Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.
A former Nipissing Lakers Volleyball Player is doing his best to bring information about nutrition, physical fitness, mental skills and recovery to the next generation of athletes.
Cameron Branch is the Founder of Branch Sports Performance (BSP) and says that he never really had the intention to turn his hobby into a coaching business
“The reality is, I know that one day my dream of pursuing professional volleyball will come to an end. Having the platform as a professional athlete, I devised a plan to build BSP in order to educate, inspire and improve the health and wellness of athletes. “I strive to empower athletes, teams, coaches and organizations with foundational resources to support development in key areas of sport science including nutrition, physical fitness, mental skills and recovery” says Branch.
Branch attended Nipissing University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Physical Education and Master of Science in Kinesiology Degree. While studying, Branch played for the Lakers men’s volleyball team under the direction of Head Coach Eric Yung. Branch went on to pursue a career as a professional volleyball player, and says it is the sum of education, experience, opportunity, and passion that allowed the Windsor, Ontario native to start becoming a consultant.
Branch adds, “I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and the relationships I’ve built through sport in the North Bay community. There has been outstanding support from coaches in the community, however, It’s been a life-long journey of learning to get to this point.”
Branch says nutrition education is a big focus and one that he wants to continue to simplify and make easily accessible for athletes, coaches, and parents.
“I was fortunate in the capacity that health and nutrition-based courses were being offered as part of my undergrad curriculum. These classes brought some answers to questions that I was looking for in my preparation as a student-athlete. I remember always being tired, and sore, having persistent injuries, and feeling stressed and anxious. Nutrition was the missing puzzle piece. When I began focusing on what I was eating before, during, and after training, and reflecting on how certain foods made me feel, my health and performance started to improve drastically.”
Branch says these are the moments he hopes current student-athletes take notice of and learn from.
“The virtual world presented a great opportunity for me to build connections across the province and develop an online coaching presence. While I offer in-person sessions, most of the work I do is virtual. Specific to nutrition, I provide access to foundational resources on nutrition basics, hydration, game and travel day nutrition, building athlete meals and snacks, and shopping on a budget. As a response to the pandemic, I worked synergically with local coaches to deliver team-building interventions that involved the development of food skills through virtual cooking demonstrations. This was a great way to keep the motivation and team spirit high.”
"Importantly, what I've come to realize is that athletes need more support than just nutrition education. Athletes can benefit from understanding healthy lifestyle habits including sleep, stress and time management, connection, and expressing gratitude. These have recently been added to our coaching programs.”
“Athletics is my second language. BSP is a compilation of all these years of personal, educational, and professional experience.”
Branch’s pursuit of a career as a professional volleyball player has led him to Austria, France, and Germany, where he currently plays for FC Schüttorf 09.
“It's a nine-month season. I arrived in Germany August 1st and I will leave back to Canada at the beginning of May,” says Branch.
“I have a lot of downtime between the training and competition schedule, so I keep busy with reading, writing, and connecting with athletes. When I enter the training environment, I place coaching aside and focus on the opportunity to play volleyball and improve key aspects of my game. It is a unique situation because I live by what I teach, so whether it is cooking, writing in my journal, training, playing, or an active recovery day, I document everything and I can use it later in my teachings if needed.”
Branch says sticking to a daily routine, and a weekly schedule allows him to keep everything on track.
“Time management is something I learned through my years of being a student-athlete at Nipissing University. I have a list of goals that I complete Monday to Sunday, and I have complete control over each of them. I know that putting time, effort, and discipline into the goals that I have complete control over, will give me the best chance for success on and off the court.
Branch says from a young age he was very active and interested in health and wellness.
“I was always playing a sport whether it’d be basketball, hockey, baseball, or track and field. If I wasn't training or competing, I would be spending time socializing with friends or family, or in nature with my father and grandfather. Similarly, my mother kept me well fed, and my grandmother who is into preventative health and holistic nutrition, was always eager to share her knowledge with me, and I became inspired by her wisdom.”
Branch says every week he’s gaining new connections whether it's with a sports team, organization, or individual athlete here, or abroad.
“My most recent project is with Team Ontario Elite, where we developed a sports science initiative (Feel Great Monday) which utilizes weekly self-reported athlete wellness data to identify athlete injury risk, readiness, and wellness. Every Monday, self-reported athlete wellness data is collected and then we interpret the data and turn it into key tips to improve health and performance.
As an example, we delivered education to athletes on the following topics: sleep hygiene, time management, stress management, nutrition, pre-game routines, injury prevention, and recovery.”
Branch adds, “I absolutely love coaching, it is quite a humbling experience to serve others. As much as the athletes learn from me, it is reciprocal in the capacity that I learn a lot from them too. I live by what I preach on a day-to-day basis, and my goal for each athlete that comes through one of my coaching programs is to feel educated, inspired, and motivated to be the best version of myself.“
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