As a young boy growing up on England’s southern coast, Jack Christopher’s passion was pretty straightforward. Sport. In particular football. He watched it. He played. He even coached young teams as a teenager. He wasn’t the most physically imposing player for his age and without the know-how or equipment to rectify that, a playing career was out of the question.
He did, however, take a keen interest in performance. When watching the Olympics, he admired athletes pushing their bodies to the absolute peak of their performance.
“I got an interest in the Olympics. Pushing human performance. How do these people do what they do? That fascinated me. I always had this unsatiable thing of how do we make someone better? How do we help them achieve what they want to achieve?” he said.
And so, Jack would use that interest in choosing his career path. Following his boyhood passion to work in sport, he went to Loughborough University to study sports science. It was at Loughborough, during his second year, that an opportunity arose for a placement that he could not refuse, Chelsea Football Club.
The West London side ran an internship programme with Loughborough and Jack was selected for it. At just 19 years old, he was now getting experience at one of the biggest clubs in world football. It was at a time when José Mourinho was still at the club, something that benefitted Jack, but maybe not in the way you might think.
“During the time I came, Mourinho came in. The internship got shortened. There used to be first-team and academy intake. Then there was just one intern that worked across both groups. José wasn’t as interested in sports science basically,” he said.
Former Chelsea manager José Mourinho. Credit: Football London.
And so that meant, very early in his career, Jack was working with some of the talented players in football in Chelsea’s first team. And his fortune didn’t end there.
“From a selfish perspective, my timing was quite good. I was part of a very small team. When it came to the end of my year, we had done a lot of stuff as a team of two. So, they wanted to keep me on,” Jack said.
Unable to complete his degree with Loughborough, Jack finished out his undergraduate with Liverpool John Moores University, a partner of Portobello Institute. Simultaneously he continued his work with Chelsea.
He worked across the academy structure in various roles and then, in 2018, he was brought on board for the first team under Maurizio Sarri, as a sports scientist and nutritionist.
Not satisfied with where he was, however, Jack decided it was time to go back to his studies. Over the course of two years, Jack earned his MSc in High-Performance Sport from the Australian Catholic University.
The professional sports industry is an extremely competitive one. And every bit of experience counts. For Jack, while getting the master’s was important, he was glad he allowed time between studies to allow him to get hands-on experience as a practitioner.
“It is important to continue with further education. I did a master’s, but I did it a little bit later. And I’m glad I did it like that.
“I think there’s something to be said for getting the education you need, then getting the experience and then doing further education when you’re involved on both sides. I loved doing mine when I did mine because I was learning things, or I had questions from work that you could then go explore in your master’s. Or you could pick up ideas that you could then go and deliver at work.
“Whereas I think some people have it in their head that they have to get all of the education out of the way and then start. I think they actually work in tandem,” he said.
It was during his studies that Jack was given the opportunity to return to Chelsea’s academy set up in a role that was hard to refuse. Head of Academy Sports Science and Physical Fitness.
While moving into a more senior role, Jack says that he is still very on the ground in his current role.
“My job is still quite operational. I’m day-to-day with the under-18s team. Still leading on all of their gym work and their physical stuff on the pitch. Still involved in day-to-day training but I’ve got a coach with me that would lead with the on-field stuff, and I would just help him with that. Mine is more the off-field stuff in the gym before and after training,” he said.
One of the most rewarding parts of the job, for Jack, is seeing the successful development of a player from the academy through to the main team. He has been able to oversee the progress of players like Mason Mount and Reece James from academy prospects to UEFA Champions League winners in his time. James, in particular, Jack looks on fondly.
“Reece James was a really good one to work with. He wasn’t always as physically strong as he is now.
“I think there was an interview recently and the Chelsea players said he is the strongest in the team. At 14 or 15 that definitely wasn’t the case.
“I worked quite a lot with Reece so to see him once he turned 17, 18 and started to move on to more strength and power work was great. It’s been incredible to see the rise of someone like him,” he said.
Reece James (far left) in the Chelsea Academy. Credit: Reece James via Instagram.
Another standout player for Jack is Conor Gallagher. Gallagher is currently on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea and has caught the eye of many across the Premier League and is in a good position to make a successful return to his parent club.
“Conor, particularly at schoolboy age, was someone who went through hell when he grew. Had a growth spurt and was all over the place. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that. His movement was terrible. Wasn’t as effective on the pitch. Physicality is one of his biggest strengths now.
“Mason and Conor would be two who weren’t the most physically mature 15- or 16-year-olds but with patience, they are now two incredible athletes. They’re two really rewarding ones,” he said.
Conor Gallagher & Mason Mount. Credit: Getty.
And in the summer of 2021, in tandem with his work at Chelsea, Jack decided it was time to open his own business. In partnership with a colleague from the club, Jack is aiming to bring support for achieving peak physical performance to areas that lack access to services like that.
“We grew up on the south coast. The access to what we’ve got here at Chelsea was non-existent. There was nothing like it when we were kids. Something we’re quite passionate about is providing a service as elite as we have here to people who don’t have access due to where they live.
“We feel like we can deliver something that we are proud to put our name to. That’s the motivation behind it. We want to give as many people as possible the best chance to reach their potential. We saw it with ourselves. We never reached our athletic potential and that held us back from enjoying our sport. We want to be able to help people with that because we’ve seen here that that help can make a massive difference,” he said.
There was another motivation behind the venture, something that Jack and his colleague spotted in the fitness world outside of Chelsea.
“Another limitation we saw in the industry was that, here at Chelsea, the athlete is in the middle, and we put a team around him, all bringing different areas of expertise.
“In the regular world, people just work with one master coach, and they design everything. So, we wanted to be able to put a team around someone. When people work with us, they’re working with more than one person and there are different perspectives,” he said.
And for anyone wanting to start on the path that Jack took, his advice is clear.
“Get an understanding of the industry as best you possibly can. Speak to as many people as you can. Get as much experience as you can. Try and get an idea of what you’re interested in. There are misconceptions.
“I went in as a sports science intern and thought I’d love everything about it. I wanted to go towards the athletic development side of things. But it took me a good four years to figure that out. The broader experience you can get starting out, the better,” he said.
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