The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team High Performance internship program takes some of the brightest students in the country and gives them the tools they need to continue the evolution of sport science while working with the sport's most accomplished athletes. (Photo: Riley Steinmetz/USSA)
PARK CITY, Utah (Oct. 30) - In sports where wins are calculated in hundredths of seconds, athletes need a skilled team to make them Best in the World. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team High Performance staff is constantly innovating and creating new programs to ensure athletic success. The department's internship program takes some of the brightest students in the country and gives them the tools they need to continue the evolution of sport science while working with the sport's most accomplished athletes.
“It's been an eye-opening experience when it comes to sport science and high performance,” intern Bret Kelly said, “You learn a lot in school and undergraduate studies, but when you come here and actually work with some of these athletes, you just learn on a different level.”
The program gives interns the opportunity to not only work with world-class athletes, but also to take responsibility for creating programs and running tests.
“Since day one, they put us in a role. I really got thrown into it,” Alex Bunt said, “It's more just observing the whole time-they trusted us to test World Champions. It's an awesome environment.”
USSA High Performance's integrated staff includes physiologists, strength coaches, dietitians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, sport science/technology and a full-time chef, providing services such as physical testing, athletic development programming, sports medicine and nutrition services, technology research and athlete education. The interns play an integral role in the high performance team.
“The strength and conditioning internship has been a phenomenal opportunity to help educate and develop young, up-and-coming coaches,” said Strength and Conditioning Coach Michael Naperalsky, “The interns get to work with elite-level athletes and see what it takes to prepare for competition on the world stage. It's very fulfilling to help mentor them through the summer. Their hard work with our program has been a tremendous help in preparation for this year's Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.”
The first six weeks of the internship are spent completing an extensive educational curriculum, with lectures, presentations, hands-on skill sessions and practical assessments on a variety of topics. The interns learn about energy systems, measure blood lactate, teach Olympic lifts and progressions, test athletes using a force plate, and refine their coaching and teaching styles while understanding different training philosophies.
“In the beginning, it was a little overwhelming with the amount of information,” Bunt said, “Now, everything is just kind of second nature. It feels good to just understand why we're doing everything. I now have all of this practical exercise physiology knowledge that I can take back to school.”
Once intern coaches have a sound understanding of coaching methods and procedures, they are fully immersed among the staff to coach, test and work with athletes. While the internship is focused on strength and conditioning, it also incorporates facets of physiology, professional development and high performance athletics, with each intern completing a variety of presentations, projects and programming for his or her teams.
“We're working with some of the best coaches in the world,” Bret Kelly said, “After the first month here, I think all of the interns were talking about how much more we had learned than at school. We're definitely on the cutting edge of high performance here and, hopefully, can take that into future jobs.”
With a variety of sports science professionals from all over the world, the high performance staff at the USSA includes individuals from every imaginable background. According to the interns, though, this unique blend of people coming together is part of what makes everything work as well as it does.
“A lot of people have different philosophies on training and come from different backgrounds,” Bricker said, “It's cool to see how they all mesh together, changing and adapting based on what other people are doing. Everyone takes some points from each other and molds it into a new training system.”
While based out of the USSA's Center of Excellence in Park City, UT, the interns also had the opportunity to take part in activities outside of the gym, exploring the area and trying out new sports.
“My first few weeks, getting to know the area, the staff and the athletes-everything was new and exciting,” Kerry Kelly said.
With the Olympic season already underway, the interns are looking forward to seeing the athletes they have worked with aim for gold in Sochi.
“I'm so excited, but I think I'm going to be nervous, too,” Alexandra Stadnik said, “I've become good friends with a few of the athletes so I'm really going to be cheering for them. I'll probably be yelling at the TV or computer screen at work or home. I know it'll be at weird hours because I'm going to want to watch it live.”
“I'm a lot more personally invested in the Games now,” David Bricker said, “It's going to be cool just to know a lot of the athletes that you see competing more personally. It's been great and they've all been really friendly.”
Even though the Games are still months away, though, the interns have already had the opportunity to witness athletic feats that left them impressed.
“I was doing bike tests with some of the nordic combined guys,” Bricker recalled, “They're riding at these amazing numbers while carrying on a conversation.”
Ultimately, the program rewarded the interns for the hard work they put into it. All agreed that they were leaving the USSA with the skillset they needed to take their careers to the next level.
“If you want to be in the strength and conditioning field, then this internship is what you need to do,” Stadnik said, “The USSA and the staff here are leading the country in sports performance technology. You're going to have to work hard and make sacrifices. If I didn't put in the time, I know I would not have gotten out of it everything I wanted to.”
The internship period runs for seven months, from April through October each year, with the application process starting in early January. Successful interns have a strong desire to be a professional strength and conditioning coach, and previous experience with exercise physiology and strength training. To learn more about the USSA High Performance Internship Program, contact Michael Naperalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 USSA High Performance Interns David Bricker Alex Bunt Sherrie Johnson Bret Kelly Kerry Kelly Alexandra Stadnik Brendan Wall