I meet with young coaches all the time. It is one of the things I enjoy the most about my role. It is those opportunities that make me truly appreciate what Mark Asanovich, Tim Maxey, and others did for me when I first started in the business. So when young coaches ask me for advice about the profession, I always pose one question—what’s your end game? When you close your eyes at night, where do you see yourself ending up?

When you have a clear picture of where you want to end up, every opportunity can be weighed against that. Let’s be clear—it isn't easy to make it as a strength and conditioning coach. It's a long road of paying your dues, making no money, and working long hours away from your family. You must have both feet in without any backup plan. If you start making statements like, “If I took this job, I would have enough money to get my certification and…” then you will end up talking yourself out of the profession. When you know where you want to end up, you will make moves that make sense for your future.

When I was first starting, I took an internship with the Kansas City Royals while I coached college football where I played. I did this to show that I had the ability to work with professional athletes. However, I wanted to work with football, so it was easy for me to turn down a well-paying minor league coordinator position in professional baseball to take an unpaid internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I realized that working with the Bucs would allow me to say, for the rest of my career, that I had worked with the very best. Taking a position in Berlin, Germany, with the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe one year into a young marriage wasn't ideal, but I was able to put head strength coach on my resume. None of those moves were easy monetarily or logistically, but they were necessary for me to pursue my dream.

You must make calculated moves to help you reach your goal. Any opportunity that takes you away from that should be avoided like the plague. Taking the time early in your career to think about the future will help make sure you avoid having to take steps backward.

Here are four things to consider about your future that you probably aren’t thinking about:

1. Marriage

It is critical to marry the right girl or guy. Our profession requires a great amount of time. Spouses must be supportive and be able to work independently. I was lucky to marry my college sweetheart. She hasn't known any different than me going all day to work/class, practice, and lifting. However, this is a huge culture shock to those who haven't been around it. Take your time and make sure that she/he is on board; otherwise, you will be fighting an uphill battle.

2. Family

This was the one that I didn't account for. My wife and I adopted three kids all at once seven years ago. Additionally, since then, I've taken in my 14-year-old half-brother. Having to think about four kids changes things. School, sports, camps, recitals—there is always something going on. Not to mention the possibility for relocation is always there. Trust me, it isn't easy taking kids out of the school or neighborhood they love. There are huge benefits to being in a coaching family, but you must know that having a family will change how you think as a strength coach.

3. Time demands

Time away from your family is a challenge. It's the thing I personally fight with the most. You want to be there all the time, but in many respects, you're helping to raise 120 other kids every day. Just as you plan your workouts, you must plan how you will account for your time at home. As you rise in levels of competition, your time demands increase tremendously. Sundays during the season are “Dad days” for the kids and me. It is the day that I plan something for us to do and give my wife a break. Typically, it's loading up the sports equipment and going to the park or going for a hike. Other times it may be a university sporting event or on-campus event. I want to be clear that this isn't easy to do when you're coming off a tough week of sixty plus hours or a loss the day before. However, you must look at this time as your number one priority.

4. Security

Unfortunately, the idea of starting your career in one place and finishing it there is virtually impossible. The adage that you aren’t really a coach until you've been fired once has a lot of truth to it. It is easy to find a job and move anywhere when you're 23 years old, but when you're 43 or 53, it becomes tougher. Are you willing to live anywhere in the U.S. or abroad to be a strength coach? Is your family? Early in your career, you can make 25–35K a year and have three roommates. As you mature and your friends are all buying houses and setting roots within the community, you're forced to gamble on decisions like owning a home and purchasing a car. Most strength coaches live paycheck to paycheck early in their careers with the understanding that how the team does determines whether you have a job the next year or not. This makes it very difficult to feel secure in any location or pay scale.

My intention isn't to talk you out of the profession. I think it's the greatest one on earth. However, you must be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more able you'll be to avoid the stress of roadblocks and wrong turns. Additionally, it helps to evaluate what level and environment might be best for you in the long term. Each type of strength and conditioning position (high school, college, professional, performance) comes with varying levels of demands on your marriage, family, time, and security. You must determine to what degree you are willing to sacrifice in those areas. It isn't any secret that if you start early in the setting that you want to finish, your experience and expertise will grow exponentially and you will be rewarded for it. By determining your “end game” early in your professional career, you'll be more likely to reduce the stress associated with the requirements of the job.