On a cold November morning your alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. Your neighborhood is a ghost town and there is no sign of sunshine anytime soon. Half-asleep, you get out of your bed and ask yourself, “What have I got myself into?”

This is one of many common scenarios for new interns in the sports performance industry, myself included.

As an intern, it is important for you to know why you do the things you do and how to make the most out of your experience. I have been through my fair-share of internships from small schools, private sectors, and the Division I level, but I know for a fact that the internship position is a pivotal starting point in every young coach’s career, wherever you end up going.

To help you through this process of understanding how your work is going to be worth your time, here are the top 10 things I learned as an intern. I hope these tips allow you to take your internship to the next level and start a great career.

1. Be On Time

This may seem like it has nothing to do with your internship, but it actually has everything to do with your internship. Not only is timeliness a good life-skill to have, but it also shows your responsibility, dedication, and willingness as in intern. It doesn’t matter if it is 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. Be on time to your internship every single day because it is a simple task that can go a long way. Just remember that if you are late, you are not prepared (and we haven’t even started working with the athletes yet).

2. Have A Purpose

There is a great book called Start With Why by Simon Sinek and it goes in depth about finding a purpose for everything in your life and knowing why you are doing what you do. As an intern, you need to take a deep look at yourself in the mirror and figure out why you are going through with this internship. This internship could possibly be your life-calling or it could possibly be an opportunity to realize that being a sports performance coach is not for you. Regardless of what situation you are in, you cannot just go through the motions and check the box. If you do, you will be wasting your time and the time of your supervisors. Know why you are an intern and make the most out of the entire experience because your lack of effort will eventually catch up with you if you decide to go through your internship stuck in first gear.

RELATED: The Best Positions for Training and Coaching Your Athletes

3. Work for Free

As an intern, I spent a ton of hours in the weight room when I could have been hanging out with friends or going out to the local bar until last call. Many of my friends saw me putting in all of these hours at my internship, but were dumbfounded when they realized that I didn’t get paid. You have to realize that money is secondary in this industry, especially as an intern. If you go into your first internship thinking you deserve to be paid, you should immediately turn around and try not to let the door hit you on the way out. Your time and experience as an intern is 10 times more valuable than the extra cash you could be making at a minimum wage job. As an intern, your main focus should be to grow and learn as much as possible in order to set you up for success in your coaching career. The money will take care of itself, so don’t worry about getting paid, just worry about learning enough to eventually earn a pay check.


University of Buffalo

4. Embrace the Fire

Nine times out of 10, the internship is an introductory program hopefully allowing you to learn a ton of new things and get valuable experience in the profession. Along with this awesome opportunity comes a lot of uneasy situations that often lead to complete failure. This is inevitable as an intern, but it is impeccable that you become comfortable being uncomfortable. I had to learn this the hard way.

Long story short, I had the opportunity to lead a warm-up for a group of 40 baseball players that I barely knew, but I said no and basically soaked my pink panties in the process. Moral of the story is to face your fears and take on every challenge with all the confidence in the world. Every intern will be thrown into the fire eventually, but it is important to walk out of that fire with your head held high knowing you gave it your all and you became a better coach in the process.

5. You WILL Mess Up

This tip goes hand in hand with tip number four, but I think it is important to realize that you will not be perfect. This tip is not meant to discourage you; instead, it is meant to help you embrace the mistakes you will inevitably make throughout your internship. This is a learning experience and most of the things you will learn will come from your failures. It is important to be humbled by these mistakes, but it is more important to learn from them and continue to take positive steps forward in your coaching career. When you are thrown in the fire like I was in tip four, know that you will probably mess up, but go into that fire with all the confidence in the world and take control of the entire situation.

