From expat kid to coach of expats
Meet Tom Callow, Head of Community Fitness at the new AIS Community Gym by UFIT, a great fitness getaway at school, where parents and teachers can do their personal training or bootcamps without having to leave the school grounds (no kids!). Tom will also be doing sports coaching for our children, and is really excited to working with the AIS entire community to get us all Fitter, Leaner and Stronger.
Tom shares with us his life as an expat kid, how it taught him the value of resilience and bring true to yourself, and his approach to coaching adults and kids.
Tell us about where you've lived?
My dad's from the UK and my mum is Thai, and I was brought up in Saudi Arabia until the age of 13. From here my family and I moved to Malaysia for a couple years and then to the UK. My dad worked for BAE Systems and was also in the oil and gas industry so we did move around a little.
I found it great to be brought up in these different countries and be immersed in the diverse cultures. You really get a sense of how big the world is and how small you are in comparison.
For me, it left me with itchy feet to travel and work abroad. I believe you learn a lot about yourself from the different experiences you create for yourself and it gives you a better sense of what you want to do.
How do you feel about joining the AIS community?
I’m really excited about it! The environment is great and I feel there is a good energy floating around. Everyone is positive which is always a plus in my book. The better the positivity, the higher everyone lifts each other up. I feel there are some great things to come with my time at AIS.
How did being an expat kid impact you personally and professionally?
I really enjoyed growing up in international schools as an expat child and am grateful to have had the upbringing in these kinds of environments. There is a certain feel about them which I believe only international school kids really know.
You meet a lot of kids in the same shoes as you and make friends from all over the world, and get to experience a multitude of different cultures and nationalities.
In these schools, you pick up a certain mindset which is more universal. You want to achieve higher standards for yourself. This definitely helped me with who I am today and how I hold myself professionally. I always look to take on the off-beaten track. It’s a challenging new adventure for me.
One different experience when you grow up in these kinds of schools is that they are very much a bubble. Cultures do play a big factor but also it is very different to how a lot of other kids have grown up back home. Being able to adapt to these new environments and really understand who you are and where you come from helps.
Moving back home to the UK had its challenges as it was a new(ish) culture and the bubble I grew up in does not exist there. That bubble we lived in allowed me the freedom to do many things, but sometimes this can be overwhelming as you can be swayed by external factors, like family, friends, new friends and social expectations.
What you may do in one country, may be looked at differently in another. You find yourself changing to suit the environment and social situations you are in, even if may not feel normal. What you want to do, may not be what you really want or what you really want to do. This boasts the question, are you in integrity with yourself? Or do you even know what your integrity is? Interesting questions which you can only answer if you ask yourself the right questions and allow yourself to not be swayed by the external factors.
I know I am not the person I am today without asking those questions.
What philosophies do you apply when you coach?
My background is Strength and Conditioning/ Physical Preparation or Athlete Development. I find that this is truly great for everyone as we are great all-round and well-educated coaches who can help develop someone’s physiological health and wellbeing. I do feel we get a bad reputation, as people who haven’t been in an elite sports environment don’t truly understand what we do or can do. We definitely help in more ways than just making people stronger and fitter.
My spin or how I help coach people I believe is different from other coaches. The physical aspect is only one area in my repertoire. Of course, the physical comes into account and this stems from my past coaching experience.
One of the most over-used clichés in health, fitness and sport is that 90% is mental. The problem I see with this is that 90% of people spend 100% of their time on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their health, fitness and sports journey.
They often neglect and ignore the one area that ultimately separates someone who is successful and someone who is not.
What do you want to bring to the people you coach?
A results-driven approach! But what results are you really after? A person’s behaviour or mindset really intrigues me with whoever I coach. I like to understand why you’re training. Why do you want to look a certain way, perform at an elite level, lose those kilos, tone up, become fitter, stronger and ultimately take on this journey? I usually see people come in for one thing and there is always something else which is the true motivating factor.
The question you need to ask yourself is what is your mission?
Without clarity, there is no conviction. Allowing me to understand your ‘deeper why’ will ultimately help me help you further. Asking these deeper why questions allows me to help someone take their ship with a 360° view and focus on that 1° direction without hitting rocks in shallow waters or get stuck in the currents which will take you off track of hitting your goals.
People make decisions based on their emotional feeling which is then backed up by rational thinking. What tends to happen with this is that if you truly do not know your direction, at some point down the line far or near; you are going to fail. Your subconscious thought process with no clarity will make the decision for you depending on the external factors. And this isn’t just external factors to do with your physical appearance or sporting capacities but this affects your life, family, relationships, work and so on. How you are in one area of your life has a knock-on effect on other areas of your life. If you don’t have that awareness, your actions will not have the effect you’re really looking for. How I am looking to help is to help you recognise when/ if you’re still directionless and looking 360°, then redirect you back to that 1° of direction.
What’s your approach to training adults? What do you like most about training adults?
I enjoy coaching adults. A very early trait I see in every adult is that they are set in their ways already. Not all but most are. People don’t like change unless their way of life is threatened. We’ll look at health or lifestyle in this case.
Many people have a preconceived judgement of you already made up in their mind. How I train adults is to break down these barriers both physically, emotionally and mentally. Having coached both sides of the field has allowed me to pinpoint what people need to work on. I find that the physical really brings this part out of someone. A primal aspect.
From a physical point, it depends on their lifestyle and sporting background. What kind of injuries have you had, what sports did you play and what level? Do you spend most of your time sedentary or have a physical job etc. These factors allow me to have an understanding of where you’re currently at and what I believe is necessary to allow you to look, feel and move well.
I coach from a movement based approach. I have a certain set of principles that make up a holistic approach which can easily be progressed or regressed depending on the person. Usually, no one person is the same so an individual approach works best. Sometimes a small tweak can make a big difference per person.
What values will you bring to the kids with their sporting and personal development?
A question I like to ask is have you ever known someone who was just so good at something? Sport or anything else and they were on the path to becoming someone great and someone who inspires people around them? And then they fall short. They don’t make it.
In my years of coaching, I’ve seen a few athletes out of the many who make it to a professional standard. With each of those athletes who did make it, they had one trait which separated them from the rest. This wasn’t how physically, technically or genetically gifted they were.
I see so many kids who need a different level of guidance in a way which isn’t par say the ‘normal route.’ Our challenge is to teach them certain tools which allows them to navigate through all the ups and downs that come with life.
The social, family and school (even work) expectations and to understand what they really want and not what someone else may want them to be. And if they don’t make it? Become the 5% as I like to call it. What then?
How did you differentiate between teaching kids to adults? And what are the similarities?
The way I teach kids is actually pretty similar to teaching adults. Depending on the age of course. Physically, I look to teach kinesthetic awareness, also known as ‘muscle memory.’
Here we look at FUNdamental movement skill development. Their ABCs or agility, balance, coordination and speed mixed in with general strength and callisthenics (body weight) as an easy way to explain it before moving onto Athletic Motor Skill Development which is basically relearning and refining basic movement patterns.
A few examples are learning the basics of technique gym/bar work, movement preparation, hypertrophy/ strength training, working on specific weaknesses and muscle imbalance correction.
I usually find that while kids pick this up easily, adults have to come back and re-learn these patterns after getting used to a certain way of living. I even found this to be the same with fitness models!
How do you like working with entire families?
I’m really happy to be enmeshed in a family environment. Being able to coach the parents, teachers and kids gives me a whole picture of how the kids are growing up. I’d like to see the same opportunity that was given to me, given to the kids.