elitefts™ Sunday Edition

We get the honor to hear our politicians and leaders tell us the “state” of everything—the State of the Union, the state of the state, the state of your department, and so on. So, because I know I would receive at least seventeen write-ins if I ran for president (and I can name all seventeen of you), I thought I would discuss the state of our profession. As I thought about this, many questions came to mind.

First and foremost, what are we trying to do as a profession? We have, and probably always will be, a loose gathering of diverse individuals with a multitude of titles, philosophies, and responsibilities. So where do we start? I've decided to break this out into a set of questions and then grade us as a profession, so we can figure out how we're doing in many aspects of our jobs. If you don’t like my grades, study harder!

1. Are we doing a good job training our athletes for injury prevention and athletic performance?

From what I've seen from the visits I make and all the people I interact with in this profession, we're doing a pretty good job here. Many people are pushing the scientific envelope, developing new ideas, and pushing periodization models with new ideas. I was speaking with Ryan Horn (director of athletic performance at Wake Forest) earlier this week. Over the past six years, he has become a great programmer and coach. When I speak to people like this, I realize that I need to step my game up. In addition, my staff was able to attend the Ohio NSCA last weekend and they couldn't stop talking about how smart Cal Dietz and Bryan Mann are. They said that JL Holdsworth is the man though!

It's a rare occurrence that I visit a school, watch them train their athletes, and walk away kicking myself because they're doing something that I've missed or that I've let slip by me. I only hope that when people visit me they're saying the same thing.

The biggest negative thing I can say here is that as a profession, we still have a habit of judging each other too harshly. I've had many strength coaches say to me, "Did you see the crap that School X is doing?" Anytime my staff says this, I remind them that we don't know what they're currently doing and what their current goals are. For example, during our discretionary period, I tell my staff to not over coach the athletes. This doesn't mean that we blow them off, but we're in their faces year round, so why not back off during these times? If someone visited me during this time, they might assume that we don't coach as hard or as much as we should. This isn't true. We're just remembering that it's OK to relax and let the athletes have fun sometimes. If an athlete asks if she can do pull-ups instead of rows one time, ask yourself, will the world really end if I say yes? At times, it's OK to humanize yourself for the athletes.strength coach todd hamer vincent state of profession

So in this area, I'd give us a grade of B+. We could all do a better job (or maybe just me) and stop judging each other so much.

2. Are we doing a good job being professionals?

Over my career, I've seen significant improvement in this area. Refer to my front stage versus backstage article if you want more information on this topic. But we still have some work to do. I may lose some friends here, but without a doubt, I feel that if we want to improve our standing in our respective athletic departments, we need to quit head butting football players on ESPN and start looking like the professionals we are.

We have made improvements. Go to any major conference and you'll see strength coaches who are dressed well and  groomed well. They aren't stinky and they aren't swearing. This is a step in the right direction. One of my athletes is reading The Tipping Point right now and we started talking about the book and the differences between connectors, mavens, and salesmen. In order to raise our professionalism, we must be better connectors. We must find a way to speak to the president of the university and then code switch to speak to a coach or an athlete. This is what a true professional does. In addition, know who your secondary audience is, and when we're on television, that means everyone!

I give us a final grade here of B-. We've made a lot of improvements as a profession, but we still have work to do.

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3. Are we creating a unifying organization?

I would be remiss if I didn't write about the new NCAA rules about certifications. Yes, we must all stay up on continuing educations units now (even me and I'm bad at this). I've talked to many strength coaches who think this is a great thing for us, but I don't know if it will really make a difference. I've spoken to Scott Caufield at the NSCA who I respect immensely and I really like what the CSCCa is trying to do, but having these letters isn't what it takes to make us a respected group of professionals.

Pat Ivey said it best when I asked him about certifications a few years ago. He asked why we can't have two organizations and have respect for both of them. I agree and hope that these two organizations can come together or to some agreement that will make us all better. Remember, we're stronger than the sum of our parts.

I don't think I can give us a final grade in this area because I consider our work incomplete.

4. Are we good educators?

One of the best things about being a strength coach is that we can affect so many young men and women in so many aspects of their lives. I'll argue that we influence our athletes more than anyone else in the university. We only care about improvement! If our athletes get better, we're happy and we're doing a great job.

I love seeing how so many of my colleagues educate their athletes. Back when he was at Georgetown, Auggie Maurelli did an amazing job with this. Auggie worked with the life skills department as well as with strength and conditioning. Seeing coaches push the envelope like this amazes me and makes me want to step my game up.todd hamer strength coach jenn brandon 053014

Since I've been at my current job, I've walked numerous athletes on to the field or court for senior day. I've been to many former athletes' weddings, and I've been invited to go out with the athletes' parents as a 'thank you' for what my staff and I do for the students. I'm not telling you this to rub it in or toot my own horn. I'm just very happy with what we're doing, but I know that others are doing even more. In fact earlier this week, I called a meeting for my staff and all the interns to discuss raising our level just one percent so that our students walked away better athletes and better people.

So from what I see, we're succeeding here as profession. I'll give us a final grade of A-. I can't give us an A because there's always room for improvement.

Let's do some math. I've graded us out at a B-, B+, and A-. On a 4.0 scale, that's 2.66, 3.33, and 3.67 for a GPA of 3.22. As we're heading into the dog days of summer, are these the grades you want? Do you disagree with professor Hamer's grades? I'm not writing this to point fingers. This is written to challenge you, my fellow strength coaches, to step up our collective games! As my musical hero Bill Deasy said, "Be it sinner or saint, trust me, I ain't pointing no finger." I realize that my department and I also need to challenge ourselves to grow. In the end, we'll be stronger because of it.

So do some self-reflection, and as we often ask our athletes, ask, what can I do to make us better?