Long Island native Kevin Phengthavone graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degree in exercise science from UB in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Today, he works at Impact Sports Performance, a facility for private sports conditioning that’s part of the UBMD medical practice. He also has a great alumni relationship with SPHHP, taking part in panel discussions for students and in the new pilot mentorship program for students from diverse backgrounds.
At Impact, we primarily train sport teams like the Buffalo Bandits [Western New York’s professional lacrosse team], Canisius College’s men’s hockey team and teams in the Buffalo Junior Sabres organization. We work with private clients, too. I love this job because I work in the professional and collegiate setting, but I also get a chance to work with other local athletes privately on strength and conditioning. Professional and collegiate strength and conditioning involves developing annual programs or developing long-term development plans for athletes. The difference in the private sector is the timeline you might work on with people and their developmental goals. It could be for one…three…six months depending on their personal goals. Working with UBMD is different compared to other private strength and conditioning facilities because we get to collaborate with physical therapists, team doctors, and others. That’s a big positive in terms of professional development and quality of service.
I wanted to go to school for science, and UB was one of my options. Biomedical science was my initial major—after about 18 months, I switched to exercise science because I wanted to learn more specifically about the body. I also played lacrosse for UB’s club team where we did strength conditioning, and the coach affected me a lot as a person and made a big impact on my life. I wasn’t the best athlete, but strength conditioning made a big impact on how I felt, how I was on the field, my mental state. It inspired me to become someone who can help people get better physically and mentally.
When I played for the club lacrosse team, we went to nationals twice. We had joined a new conference that year and ended up winning the conference. We were the last seed. We flew in; half the team got there two hours before the game. We lost in the first round, but stayed for a week, sightseeing, climbing mountains, etc. If it weren’t for UB and the Student Association, which helped fund our operations for the year, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
It can help develop young adults and athletes, helping them reach their potential and be better than they think they can be. I’ve seen so many people change their lives as a result. During the year, I might see about 300 or 400 athletes each week, so I have a big opportunity to help athletes grow. You can change your own path based on the work you put in. For instance, I’ve worked with two of the Buffalo Bandits for a long time. They wanted to learn longevity—how they could make their career longer by training correctly. People think strength conditioning is 100% all the time, but to manage and maintain strength, you have to “wave your training.” I helped them learn how to train smart, periodize their training, and do things to maintain mobility instead of always thinking about explosive strength.
I’m looking to give back what my coach gave to me, but the one thing that keeps me driving is building a family in Buffalo. I love strength conditioning, and my family is what I cherish the most. The field is very competitive, so I’ve always looked for stability with my profession. I’ve found that with my job.
For the future, I’d like to do what I’m doing right now with a schedule that works for me. During the pandemic, we were closed for a time, and I spent a lot of time networking and taking professional development classes. It was a good opportunity to reflect on who you are and what you’re doing.
If you really want to know about the human body and help people achieve what they want, it’s a good major. I talk to a lot of young kids about this--and this is true for many degrees and anything you pursue--college gives you a base knowledge of a lot of things, and it’s up to the person to take themselves where they want to go. It’s truly what you desire and how hard you work to get where you want to be.
Be humble and always seek questions about anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Stay curious. The world of knowledge is always bigger than what you think. When I learn something, it always leads to two things I don’t know.
Phengthavone has developed an internship program at Impact Sports Performance for graduate and senior exercise science students, focusing on strength conditioning, physiology and helping young adults to self-evaluate and become forever learners. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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