Dream Job: Andrew Hill, Elite Fitness Trainer | Careers In Fitness
by Gavin Dennett
Posted: November 18, 2015
When you’re watching a Sydney Swans home game during the AFL season, keep a close eye on the umpires controlling the action.
If they’re bursting with energy and not running out of puff by the fourth quarter, you can thank Andrew Hill.
A former professional ironman, Andrew is the strength and conditioning coordinator for Australian Rules football umpires in NSW and ACT who puts officials through their paces to ensure they are fit enough to blow the pea out of their whistle by the full-time siren.
It is this standing as an elite fitness trainer that gives Andrew the credentials to serve as head of Health, Fitness and Beauty at Open Colleges. With long experience in tertiary education and fitness training, he’s busy ensuring students get the very best out of their Open Colleges’ learning.
We catch up with Andrew to take a peek at his career path in sport and his role in keeping Aussies fit and active.
You grew up in Sydney breathing the salty Bondi Beach air – did you spend your days running up and down the famous golden sands?
I grew up through the Bondi Surf Club and enjoyed being fit and healthy. I was heavily involved in sport with the surf club so decided to study human movement. Back then, when you mentioned to people you were studying a degree in human movement, they would stare at you blankly. But my family supported me. At the time I graduated, there weren’t many jobs out there, but sports science is popular now.
Where did your degree take you after graduating?
I finished up doing education and for a while was a PE teacher. For a number of years I worked at TAFE and with the university. More recently, I did a Masters in exercise and sports science and then a Masters in education. I didn’t love the academic side of school, but when I got into university I studied things I enjoyed. If you choose a study path you enjoy, it makes such a difference to your life as you are happier, more balanced and have a sense of achievement. There isn’t a day I walk out of Open Colleges when I don’t feel I have achieved something.
And you embarked on a career as a professional ironman along the way?
I was lucky enough to compete professionally on the ironman circuit for a number of years when the breakfast cereal wars were going on between Kellogg’s and Uncle Tobys. I got to compete with big names such as Guy Leech and Darren Mercer.
What was it like competing with legends of Aussie ironman and surf lifesaving?
It was great fun and everyone trained really hard. I was able to learn some things in the classroom during my studies and apply them to my training. I did about five years of professional ironman and travelled around Australia, competing in one Coolangatta Gold. I made a lot of good friends along the way.
Was there much money in it as a competitor?
There was for the top few guys, but the rest of us scraped by. (Laughs) We occasionally got an airfare or a free pair of shoes off a sponsor, but other times you’d sleep in the surf club the night before an event. The breakaway Uncle Tobys guys made a lot of money, but the rest of us struggled. Kellogg’s didn’t really care about the breakaway series because any time an Uncle Tobys event came on, sales of Nutri-Grain went up anyway as the public couldn’t differentiate between the cereal brands.
For the last two seasons you have coordinated strength and conditioning for Australian Rules football umpires in NSW and ACT – is that satisfying?
I love it. We train two nights a week in North Sydney and the programs I set get sent to Canberra and through NSW to get those guys and girls physically ready to umpire. In that squad we have umpires from local level all the way up to super elite AFL level. I had one umpire who officiated a 2015 AFL preliminary final. Those boundary guys run from 16km to 22km in a game so they need to be doing a hard program with intense interval work, repeated strengths, time trials and skills under fatigue. You need to be a good runner if you want to be a good umpire.
Do you enjoy your role as head of Health, Fitness and Beauty at Open Colleges?
I love it. Every day is different and I love my portfolio. I call it Renovation Rumble for students. If you have broken teeth, you get them fixed in my portfolio (Certificate iii in Dental Assisting). If you want to put on some muscle… my portfolio (Certificate iii in Fitness). If you want to beautify yourself… my portfolio (Beauty). I love the energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the industry of my staff.
The courses you oversee are very hands-on…
The fundamental set-up of what we do is that students will undertake online distance-based study and then go out into the workplace to do some learning and assessment. Although we say we are an online provider, I look at it as more of a blended approach. A student has to go out and get their hands dirty and interact.
What advice would you give to someone looking to embark on an Open Colleges course?
Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from day one. Know what your career path is going to be as this will shape what you immerse yourself in during your course. People who make a conscious decision where they want to head are often very successful.
Is being a trainer on The Biggest Loser a reasonable goal?
Becoming a personal trainer has become popular because of TV shows such as The Biggest Loser. There is an image of training celebrities and structuring your day around only working from 10am to 4pm, but the reality is you probably won’t be training celebrities and you will work from 5am until 10pm. But if you go in with your eyes open and are aware of the reality of that industry, you won’t be shocked when you graduate.
Read our interview with Shannan Ponton, a trainer on The Biggest Loser.
Think a career in fitness could be for you? Check out our range of courses for aspiring personal trainers and health professionals.