So this summer I just received my dream internship! I will be interning with EXOS, formerly known as Athlete’s Performance (they changed the name a couple years ago). I’ve been wanting to intern with them for over 2 years now but it wasn’t until I had to do the near unthinkable (what I thought was unthinkable as a junior in college) to actually get a real interview. The things I’ve learned since my cold shoulder last spring have been priceless and poise me now to have a very impactful internship. It’s comparable to crushing on an upperclassman or older person who gives you some attention at first but then stops talking to you all of a sudden (you’re not ready yet). But once you’ve grown up a bit, they come and take you up on your offer for a date. Actually, that’s exactly how it was.
*update: see here for my recap of the EXOS internship
Well how did I discover EXOS? Let me be honest and say that I didn’t know that strength and conditioning or athletic performance coaching was a field until my freshman year of college, as I walked into college thinking my idea of having a physical therapy/sport performance business was innovative. Silly me, young and ignorant. By my junior year I had learned that there are small places that do both, mainly PT’s who did strength training on the side, but nothing major. As I type this, I’m rather baffled at how much I didn’t know, actually, I just face palmed. Not that I was completely off the mark but I couldn’t find the bull’s-eye. One day I sat in my Department Chair’s office, whom many were scared of, she’s a feisty lady, but I always got along with her. I told her my grand idea that I wanted to “create a company that was completely tailored to an athlete’s performance needs.” I wanted to include performance coaches, therapists, nutrition specialists, and for athletes to be able to stay there for extended time periods. The department chair being the wise woman she was, pointed me to none other than, Athlete’s Performance (EXOS). When I went home that day, I become in love with Athlete’s Performance, and a bit jealous Mark Vergesten had the idea first and was probably making my college tuition every week off of it. From then on I knew what I must do, get to AP.
Upon doing research on the company over the next few weeks and learning what it might take to be an intern there, I approached my department chair with a new question: “May I do two internships before graduation?” In Slippery Rock’s Exercise Science program, you must do a 480 hour internship after all of your classes are finished to graduate. I was still a junior with many more classes to complete. Her response was that I can only do an “internship” that could be done without any official paperwork, aka volunteer. My plan was to get some more experience under my belt before I applied to EXOS. By the winter my senior year, I had interned with a small speed and agility business, coached track for 2 years, volunteered with another speed and agility group, and earned my CSCS (making me a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Going into my last semester I thought I was pretty poised to get that internship with them or at somewhere as big such as the Olympic Training Center or National Strength and Conditioning Association. Spending my spring semester working in the weight room (the key that was missing) with our football team and running a renovated bootcamp program at SRU, I thought I was going to be an undeniable candidate. Boy was I wrong. I got told no for even an interview by the US Olympic Training Center, NSCA, and cold shouldered by EXOS. My dreams of interning away from Pittsburgh were dwindling quickly heading into April. My last big (and only) option was the University of Texas, with whom I had a successful interview with and was accepted as a summer intern. I was humbled as I thought I was a big shot and yet so excited to work with the biggest sport program in America. What lesson did I learn? Know your competition…graduate students and know yourself. Welp, Gone to Texas.
Interning in the University of Texas Athletic Performance Center last summer, taught me enough lessons to write many articles on, many of which aren’t about %RMs and VO2max. At Texas, I discovered that those high private performance internships go to graduate students (and sometimes undergrads) with a well-known (nationally known) strength coach as a recommendation to back them up. Oh. The coaches who’ve groomed me are great coaches and men, but names didn’t hold enough weight in the associate world of performance training. In my redeeming year to get into EXOS, I got prepared by…struggling and nearly flunking out of graduate school in one semester. But the #CurveGodz were looking out. I hadn’t really done that bad in parallel with my cohort, but most of the pre-curve grades and emotional battles sure made it feel like I was failing out. After bouncing back over winter break, I went into March leading into my interview with EXOS, with a much upgraded set of experiences including having helped lead a hurdler to the Junior Olympics, coached athletes in another country (Belize), earned my USA Track and Field certification in “track school”, and could clearly talk about mitochondrial biogenesis and force production (aka producing energy cells in muscle and being stronger). I ended my interview with being told I was a strong candidate and upon stepping off of a plane from Philadelphia at the end of Spring Break, I was given the news that I had been accepted as a summer intern. Ooool, kill ‘em! *Hits the dance move*
My takeaway from this is that you must go the extra mile, or in some cases a few thousand, to reach your goal. What’s worth it is rarely ever easy and you must be able to honestly and accurately assess yourself with those who have similar goals and skills as you. That takes diligent research, meeting people, and most importantly, humility. Since being rejected, I had to move 1500 miles to Texas, then go another 1700 miles to Belize, and 500 miles to, from, and in Houston Texas for my USATF certification, just to get this interview and the knowledge to have a great interview and be accepted. Don’t be afraid to put in the work if you really want it.
Now no, I didn’t come to Texas for graduate school or train in Belize to get this internship, but I had realized that once I had a vision, Combat Cut International Performance, I had to take initiative to not be “average” and do things to stand out. I’ve known since my junior year of college that this internship would be helpful and that I must acquire it. Now I need to make the most of it. As one of my favorite coaches in Houston says, “Don’t Be Average”. Go out and be phenomenal. I’d love to hear your stories of overcoming rejection and bouncing back even better, be sure to share below!