6. Freshman Are Your Friends

As a new sports performance coach, it is easy to choose the athlete who is squatting double body weight and work with him or her during the training session. These athletes understand what they need to do in the weight room in order to be successful in their respective sport, which makes your job that much easier. This is obviously an ideal situation for all of your athletes, but it does not always work that way. As an intern, challenge yourself to work with the struggling athletes because this will make you a better coach in the long run. Anyone can coach someone who does everything right, but not everyone can coach an athlete that is completely lost. Typically, your lost athletes are your freshman who have minimal experience in the weight room and are trying to keep up with all of the upper classman. These athletes will most likely listen to you and in return you will grow more as a coach because you were able to truly coach the athlete that needed the most help.


Washington and Jefferson College

7. Train!

Training yourself is just as important as training your athletes because if you are going to be a good sports performance coach, you better be sure you can walk the walk and back yourself up in the weight room. Training yourself ensures that you have been in the trenches and quite frankly you will gain the respect from all of the athletes you coach. Besides all of these reasons to train, just realize that you are living the dream as a sports performance coach because your schedule is not nearly as busy as your supervisors, you do not have other obligations and responsibilities like your supervisors, and you get to use the weight room for free!

You have all the time in the world and all of the resources in the world so take advantage of it and train like there is no tomorrow. Training was the best part of my day as an intern because it allowed me to ignore the rest of the world for an hour and I was lucky enough to work at a top-notch facility with all of the best equipment. Hopefully you are as lucky as me, but regardless of your situation, your training should be a priority because it would be a waste not to make use of your situation.

MORE: What to Expect as a Strength and Conditioning Intern

8. Be A Part of Team Training

I realize that some coaches will not agree with this tip, but I feel that if you have the freedom to join the athletes in their training session then make the most of it. As an intern, the lead coach will take care of the bulk of the training session, so if he or she allows you to jump in and train with the team then I feel that it is a fantastic way to learn and lead the athletes by example. Training yourself in order to gain respect from the athletes was a key point in tip seven, but training WITH the athletes is another great way to gain that respect. I personally enjoyed training with all of the athletes throughout my internship because it gave me a chance to develop a better relationship with everyone on the team. Not only will the athletes appreciate you being in the trenches with them, but you will also learn a lot more about their training program rather than giving them a few coaching cues during a training session.

9. Develop A Philosophy

At some point in a coach’s career, he or she needs to develop their own unique philosophy. This is a very difficult task and it really forces you to evaluate yourself, but as an intern it is a perfect time to start thinking about a philosophy. You will be learning more than you can imagine as an intern and your experience will start to mold you into the coach you want to be. You will see the good, the bad, and the ugly throughout your internship so take note of these things and start to put the pieces of the puzzle together and develop your own personal philosophy. Your coaching philosophy will create a foundation for your coaching career and it will help you understand your true purpose as a sports performance coach. Philosophies will definitely change throughout the years, but you have to start somewhere.


University of Pittsburgh

10. Stay Connected

Nothing fires me up more than when people check the box and do the minimum work required to get by. Internships are very beneficial in order to network yourself and create opportunities for your coaching career, but it should not be treated just as a stepping stone. Your mentors will be more than mentors when your internship is completed and a goodbye should not be necessary. These people will be valuable resources for you so do not just throw them out the door when you walk out on your last day. Staying connected with everyone throughout your internship will benefit you in the long run and your networking circle will be that much bigger. These people have done a lot for you and keeping that relationship is crucial when you move with your coaching career.

The internship position is truly a roller coaster ride that allows you to take your first step into the sports performance industry. Without a doubt, your first internship will give you an unforgettable experience with good and bad memories. This is a pivotal time in your young coaching career that will give you the opportunity to rise or fall as a coach.

These ten tips from my internship are not written in stone, but they will definitely point you in the right direction during your internship. It is up to you to make the most out of this experience and push yourself to be the best coach you can be.

Ross Hasegawa is a current Strength & Conditioning Graduate Assistant at Lindenwood University. Previous to his position at Lindenwood University, Ross spent two years at the University of Portland starting as an Athletic Performance Volunteer and working his way up to an Athletic Performance Intern. Ross has only been in the industry since January 2013 starting with brief stints at Concordia University – Portland and Hawaii Optimum Performance. During his short career, he has also been able to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science at Concordia University – Portland and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Performance at Lindenwood University.

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