Saturday, May 28, 2011

I have recently had many friends and colleagues in the strength and conditioning community ask about my experience with the Edith Cowan University (ECU) Masters of Strength and Conditioning. I though I would take the time to put my answer in a Blog format so everyone who has interest in the program can benefit.

ECU is a top university in Perth, Australia and produces some of the best applied research in the area of strength and conditioning. If you are familiar with any of the journals published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) then you probably recognize ECU. Their faculty includes Dr. Rob Newton, Dr. Prue Cormie, Dr. Jeremy Sheppard, Dr. Greg Haff, Dr. Mike Newton, and Dr. Anthony Blazevich. These professors represent the caliber of education one receives when going to school at or through ECU. There are both on-site and online courses available. I have been specifically asked about their full Online Masters of Strength and Conditioning (O-MSC).

The O-MSC is composed of 8 semester long courses with a two week practicum in Perth, Australia that counts as the 9th course. This practicum is only run during November of semester 2 and must be completed before the MSc is awarded. The curriculum is as follows:

Unit Description
Stage 1
SPS4101 Strength and Conditioning 1 - Physiology (Points 20)
SPS4102 Strength and Conditioning 2 - Biomechanics (Points 20)
SPS5126 Advanced Resistance Training (Points 20)

Stage 2
Unit Description Points
SPS4108 Physiological Testing of Human Performance (Points 20)
SPS4110 Applied Biomechanics in Strength and Conditioning (Points 20)
SPS4100 Strength and Conditioning - Practicum (Points 20)

Stage 3
Unit Description Points
SPS5113 Research and Computer Methods in Strength and Conditioning (Points 20)
SPS5116 Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation (Points 20)
SPS5119 Current Issues in Strength and Conditioning (Points 20)

You can complete this Masters in as little as 1.5yrs, but as a practitioner I spread my coursework over 2yrs. In the end it took me 3rys to complete the whole Masters since I had to wait until November of my third year of enrollment to complete the practicum.

As a Strength and Conditioning coach who works 50+ hrs per week, and travels quite a bit, I found 2 courses a semester very doable. Additionally, the professors are very good about working with you if there is adequate lead time on a conflict you may have. The coursework is very challenging and they hold you to a high standard of quality. Every paper is graded based on publish worthiness and ECU uses the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research as a guideline for grading. As an American I was not used to the grading system used in Australia. I quickly found that the following conversion was true:

90-100% AU = 100% USA (PhD Status)
80-90% AU = 90-100% USA
70-80% AU = 80-90% USA
60-70% AU = 70-80% USA
<60% AU = <70% USA

The highest grade I ever saw was an 89-91% and the average for most classes was between 65-75%. So if you are an American looking to take this Masters, please don’t have a heart attack when you get you first set of grades back because anything above 80% is High Distinction, which is an A.

I found the courses were very well done and I am sure they have been improved since 2009. Each class typically has 1-2 written tests and 1-2 term papers. Since there is not a lot of busywork, there is no room for error on the 2-3 assignments you will have. I personally enjoyed this because it gave me time for my job, but also forced me to produce very high quality work. Every course is on Blackboard and you will have access to the professor and other students. This will happen over Skype and the built-in forums. This Masters will force you to look very deep at a wide range of topics and to receive high marks you will end up completing 6+ literature reviews on topics of your choice. I looked at each of these papers as an opportunity to get published. To date I have been blessed to have three of my papers published in the UK Strength and Conditioning Journal.

If you are the type of person who needs weekly assignments and work to keep you engaged then you may have difficulty with this Masters. You have to make a focused effort to read and study, if you don’t you will have trouble on the test and paper that each course requires. The only courses that did involve more frequent assignments were the two biomechanics courses and this makes sense considering the topic.

The cliché holds true that the more you put into this Masters, the more you will get out of it. No one will hold your hand and you literally have no room for error on any of the assignments. If you are like me, you will find the topics very engaging and high level. ECU presents applied science better than any other university I have found. You will learn quality theory and research methods, but most importantly they will empower you to apply the information you have learned.

Arguably the most important experience you will have is during the practicum. This is completed over two weeks with 8 contact hours per day. You will have the opportunity to have high level lectures from all of your professors and ECU brings in some of the top coaches in the world. During my practicum I spent time with Dan Baker and Jeremy Sheppard. I felt these two weeks were worth the whole Masters and has been the #1 Professional Development experience I have had to date. I can’t say enough good things about the professors, but more importantly the students you will meet. I had 65 world-class people with me at the practicum and many were working-professionals. Students included Professional Fitness Coaches for Rugby League, Rugby Union, UK Cricket National Team, Aussie Rules, Gaelic Football, Soccer and many other sports. Many of the students were sports scientists and worked for their national sport institutes. I was amazed that I was one of only three Americans and found out that this is the standard. Apparently, this O-MSC has not become a well known option in the USA yet, but it needs to be. ECU is helping to breed world-class coaches who know their science.

The ECU O-MSC will cost between $20,000-25,000 including your travel to Australia.

I highly recommend this Masters for all strength and conditioning, personal trainers and sports scientists who want o be challenged. ECU will take you to another level and will help you create an invaluable network of professionals. Below is a list of important links:

Master of Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) (Apply Online)
Course Fees (Select Student Type, Course, and Code: U94)

Yours In Performance,

Nick Winkelman MSc


  1. Hi coach Winkelman:

    Really enjoy reading this article. I'm Phd student (from Taiwan) of Sport Performance at ETSU under Dr. Mike Stone & Dr. Haff(outside committee). Hope I have chance to meet you in person.

    Mark Chaing