Your Do and Don't Guide to the CSSCa Conference

TAGS: Don Day, Donald Day, business, CSCCa conference, networking, strength and conditioning, coaching, success, Sports Training, sports, athlete, strength coach

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It’s that time of the year. The Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) National Conference is fast approaching, and all of us are getting geared up to go. Some of the people reading this article are getting ready to sit for the Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) Certification, while others are going to gain some deeper knowledge/insight from presenters; and then there’s me who is ready to see old friends.

For whatever reason you’re going, it’ll lead to a tremendous opportunity to further your career. This article is full of some do’s and don’t’s for those who are young to the game and seasoned vets alike.


RECENT: Always Have a Plan


The Do’s

For those out there trying to land a job, have your resume handy if asked, but don’t head out every day like Will Smith shopping out medical equipment. It’s important to always be prepared at a moment’s notice if asked for interview material, but you’re more likely to seize an opportunity by being a genuine human than by being a mad car salesman. Business cards are usually a good alternative to resumes, but make sure you always exchange contact information. I can’t tell you the number of business cards I’ve received in passing and regretfully have forgotten to put the card’s information into my phone.

To go along with that, it’s very important that if you’re looking for an opportunity, make sure you’re representing yourself in the proper light. I’m not saying you cannot go out and let loose, but be careful about your secondary audience. If I’m about to hire you, and I see you on top of the bar chugging beers and taking belly shots, I am going to highly reconsider my decision, 10/10. Or if I hear you walking around bashing other coaches, well, that is a person I don’t want on my staff. Remember, you may have high competency, but you also need extremely high character to be on staff, whichever staff that is.

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Now for the casual attendee, I highly advise meeting people outside of your network during conference hours. Usually, I like to spend my time in the exhibit hall as my central hub, and I’ll meet up with my people for lunch or after, once things shut down for the night. But networking outside your network isn’t supposed to be a fake drive to impress the “logos.” It is a chance to gain knowledge from people you don’t know. Everyone has a story; everyone has an experience, positive or negative, that can make an impact on you. The more stories you collect, the more you can better yourself. I personally love talking to old vendors who have retired from coaching because they’re the guys who dug the trenches that we walk through now. I also love hearing from coaches that come from backgrounds with limited resources. Why? Because they have to get the same job done with more creativity. You can see why this knowledge would be helpful to anyone. Plus I’m a social butterfly, so I like talking to tons of different people as it is.

Another important “do” is to make sure you go see some presenters. I try to go to a handful every day. I am terrible at this, so take it from me: you can never pass up an opportunity to learn from someone else. When I was a younger coach, I used to go to every presenter, but now you’ll more than likely find me in the exhibit hall. My thought process behind that is there’s usually someone that’s not presenting whom I have a lot of questions for, so I seek that person out. I still advise you to go to the presentations. Go take notes and learn!

The Don’t’s

A big don’t that I’ve already addressed is to make sure you’re not running around handing out resumes to coaches. Also, don’t go around job-searching unsolicited. I’ve had that happen to me once. I was sitting at a table and someone (pretty ignorantly) tried to solicit me for a job (not knowing I was no longer a head guy). In all honesty, it kind of pissed me off, as we had no prior experience or relationship. So not a good move.


LISTEN: A Legendary Interview with the Legendary Al Vermeil


Also, logo chasing is very unadvisable. We’ve all done it before (and if anyone says they haven’t they’re liars), but you very soon learn that the logo doesn’t make the coach. The coach makes the logo. We all do the same job, and the only difference is the number of resources. And most likely, the more resources you have, the less you really have to do, only from the standpoint of you having more specialized help to handle the newly available resources (i.e., a nutritionist to handle nutrition).

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Another big don’t is do not be the John Belushi of the conference. Now I won’t throw the first stone because I’ve been guilty of this before. It’s important to have fun and let loose because we barely get time to ever do that. All your boys are going to be around, maybe you just got a new job, and all that other stuff. But an important thing to remember is that everything is always an interview or an evaluation, and there’s always a potential future employer watching. So with that said, be mindful of what you’re doing. I’d be a hypocrite to tell you don’t have fun, but it’s important to watch the level of exposure you're drawing to yourself.

My final don’t is don’t be the anti-social guy. Even if you don’t like talking to people, you have to get out and meet people. