Unlocking Athletic Potential: An Exclusive Conversation with Strength and Conditioning Coach Dr. Apurva Mathankar


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Meet Dr. Apurva Mathankar, a distinguished Strength and Conditioning Coach and Physical Therapist renowned for her exceptional contributions to the world of sports. With a deep-rooted passion for athlete development and injury prevention, Dr. Apurva has become a guiding force in the field of sports conditioning.

Dr. Apurva’s expertise lies in crafting specialized rehabilitation programs tailored to the unique needs of athletes, ensuring a seamless return to sports after injury. As a specialist in Return to Sports (RTS) protocols, she possesses a keen understanding of the intricate balance between rehabilitation and sports-specific training.

For individuals interested in availing sessions from her can reach out to her at: https://linktr.ee/dr.apurva_mathankar

or her Instagram profile at: https://www.instagram.com/dr.apurva_mathankar/

In her role as the Director of Education at NSCA India, Dr. Apurva is not just a practitioner but also an educator, dedicated to advancing the knowledge and skills of professionals in the industry. Her commitment to enhancing sports science education has made her a respected figure among athletes and peers alike.

Join us as we delve into a conversation with Dr. Apurva Mathankar, where she shares insights, experiences, and invaluable wisdom gained from her years of dedicated work with athletes. Discover the secrets behind her successful approach to sports conditioning and injury prevention, and gain inspiration from her passion for empowering athletes to achieve their full potential.

Tell us how your journey started as a S&C coach and your background in this field. Also let us know of your relevant professional experiences working with athletes or sports teams.

I am a Physiotherapist and S&C coach with specialization in Sports. I assist athletes in recovering their pre-injuring status and enhance their performance so that they can do better than what they were doing before getting injured. This is our vision with which we work towards for other athletes.

This other segment is from an educational perspective where we have a Pioneer Body for Strength and Conditioning. All the coaches are required to possess CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) certification which are taken care of by us in India.

Tell us more about NSCA.

It’s a world standardized organization from the US for Strength and Conditioning and Sports Fitness.

NSCA India is being headed by me as an International Coordinator for all the activities and movements happening in India and Asia overall. NSCA has a Gold Standard of CSCS required by every S&C coach to practice in this area worldwide.

We cater such courses and programs in India. We are presently available in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. I believe this space had a big loophole earlier where the coaches provided guidance on technicalities of the game, but failed to groom athletes physically and get them mentally ready. This is where we come in and try to bridge this knowledge gap through our courses and programs.

Your suggestions for the upcoming generation on how they can mark their career in their domain and what should be their plan.

I would highly recommend to the aspirants who are genuinely interested in sports to pursue this as their career. As this field is for someone who is a lot passionate about training athletes, high-performance training and working on their injuries on a regular basis. Being a S&C Coach is a wonderful opportunity as it is quite glamorous nowadays.

When we started in our days, people used to ask us the difference between S&C and Personal Trainer. That’s the era we have witnessed and so we have come a long way in this industry. It is not a cakewalk, so making the right decision in career is very crucial.

Training a general public and athletes is quite different, as one needs to be very mindful of providing them with the right balanced programs and answering their genuine questions.

CSCS is the basic certification one needs to pursue, for which one should have a fundamental knowledge of human anatomy and human body. The exam is quite challenging with a pass percentage of 60-70% all over India. So one needs to put in a lot of effort and have sound basics to complete it. Upon completion of this course, there are a number of opportunities lying in India, especially with the current booming sports industry.

So depending on one’s experience, passion and knowledge one can choose from type of training or specific specialization in one sport. It is a sustainable field I believe but one needs to put in extra efforts, as it is not so structured in our country yet unlike medical or other corporate industries.

So you earlier mentioned one need not have any degree, though fundamental knowledge on the human body is imperative..

One needs to have a bachelor’s degree in any program as that is a basic requirement to get in this field.

To get into NSCA on the other hand, an interview is conducted after which an entrance examination is conducted. We shortlist a number of students from the exam and that’s how the course begins. The selection happens twice a year.

NSCA CSCS is conducted globally by US headquarters and entrance examination is conducted by us.

Coming back to our previous question, how did it all start personally for you? Since childhood you had a passion for the human anatomy and the sports world or did you develop it in a later stage?

Physiotherapy was my first choice during my bachelors, since I possessed a passion for this domain at a very young age. Always wanted to indulge in a career where I could make a difference in the lives of those around me.

My passion for sports motivated me to choose a field, where I could contribute towards the growth of my country. Upon completion of my postgrad, I decided to opt for a field that was aggressive and challenging. Clinical oriented practice was not meant for me, which made me explore opportunities and go for a personal trainer certificate from a local academy.

Here I got to know multiple aspects of human anatomy and started Physiotherapy as a side gig and started to train athletes from a fitness perspective, so this is how it all started.

I started working to return to the sport, which is still lacking in our country. Physiotherapists take care of their day to day performance while S&C take them directly into hard performances. I started working towards that aspect and was enjoying it.

