Mastery as a strength and conditioning coach, as in so many fields, can be attributed mostly to knowledge and experience. There is no industry where you are considered an expert from education alone. Strength and conditioning coaching is akin to sport coaching, you develop as an athlete and as an assistant/apprentice coach, your predicted success dependent on the quality of your mentors. Very few coaches are fortunate enough to have more than one world-class mentor, many have none.
Paul Balsom considers himself lucky to have trained alongside and competed against some of the greatest athletes of all time. Competing in track and field, rugby and bobsleigh all at international or professional level meant unprecedented exposure to coaching and conditioning expertise.
From Head of Strength and Conditioning at one of Europe’s top rugby franchises, Gloucester Rugby Football Club at just 31 years old, Paul now has almost twenty years coaching experience in world-class competition. He has helped produce several world champions and Olympic medalists in different sports, and has worked with national governing bodies such as Rugby Canada, National Senior Women’s Team and Canada Skeleton, both programs ranked top three in the world. Paul is Director of Athlete Performance and Coach Development at the Athlete Factory. A role, which has him overseeing the professional development of a team of over 20 conditioning coaches, overseeing the athletic development and results of over 300 athletes, as well as working hands on with some national, Olympic and professional level athletes. Recently he has also been busy consulting with world-class athletes and coaches around the world; including the number one golf swing coach in the world; English Premiership Rugby Teams; skier Jan Hudec, Canada’s first Olympic Alpine medal in twenty years; and, many other international and professional athletes in an abundance of sports.
Power and speed, especially acceleration and change of direction, have always been high on Paul’s priority list as an athlete and as a coach. “One of the most remarkable realizations I made as an athlete was the difference between the best and the rest, especially when it came to acceleration and change of direction. Now I understand just how rare that information is”.
Injury prevention and return to play are two more essential areas of the professional strength and conditioning coach’s role. Understanding injuries from a performance perspective and applying functional movement patterns greatly enhances prevention and rehabilitation. In one year at Gloucester RFC injury stats reduced by over 60% and concussion rates reduced by 80%.
Paul is currently undertaking a Professional Doctorate in Elite Performance at the University of Central Lancashire, England, under world-renowned sports Performance Director Professor Dave Collins. Borrowing from his extensive experience of movement mechanics associated with power, speed and injury prevention, the objective is to research and solve some of the specific challenges practitioners face today.