Victoria Saucedo was born and raised in Southern California. She attended Utah State University, where she played softball and earned a bachelor’s degree in human movement science. She is a former GA at Northern Arizona University and earned a master’s degree there in educational psychology. Victoria currently serves as an assistant sports performance coach at Saint Louis University, overseeing the training for volleyball, softball, swimming and diving, track and field, and field hockey. She also assists with both men’s and women’s basketball.
Freelap USA: You have climbed the ladder quickly as a young coach. The S&C field is quite saturated. What do you believe has separated you from other candidates in the field during your journey?
Victoria Saucedo: I was fortunate to have met, in my opinion, some of the greatest individuals in our field during my softball career at Utah State. For the athletes at USU, the weight room was our favorite place to be. It did not matter to us if training sessions were held at 5:30 a.m. I saw firsthand as an athlete how a room should be managed and how an atmosphere gets created. And most importantly, I saw results.
I not only saw results for myself, but in our entire team, and those results translated to our performance on the field. I give so much credit to the staff at Utah State for my path and success. I have the perspective of both sides of the room, being both a coach and a washed-up athlete. I believe this gives me an edge on understanding what the athletes and teams are feeling and thinking. I can relate, empathize, help, and motivate since I have walked a similar path.
I don’t intentionally go out of my way to separate myself. I do everything I can to be the best version of myself. I know the type of coach I am, and if I act as anything outside of that, the athletes and coaches will sniff it out in a second. I live every day trying to grow from the day before, whether that is reading and educating myself on strength and conditioning, life, medicine, the stock market, news, etc.
I work with athletes from diverse backgrounds who are real human beings with family, friends, and real problems. I want to be educated on multiple aspects of life, because squatting 225 pounds for 10 won’t really provide help with real life issues. I always look to connect and grow relationships with the athletes. Something as simple as a conversation about subjects that they care enough to bring up and talk about goes a long way, even if it is about J. Cole’s new album.
I ask my athletes what their end goal is, and 99% of the time, it is to win a conference championship or beat their personal best. So, when the going gets tough, and they are dragging their feet in conditioning or training early in the morning, I make sure to let the athletes know what’s on the line that day. I remind them what they told me their goals are.
I like to make the atmosphere engaging and fun, but also competitive. We compete often, and sometimes I’ll even hop in if there is an odd number or the athletes challenge me and egg me on. Many coaches can talk the talk, but walking the walk goes a long way, too. This helps keep me in check.
Freelap USA: Strength and conditioning coaches are built from the quality of the mentorship they receive. Who are your biggest mentors in the field and how have they impacted your career path so far?
Victoria Saucedo: Many coaches on staff at Utah State from 2014-2017 had a huge impact on me, including Dave Scholz (Texas Tech Football), Alan Bishop (Houston Basketball), Chase Sanders (Cal Poly Pomona), Joe Powell (Utah State), Bri Brown (Racing Louisville FC), and Joey Bergles (JJ Pearce HS). All of them have had a direct impact on me.
Dave Scholz sat me down and told me what to expect in the field and how to prepare for it. Alan Bishop tells me the truth on how things are going to be, has been a great example, and helps me through any unfamiliar territory. Chase Sanders gave me my first internship opportunity: We had 16 sports with eight racks and experiencing how that program was executed and getting the chance to help was the best internship opportunity I could have asked for.
Joey Bergles was my strength coach for my last two years at USU. The way he implemented his program, including his detail-oriented coaching, was something I greatly enjoyed and can now implement with my teams. Joe Powell and Bri Brown are individuals who have been huge supporters of me. They gave me different insights on their routes in the field. When I struggle with certain aspects, they are there to listen and give me the response I need.
Lastly, Robb Hornett (Assistant AD for Sports Performance, St. Louis University) has broadened my perspective on different aspects of strength and conditioning. He has been a great mentor and boss. He challenges me on my programming and questions my thought processes, and when I assist him, he includes me and often asks me for improvements and how we can get better.
Freelap USA: It is often stated around the industry that being a great player does not automatically qualify you to be a good coach. What advantages, and disadvantages, do you believe you have from your playing career? What about these has molded you as a person and a strength coach?
Victoria Saucedo: When I finished with my eligibility, I had one semester remaining to complete my undergraduate degree. I became a volunteer coach for the softball team. I struggled because the athletes I coached were my teammates/roommates less than a year before, so the line between coach and friend was very blurry.
Being young can be an advantage, but also a disadvantage. There cannot be a lack of structure and boundaries in the athlete-coach relationship. At the same time, being younger in the field and closer to the athlete’s age, it is easier to relate and stay in touch with whatever is popular or trending, even though I may have zero clue to what is going on.
A disadvantage of being a successful athlete is always going back to the “glory days.” Former successful players who get into coaching easily fall into a mindset of “When I played, we did it like this, so that’s what we will do.” To be frank, no one cares. We must do what is right for the situation and population we are given. We must be able to critically think about what is best for our athletes. It is valuable to be able to gauge what the athletes are feeling based on previous athletic experience, but context is dynamic and complex, so it can’t be that cut and dry.
Lastly, being an athlete has made me a very competitive human. I think this will be my greatest advantage as a former athlete. I enjoy winning, and most of all, I enjoy the process of winning. I often tell my athletes that it is hard being great. Games are not necessarily dictated from the weight room or conditioning, but the consistency of creating greatness and hard work translates to the athlete’s nature. Skill obviously plays a big part, but the mindset of greatness is what separates good from great when skill and talent are close.Athlete skill obviously plays a big part, but the mindset of greatness is what separates good from great when skill and talent are close, says @saucyy_vic. Click To Tweet
I want to outwork, outperform, and outcoach, every single day. I try to find ways to get better every day so that I can make everyone I work with and surround myself with better.
Freelap USA: Knowing the X’s and O’s of strength and conditioning is important but learning how to coach is vital to execution. What are some key components to coaching versus just understanding concepts?
Victoria Saucedo: I think it is crucial to understand concepts and X’s and O’s. That’s a big part of our field. But at the end of the day, our job is to create robust and injury-resistant athletes and help the teams win. If we can’t master and understand the X’s and O’s, we may be out of a job.
A great program rarely lacks in relaying the why’s and the how’s at a high level. It comes down to a mastery of both people and skill. Coaching and concepts should be intertwined. I don’t see them as separate pieces. I am sure people can work on one concept a bit more than the other but having a well-thought-out program with both people skills and emotional IQ is a great formula for success.
There are teams I work with that love to know the “why.” After I go over the lifting/running session, they will ask all sorts of questions about how it translates to their sport and how it puts them in a position to succeed. On the other hand, I have teams that do not care why. As long as they know it will help them, they will crush whatever I have planned. This goes back to getting to know the athletes and teams and investing in people by taking time to go to their practices, talking between warm-ups, and getting insights from the coaching staff.
At Saint Louis University, I have five teams, which is about 120 student-athletes. I want to get to know them all. As I create dialogue with the athletes, this gives me more opportunity to educate them on important topics such as sleeping patterns, hydration, eating habits, breath work, extra training, and movement patterns.
Without the relationship connection, athletes will often tune you out when those topics come up. These conversations are crucial due to the influx of crappy information that is so readily accessible. At the end of the day, we must understand the concepts, relay the concepts at a high level, and create dialogue to better prepare the athletes.
Freelap USA: Being a female in the strength and conditioning industry is a challenge, and there are so many great female strength coaches in our field. What would you say to an aspiring female strength coach questioning their career path?
Victoria Saucedo: Being a female coach isn’t what makes it a challenge. It’s just like being a female in many other industries. Unfortunately, my abilities are often judged the moment I’m seen as female, in many aspects of life, from squatting at the gym, going to a supply store to buy wood for a dresser I am building, or applying for a job. I believe our field is getting better and creating more equal opportunities for all genders, but sometimes it’s not genuine and it is just to “check a box.”
The best candidate for the job should get the job, no matter the gender or race. I have been fortunate to work with and have mentors who have supported me and placed a lot of faith and trust in me because of my abilities. I just happen to be a female. I never saw myself as different from my male counterparts because of how I was coached and mentored. They treated me no differently—same responsibilities, same workload, and same care.Any female coach questioning her career path should ask herself why. If it is because many strength coaches are males, and you’re unsure about being in that atmosphere, do it. Stand out, says @saucyy_vic. Click To Tweet
Any female coach questioning their career path should ask herself why she is questioning it. If it is because many strength coaches are males, and you’re unsure about being in that atmosphere, then do it. Stand out. Be different. You are qualified and capable and happen to be a very strong woman.
Be smart and avoid toxic situations. If you’re in an environment that isn’t healthy for your well-being, get out. Being nervous about a career choice can be good. It is important to be able to get out of your comfort zone and grow.
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