When Josh Clarke (also known as Jay) suffered a serious shoulder injury seven years ago, the furthest thing from his mind was how he could forge his way into a new sport. But randomly that is exactly what did happen. He was told he could not train or play rugby after a dislocated shoulder and separated AC joint, but before he knew it he was on the path of American Football.
“I’ve always had an interest in American Football so when I was injured I went over to watch the London Warriors as they were my local team. Talking to the coaches and support staff there, they were convinced they could ‘fix me’ and teach me to play and to be fair to them, they did!”
And from those perhaps unusual beginnings, Jay’s involvement in the sport has grown from strength to strength, playing not just in the UK but in Finland too. A couple of years ago he set himself the challenge of seeing how far he could take his game and that started his European journey.
“I’m all about giving myself challenges and so I put together some game tape, built an account on Europlayers and kept on training as hard as I could. I got contacted by a few teams and by coaches of friends who’ve played overseas and eventually opted to sign a contract to play in Finland.”
Jay’s motivations for football don’t just rest for himself and most recently he’s been working in a different capacity to get the most out of other footballers – namely the GB Women’s side ahead of the World Championships. A strength and conditioning coach by profession, Jay graduated from university in 2014 and initially started working in personal training (Jay C PT), but then moved into strength and conditioning work, which in turn helped him be involved in American Football in a different way.
“I was doing strength and conditioning coaching for a number of people and one of the women I trained was an American Footballer and part of the GB Flag program. I offered to help with the coaching and development of the team and that in turn saw a formal invitation to be the Strength and Conditioning coach. I made a connection to the contact team through there and in time I became involved in that team too.”
And of course with the Women’s team just having competed in Canada, it the first world championship for the side, strength and conditioning was going to be vital. What was the most important thing that Jay had the team focus on?
“I’ve been very focused on helping the athletes really understand their bodies and why certain things are suggested for them to work on and why they might help. We’ve done this through a variety of ways such as gym sessions, camps, online sessions and offering help, support and advice to anyone who may need it.”
For Jay really understanding your own body is key to success in strength and conditioning. “Too many times you can see people trying to do what someone else is doing but they have completely different body types and needs so what might work for a friend who is a 6 foot rugby player isn’t going to be right for you as a 5ft ballet dancer! No two programmes are going to be exactly the same and it is about understanding how things can and need to be tailored to getting you the best and most efficient results.”
Strength and conditioning is clearly a passion of Jay’s and one that he has enjoyed helping others develop and grow in just a short space of time. But he is conscious that for others, it may not be the career for you if you’re not ready or willing to throw your heart and soul into it.
“Within a strength and conditioning role you’re asking the people you are training to put their absolute trust in you, to believe in what you are doing and that you are doing this to make them better. People will only do that if they believe you have their best interests at heart. If you’re not passionate about it and can’t demonstrate that trust through your honesty, personal experience, passion and success then this may not be for you.”
Jay continues to have goals in both his on field and off field career paths. To date he sees his success on the field best summed up in being part of three out of four Britball wins for the London Warriors while success in his working role is with the athletes that he is working with but he strives for more.
“My goals are very much aligned – to be the best I can be. In playing terms I want to reach my full potential – I’m not sure what level this maybe as yet, but I won’t stop until I’ve reached that pinnacle. Within the strength and conditioning field then I want to work with a few more teams and athletes and help them understand their bodies more and help them reach their physical peak.
We don’t doubt he’s going to achieve this, and keep watching this space to see where his ambition will take him next.