Hey, welcome to our second Meet the Expert blog.
In this blog, we interview expert coaches and athletes, delving into what makes them tick, what drives them to keep going, and what they believe to be the pitfalls and keys to success.
Let’s get into it!
Question 1: What is your name, age and where are you from?
My name is Alberto Zurlo, I’m 26 years old and I’m from Salerno, Italy.
Question 2: What is your occupation? Is it what you are known for or completely separate? What jobs have you done in the past?
I hold a Master’s degree in Exercise and Science and in 2019 I obtained a post-graduation degree in Strength and Conditioning – ISCI, International Strength & Conditioning Institute.
Since my Undergraduate, I have been working as a Fitness Coach and Personal Trainer in multiple gyms and fitness centers in South Italy.
Moreover, during my childhood, I started learning and practicing competitive swimming, achieving important results in various National and International level competitions.
I am a skilled swimmer and an expert lifesaver and I have proved my knowledge helping swimmers dial in their stroke technique to shave tenths off their race times.
Nowadays, I work as a Strength and Conditioning coach for some Italian Basketball Teams (Youth team u15, u16, u18, and u20 silver) and for a Swimming Team at a competitive level.
I plan and implement comprehensive athletic injury and illness prevention programs for them, evaluating athletes’ readiness to play, and providing participation clearances when necessary and warranted.
The ultimate goal is to achieve a development of maximal strength, power, endurance and aerobic power in order to increase muscle motor unit recruitment and neural drive.
Question 3: What is your primary area of expertise and why are you passionate about it?
As a coach: I have the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to design safe and effective fitness and sports programs related to strength and conditioning. I instruct and assist people in reaching personal health and fitness goals.
My passion comes from within, being an athlete myself. My enthusiasm becomes stronger day by day when the efforts I put in training my clients become visible. They follow my instructions, my suggestions and they, eventually, start appreciating and considering fitness as a lifestyle.
As an athlete: I was introduced to swimming by my parents when I was 14 years old.
Kids are drawn to things that they enjoy, have friends and they are learning by because their hearts and minds are engaged in that activity.
So as a kid, I was having fun with my friends and I was loving what I was doing. Somehow I felt that the chances of the right balance were high and that was the beginning of an inspiring lifelong passion.
Moreover, I started loving to challenge myself and taking pleasure in competition. I wanted to demonstrate to everyone all things I have learned in terms of swimming technique, dives, starts, turns, finishes, underwater kicking.
Deep inside the thought about my own sporting career was getting stronger. I still remember that coach who took a real interest in me as a human being and changed my life – whose lessons I still remember even now 10 years later? That’s the type of coach you want to find and you aspire to be!
During my free time, I play tennis which helps me to stay calm and composed, to relax and to reach my full potential.
I do some strength training as well in the gym to prevent injury, weakness, imbalance, or other physical conditions.
The three key areas – what are called the “ABILITIES” of non-pool training which I focus on are: FLEX- ability: Improving the flexibility in important swimming muscles and muscle groups; MOB – ability (mobility): Improving mobility around joints; STAR- ability (stability): Developing a strong stable “core” – abs, back muscles and important to stabilise muscles in the shoulders and hips.
Question 4: How did you get started doing what you do?
As a coach: It is something I got from my family. Since I was born, I have always been raised by them believing in exercising as a way to be healthy and fit along with a proper diet plan.
My parents always taught me how to achieve the right balance between both and to make it a permanent part of my life.
As an athlete: Sport is my religion, I train every day trying to find the right fit between social and private life.
I believe in some factors which determine success in sport, especially as a senior swimmer, they are the following 5 Ps:
- Perseverance – the ability to try and try and try and try – and to never give up.
- Patience – it takes time to become a great swimmer – about ten years of consistent hard work.
- Physical training – great swimmers are usually the best prepared. It takes a high level of physical fitness, technical development and skill refinement to make it to the top.
- Personality – world-class swimmers demonstrate some common personality traits – none the least being determination, commitment, the ability to overcome adversity and the capacity for accelerated learning.
- Passion – Swimming is like anything else in life: you have to love it to do it well!
Question 5: What are your weaknesses? What hurdles did you face and how did you overcome these barriers?
