education which led me to WVU.
What is your current position? Please describe what you do in a typical day.
This is kind of a mixed bag. My full-time job is as a teacher and coach in Fairfax County Public Schools. I work at the high school level where I teach a personal fitness class. The function of the class is to provide a more specific education to high school students who are interested in learning about long term health and fitness from a holistic perspective in order to stay active for life. In conjunction with this, I serve as the school's S&C coach where I work to improve the physical preparation of the student-athletes before and after school. Within the school, I also started and serve as the head coach for our powerlifting team which competes once a year.
I also teach a continuing education class to PE teachers every summer for FCPS. The class brings awareness to the importance of functional movement skills and demonstrates how to teach them in the PE setting.
I am the head S&C coach at a company called SAPT (Strength And Performance Training) owned by Washington Mystics S&C coach, Sarah Walls. I work at SAPT part-time where my focus is guiding our clients in their pursuit of athletic performance and health and wellness. On any given day, I could work with a child as young as seven all the way to an adult in their 70's. Within that range we have youth, adolescent and high school athletes all the way to college athletes. Our clients span a wide demographic from cultural backgrounds, age, gender and past injuries. Lastly, within SAPT I started and am the head coach for our powerlifting team which consists of men and women ranging from their 20s to their 70s.
What is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
What I like the most about my job is teaching people the value of lifelong exercise. I am a firm believer that exercise, especially strength training, brings people together and is the most important piece when forming a holistic approach to health and wellness. My favorite way to facilitate this is by focusing on functional movement skills or functional human movements. I am shown constantly that the best way to get compliance out of clients and students is to show them how to move their bodies correctly meaning I spend the majority of the time teaching people how to correctly squat, push, pull, hinge, carry, jump and run. My biggest enjoyment comes from seeing people be properly progressed through these movements and to see them be excited about getting better at something they never thought they could be good at.
What is the most challenging is coaching and teaching such a wide variety of people. Although it’s challenging, it’s also one of the best parts of my job. I feel I have garnered a unique perspective and a broad base of coaching skills by being able to, in a single day, coach/teach a bunch of 16 year old kids how to squat and then work with high level athletes and powerlifters in their 60s and 70s. Just like life, coaching that wide range of people is context-specific and full of nuances. I find exploring these nuances to be a fun challenge.
Why did you choose WVU?
I wanted to explore coaching education as I feel it is the most useful and most overlooked part of being in the S&C and fitness industry. My mentor Gabriel Naspinski and my best friend Sean Healy went through the program at WVU and spoke highly of it. Lastly, my family and my wife's family are from West Virginia so even through I'm from and live in Fairfax, Virginia, West Virginia has always been my second home. Take me home, country roads.
How does this graduate degree fit in to your life plans?
Honestly, I enjoy what I do both at the high school level and at SAPT. I enjoy working with the wide range of people that I do. I enjoy teaching people how to move better and how to get stronger I have no plans of leaving either unless some opportunity came along that was impossible to turn down. My goal is to simply be a better coach and to facilitate more education to both PE teachers and sport coaches on the importance of functional movement skills and the importance of having a sound S&C program. I think both of these are lacking on many levels from PE to youth sports to high school sports and I would like to provide more education opportunities for teachers and coaches. I feel as if exploring coach education at WVU will give me the tools to better reach that goal.
What have you learned (or are learning) that has made the biggest impact in your work?
Even though I'm still in the early parts of the program, it has left a lasting impression on not only my coaching but myself as well. The two things that stick out to me the most are the importance of the different stakeholders that surround my S&C program and the importance of facilitating motivation. I have severely undervalued the people who surround the programs I'm a part of. The sport coaching program has given me the ability to understand the importance of my principal, administration, faculty, student body, etc. and the role they play in shaping the positive outcomes of what we do in the weight room.
I fully admit that at some points I have done a poor job at facilitating motivation amongst the students, athletes and clients I work with. My thought was always that personal motivation always had to come from within that person and that I couldn't play that big of a role in bringing that out. WVU has given me a different perspective on just how big of a role I play as a coach in generating and shaping that motivation of the people I work with. I am forever grateful for this as it has made the people I work with better and made my job that much better.