Curtis Mason – Q&A with IFA’s Head of Strength & Conditioning
Curtis Mason joined the IFA as an 18 year old in 2014 and spent 3 years on the futsal programme here in Loughborough. Curtis achieved great things while on the programme and since his graduation in 2017 has gone on to forge a successful career in sports and to represent his country in the sport he so clearly loves.
After a year away from Loughborough Curtis missed the programme so much he returned in 2018 as the IFA’s Head of Strength & Conditioning and to play for our partner club Loughborough Students’ NFS One team.
After three years on the programme you graduated from Loughborough and the IFA in 2017 with a degree in Sports Science. What was your biggest highlight while at Loughborough and on the IFA?
Graduation was definitely a massive highlight. My family and I were all really proud and that feeling on the day made 3 years of hard work worth it. Overall though I must say that the memories of my time playing in the BUCS teams will stay with me forever. Some of the best matches, teammates and performances I have ever been a part of – the whole experience was unreal.
What did you find the biggest challenge whilst at University and on the programme?
Personally one of the biggest challenges for me was injury. My left ankle was sprained multiple times during my three years so this came with a lot of time off court that wasn’t great. However, with lots of support from coaches and access to the elite level physiotherapy facilities the recovery time was far quicker than if I’d have been left to manage it on my own.
Another challenge at first was opening myself up to make friends and engage with students outside of The IFA. It was a new experience being away at university so most of the lads found it more confortable to just stick together at first. This obviously came with lots of positives but with the help and support of my peers and the staff team I forged some great links away from futsal too.
You’re clearly a very talented player, how do you feel being at Loughborough and on the IFA programme helped you to achieve the level to play for England?
Incredibly proud. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the things you’ve mentioned in that question don’t tie together. Without Loughborough and without The IFA I wouldn’t have played for England. Being at Loughborough and the IFA is the closest to training like a professional player. It is credit to the coaches, the ability of players around me and opportunity of ridiculous amounts of court time (BUCS, National League and friendly games) that helped me to improve as a player. Loughborough has the perfect atmosphere for winners and for athletes that want to be the best they can be. It was class to be a part of and is one of the main reasons I haven’t been able to keep away from Loughborough post graduation.
Knowing what you know now what three pieces of advice would you have given to your younger self on your first day at Loughborough all those years ago?
Firstly, I’d say enjoy every single moment. I miss the routine and way of life (training, lectures, gym, chilling) so much now that I’m in the ‘real adult world’!
Secondly I would say read more. If I’d had read more of the required content in my first and second year it would’ve made my final year and dissertation a lot easier, less stressful and probably better quality. I’m still happy with my final grades but I just think it would help later in life if I engaged with the academic side a bit more; especially now I’m making a career out of sports, exercise and science.
Finally, I’d say understand that there is even more to Loughborough than just the futsal. The futsal programme is no doubt the best in the country but open yourself up to all the other amazing opportunities there are on offer at Loughborough – do stuff with the volunteers academy for more work experience, watch more of the other elite sports being played on a daily basis, try out different sports – the opportunities really are endless.
What job did you do after graduating and how did your time in Loughborough help you in that job?
I got myself a job back home in Kettering at a local health club, working as a receptionist. It was my intention to eventually work there as a fitness trainer so I kept a look out for potential courses before eventually enrolling on one designed specifically for sports science students. My previous knowledge and experience gained at university helped me as it not only made me eligible for this specific course (which was cheaper and more efficient with time than some other courses available) but also made it relatively easy.
You took on the role as Head of Strength & Conditioning for the IFA in 2018 – explain what this role entails?
I am responsible for all of the gym related training that the academy players do both in season and pre season. All players receive a personalised training programme, regular fitness testing and academic support for any modules they are studying where I can be of any help. This also includes weekly gym-based sessions where I coach the players in small groups, tailoring the sessions to the individual needs of the players. For example, I do a specific recovery or ‘sick note’ session as we call it for those recovering from injury.
At the moment with the Covid-19 pandemic I am running virtual sessions and managing the players fitness programmes with them remotely to ensure they are totally ready for when next season kicks off.
What’s the best part of your role as Head of S&C?
It’s hard to say, as I honestly just really enjoy what I do. However the feeling of being back in Loughborough, around The IFA and being involved in the programme not as a player now but as a coach is really satisfying. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle, matured and now I can give something back to new players coming through.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into a career such as a Strength and Conditioning Coach or being a Personal Trainer?
A degree 100% helps. The fitness industry is extremely competitive and getting even more crowded. It is actually quite easy to go out there and pay for an ‘off the shelf’ PT qualification but it is a whole different story actually making a sustainable career out of fitness, whilst also being able to deliver high quality of coaching and really be able to help people. Knowledge and experience is a necessity and I feel that I developed a good base of both of these during my three years at Loughborough.