Shrugged Collective

Feed Me Fuel Me — Passion Before Paychecks w/ Rachel Balkovec — 82

Rachel Balkovec is the first female strength and conditioning coach in the history of professional baseball. She has spent the past seven years as a strength and conditioning coach for organizations such as Arizona State University, Louisiana State University, Los Tigres Del Licey Beisbol and the St. Louis Cardinals.  

Most recently, Rachel has joined the Houston Astros as their Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator. Her mission is to live courageously while empowering others to do the same.

In this episode, we learn the value of being persistent, why academia isn’t always the best route, why you need to work to learn, not to earn, and much more.


– Jeff and Mycal

“You’re only as good as what you can communicate. If you have all this information and you can’t communicate it, what good can you do as a coach.” — Rachel Balkovec

The power of persistence and passion

Rachel Balkovec broke through continuous barriers to become the first female strength and conditioning coach in Major League Baseball. As a collegiate softball player, she aspired to change the world, from a philanthropic stand-point, through professional sports.

Having gone through five internships in both academia and professional baseball with organizations ranging from LSU to the St. Louis Cardinals, Rachel has a vast understanding of the science behind strength and conditioning.

Rachel is currently the Strength and Conditioning coach for the Houston Astros and aspires to one day be the General Manager of a Major League Baseball Team. Her thirst for knowledge and relentless learned mentality give her an edge in the constantly developing world of exercise science.

Key Takeaways

  • Work to learn, not to earn —  With a learners mindset, Rachel was able to get invaluable internships, which at the time paid her almost nothing, or nothing. She knew money isn’t everything and the knowledge she gained through these experiences ultimately sprung her to an opportunity as the first ever MLB strength and conditioning coach.
  • Stay persistent — Rachel was rejected countless times by multiple organizations simply because she was a woman. She went as far as changing her name to “Ray” on her resume and cover letters in order to get a response, only to be rejected again once employers found out she is a woman. With her relentless spirit, after countless failed attempts, she was offered an opportunity to oversee 230 athletes with the Cardinals.
  • Academia isn’t always the best route — In the US, academic institutions often prioritize research geared towards the general population versus high performing athletes. Much of the education process in Kinesiology and exercise physiology happens outside the classroom. There are some countries, namely Australia, that do grant a considerable amount of funding towards research on performance athletes.
  • Virtual Handshake — A program started by Rachel in order to help students resumes, cover letters, cold emails, and other professional materials. The program is geared towards young adults as a resource to jumpstart their career when transitioning from academia to the professional world.
  • Daily routines can be based in principal and do not have to be nuanced — Rachel has two principles she lives by daily. She will train everyday and eat clean everyday, no matter where she is and what she has going on.

“Everyone says there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat. I say there is only one BEST way to skin a cat. There’s only one fastest, cleanest, most efficient ways to skin a cat.” — Rachel Balkovec

Mike Bledsoe

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