Opportunity Over Money

TAGS: salary, Don Day, money, strength and conditioning, coaching, conditioning, strength, strength coach

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Every so often there just happens to be a movement (or chattering if you will) on social media that’s so absurd it makes my blood boil. The current one is this trend of trashing strength coaches for offering jobs that people deem “underpaid,” which to me is an argument riddled with flaws.

If you’re not on the Twitterverse let me explain to you what these Internet gangsters are beefing about. There is a group of people that are making monsters of any strength coach who posts a position (temporary or full-time) that is below a certain salary. How they decided what a fair salary is, I do not know. But being in a director role, I do know that salary ranges are not always our choice. I also know that no one is forcing you to take the job. If you’re in any business for money, then you have a bigger issue on hand. Let me delve further into this topic.


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Rewind the clocks to 2016 when I was really starting to pick up momentum. I was writing for elitefts as a columnist, and I was blessed to be a part of a championship-caliber team. I was making somewhere around $18k for the entire year. Nowadays, the social media junkie would have had a heart attack: “You’re the second assistant and making $18k!” Well, yeah. I thought nothing of it, and even right now as I write this, I still think nothing of it. Why? Because it was a place that kick-started my career.

We played at Alabama, we won a conference championship, I had the best bowl game experience of my career, I got the opportunity to step up when my boss left for Purdue before the bowl game, I learned a ton, and grew a ton as a person. I was working at one of the best facilities I’ve ever worked in with some of the best cast of coaches I’ve ever been around. That experience to me couldn’t be priced. I loved every second of it, and if my boss could have gotten me more money, I know he would have. But again, it comes back to the fact that it wasn’t his decision.

This is my second go-around as a director. And I’ll tell you, there are two types of conversations you have about salaries: one where you have ability, and one where you do not. And when you don’t have ability, you need to find flexibility in your budget. But sometimes, you don’t have the budget to have flexibility.

I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I was at one school where I did not have the ability to do what I wanted to do with salaries ultimately (which all worked out in the end, anyway), and I have been in a position where I have the ability now. Now, I’m not balling like that. I still have to find flexibility in my ability. With that being said, there are positions that are going to be paid relatively low. Is that because I want to? No. I’m like the rest of the industry, where it’s all I have to give.

I think these Internet gangsters need to look at the situations of each and every one of the people they’re going after. Ol’ boy at the University of Lousiana-Monroe may be in financial crisis mode due to the fact ULM doesn’t have very much money. I mean, it’s in Louisiana, which brings to mind Kurt Hester. Kurt is making a quarter of what he deserves to be getting paid, in my opinion. But he stays where he’s at, in the situation he’s in, for the betterment of his athletes. That’s a dude with great passion who can work through situations that would cripple most of these Internet gangsters. So, for those who go at these two men for the positions they offer, wake up. Get a clue.

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I was a graduate assistant making $730 a month, and I felt like I was rich. I’ve made $1,000 a month and felt rich. Now, I probably grew up differently than these Internet gangsters, and I get that these are objective qualms, not subjective. But then let me pose this question… why complain? No one is forcing you to take one of these jobs. If you wanted to make $60k starting out, then you should’ve gone to law school.

I honestly want our careers to advance. I want us to all get bigger budgets and to not have to do more with less but do more with more. I want administrators to see us as valuable professionals.


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I’ve said it a million times, though: to be seen as professionals, we have to act like professionals. Posting half-nude selfies post-workout… well, that ain’t it, chief. Showing up to games with the sleeves cut off our polos and in skimpy shorts with backward hats on (looking like a bad guy from a ‘90s frat movie)... that ain’t it, chief.

I mean, think about who the administrators know in our industry: people who make the news. So, when Captain Kangaroo (we know who I’m talking about) is doing jumping jacks on the sideline at games with the sleeves cut off his polo, that just halts our chances of getting paid like sports coaches.

I really want you to let this sink in. I’d say most administrators have no clue who Cal Dietz is, but they know who the Johnny Kangaroo at school B is now. That’s extremely sad. I get the whole “have to motivate my athletes” thing, but at what point should they just be self-motivated?

Buddy Morris said, “If you have to do that to motivate your athletes, then you got bigger problems.” And it’s very true.

Young coaches, before you get on Twitter and start complaining about salaries, go learn how to coach. Learn how to develop athletes as humans and teach them how to become intrinsically motivated. Go to department meetings, senior staff meetings (if you can), and go be around administrators.

You want us to grow as a profession? Maybe the first step is us growing as individuals. Go meet others outside of the weight room. Invite people to see your training sessions or watch how groups train. Post THE ATHLETES on social media, not yourself.

Do all of these things, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll find some purpose in having a good strength program. Pay doesn’t come before services are done. Pay comes after services are done.

Since we’re talking about pay, let’s go back to a point I made earlier… NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO TAKE THE JOB. If you are in this for money over opportunity, then good for you.

For me, I’m all about opportunity over money any day. If I always chose money, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’d be probably in a bad situation. I may not even be in the field; heck, I'd probably be back in Akron. But God blessed me with great situations and a great supporting cast.

So to all the Internet gangsters out there, before you decide to bash a coach about salary, remember these three things:

  1. Opportunity is greater than money;
  2. You don’t have to take the job; and;
  3. If the coach could offer more, chances are they probably would.

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