Most years, I travel to either the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Coaches' Conference or the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) National Conference. There are cons and pros with both of these. I respect many of the people who work for these organizations, and I believe that they're fighting as best as they can for the future of our profession as strength professionals. But I'm also a human with my own opinions, so I'll opine on the strengths and weaknesses that I see with both organizations and how I believe we can work together to improve our profession.

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The CSCCa began in the early 2000s because many strength professionals at the collegiate level felt as though the NSCA was failing them. At the time, I agreed that the NSCA had grown and lost its focus on strength coaches.

The early photos of the CSCCa are great to look at almost 20 years later. They show a group of strength coaches standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Utah, working on finding a way to improve our profession. Many of those people are still involved with the organization. As the numbers grew, the power and influence of the CSCCa grew. I became a member over a decade ago. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not certified through the CSCCa.

Even though I've never taken the CSCCa exam, I've had many former assistants, interns, and friends take the exam. From what I've heard, the hands-on portion of the exam is a great idea. We need more of this to help our profession move forward. However, I do have some issues that I believe must be dealt with in order to improve the profession.

Some people taking the hands-on test have reported that some master strength coaches tell them how to stand or tell them to get their eyes up. Basically, these individuals felt that the master strength coaches were treating them as if they were entering the military, or in many cases, like how they treat their athletes. This is a major issue for me, and I feel the CSCCa must deal with it.

We are asking young professionals to take a minimal competency exam, but we're reverting to our wanna-be military style. We must, as a profession, ask, what are we testing? We are testing a basic proficiency exam for becoming a strength professional. We are not testing to see who is a great coach or whether or not that person can lead a group. I've already brought my concerns to many master strength coaches, and I hope that they can be dealt with so we can become stronger as a profession.

As for the written portion, I've received consistent feedback every year. The exam is similar to the NSCA's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam but easier. Personally, I don't have a problem with this because when adding a hands-on portion, I don't think the written portion needs to be as difficult. Some may disagree, but I'll remind you that this is a minimum competency exam. We aren't asking these young people (most of whom are younger coaches) to take my job the very next day. They will hopefully continue to grow and learn under other great coaches as they move forward in the profession.

One of the best things that the CSCCa does is it requires an internship from those sitting for the exam. This is similar to the steps taken when becoming an athletic trainer, and this is huge for the growth of our profession.

For this, I commend the CSCCa and its leadership. We need more coaches learning by doing. While the level of internships can run the gamut from great to terrible, so does life. It isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing.

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The NSCA has done some amazing things for our profession, and the amount of research that they have pumped out over the years is unbelievable. I respect what they have done for our profession. Over the past 10 years, it has been evident that they're trying to make a home for strength and conditioning coaches again. The Coaches' Conference is a great conference to attend, and they do a great job running this one.

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For years, the CSCS has been seen as the gold standard in strength and conditioning. It clearly has the most comprehensive written exam out there. I had to get recertified about five years ago. I believe I completed both sections of the exam in less than two hours and found it to be a fair and strong exam.

Where the exam fails for strength coaches, though, is that anyone can get a degree and take the exam (the area of focus in your degree will change but isn’t there yet). This clearly hurts strength professionals because there are many athletic trainers, chiropractors, and physical therapists who have their CSCS and believe that they're strength professionals. The NSCA has tried to distinguish this a little bit by creating the CSCS *D or RSCC ("D" for Distinction and "R" for Registered), but most hiring managers don't have a clue what this means.

The lack of an internship and hands-on requirements is the major reason why the NSCA needs reviewing. If they added these into their testing, it would help all of us as professionals.

In a Perfect World...

I would like to see these two organizations come together and make us stronger than the sum of our parts. As I see it, the NSCA should make the CSCCa a sub-sect of the NSCA. Then, the CSCS could be for the person just entering the profession while the CSCCa exam could be for the actual practitioner.

I realize that bringing two organizations together isn't as easy as snapping your fingers and making it happen, but with some work and commitment from all of us, maybe we can create some movement and make this happen. I would love to hear dissenting views because, honestly, after 20 years in the profession, I can't find a reason why we can't make this happen.