Hey, welcome to our third 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.
Note: We often get different answers from the perspective of a coach or an athlete, and you can see this on some of the questions.
Let’s get to it!
Question 1: What is your name, age and where are you from?
My name is Bex Ward, I am 35 and I’m originally from Carlisle but have grown up and lived in Macclesfield since I was 5.
Question 2 (Coach): What is your occupation? Is it what you are known for or completely separate? What jobs have you done in the past?
My full-time job is as a Customer Manager at Alderley Park however I started my nutrition coaching company, Balanced Nutrition in early 2020. Most people know me for Balanced Nutrition which is great as I’m planning to take it full time as soon as I can!
The majority of my career has been spent at Alderley Park but I’ve worked in a few different places including a financial advisers, JJB, bars & restaurants, a sailing centre, and even a florists.
Question 2 (Athlete): What is your sport and at what level do you compete at?
My main sport is hockey and I play for Alderley Edge Ladies 1st XI. We play in what’s called National League and this is the highest domestic league in England consisting of: Premier League, Division 1 (North & South) and Conference (North, East & West) which is the league we compete in.
Question 3 (Coach): What is your primary area of expertise and why are you passionate about it?
I would say at the moment I am still finding out what that is as I’ve been practicing for just 6 months, however with my strong background in sports participation, I’m leaning towards sports performance nutrition as it’s something that I am working on with the vast majority of my clients, and myself of course.
Question 3 (Athlete): How did you get started in the sport? Why did you choose that sport? Did you, or do you compete in other sports?
I first started at high school at age 12 or 13 and after playing for the school team, was asked to go to junior training at Macclesfield Hockey Club. From there I went through the age groups and eventually made it to senior level at 15 years old.
All that time I was also playing squash at county level but something had to give so I chose hockey. It was something I still remember clearly speaking to my mum about, choosing between the two. She advised me that while squash was great, I thrive more in a team environment and that the social side of hockey would bring better opportunities to grow friendships and be surrounded by people of different ages, therefore would be more beneficial to me over the long term. I completely agreed and I can safely say it was the best decision I’ve ever made!
I have a heck of a lot to be thankful towards hockey for; some of my very best memories have come about because of it.
Question 4 (Coach): How did you get started doing what you do?
I had a bit of a light bulb moment after wondering what I wanted to do in my career, knowing that the job I was doing definitely wasn’t what I wanted to do forever or even progress in.
So one day after contemplating this and scrolling through my Instagram feed, I noticed every other post was either food or sport-related. My passion for food started from a really young age, as did sport, so I figured “why not combine the 2?!” From there I began researching nutrition qualifications and stumbled across Mac Nutrition Uni, which has a world-class reputation in the industry.
I spoke to a hockey friend who’d done it and after a great chat, I enrolled and haven’t looked back. It was the most enjoyable 12 months of learning I could have imagined and I’ve built a great group of peers that are just fantastic to be associated with.
Question 4 (Athlete): Are you a full-time athlete or do you do other work / run your own business? What drives you to keep training every day?
I’m a Customer Manager at my full-time job but also run a Nutrition Coaching company, Balanced Nutrition, which I founded earlier this year. So hockey fits in around all that but it’s a big priority for me and I never miss a game or a training session.
The standard we play at demands a high level of commitment and part of what drives me to train is that. I’d say my desire to constantly improve to be a better player, win more games, score more goals, and represent the club at the highest level drives me to train hard. But also the fact that we have a rich pool of talent at the club so I have to fight for my place.
Question 5: What are your weaknesses? What hurdles did you face and how did you overcome these barriers?
Coach: I would say a weakness of mine is trying to please everyone and therefore I often avoid awkward but perhaps necessary conversation. I often think these conversations are going to be far worse than they turn out to be. But I do recognize growth always comes from them so I need to be braver!
Like many people I struggle sometimes with vulnerability but the more I push myself to change that, the more it makes me stronger. I’m lucky to have fantastic team mates at hockey, rugby and the charity I am part of (Hockey for Heroes) that help me work on this and help me continually improve.
Athlete: : My weakness that I’m working on at the moment is my elimination skills: the skills you use to beat an opponent with the ball. It’s something I really lack confidence with as I’m more of a ‘playmaker’ but I’ve been addressing it with the help of a team mate and believe it or not, YouTube! There’s great content on there to help players looking to hone their skills. So over this next lockdown I’ll be spending my time practicing with tyres taking the place of defenders and dribbling round lots of cones.
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?
