Certifications are as much about Context as Content

The Certification Waters are Getting Cloudier.

For the dozen people that have made it this far in the log post after laughing at my snatch attempts probably know my now that I have a respect for all coaches and athletes in all sports. You know that I have a deep respect for all strength sport participants and get annoyed with the negative banner. You also may know that I not only am unafraid, but almost feel obligated to question just about everyone and everything I see that doesn't sit well for the overall well being of our physical and athletic culture of our society. I have major pet peeves (I just may not post them on Facebook everyday):
1. Physical Education in the Country is Deplorable
2. The State of the Profession in Collegiate Strength & Conditioning is in dire straits.
3. People criticizing methodologies or sports they've never tried.
4. Trolls

There are two trends I have noticed that directly effect the first two. I will talk about the 1st one.

Certification Requirements
So I referred one of my former interns for a high School S&C position and when I looks at the job requirements I noticed something. There was a requirement among the standard requirements for a degree and experience in the filed followed by the standard arbitrary, "must work well with others in a fast paced environment, be well organized...blah, blah, blah. (I would almost rather them just say "The candidate must not be an asshole." Anyway, one requirement said:

Strength and Conditioning Certification (NSCA, CrossFit Level 1, etc.)

Interesting. I assume the administrator feels these two certifications are interchangeable when it comes down to the basic qualifications of training high school athletes. There are certified people from every organization that couldn't coach worth a shit and there are un-certified coaches that are some of the best in the field. But, that's not the argument. Any high school, college, or even private facility administrator who hired someone without a degree and who is not certified is a dumbbass. If they don't think it's necessary to have a certified coach, then they will if they are ever in a court of law explaining why it wasn't necessary during cross-examination in a civil law suit from little Johnny's parents who liked their son better without a barbell shaped dent in his face.

Where there is a disconnect is not where people agree or disagree that a high school strength coach should be certified or not. They only people that argue against it are idiot-sticks who are too lazy to get certified in the first place. Look, there are a lot of BAD high school strength coaches out there. There are way more High School coaches who have paid one of their assistants to be a weight room monitor for the few thousand dollar stipend that goes with it. It's usually the coach who finished playing last, kind of likes working out, or that needs to extra grand or so.

The point is we have lumped all of these certifications under one umbrella. The NCAA hasn't done anyone much favors and are only starting to distinguish between organizations.

Certification is not a question of content but of context

What exactly is your certification certifying you to do? I am in no position to criticize anyone's certification, especially because I believe in the general concept of going through the process to show a basic competency. But each certification has it's target population and it's own scope of practice. I am fortunate to have 4 certifications. Doesn't make me better than anyone. It's just what I felt I needed to do to learn and be better. Each one is designed to show competency of a population (some more broad than others).

There are certification that have required more preparation than others.

NSCA-CSCS = 3-6 months of studying, written, and practical
CSCCa-SCCC = 640 hour internship, written, practical, and Hands-on in front of a panel of coaches.
NAMS-PES = 3-6 months of studying, written, and practical
USAW-SPC = 2 day workshop, written, practical

There are a lot (I know 4 that got the same certification on the same weekend) that needed to be certified in order to coach athletes at the university level (specific to DIII rules). This doesn't make them lazy and it doesn't make the certification any less valuable. The issue is not what that got out of the weekend, but what they are able to do. USAW has a Level 1 cert. When I got my Sports Performance Coach Cert at Xavier with David Armstrong in 2004. A large portion of the certification dealt with warm-up, med-ball work, plyometrics, and the hybrid and supplemental lifts. There has been a fundamental shift in the certification and had become more targeted toward the classic lifts. In my opinion, this scope has narrowed significantly for coaching athletes. But, with the emergence of CrossFit and the resurgence of competitive Olympic Lifting, there seems to be less of a demand for a more general cert. like the Sports Performance one. It would be interesting to see these numbers.

