In my last article, I focused on how you can make it in this industry if you are just starting out. In this article, I will focus on what coaches who have been in this industry for some time now can do to help the coaches of tomorrow. A lot of internships out there are poorly run and developed. It may be because of time, resources, or you just don’t know how to set it up. A lot of internships are stuck in an old school mindset: you’re at the bottom of the totem pole so you get to do all the things nobody else wants to do.
Your internship or coaching development program should be a professional development program, not the result of saying, “I need somebody to do the busy work in the weight room.” I see it a lot in the private side. Businesses take on interns as they are short-staffed and need extra help and don’t have the bankroll to pay a new coach or administrator. If you aren’t willing to take the time to make them better as a coach and as a person, don’t take them on. It’s not fair to them. My internship experiences weren’t set up to make me a better coach. It was more of, “Hey, I need help. You do this.”
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When I was tasked with developing the internship at The Spot, I wanted to make it world class. One that would prepare young coaches to not only coach but also lead. Your internship should help young coaches gain experience and acquire the skills necessary to attain a position in the field of their choice. When coaches leave our development program, my goal is to have made them a better coach than I am. I want them to be confident that they can take a job on anywhere. Here are ten things I've done to make this possible.
- Lead by example. Don’t tell your interns one thing and go do another. That’s not fair. I don’t care if you’ve been in the business for 20 years. Don’t tell your interns to do one thing then go and do the exact opposite.
- Make training a priority in your internship. Teach them how to train. Coaching is one thing, but if your interns are training with your staff they will learn a lot more.
- While they need to pay their dues, treat them like they are humans. Follow the old saying and treat others how you want to be treated. Don’t yell at them, don’t put them down, and don’t make them feel dumb. They are new and they are learning. Everybody responds to things differently. It’s your job to figure out best how they can succeed.
- Teach them. Remember being a coach is also being an educator. But don’t just teach them about strength and conditioning. Teach them how to be leaders, how to talk, proper body language, how to write a program, how to write a resume, and how to network. There is more to this field than just teaching an athlete how to squat.
- Don’t set expectations but instead set goals. Make them realistic and specific. This will give their internship purpose. Build a program to help them meet those goals, just like with clients and athletes. Having the right set of goals is a big driving force in anything we do.
- Have a curriculum. We have two; one is for coaching fundamentals and the other is for strength and conditioning fundamentals. I got this idea from Donnell Boucher. We can’t just teach the science of strength training — we have to also teach the science and art of coaching. We have a classroom portion and a weight room portion every week. The curriculum is also set up to help the interns meet their goals. Do they want to be a college strength coach? Private business owner? Physical therapist? Get their CSCS, CSCC or USAW? Set it up to prepare them for what they want to achieve. It’s just like for your athletes. You design a program that will help them succeed.
- Open your network to them. But don’t just introduce them; allow them to learn from your connections. Teach them how to approach people and the things they should ask.
- Remember why you got into this. Helping interns is just like helping athletes. Intern programs at a lot of universities and private businesses do a terrible job of preparing interns to actually coach. Your goal with your interns and assistants should be to develop them into better coaches than you.
- Make them understand that when you give a recommendation you’re going to be 100% honest with their potential employer. Your interns are a direct reflection of who you are and the program you run. Don’t lie just so they can get a job. If they did the bare minimum or they didn’t work on the things you told them to work on then you will tell your potential employer that. Don’t compromise your integrity just so they can get a job.
- Make it fun. Make them feel like they are a part of the team. A part of the family. Include them in everything. Make it a memorable experience for them, as this is an important time in their lives.
The five years I’ve been at The Spot Athletics, I have created and implemented a rigorous internship program. Now, I didn’t do it all on my own, as I sought out the help of others in designing it, from collegiate strength coaches to private gyms that have internships. Without them, if those other coaches weren’t so willing to help me in the development of it, our internship here at The Spot wouldn’t be what it is. So a big thank you to all of those coaches that have been so willing to help me with our internship.
If you have any questions regarding developing your internship program please feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to help you and your program and pass on what I have learned.
My contact information is TheSCDC@gmail.com