Eventually I got to know about NSCA USA and brought them to India and began their specific training here.

Share with us on your long-term vision. You earlier mentioned about conducting robust training and programs under this academy, could you tell us a bit more?

Training is under SCA, which is Strength and Conditioning Academy. Though we are rebranding and will be upgrading it in times to come.

So if a fast bowler has an ACL injury, and if he was bowling at 135 kmps prior to the injury, then after completion of his rehab and returning to sport with us, we aim to help him reach 135-145 kmps.

That’s what we aim for with our program. We consider injury as an opportunity to make your body even more stronger, and resilient, and that’s our vision for all our athletes.

As an academy, is it all physical training Or, there is also a digital element to it too?

We get all professional athletes who are based all around the world.

The initial part of consultancy is done online for them to open up and relax. Once we start with speed training or explosive training, they fly down to Mumbai for 10 days or so. Frequency is around one or two sessions/day depending on the caliber of the athlete, and then again go back online when matches are about to start.

So it’s like providing Hybrid training to the athletes. Athletes based in Mumbai come down here everyday. We help them become independent and understand their body better. We don’t depend on any technology for this part but believe in typical traditional processes. Not much has changed when it comes to body behaviors and analysis.

Are there situations where an athlete is going through a physical injury, as well as a mental battle? How to ensure that recovery is optimum in those cases?

My strategy is simple where I keep things quite transparent. We keep them informed of the issue they are facing and the time it will take them to recover.

Even if we give a simple stretch, they are put to knowledge in detail on how it will help them deliver a better result or faster recovery from injury. The adherence from the athletes is quite high owing to this, and if they tune their body and mind, I feel that the results are much faster and efficient.

Every athlete is actually conscious after each session, on which muscle we have worked on and how it is going to help them perform better. Hence, I believe mental and physical strength go hand-in-hand.

Have you come across athletes who are resistant to change and still sticking to their old training sessions? How do you deal with them and convince them to switch to your plan for better results?

Professional players already have strategies for winning their game and to convince them to switch those strategies is not something that works. So we understand their thought process, provide our reasonings and come in between to a mutual understanding and try a different perspective. This switch is normally done during off seasons Or pre seasons and not between the game. For badminton athletes for instance we add something for footwork and they are rigid sometimes. So we ask them to try for a match, record it and seek their opinion on how their experience was, in comparison to the previous matches. If the results are in our favor we try to convince them to change, and if not then we adopt different methods to help them.

Has there ever been a contradiction with their coach over their practice sessions and the methods you suggest them on applying?

No, there has never been any contradiction with coaches as our boundaries are very clear. Coaches are excellent at techniques and S&C is good for understanding the players performance, making their body better so they can apply techniques better in the field of play.

We always consult the coaches to understand where they feel the athlete is lacking so that we can work together to help them deliver better results. We work together quite well and very aligned as our end goal and agenda is the same.

Tell us about your team like Dr. Apurva? How is the structure and what are the logistics around? Do you also have a proper training facilities center?

I guide my team based on the athletes’ performance. We discuss the issues that need to be worked on in an athlete and accordingly respective teams start helping on them in that area.

For physical sessions we are all in the same room. Whereas online, athletes take appointments online and we assign one of our members for one athlete.

My team consists of S&C professionals and are quite well-versed. Mostly all my team is quite aware of all the athletes training under our organization. Yes, in Mumbai we have a proper gym and a studio where assessments and everything is done. We follow a very rigid procedure here at the campus in Mumbai.

As per your expertise, how is the future shaping for this industry with latest technologies coming in and how do you think it will evolve?

I believe the future of this industry is quite bright.

We need some objective measurements and data points about our athletes. Technology gives us the opportunity to measure what is lacking from a process and human anatomy perspective. We need human expertise to interpret the data and decide how to decrypt, and simplify it for our players. That is something, no one can replace.

There is an asymmetry between the right leg and left leg power generation but to train that requires a certified expert and an AI tool is unable to do so. As every athlete is different and every body is different, things have to be individualized and that’s where we come in.

So the technology is there to support human intelligence but cannot replace them.

Your insights on sports science, playing a role in the S&C and fitness industry in general.

Sports Science is again an umbrella term which includes S & C, performance analysis and so on. It is picking up at an accelerating pace and providing information about our athletes which is beautiful.

In our S&C programs, we talk about different aspects of sports science and sports technology and its vast impact in the industry with immense opportunities available.

Our first Sports Science conference is also being held on 16th and 17th March in Mumbai, India. We are looking forward to equipping our aspirants on how to use the technology to their best use. All global experts from this field will be present and attending the conference. These are just baby steps we are taking to bring international standards in our country.

CynergySports thanks & wishes Dr. Apurva Mathankar, a safe health & a great 2023.

We thank her for her valuable time with us and helping the larger community.

Follow us on Instagram for more updates and such exclusive conversations.

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