If you are teaching athletes Olympic Lifts, then I wholeheartedly agree that the USAW certification would be valuable to you, your athletes, and your university or high school. Problem is, how much of your program is really the snatch, clean, and jerk. Does that qualify you to effectively and safely teach all other aspects of sports performance? Is that certification alone enough? Well, it may not matter, especially when you don't have the entire picture.

What if that coach has 6 years experience running a strength program and for whatever reason, wanted to be more proficient at the Olympic lifts and subsequently teaching them. Just because the only cert he has is narrow in practice doesn't mean his experience is.

It's human nature, but coaches get offended and sometime threatened when someone is hired as a S&C coach with a Personal Trainer background (and corresponding certification). It's a tell-tale sign the university or high school doesn't know what the fuck they're doing. It's not the personal trainer's fault. Some of these positions are part-time and the private sector is how the coaches feed their family.

But, Coaches are threatened by things like CrossFit and Meathead eBooks and feel they undermine what they have worked for. The coach that spends years learning and improving as a coach by seeking out every available resource only to be placed on the same level as "weekend cert guy". The Coach that cares as much about his athletes off the field and puts every once of passion in getting his kids better is reduced to kids choosing a cookie cutter eBook program and adding a "fuck your coaching, just give me the sets and reps" attitude. But, two things have to happen in your Coach-Brain to make sense out of all this.

1. You need to clean your own house and get your shit together, first. if you are worrying about the weekend cert guy stealing your athletes or taking your job, you need to worry about how you are coaching and what you need to do to be better.

"Do You."

2. The administrators, sport coaches, and parents that have lumped anyone who has picked up a barbell as qualified to lead their team to state titles, doesn't have the knowledge base to make that determination. Educating those people on what training really should be is a long arduous process that is extremely difficult to do without bashing your "competition" (whether real or imagined) and self-promoting. Plus, the weekend cert guy probably already knows that his/ her skill set and experience are different and is humble enough to know that training athletes is different and thus is not has much of a comfortable undergoing. Usually, they "get it". The coach or trainer we are usually threatened by understand that teaching a CrossFit class is different than running a team session even if the administration may not.

So will there be more high school and colleges that will consider a CrossFit Level 1, or ACE, USAW, or ACSM certification on the same level as a CSCS or SCCC? Probably. With the popularity comes more exposure and hopefully more legitimacy from within. Certification is just one piece of the puzzle. There are plenty of coaches that have entered the private sector after years of coaching in the college or high school setting. Is the college graduate that passed his CSCS really more qualified than the CF Level 1 coach that has interned, was a GA, and has 3 years coaching experience at the college level?

The most important point in all this is that administrators take all things into account during the hiring process.

Two candidates are applying for a job. If experience and education are equal, then you bet your ass that an NSCA or CSCCa certification means more and should count as such when consideration of a position.

This is not disrespectful but a USAW or CF Level 1 qualifies you to coach Olympic Lifts and to teach CrossFit classes. A lot of those skills would overlap, but it is naive to think that those certification would be all-encompassing in coaching high school and collegiate athletes in a strength & conditioning setting.

Regardless of certification, the process in any organization is a good thing for everyone involved. There is one aspect that the sports performance and athletic development field is ahead of the game when it comes to athletics. Track & Field being the anomaly; when's the last time you've had a sport coach certified in coaching their sport? Have you seen a basketball coach certification or football coaches studying for the AFCA exam?

We are getting there. We just need to be realistic in how and why we are getting there.


Had some serious issues with my neck and had triceps and upper back pain for a few days. Things felt "burny" and "pinchy". Not doing another 5 months of rehab just so I can lift below average weight with below average form. Not good for week one. I will blame it on the clean catch as it is the only component I have added from previous programming, and I performed it 3 times in one week.

Worked to up 80kg and missed it 3 times.
*If you see how high I pulled the bar and how unstable I am at the top, its rediculous and Olympic lifters everywhere should be offended.

Clean & Jerk
Worked up to 95 for a single when I felt a lot of pain in the upper back.

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