Coach: I’m a very empathetic person so I’m good at imagining myself in another person’s shoes. This allows me to tailor my advice and approach by taking into account the context surrounding that client. The last thing I would try and do is try and force a single approach across my clients or one that wouldn’t work for them.
I’m also very approachable which is particularly helpful when people can be a bit nervous or apprehensive about asking for help. I consider myself a true all-rounder in the things I do: playing different sports, being a Customer Manager at work etc and I imagine some people may not consider this a strength but I actually find it’s a strength because I can help lots of different people with lots of different things.
Lastly, I would say I’m knowledgeable because I just love learning about nutrition! So keeping my finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest research helps me in turn help my clients better, using evidence-based practice.
Athlete: My strengths on the hockey pitch are my fitness, shooting, passing vision, and ability to use the reverse side of my stick. As an individual I’d say my strength is that I always lead by example, something I think that comes with playing team sports for such a long time. I am someone in a team that is always encouraging and positive towards my teammates and is good at keeping high-pressure situations calm.
My biggest success so far would probably have to be completing a UK tour with Hockey for Heroes in 2018: 3-4 games of hockey per day plus a military-style challenge every day (e.g 10-mile stretcher carry, log race, fitness testing) for 8 days straight and we raised £40,000 for Help for Heroes. It’s something I will never forget and I have the most amazing memories from it.
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?
Coach: Nutrition is such an individual thing and there’s so much you have to take into account to be a great coach. I think anyone looking to become a nutrition coach should make sure they know how to work with different personalities, backgrounds, socio-economic status etc. as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works.
Also, I believe too many people focus on improving metrics when it comes to nutrition e.g weight, measurements etc, and whilst these can show success, habit building for me is hugely important and a real focus area for me and my clients. Once they have built the habits needed to reach their goal(s), I can be confident they will achieve long term success.
Athlete: I think so many young athletes try to specialize at an early age whereas growing up in your teens should be about finding which sport is right for you. People look at high achieving elite sportsmen & women and when they hear “they’ve been playing since they were 4 years old”, for example, they immediately think that they need to do that too or focus solely on one sport. Whereas there’s evidence that shows the opposite is more beneficial.
Also, I hear time and time again athletes saying they’re finally looking into better nutrition after years of having a poor diet, whereas I feel this should be focused on from the outset. If only people knew how to do this or prioritize it sooner, we could have seen people achieving so much more in their sport.
Question 8: Are there any rules or quotes that you live by?
I always try to treat others how I’d want to be treated; be polite and respectful, always say please and thank you! These are really basic but very important to me and are great pillars I feel. A favourite quote of mine is “It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln. I remind myself that life is short and that I should use my time to make the most of everything that is out there to enjoy.
Question 9: What are your plans for the near future? What goals do you currently have?
Coach: My plan for Balanced Nutrition is to grow it so I can go full-time and deliver coaching, seminars, talks, and workshops to different audiences. I absolutely love talking about food so doing it every day would be the dream. My current goal is to increase my client base and adapt talks and workshops to hold them online until I’m able to do things face to face once again.
Athlete: I am going to tour again with Hockey for Heroes in August 2021 and we’ve got some crazy physical challenges planned, so I’ll start my training for that very soon. My goals for hockey are too increase my sprinting speed, improve my eliminations skills and score as many goals as I can! I also lead on our fitness and warm ups so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve these so we can be the best we can be in this aspect of our training.
Question 10: Where do you see yourself in 5 Years? What is your ultimate goal?
Coach: I’m terrible at answering this question as I like to live firmly in the present but I would love to be a full-time nutrition coach with a PT qualification, working with people to improve their sports performance. My ultimate goal is to be the nutrition coach for a national sports team, preferably England Rugby or Great Britain Hockey.
Athlete: In 5 years I reckon my best days will be behind me and I can see myself moving into coaching- if I have any time spare whilst building my nutrition coaching business! And if I’m still playing I’ll probably move back to Macclesfield Hockey Club where it all began.
Now I’m 35 I’m now eligible to play Masters Hockey so my ultimate goal in competitive hockey would be to make the England Masters Team. To pull on an England shirt would be absolutely unbelievable and something that I would love to try and do.
CHECK OUT BEX’S CONTENT
A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR
I have known Bex for a few years now and I have always admired her passion for health, fitness and sport.
Although I have an interest in nutrition, I know where my real expertise lies, and that is on the physical training side of things. Therefore, when I found out that Bex was pursuing a career in nutrition, I was incredibly excited!
Becoming a successful nutrition coach is no easy feat. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that Bex will be incredibly successful. She has the knowledge, she has the work ethic, and most importantly, she has the passion!
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