When getting started in the profession, most strength coaches feel they're ready to have their own teams. They know how to program and can maybe even coach better than the full-time coaches they're working under as interns or graduate assistants. Then, they get their chance and are hired as full-time assistants. About halfway through the first year, they realize (if they admit it to themselves) that they have a lot left to learn. When the politics and behind-the-scenes issues that they didn't have the opportunity to witness as interns arise, they get a first-hand taste of how difficult the job actually is. The solution to all this could be as simple as keeping everything vanilla for that first year.

Below are a few tips for rookie assistant coaches that could make the first year go by a little easier:

1. Don’t be a genius. No one cares how much you know. Use the first year to get to know the program that you've just become a part of. Learn the current and past strength program. Get to know the strength coaches, athletes, and most importantly, the sport coaches. Learn how things have been done in the past and don’t disregard the past coach’s work.

2. Don’t make waves or rock the boat. Before rewriting and implementing your own program, look at the program from the previous year and take it into serious consideration no matter how bad it may have been. Change isn't often taken well in athletics. As time goes on, you will be able to work in your own programming with success.

3. Earn the trust of the sport coaches and athletes. Trust isn't handed out easily in athletics. Sometimes it's never earned even when it's deserved. Show them that you care about the program and athletes and helping them win.

4. Let yourself be seen. Go to practice, and go to games. Sit on the sideline during games if asked. Go to team dinners or functions. After working twelve straight eighty-hour weeks, the last thing you'll want to do is go to a team dinner. Too bad. Do it anyway. Not being there will hurt your reputation with the sport coach.

5. Don’t criticize the previous strength coach. He may have been well-liked and well-trusted. Even if he did a poor job, they trusted him and they don’t know you. Criticism will only hurt their opinion of you.

6. You don’t have to be right. Athletics may be one of the most politically correct worlds I know. Feelings get hurt easily and retaliation is abundant. Being right may be insulting to the sport coach who has been doing things the same way for the last thirty years.

7. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t start the athletes over from scratch. They may be doing things the way they were taught for the last three or four years and they perceive it as being correct. Safety issues must be addressed immediately, but having them squat with sticks for your first month may be overkill.

8. Juniors and seniors may not like your program, but don’t make them hate you. Making them hate you will go straight to the sport coach, and like parents and teachers, sport coaches may trust athletes they have known for several years more than they trust you.

9. Get your people skills in order. You can be a great strength coach with horrible people skills or a horrible strength coach with great people skills. I’ll give you one guess as to which one the sport coaches like working with their team. Again, being politically correct carries more weight than being right.

As I previously stated, keep the first year vanilla. Change can be a good thing, but it takes time. If you rock the boat too soon, you may have rough times ahead. I've seen many strength coaches have problems in their first year because they didn't do a few or several of the items above. Furthermore, I did the exact opposite of every point I've listed above. It didn’t work out well for me, so take my advice and learn how to initially play the system in order to have future success for you and your teams.