Q & A with Alex Sandalis, Sage Institute of Fitness student and Melbourne United Intern

Meet Alex Sandalis - Sage Institute of FitnessAs you probably know, Sage has recently commenced a partnership with the fabulous NBL team, Melbourne United (MU).  We are still bouncing around with excitement about this announcement…but we’ve got even better news! Some of our lucky Massage and Fitness students have been fortunate enough to be able to participate in an internship program with the MU guys.  Sage Institute of Fitness graduate, Alex is one of them! To get to know Alex, and in preparation for more to come from him about MU internship experience, we asked him some questions. Stay tuned for more about his MU internship.

1.   What is it that motivated you to undertake a training course in Fitness?

I was looking for opportunities to add to my education and formally become recognised as a strength coach. The Diploma of Fitness Coaching (10067NAT) offered a much more holistic and well-rounded approach to not just simply becoming a “Personal Trainer,” but a “Fitness Coach”.  A fitness coach understands the foundations of practical physiology, programing and sports science principles, and in turn, this gives me the opportunity to make the judgement about whether dedicating 3 years to further study at university is a smart move for me.

2.   What aspects of studying at Sage did you enjoy the most?

I took the most value from the frequent hands-on experience of coaching. We were given the room to test and experiment and to see what works and what doesn’t. This is something I believe is crucial and lacking in much of our formal education.

3.   What is your ‘dream job’?

That’s hard to answer considering I don’t attach the connotation of a ‘job’ to anything I do. I would say creating my own facility that combines the holistic nature of yoga and athlete development – and to create a culture of education and empowerment – is more my aim.  That could change though and right now my focus is on getting as much experience as possible and becoming the best coach I can be.

“…right now my focus is on getting as much experience as possible and becoming the best coach I can be.”

4.   What are some of the biggest learning challenges you’ve come across during your course?

The diploma made it clear to me that I need to fill the gaps in my knowledge and understanding, particularly in the application of kinesiology and physiology. To understand and recall all the relevant muscles within the specific joint action of any common movement is a really big strength for a coach to have. It’s a challenging skill to acquire this level of knowledge – and to be honest, is not a strength of mine – so I am constantly working on it.

5.    What do you enjoy most about working with the fitness clients?

I’m still relatively early in this coaching journey so there’s still much to experience and enjoy. But the feeling you get when a specific coaching cue or explanation works to correct someone’s form is invaluable. Like a light switch, in those moments you figure out what works and what doesn’t, which either solidifies your knowledge, or checks your ego!

6.   What advice would you give a new student commencing their course at Sage?

Be self-aware enough to figure out if this is really something you want to do. From my point of view, many think the industry is all glamour and we’re going to start making thousands of dollars and open up our own gym in a couple of years. Even the most talented take 5-10+ years to do that.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from everything I’ve seen and done, it’s going to be really challenging and hard work. That’s the reality.

If you do yourself the favour to understand what training people really looks like you can figure out if your strengths are suited to the field. If they’re not, you just saved yourself a lot of time, energy and money. If you do, great, now the journey begins.

How do you do that? Well if you’re really serious about wanting to be a “Fitness Coach” and becoming the best trainer in your local gym or a “strength & conditioning coach” and possibly working in elite sports one day, then start coaching for free…right now.

Before I made the decision to start studying the Diploma, I coached many people for free. I got a taste and feel for what it was really like and whether I could actually see myself lasting in this field. Then I started aligning myself with coaches I had respect for. I started learning from them and seeing what this life was really like behind the glamour. Then I got the opportunity to do this internship. All in an effort to get real ‘in the dirt’ experience to learn as much as possible and really figure out whether this is all right for me.

7.    What does the Melbourne United Internship mean to you?

Considering it could potentially be a career altering opportunity, it really means a lot. I feel very thankful and appreciative of the opportunity and will do everything I can to work hard and have a positive impact on the people there.

8.    What makes you most excited about the opportunity?

The chance to understand the reality of working in pro sports. I had the opportunity to chat with Eric Hollingsworth, the Melbourne United High Performance Manager and he made me very aware that some people aspiring to work pro sports have a distorted image of what it is like in reality.  So I look forward to learning how to operate effectively in the chaos and high standards of professional basketball.

9.    Tell us about your history before Sage

Well, at about 14 years old I decided I wanted to become ‘great’ at something…I choose basketball. I spent the next 5-6 years of my life dedicating nearly every single day to pursuing a career in basketball. It took me from one of the worst players you’ve ever seen to eventually joining the Australian College of Basketball. Shortly after I had the opportunity to play overseas for a college in Arizona.

After coming home from America, I moved away from the sport as I realised I didn’t have enough talent and wasn’t willing to pay the price that professional basketball required. At the same time, I also realized that I had cultivated a strong character and skillset from basketball that I could use to help other athletes and individuals improve themselves within the gym.

10.    Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?

I cannot disrespect the many by mentioning only one. I am a product of many life changing mentors including Gary Vaynerchuck, Seneca, Elliott Hulse and Joe Defranco. Why? Regardless of their differing fields they all possess the commonality of a daily relentless pursuit of excellence in spite of anything or anyone trying to stop them.

Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Richardson

Vicki Richardson

Vicki Richardson is both the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Advertising and Marketing at Sage. She oversees and directs a large team of employees, plans and devises all advertising and marketing campaigns, manages brand ambassadors, and develops and manages B2B relationships with industry partners. Vicki lists helping Sage Institute become the number one educator in the fitness, massage, child-care and aged-care fields as her biggest achievement. She is passionate about work-life balance and is thrilled to see Sage graduates go on to be successful in their chosen careers.
Vicki Richardson

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