Mischa Harris

A strength & conditioning coach by trade, I’ve spent the past decade diving into the parallel worlds of performance training to complement the typical training models. Deep investigation into the fields of Sport Coaching, Natural Medicine, Holistic Nutrition, Yoga, Meditation, Nervous System Regulation, Neuroplasticity, Spirituality and Transformational Coaching have produced a model I call Holistic Performance Coaching. With this approach of considering all the aspects that contribute to performance, I’m able to work with athletes to figure out their best path to success. This process is always dictated by their goals and what works for any given athlete, and an essential component is empowering them to take ownership over their own process and understand what works and why.

I’ve applied this model with Canadian National Teams in Beach Volleyball, Soccer, and Field Hockey, as the Lead Strength Coach at the Richmond Olympic Oval, and currently as the Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Volleyball Canada Centres of Excellence. I’ve founded and continue to work with Sideout Athlete Development, offering training and coaching services specifically for volleyball players, and Sideout Beach Volleyball - Vancouver’s first high performance beach volleyball club. I’ve also coached beach volleyball at all levels in Canada and Internationally, at 2 World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

Credentials:

  • Master of Science in Experimental Medicine, University of British Columbia
  • Bachelor of Human Kinetics, Major in Kinesiology and Health Science, University of British Columbia
  • Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • Functional Movement Screen Level 2 Certified
  • Level 2 Beach Volleyball Coach, National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) 
  • National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Trained Weightlifting Coach
  • BC Sports Med Sport First Aid Certified

My Path

My interest in the world of performance training started young when I was a competitive volleyball player. I always naturally had the curiosity and drive to do more in my training, to push myself to the next level. Unfortunately, as is the case with so many young athletes, that ambition was a little (ok, a lot) unbalanced - and as I pushed as hard as I could in certain areas of my training, I completely ignored other crucially important aspects of both my training and my health. When injury after injury forced me to take a break from competitive volleyball in 2005 I was frustrated and confused about why things had gone so wrong. I had always put in 100% effort and tried to follow the best advice I could get my hands on, but my performance suffered nonetheless.

Without my identity as an elite athlete, I searched for new ways to occupy my time and my curiosity about human performance. I was studying Human Kinetics at the time, so I had a base of knowledge about the underlying physical, physiological, and mental factors that contribute to performance. But I was still puzzled because I had followed those guidelines to the best of my ability - I ate hardly any fat, I pushed as hard as I could whenever I trained in the weight room or on court, I went to physio to deal with my painful joints and muscles regularly, and I was incredibly strict and disciplined with my training.

I was soon to learn that these very common athletic habits were the very things that were keeping me injured and holding me back from improving my performance.

Early on in my undergrad I learned that, through and through, what I like doing best is helping people. Whether it was helping them as a teammate, as a friend, a study partner, or in a coaching setting, that’s when I felt the most energy and purpose in my life. So I followed this passion and started as a personal trainer and athletic trainer for the UBC women’s volleyball team. I was starting to see how the things I had learned in school, combined with my personal experiences as an athlete, gave me a powerful frame of reference for helping people resolve their injuries and performance hurdles. But very quickly I saw that there were also a lot of athletes that I couldn’t help, and who were going down the same path of chronic injury and frustration that I had experienced. So I applied my athletic work ethic to learning everything I could about the injuries and performance barriers that I was seeing. I entered what I like to call the “what I didn’t know I didn’t know” phase of my life.

In my pursuit of finding a better way to help athletes become healthier, stronger, faster, happier, and more successful without sacrificing some part of their life or body, I began my Master’s in Experimental Medicine at UBC. People often ask what that is, because it conjures up images of darkly lit basements and flickering lightbulbs…but essentially it is just the progressive research done by the medical faculty. I was incredibly fortunate to have amazingly brilliant, innovative, open-minded, and supportive supervisors who were not only the world leaders in their respective fields, but also incredible mentors and empowering teachers. With their permission (and encouragement) to think and work outside the box of any research that was being done in our area of the world, I began what I think of as the real name for my degree - a Master’s in Problem Solving. I quickly learned that most of the world of research is interested in a “statistically significant result” - something that works for enough people that it couldn’t be due to chance. I had a problem with this. “Enough people” was not enough for me to be satisfied that I knew how to help people. I was helping “enough” of the teams and athletes I was working with before - it was the outliers, the non-responders that I was interested in.

“Why does it work for some and not for others” became my daily mantra.

It took 2 years of diving deep into the worlds of strength, flexibility, timing, recruitment, activation, and 3D kinematics to realize that no one aspect was the solution - they all worked together and affected one another. At the brink of my confusion, I had a breakthrough when I came across Functional Movement Systems and the concept that movement quality is the underlying factor that determines efficient movement, greater performance, and less wear and tear on the joints and muscles. Most importantly, Gray Cook and others in his organization talked about global, holistic movement patterns, how every part of the body affects all the other parts, and (here was my lightbulb moment) how the same symptom can come from very different sources from one person to the next. Treating the symptom doesn’t work! Hallelujah!

Finally someone talking about how to solve problems for the outliers!

Fast forward a decade and this is pretty common knowledge in the strength & conditioning and injury rehabilitation world, but back then it was the first I had ever heard about the concept of movement quality instead of movement quantity. Not only did I gain an invaluable framework for helping my clients get over their nagging problems and setbacks, but I was able to solve so many of my own movement issues as well. I was fully passionate about helping athletes keep (or regain) their healthy joints as they developed more strength, power, and speed, and I had found my philosophy with which to do so.

But my story doesn’t end there. What happens when you have a niche role in dealing with the outliers, problem solving for people who haven’t had success with traditional approaches, is that cases get trickier and trickier. Once again there was a small percentage of clients that I had who weren’t seeing great results despite the best movement training and strength & conditioning available. Even my own body was resistant to making some changes by simply focusing on the movement quality alone. As before, my investigations began with myself. I dove into the world of nutrition and natural medicine, learning how backwards it is to eat the highly processed, low fat, high sugar foods that permeate “sport nutrition”, and how to give my body the nutrients it had been deprived of for so long. I began a crash course (literally, I crashed and burned so badly I could barely get out of bed) in nervous system regulation and stress management, and enlisted the help of a wise professional coach to help me find a healthy relationship between work and my personal life. Through the magic of curiosity and persistence, I found people who completely transformed my way of thinking about my life and my relationship with the world, taking me to levels of health and happiness that I couldn’t have imagined. By far the most transformative thing I’ve learned to date is that we are all experts in ourselves.

The ability to listen to and understand one's body, mind, and heart are the cornerstones of holistic health, happiness, success, and performance.

Through Holistic Performance Coaching I hope to help clients at any level of athletic ability learn how to become experts and masters of themselves, opening up their pathway to their athletic potential.