15 Habits You'll Need as a Full-Time Strength and Conditioning Intern

TAGS: college internship, full time intern, The Strength Coach Development Center, network, volunteer, certification, nsca, internship, time management

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You're a freshman in college. Your whole life, you've been in the weight room. It's your second home. During your senior year of high school, you figured out a way to combine your love for training and sports and decided to pursue a career in strength and conditioning. I commend you for making such a decision. But a lot of you may be scratching your head wondering what you should be doing now to prepare for later.


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What you are doing right now will dictate where you will be 10 years from now. Many of you aren't ready for an internship in strength and conditioning. No class can prepare you for the demands of a full-time internship and a full class schedule. High school did a terrible job of preparing you for the real world, and the only way you will make it is by trial by fire and by implementing the following habits immediately.

1. Manage Time

It’s one of the most important skills and assets of a strength and conditioning coach. It's probably one of the most important skills you can have for life. You have so much going on in your life between school, friends, significant others, parties, work, family, and a plethora of other things. It's like most of you are just thrown into the fire and wished good luck. And that's the way life is. Get used to it. Learn to manage your time.

2. Be Early

Go to your classes early. This also falls under time management. But the reason you want to get into the habit of going to class early is that being a strength and conditioning intern comes with early days. Always strive to be 15 minutes early. Get in that habit now. If you're on time, you're late, and if you're late, don't even bother showing up. Also, showing up early to class shows the professor that you care. You may need that professor's recommendation at some point. Showing up to class is a good start, but show up early, don’t be late, don't be hung over, and never be on your phone. No matter how boring the class is. It's disrespectful to the professor. If you don't like the class, then drop it.

3. Get Good Grades

I never understood this. Most of you have taken out loans. If you got a scholarship, consider yourself lucky, but for the rest of you, those loans are an investment in your future. So do well in school. 

I know this is new for many of you. You’re on your own. Good-looking people are everywhere. But your grades need to come first. I’m not saying that you have to live at the library, but you do need to get good grades. 

Don't just do enough to get by, as those classes you’re taking are actually important. Make your education a priority.

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4. Network

Get to know your professors. Get to know the strength staff. Get to know others in your major program. Get over your fear and social anxiety and go network. This is the most important tool you’ll have in this field. Most of us got to where we are because of who we knew. (Hold on before you get upset.) We all worked our asses off to get to where we are, but a lot of us didn't get there without the help of others.

The best way in which to network is by using social media. Social media has gone above and beyond to help coaches network. There are Facebook pages as well as Instagram posts on what different coaches are doing. It is good to know as many people as you can. You never know when you are going to need them. But another aspect of networking is helping other coaches. It’s not simply sending them a message like “Hey, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” Show some initiative and do things for them. We all need things done.

5. Be Attentive to Detail

The little things matter, so you should take pride in these little things. If you don’t demonstrate attention to detail, what makes you think that as a head coach I’m going to think you will pay attention to little things like coaching a group of athletes? Being attentive to detail ranges from formatting papers correctly to writing a sound resume to making sure that when you turn in assignments they are how the professor wants them. The awesome thing about being in college is that most colleges have centers where people get paid to help you with your papers, your resumes, and your assignments. And most of the time, it's free. Take advantage of this.

6. Gain Experience

If your passion is to become a strength coach, you need to acquire coaching experience now. Volunteer your time. Volunteering your time shows coaches that you are passionate about the career. It shows that you’re dedicated and that you’re willing to do what it takes to move up in this field. A lot of people want the title, but not a lot of people want to work. Think of volunteering as an investment. Your time, which is like money, is merely an investment for the future. Invest your time wisely, and it will pay off. Again, it’s an investment.

7. Get Certified

Join the NSCA your freshman year. You get a student discount, but there are a lot of other advantages to joining, too. You can’t get your CSCS or CSCCa until you’re at the end of your senior year. But in the meantime, get your USAW Level 1 certification and your CPT certification. If you are going to get your CSCS, get your CPT through the NSCA. Look at what most jobs require. I know that most require degrees, advanced certifications, and experience. Start now. Don’t put it off.

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8. Go to Conferences

Start to connect and network. There are always a ton of local/state conferences along with national conferences every year. Get your face out there. When you talk to coaches, do your research. Always be willing to help other coaches for free. It doesn’t matter what—just do it. Remember, there are a lot of guys out there gunning for that one or those two internship openings. You need to stand out.

9. Fake It

Act like you're in the position you want to be in. If you want a paid position, act like you're already in it. Start preparing now for that paid position. This type of thought process will shift how you view things.  Act like you are getting paid a million dollars to be the best damn intern the coaching staff has already seen. On cleaning duty? Then act like you're the best cleaner at the university. Approaching things in this way allows you to develop the necessary skills for that next position you want. The key is to take on opportunities now, regardless of your role. With that said, know your role and know your place. There’s a fine line. Don’t try to exert authority when you don’t have it. Focus on what your team needs to accomplish instead of putting yourself first.

10. Look the Part

What this means is lace up your chucks, chalk up your hands, and lift some heavy things. We are strength coaches, so you need to be in the trenches training. You don't have to be a world champion powerlifter, but how can you explain to an athlete how to squat heavy if you've never experienced it yourself? The weight room is your lab. This is where you can apply everything you have learned. It’s always a place where you can try new things.  A lot of coaches don’t agree with me, but I’m a big proponent of practicing what you preach.

11. Train with a Group of Like-Minded People

This is something many of you won't do because your egos are too big. You don't need training partners, right? Bullshit. Want to get better at coaching? Have a group of other coaches you're training and coaching with. Start to develop your eye, your coaching voice, and your cues now.

12. Have an Open Mind

Don't get set in your ways. Learn to take criticism. Have thick skin. Be willing to adapt and change. While at your internship, you will have to do what the head guy wants, but his way isn't the end all be all. Again, you have to implement what he wants, as it's his program. But understand that you will meet other people with opposing viewpoints. Some will use Olympic lifts, and some will not. Some will use a conjugate-based program, and others will use a linear-based one. Ask why. Learn why. Take what you want from it and apply it. Be open minded about these things, as you may learn a thing or two that you can add to your toolbox.

13. Read

Read everything and anything. Not just strength and conditioning books. And when I say read, I'm referring to books, not blogs. You should always have a book with you. Have it be fiction. Non-fiction. Leadership books. Psychology books. Motivational books. And biographies. In the long run, this will be one of the best habits you develop.

 14. Write

Writing is an invaluable skill that every single one of you needs to get better at. This the primary form of communication for most of us (emails, research papers, social media posts, articles, proposals, resumes, etc.). Being able to communicate your ideas effectively is a lost skill with the advancement of technology but it’s probably the most important skill if you want to set yourself apart from other coaches. Being able to convey your thoughts and ideas onto paper that engages others, gets them excited about your topic, and presents you as an expert on the topic takes practice. Lots of it. As you learn new topics, take time to research them and write about them. You don’t have to share it or publish it. By continuously honing this skill you will set yourself apart from other coaches.

15. Make mistakes

As hard as it is, you are going to make mistakes, and someone will call you out on it.  Swallow the pill, and don’t make the same mistake again. Everyone has made plenty of mistakes, and as coaches, we are here to help one another, not to try to show off how much we know.  To be a good strength coach, you have to be humble—humble when athletes win or lose and humble to accept criticism. Don’t be the egotistical, narcissistic coach because soon enough, you won’t be one.

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