Follow Your Passion: ‘I fill the gaps in my learning that I need to fill’ says Coach Patrick Harding
Physiotherapy and strength and conditioning are competitive and fast-paced fields of work.
Performance Coach, Patrick Harding, knows this all too well.
A Laois native, Harding works as a Performance Coach for a number of elite athletes including Irish professional boxer, Michael Conlan, and Thai-British Formula One Driver, Alex Albon.
It has been a long road navigating his career to this level after starting as a performance coach with Portlaoise AFC. He says it took years of dedication to get to where he is today.
“Thirteen years of hard work. I always knew I wanted to be in professional sports. That’s how I started, every job I looked for had a sports emphasis on it,” he said.
Being a multi-disciplinarian is a pre-requisite for many industries nowadays and sports performance is no different. Harding’s CV reads like a who’s who of elite-level athletes across a range of sports.
Rugby, football, Australian rules, canoeing, boxing, golf, and Formula One motorsport are just some of the areas that Harding has worked in, all of which were at a high level of sports performance.
His football experience includes work within Arsenal Football Club and he was head physio for the Team GB canoeing team that took home a not-so-modest two gold and two silver medals at Rio 2016.
He was approached by Michael Conlan, one of the most accomplished boxers in Ireland today, to be his coach and had a similar situation with the golfer, Paul Dunne.
In 2018, he became the performance coach for Formula One driver, Alex Albon which has seen him take his career from Japan to Brazil thanks to the transcontinental nature of the F1 calendar.
But Harding couldn’t rest on his laurels. It was during his time with Arsenal in London that he decided to follow his passion to gain his Master's in Strength & Conditioning.
Anyone would forgive him for seeing further academic qualification as a bit unnecessary given a CV that had already seen him go to two Olympic Games with Team GB as well as working Down Under in Aussie Rules, not to mention his role at the time with one of the biggest clubs in English football in Arsenal.
However, that is not an attitude that Harding entertains.
“I really try to do the best job I can and fill the gaps in my learning that I feel I need to fill. Strength and conditioning is a skill set I knew would work really well with physio and a skill set I needed to develop in my own career,” he said.
And he has reaped the benefits of his Masters.
When a tweet was put out looking for an S&C coach to fill a role within Formula One and Formula Two, it was two of Harding’s lecturers from the Masters that put his name forward.
“I got a tweet one day; it was a guy called Pete McKnight. He had put out a tweet looking for a physio with S&C qualifications and experience in elite level sport.
“Two of my lecturers from my Masters who knew my background tweeted him back suggesting me. Pete DM’d me and we got a call in,” he said.
With his qualification under his belt, Harding stepped into the world of motorsport, initially working with Japanese driver Tadasuke Makino in Honda’s Formula Two set up.
This is where he became acquainted with Alex Albon and when Albon was called up to Red Bull Racing’s junior team, Toro Rosso, in Formula One, it was Harding that was chosen to accompany him as his coach.
As Harding says, it’s been a long road and his position now is a reflection of the hard work he’s put in.
“When you do a good job, particularly in an area like sport, it gets recognised. You don’t need to go looking.
“Based on the work I’ve done opportunities have arisen and when they have, I’ve followed them.
“If you asked me five years ago if I’d be in Formula One now, I’d have laughed. Here I am and it’s an opportunity I’m very glad I took. That only comes on the back of what you’re doing right now,” he said.
With a new season of Formula One on the horizon, he and Albon are hard at work in preparation.
Harding’s story is hugely inspirational for anyone interested in a career in sports, he fulfilled his potential by pushing himself to a Master’s level and the hard work is paying off.
If you are interested in any of our sports courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert sports advisor Jo Shaw here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01 892 0024.