10 Tips to Make It as a Strength Coach

TAGS: finding a job, new strength coach, internship program, mentorship, strength and conditioning field, network, job search, Nic Bronkall, strength coach

Everybody wants to be a strength coach these days. All you young, fresh-out-of-school, bachelor-degree-earning, CSCS-taking-and-passing, wanna-be coaches think you have what it takes to make it.

I mean, common you did get your fancy university degree in exercise physiology with a minor in coaching (but you never actually did any coaching), you read some books, and now you’re ready to coach. Except coaching is more than just having a degree. You have no experience coaching but you think you know everything. Well, guess what? You don’t know anything.


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This profession isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re overworked, you don’t get paid what you’re worth, and there is very little job security in this business. And for now, most of you young guys are okay putting money, sleep, and relationships to the side to make it in this field. But in 10-15 years you might not be willing to do that.

One of my mentors, Jim Kiritsy, Director of Football Strength and Conditioning at Kennesaw State, said it best:

“Being a strength and conditioning professional is not something you become overnight. This industry will test everything about you; it will test your patience, your resolve, and your courage. It will pay you very little money and require very long hours of relentless focus. You will be questioned, belittled, and often forgotten. However, when the strength coach isn’t there to do his or her job, there is a glaring hole in a team. The people that understand what we do value our effort, consistency, and passion for the development of young people. The kids that we train will graduate as better, more capable professionals because of the work that we demand of them day in and day out. They will value our contribution to their lives not now, but later, and that is okay. "

You don’t like the hours and pay? Well, there are thousands waiting for a chance to get in your position. It’s going to be tough. You’ll wake up wondering why you are doing this. You’ll ask if it’s worth it. You’ll have no money, you’ll be exhausted, and you’ll have to work weekends. Welcome to the “grind,” as you kids call it these days. You have to make sacrifices to get where you want to go. If you need a kick in the ass to remind you, just ask the coaches around you. Ask them how and why they are in this profession.

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Want to make it in this field? Want to stand out? Here are ten tips for all you fresh college grads and those of you that are starting your internships.

  1. Network. Do you want to make it in this field? Start connecting with people. But don’t ever ask them to do things for you. Ever. Be willing to do things for other coaches. Networking is the most powerful tool in this field. Your mentor needs to be in this field because they most likely have a wide network of people they can introduce you to. Networking is building meaningful relationships.
  2. You better bring energy to the weight room. Set the tone. Your athletes will feed off of you. Nobody cares about your bad day; we all have them. Don’t bring that negativity into the weight room. Leave it at home. Your athletes deserve the best. After each workout, ask yourself, "If I was an athlete being trained by me, would I have wanted to do that workout?” If the answer is no, figure out how to get things better.
  3. Train. Train hard. But remember your training isn’t a priority — your athletes are. So if you want to be a world-ranked powerlifter then this isn’t the profession for you. How do you expect to coach an athlete on how to squat if you don’t squat regularly, though? How are you supposed to convey to an athlete that straining is stronger if you’ve never strained under heavy weight before? Look the part, get under the bar.
  4. It’s not about you. It never will be about you. It’s about the athletes. Tim Wakeham taught me this years ago. It shifted my whole mindset when it came to training. If you want the most out of your athletes and those around you then remember that it’s not about you — it’s about them.
  5. Learn to take constructive criticism. This is typical for what we in the field call advice. When a coach tells you what you need to work on, work on it. Do everything in your power to get better at it. It’s often not a suggestion — it’s an expectation.
  6. My interns give me their schedules at the beginning of the semester. Now, I usually take their schedule and tell them the days and times that they have to be there. But what they don’t know is that I schedule the minimum for our internship for them to be there. My very first lecture is on how they can get the most out of their internship. One of the things I tell them is to not just be at the gym for the bare minimum scheduled for them. Find a way to be here all the time. It shows the staff and me that you want it. If you get by with the bare minimum then that is what I will tell other coaches about you. It’s your reputation, not mine.
  7. Trial by fire. This is one of my favorite ways to see if an intern is heeding the advice that I give them. I tell them to go run a warm-up or coach this group of athletes on how to squat properly. I’ll even get the athletes in on it by having them pretend they have never done any of this before. Be ready at all times. If not, the coach will lose trust in you. It shows you’re not paying attention or doing the things that you need to do to become a better coach.
  8. Be confident, not arrogant. The way you carry yourself, your demeanor, your coaching voice, and your knowledge all matter. If you’re not confident the coaches and athletes will see that and they won’t respond to you. Most likely they will shut you off and not listen because I don’t want to be coached by somebody that isn’t confident in what they do.
  9. Don’t just read strength and conditioning books. I know; sounds counterproductive, right? But remember, as a coach you are an educator, and the more well-rounded you are the more your superiors and athletes will respect you.
  10. I don’t care about your resume. Now, obviously you should get the normal things down like a degree and a certification and all of that, but all a resume really does is disqualify you. It gives your potential employer a reason to not hire you. So with that said, you need to treat every day like it is a job interview. Treat your job as an intern like you are working the job you want. Go above and beyond what is expected of you. I understand you’re working for free. It sucks, but you know what? I’ve been there and just about every other coach before you has too.

Make the most out of your internship or your first job as a coach. This will set the tone for your coaching career. Every day is what you make of it. My biggest piece of advice is to be patient but keep pushing. Your time will come. Just be prepared for it when that door opens. If you have any questions or just want to talk shop, please feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to help you along your journey. My contact information is TheSCDC@gmail.com

“It’s the best job in the world but the worst profession.” — Mark Watts

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