As a coach: I wouldn’t t define them as “weaknesses” but more as “faults”. I am incapable to say “no” to people, to keep myself available to support others and this attitude leads them to not appreciate what I do. Sometimes I have to even force myself to be in a situation where “no” is the only escape I am remained with.
As an athlete: The past weaknesses have turned into my strengths now! There is NO magic number.
It all comes down to the FLAG principle: Fatigue, Level of Performance, Available Time and Goals. The more I was progressing through each level of swimming, the more there was a need to add an extra pool session or gym workout to learn the skills, develop the fitness and build the technical abilities to be successful at the next level. So, I learned how to deal with those with the help of a supporting system like family and friends and develop a real sense of self-confidence and self-belief.
Question 6: What are your biggest strengths, both as a coach and an individual? What do you believe to be the primary reasons for your success? What do you consider to be your biggest success so far?
As a coach: Dedication, Constancy, Perseverance, Sacrifice, Precision, Planning of my days and willingness to achieve my goals. I always believed that success is something you don’t get overnight but it’s something you build with humbleness, acknowledging the limits and having the strength to overcome them.
Nobody is perfect, we all have to learn something new every day whether we like it or not but what makes it successful it’s when you get the desired changes and of course you have helped your clients along that path.
As an athlete: A strong character, proper behavior and a positive relational character — respecting self, teammates, opponents, and the game are the foundation of well-formed habits in aspiring to true excellence for an athlete.
The competition of the sports arena, together with a personal goal to optimize performance, challenges me to continually stretch my abilities and to achieve important results like the fifth position Team relay at the Lifesaving Championship in 2017-2018.
Question 7: Where do you think a lot of people go wrong and what general pieces of advice would you give to those looking to excel in areas similar to yours?
As a coach: I feel people consider themselves first as athletes, not as human beings. They fail to understand that it’s important and necessary to start slowly, to learn the basics and when those are solid enough to proceed further going to the next level. Every person is an individual with his own set of characteristics, it’s fundamental to evaluate every single case to plan the actions.
The aim is not to achieve the perfect exercise which is “trendy” in that particular moment but to see results that can only be achieved respecting the individual’s space and response to it.
As an athlete: We are all human beings with our limits… It’s fundamental to acknowledge them and to always be accompanied by LLL – a love of the sport, learning new skills and life lessons.
Display “humble confidence”, be credible with appropriate experience, qualifications and understanding, and most important be caring and interested in making people becoming great human beings – not just fast swimmers or more muscular athletes.
Question 8: Are there any rules or quotes that you live by?
As a coach: “Every day is a game day” that’s what challenges me every single morning to give my 100%, this is my life rule! But my inspiration is the following quote:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – attributed to the Dalai Lama. Don’t place yourself in a low position, don’t think you are insignificant, everybody is worthy of pulling the dreams off. Those who can do that are the ones who have dedicatedly done their work without looking at anything else.
As an athlete: “Don’t care only about how much you know, but how much you care!”
Inspire a lifelong passion for the sport, engage people’s heart and mind and respect them as an individual, teach them the importance of skills and technique, encourage them to learn, be patient with them when they fail and above all help them to develop a real sense of self-confidence and self-belief.
Question 9: What are your plans for the near future? What goals do you currently have?
The plan is to keep training and competing, looking forward to the 2021 European Masters Championship in Budapest and to guide my Basketball teams to success.
Question 10: Where do you see yourself in 5 Years? What is your ultimate goal?
As a coach: I see myself in an International context, leading a sports team to excel and to get recognized. I still want to improve my skills and knowledge cause you never stop till you are done!
As an athlete: Over the next five years, I’d like to expand my horizons learning as much as I can, as quickly as I can. I’d seek out opportunities — at least one to two a year — to expand my knowledge through training and educational opportunities to support my job.
Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.
CHECK OUT ALBERTO’S CONTENT
A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
I loved reading this blog and with me being in the UK, it was really interesting to read the answers from a coach and athlete from Italy.
I am excited to see how Alberto progresses in both his coaching and athletic career in years to come, and hopefully, I can get over to Italy to do some training/coaching with him – a great read, thanks Alberto!
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