Then & Now in 5 Minutes

Within the next five minutes it will become clear why I’m here at the University of Edinburgh working on a MSc in Strength and Conditioning.

I’m the son of two very unique individuals; my father is an author, sculptor, and black smith, and my mother is a medical anthropologist. Both of whom are and have been athletes since their youth.

I’ve been mountain biking since I was 6 years old. I first started racing bikes when I was 13 (BMX) and downhill mountain bikes when I was 14. I continue to ride as much as possible, and participate in Enduro MTB races when they’re convenient.

I have been playing ice hockey since I was 9 and have had the same skating coach ever since. I’ve had coaches push me to the limits of what I thought was possible. I’ve had nicknames such as “Mule” that have clearly set my role on the team as turn to Daniel to get the job done with no questions asked. That particular nickname was given to me when I was 18 and playing AA (today would be AAA) hockey in California. That year was the year that changed my life. For better or worse, I don’t know, but here I am now. I’ve written and told this story many times over the years, but it still brings tears to my eyes, because I never know what could have been. I remember the first hit; it was brutally hard and clean against the boards. I couldn’t tell you what happened after that. I remember regaining consciousness with my coach tickling the back of my neck, having no clue where I was. Still very disoriented, sitting outside of the bench while the game continued behind me, I remember my dad telling “get over it, it’s all psychological”. It wasn’t! I ended up trying to play the next weekend, I got hit once, and collapsed on the bench. It turned out that I had sustained a brain contusion.

I wont go into the details for years from 19-24, but lets just say they were some of the most self destructive years of my life. That’s what happens when a doctor does not care for the emotional (psychological) well being of their patients. In a single visit I was told that I could never play ice hockey, mountain bike, ski, snowboard, or go dirt bike riding ever again.

At around 24 (2005) it became clear that I needed to go back to school to pursue higher education. I was accepted into the health psychology program at a naturopathic school in Washington called Bastyr University. My first quarter I had Psychology of Sport & Exercise. I was hooked! My professor, now dear friend and mentor still tells this story. After class I walked into her office to see what it would take to be accepted into the Exercise Science program. It would take me an extra year, but it was the right choice. During this year, she introduced me to my first strength & conditioning mentor. During my time at Bastyr (2006-2009) I had been immersed into the world of strength and conditioning. By 2007 I was training athletes and running speed camps.

In 2009 I started coaching ice hockey and teaching power skating. During my first year coaching for Seattle Junior Hockey Association I was running off ice conditioning programs, and working in the on-ice training camps. Jumping forward to 2013, I started Seattle Institute of Athletic Performance, specializing in youth athletic development. I have been primarily training ice hockey players and figure skaters, and a couple others all over the U.S. (motocross, and American Football). I’ve always had my eyes on a Masters degree, but never found the right fit. At this point in my life I was watching my athletes that I’ve been coaching since they were 9 and 10, start driving, going to play hockey in other parts of the country, and going off to college. It was time for me to follow my new dreams, so here I am at 33 pursuing the next level of education thousands of miles away from where I call home.

Was the heartache of having everything taken away worth it? I will never know, but I do know that by holding onto to what I love from my primitive years and sharing them with my athletes, keeps me optimistic for my future.

Published by: Coach DanielH

Daniel Heller is a strength and conditioning coach, working in the field since 2007 where he began as an intern at Hope’s Gym in Monroe, Washington. In 2009, a month after graduating from Bastyr University, Daniel became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Since then, he has served as a strength and conditioning coach in the private sector, helping athletes from youth through college level in ice hockey, figure skating, mountain biking, football, and motocross. He works closely with each athlete’s physical therapists and doctors to ensure safety and performance improvement. In 2013, Daniel received the designation of Registered Strength & Conditioning Coach (RSCC) through the NSCA. On the side Daniel was the exercise physiology, biomechanics, and kinesiology consultant for the Advanced Products Development Team at Oakley Inc. He is the Cofounder and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Seattle Institute of Athletic Performance providing Functional Movement Screens, corrective exercises, athletic performance programs, as well as educating athletes and parents on the importance of Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) and practice of heads up sports. Daniel’s passion for strength and conditioning stems from his days as a competitive ice hockey player and mountain biker, aside from the many recreational sports he participates in. He is the true strength & conditioning coach for competitive youths aiming for long careers as athletes but also the weekend warriors that train during the week to stay safe on the weekends. In 2015, Daniel took a year break from coaching in Seattle, Washington to pursue his dream of acquiring a masters degree. He returned to Seattle in September 2016 with a Masters of Science in Strength & Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh after living in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year. By immersing himself in the cycling community of Scotland, he was inspired to focus his dissertation on competitive cyclists from varying disciplines where he researched a potential method of improving stationary sprint start performance. He is excited to return to coaching mountain biking combining his childhood passion with his academic and applied expertise.

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