Our latest Setanta Student Story features Dan Hogan, an MSc in Performance Coaching student, who shares his experiences and insights gained from his roles with Leinster Rugby and St Michael’s College, alongside his academic journey with Setanta.

From Rugby Player to S&C Coach

Dan’s passion for strength and conditioning (S&C) began during his school rugby days. His journey began with an undergraduate degree in Sport Science and Health, accompanied by coaching roles at his former school. Starting as a rugby coach and gradually incorporating S&C elements, Dan discovered his love for coaching and began to shape his unique coaching style.

“I coached there for five years, and that’s where I really discovered my love for coaching and began to develop my own style and voice,” he recalls.

“During my final year of college in 2021 I was accepted onto the Leinster Rugby Sub-Academy Mentorship programme where I got the opportunity to learn from great coaches – Dave Fagan, Padraic Phibbs and Luke O’Dea. This culminated in getting to work with the Leinster Rugby U20s that Summer assisting Dave Fagan with the implementation of all their pitch and gym-based S&C training. This experience really began to open doors for me and I’ve been fortunate enough to be given multiple opportunities to coach S&C across the rugby scene in Dublin in multiple clubs, schools and teams.”

Leading Athletic Development at St Michael’s College

As the Head of Athletic Development at St Michael’s College, Dan designs and implements a comprehensive gym and pitch-based S&C programme, preparing players for their main competitions in late January – the Junior and Senior Cups.

Each week, I have all these players in the gym 1-2 times before and after school. I monitor their wellness, educate them on lifestyle, nutrition, recovery habits, and lead warm-ups, conditioning, speed, agility sessions on the pitch, and work with players returning from injury,” he explains.

Dan emphasises the importance of engaging key stakeholders in implementing a school-based athletic development programme. “Parents, principals, the board of management, sports coaches, and the players themselves all play crucial roles. Ensuring they understand and support the S&C programme is vital,” he says.

He also advocates for a long-term vision, striving to establish a sustainable S&C pathway by integrating S&C training into younger year groups and other sports within the school.

Regional S&C Coach with Leinster Rugby

In addition to his role at St Michael’s College, Dan works with Leinster Rugby as a Regional S&C coach, overseeing the S&C programmes for talent-identified club rugby players aged 16-18 in Dublin.

“I’m responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strength and conditioning programme for the talent-identified club rugby players from u16-u18 age grades in the Dublin area. In this role, I’m based out of the Leinster Rugby Centre of Excellence in Donnybrook. 

The players who are part of the programme come to me one evening a week and I take them through their gym programme. I educate the players on recovery, nutrition and how to best balance their schedules. My role expands during the Summer when I get assigned to one of the five different full-time age-grade performance programmes where I help to prepare the players for their interprovincial series of matches against the other provinces. These programmes run from U18-U20 age grades and are run like a professional team.”

Studying with Setanta

Seeking to enhance his S&C knowledge, Dan pursued a master’s programme at Setanta College.

“Most of what I know has come from experience and working with senior coaches. I chose the master’s programme to push that knowledge further. 

What I particularly like about the lecturers is the fact that they all seem to have practical, real-world experience in high-performing environments. This is important to me because I like to learn from people who I feel have been there and done it.“

Dan outlines how studying with Setanta and attending residential workshops has helped him “discover other ways of doing things.”

“I have learned mostly from the coaches of one organisation”, he says, “and they do fantastic work but through the programme with Setanta I’m getting exposed to different styles and approaches to training and coaching. It’s refreshing to see new ways of doing things and I think that it has forced me to apply more of a thought process to my programming and training.”

Advice for Aspiring S&C Coaches

For those starting their coaching careers, Dan emphasises the value of early experience.“Get coaching early – it doesn’t have to be S&C from the start. I began with rugby coaching and transitioned into S&C. Learning how to communicate with players and developing your coaching voice and confidence is crucial. Coaches must be problem solvers, quick thinkers, and good communicators, skills that develop through experience,” he advises.