ESU Grad Gets Dream Job with U.S. Ski Team
Before the United States Ski Team offered him an internship in Park City, Utah, Brendan Wall, a 2011 East Stroudsburg University graduate, had never been west of Ohio. Now that the internship has turned into his dream job, Wall will be wracking up some serious frequent flyer miles.
Wall, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and health at East Stroudsburg University and is working on his master’s in exercise science, was hired by the U.S. Men’s Alpine Ski Team this fall as the strength and conditioning coach for its C and D divisions.
Wall is currently helping train 12 young, elite skiers with Olympic aspirations at the team’s Copper Speed Center at Copper Mountain, Colo. From there, Wall, 24, will travel with the young skiers on the NorAm and Europa Cup circuits to Switzerland, Austria, France, Vermont, Canada and finally to Slovakia for the International Ski Federation’s Junior World Championships, which begin February 26, 2014.
“I’m beyond excited,” Wall said. “This is basically my dream come true. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the youngest guys to ever be employed by the ski team.”
Wall said his degree in physical education and health, plus his graduate work in exercise science, were keys to getting him the internship and then being offered a permanent position.
“(ESU) is one of the top-rated health and phys ed schools on the East Coast,” Wall said. “(The ski team) liked that I had the experience of student teaching, of really being a presence in front of the athletes.”
It didn’t hurt that Wall, from Warwick, N.Y., has been skiing since age 5, raced on his high school’s ski racing team and taught skiing at Jack Frost Mountain in Blakeslee, Pa., while he was an ESU student.
“Pretty much everything I do revolves around snow,” Wall said. “Skiing is such a huge passion for me.”
Caroline Kuchinski, Ph.D., an ESU physical education professor who Wall called “the best,” convinced him that for the kind of career he wanted a master’s degree in, exercise science would be important.
From there, Wall said he benefited from the huge depth of knowledge shared by his ESU exercise science professors Shala Davis, Ph.D., and Gavin Moir, Ph.D., who helped Wall build on his physical education background by bringing in more technical aspects.
“They did a good job of working with me and adding in more of the science (side of things),” Wall said.
Davis, chairwoman of the ESU department of exercise science, said Wall’s academic background, combined with his dynamic personality, work ethic and great communication skills made him an excellent choice for the highly competitive internship and job.
“We teach in the graduate program that you need to play to your strengths and that’s exactly what he did,” Davis said. “I think it goes back to the fact that he went through a one-year accelerated program where you have to sink or swim,” she said.
Wall stepped up, balancing a graduate assistantship with course work and other responsibilities while demonstrating the motivation and enthusiasm that are keys to working with elite athletes, she said.
Wall started his graduate internship at the Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, in April where he was under the supervision of Alex Moore, then the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s strength and conditioning coordinator. During Wall’s stint there, Moore was lured away to be the high performance director of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. That forced Wall to take more responsibility in running strength and conditioning workouts and performance testing with the young skiers, who are mostly ages 18-21.
Wall works with the athletes six days a week, writing and refining their strength and conditioning programs and helping them stay motivated through grueling workouts. The team mixes in mountain biking with the weight lifting and other exercises to keep the skiers engaged.
“The biggest thing with ski racers is injuries,” Wall said.
As a result, Wall is responsible for trying to keep them injury-free. If a skier does get hurt, helping him recover is a big part of Wall’s job, too.
“We’re obviously trying to get the guys stronger and in better shape but at the end of the day, if they’re not healthy, they’re not skiing,” he said.
During his internship, Wall’s skills in working with the young athletes caught the attention of Sasha Rearick, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s Alpine Ski Team. When Rearick offered him the job of the C and D teams’ strength and conditioning coach, Wall jumped at the chance.
Wall had completed most of his course work for his ESU Master of Science degree and plans to finish within the next year.
Although Wall said it will be tough to be away from his girlfriend, Lauren Howerter, who graduated from ESU in 2012 as a health and physical education major and lives in Utah, he is excited about the prospect of traveling to France, Austria, Switzerland and other countries where his athletes will be training and racing.
“I’ve been on more planes,” Wall said, “in the last eight months than I had been on in my entire life.”