It has been said many times that there are too many MCs, and this will always keep me humble. Remember, we are all individuals, and while we are all individuals, we can make a difference.

With this in my head, I decided to speak to a coach who I respect immensely for this month's article. Craig Buckley is someone I've known for a few years now. Our schools compete against one another (his has a winning record against mine). So I asked Craig to tell us about himself. Craig said, "Currently, I'm the head strength and conditioning coach at Bryant University. I've been at Bryant for the past four years. Prior to this, I spent a year as an assistant with the University of Pittsburgh football team. My first full-time strength and conditioning position was at NC State, where I worked for five years. Prior to NC State, I had an unpaid, and ultimately, paid internship at Boston College. I'm married and have three girls ages seven, five, and one."

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I asked Craig how he got his start in strength and conditioning. Craig said that he's been around training all of his life. "My father was a track and field coach, weightlifter, and powerlifter, and he still competes in weightlifting. When I was younger, we had family trips to the Atlanta Olympics and IPF World Championships," he said. "I always see and hear of strength coaches who got their first weight set for Christmas. I didn’t need to ask for one because we always had some of the best equipment in the shed or basement."

He continued, "Basically, I started out by watching my dad, who has been the most influential person in my life. I always knew that I wanted to do something in athletics. In my freshman year at Rutgers, Geoff Nuepert was the wrestling strength coach, and I knew instantly that I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach. After two years, I transferred back home to Bridgewater State University. One of my professors, Ellyn Robinson, became a friend and mentor and helped me figure out my life academically. This led me to an unpaid and, ultimately, paid internship at Boston College, where my professional experience began."

Interview with microphone

I asked Craig what he would tell a young strength coach. Craig said that he would tell them to make sure this is what he or she wants to do. He said, "I love driving to work every day, but you have to love it.You will work long hours without any pay at first and most likely will get very little pay after that."

Craig said that his biggest mistake as a strength coach was thinking that he knew everything. "Eight years ago, I knew everything, and anyone who didn’t agree with me was stupid. I know less now or maybe I just realized that there is a lot more out there and many ways to get things done," he said. "You have to be open-minded and keep learning. If you haven’t tried something, don’t say that it won’t or doesn’t work."

Craig is a competitive Olympic lifter. I wanted to know how this has helped him with regards to coaching athletes. He told me, "This answer may surprise some people, but it has helped me realize that Olympic lifts aren’t for everyone. I only do the Olympic lifts with two to three of my seven teams. I have a passion for Olympic lifting, and I find myself still learning and tweaking things one million reps later. The lifts are like a really heavy golf swing—you can always make little adjustments."

He added, "To get the most benefit out of the lifts, you should want to learn and get better at the lifts. For most of my teams, doing various loaded and unloaded plyometrics, medicine ball work, kettlebell work, and speed squats will be more time-friendly and beneficial. If an athlete on one of these teams still wants to learn the Olympic lifts, we will work with him or her, but if I look at a team and feel a certain percentage won’t benefit in the time that we have, I would rather get a similar training effect with other modalities.

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"The other way Olympic lifting has helped me is that it gives me something to train for. One of my interview questions for potential staff is, “Do you train or compete?” I don’t care if it’s weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman, or anything else, but I think it shows a passion for training. I don’t want to hear, “I jump on the elliptical from time to time.” I don’t think this is 100 percent necessary, but many people who visit or interview with us have never been collegiate athletes or competed in any strength sport. This does set you back in how you relate to the athletes and understand the time commitment and what they're going through. Our training isn’t more important than our athletes' training, but we need to do something to stay sharp and we need to be able to try out different programs on ourselves."

Craig's career path has taken him from the ACC to the NEC. I was curious as to what he learned working at a smaller institution. He told me, "I've been lucky that in my four years at Bryant University, we have built facilities that can compete with any school in the ACC. Our strength and conditioning center and indoor practice facility are second to none. The biggest difference is manpower," he said. "At NC State, there are five full-time strength coaches just for football. At Bryant, we have two full-time coaches and two interns for 22 sports and 300 additional club athletes. We must be creative with our time management and programming as well as with how much we say yes to conditioning or the time that we commit to any team. Just because it fits the schedule this year doesn’t mean that it will next year."

With the long hours that the average strength coach puts in on the job, it can be difficult to balance work and family time. Craig said that he tries to maximize the time that he does have with his family. "I make sure that my time spent at home involves them," he said. "This means bike rides, walks, and reading Pinkalicious. We also enjoy doing some “workouts” together. I try to have my girls visit me at work whenever possible."

To end our chat, I asked Craig to tell me something that I didn't know. He admitted that this was a tough question, but he shared something that people may not know — he had a short mixed martial arts (MMA) career that ended about 10 years ago. "I had three professional fights and went 3-0, with the final fight for the Reality Fighting Middleweight Championship," he said. "I then moved to Raleigh to work at NC State. At the time, MMA was illegal in North Carolina. This, along with the fact that I got a dog and started a family, helped me realize that MMA wasn’t the best thing for my career, so I ended my short career as a fighter."