These days it seems like every guy that lifts weights wants to be a strength coach. College and professional athletes rely on their strength coaches to give them a competitive edge whether it’s through strength training, conditioning, rehabilitation, or regeneration amongst many other things. The coaching staffs at these schools or for these professional teams also rely on the strength coaches for these same things along with building mentally tougher athletes as well as setting the tone for the entire program. That said, what should the inspiring strength coach do to get in on a piece of the action?
1 – Knowledge is power
You need to know your anatomy, and more specifically functional anatomy. That’s the first place everyone should start. When you think you have anatomy down, continue to learn.
2 – Read at least one hour per day
There are so many aspects to becoming a strength coach and you’ll never know everything. Keep exploring new topics and never stop exploring. There are so many areas you can focus on, whether its nutrition, biomechanics, programming, anatomy, new training techniques, or even personal development. The fact of the matter is I doubt there is anyone out there that reads too much.
3 – Realize that you need to know much more than just strength training
This basically piggybacks off of #2, but whether its nutrition, mobility/stability, speed training, or how to continually motivate and connect with athletes, you need to know it and understand it. It’s so much more than just a couple sets of hang cleans followed by some squatting and benching. The sooner you realize that strength training is one of many different aspects of this job, the sooner you’ll be on your way to having a successful coaching career.
4 – Find a mentor(s) and learn as much as you can from them
Every strength coach started in the same position as you are in right now and almost all of them are willing to lend a helping hand to an up and coming strength coach. Find someone who has a very good reputation and learn as much as you can from them. Ask them as many questions as you can think of and make the most of learning from someone who is the position you hope to be in someday. Plus, when you finally have a job and your own teams, you’ll always have someone or a couple of people to shoot emails to and call when you have questions.
5 – Intern/Volunteer as much as you can
This is an obvious one; you need to get out there and get experience. If you look at almost all strength coaches resumes you’ll find they interned and/or volunteered many hours when they were young to get their foot in the door. Furthermore, when interning or volunteering, if the strength coaches let you actually get on the floor and coach the athletes take full advantage of it. It takes time to be able to successfully coach up an athlete so they actually understand what you are talking about. In a perfect world you should intern/volunteer with a couple different coaches at different schools to learn as much as you can from as many different people as you can. The more your exposed to, the better as it will help you develop your own philosophies and systems.
To take it a step further, most colleges and professional teams are looking for someone who has a master’s degree. Get as much experience as you can so that when its time to get that masters degree you can also get a graduate assistantship. As a GA you’ll basically be a strength coach, running your own teams, all while learning from other like-minded coaches, get paid a monthly stipend, and go to school for free. Not a bad gig.
6 – Learn how to communicate
Whether you’re standing in front of the women’s soccer team giving them a run down of everything on the agenda for the day or coaching up an athlete one on one, you need to know how to communicate with them so they understand exactly what you want, and as easy as it may sound, it takes time to master. Furthermore, while in the weight room there’s a lot going on, from loud music to other teams and coaches being loud. Because of that, often times you’ll need to raise your voice so someone of the other end of the room can hear you. I’ve seen some coaches do this and it always seems like they are yelling at someone and some coaches that do this and it always seems like they are coaching someone. It’s a huge difference and one that takes time to master.
7 – Remember that your number one goal as a strength coach is to keep the athletes as healthy as possible at all times
It doesn’t matter how strong they are if they can’t get on the field or on the court. If an athlete has their leg rolled up on and ends up with a torn ACL there’s nothing you can do as a coach. However, if an athlete is running and cuts or stops quickly and ends up tearing an ACL, it reflects back on the strength coach. This is where the countless hours learning about corrective exercise, rehabilitation, and regeneration come in handy to keep everyone healthy and on the field. Chasing numbers and having some strong athletes is always a good thing, as long as it comes second to having healthy athletes.