Former student, Anton Matinlauri from Finland is an alumni of UCAM Sports Management University’s MSc in High Performance Sports: Strength and Conditioning program.
Anton is now working as a fitness coach with the professional Finnish football club, HJK Helsinki. He was able to answer a few questions about his experience in the Master's in High Performance Sports program and his current success after graduation.
Anton, what brought you to pursuing a career in high performance sports?
I have grown up always playing sports, especially football. Thus, it was quite logic I will find myself working with sports later in life. Obviously a lot of things have played a part in the route that I have chosen and what has happened at each part of my life up to this point working with HJK Helsinki in Finland.
What brought you to working where you are today? Was it an internship, contacts, UCAM’s HPS program?
I think the decision to take the chance to study my bachelor’s degree in USA has had the biggest impact on why I have chosen a career in high performance sport. With great opportunity there to learn from top class professors in a great university environment got me hooked on the profession. Finally the internship experience of working with the professional football team San Jose Earthquakes in MLS (Major League Soccer) for one season after graduating confirmed for me that this is the profession I want to work hard toward. Studying my Master’s at UCAM was therefore a logical next step as I wanted to continue my career in relation with football rather in Europe than the USA, for which the master’s program was a great opportunity that also further opened the door for me to experience working with the Sevilla FC 1st team as an intern for the 2015-2016 season, and later with Catapult Sports and HJK Helsinki.
Where are you currently employed and what is your current role? What is a typical day like for you on the job?
I currently work at HJK Helsinki football club in my hometown of Helsinki, Finland. My current role is the 1st team’s fitness coach at the club, overseeing the 1st team performance along with which I collaborate with the academy staff and coaches to build up the high performance culture at the club.
What is your philosophy as a fitness coach of high performance athletes?
I think describing philosophy is quite hard or even some cases misleading, as I think every work place, country and athlete is different and you must respect that as a coach. Working culture is very different in the USA than Spain, Finland being somewhere in between, which you must take into account in your working philosophy and learn from.
Nevertheless, I obviously have certain things I believe in in my work, from which #1 is that I look into developing myself as a coach and person each workday. Another big part of my way of coaching is that I believe no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care about them. Thus, I try to understand and know the players I work with before thinking of science. When it comes to high performance from a more scientific side, I believe in doing the basics as well as possible at first, and then adding in smaller scientific details. For example, I first prefer to teach the athlete to squat correctly with right mechanics before measuring the velocity of the propulsive phase. Same comes to nutrition and recovery, I prefer to have the athlete first understand and have success in eating well and sleeping well before guiding them to wear compression socks or asking them to drink beetroot juice. Obviously, coaching in elite level sports requires a lot of compromises, thus, things are never that simple and you must try to decide what is the best option for each situation even it’s not always what you want.
What attracted you to UCAM’s High Performance Master’s? What was the most valuable experience you took from this program and what has helped you most in your transition from student to high performance trainer?
I often make my decisions based on intuition and coming to UCAM was one of them. I was working with the San Jose Earthquakes and was looking into different options regarding a master’s degree. As that I point I had spent 5 years in the USA and was really keen on working with football, so I thought of looking into different options in Europe from which UCAM had the Master’s in High Performance Sports which looked interesting along with living in Spain and Murcia that offered the chance of both living under the sun, learning Spanish and being close to elite football. I decided to apply only to UCAM and was finally accepted.
I think there were several good things that together made the experience valuable. To name the most important, I think the great international professors, great classmates from different backgrounds, an interesting master’s thesis research project, collaboration with Catapult Sports and finally the opportunity that arise with Sevilla FC 1st team as an intern surely made a combination. A big thanks goes also to Dr. Pedro Alcaraz at UCAM who had an influence on many of these things, Dr. Daniel Cohen for a great help with the master’s thesis project that was a success, along which I must also thank Dr. Moises de Hoyo Lora at Sevilla FC, who gave me the opportunity to join the club.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your personal story and your experiences?
I think the opportunity to work with Sevilla FC 1st team as an intern for 2015-2016 season while winning Europa League surely was one. Also the opportunity to work as a sport scientist with Catapult Sports for elite football teams, such as RSA Anderlecht, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Bordeaux, LOSC Lille surely calculates high in my book. And ultimately of course being responsible for performance in the biggest and best club in Finnish football is a phenomenal challenge that I also hope will be some sort of success.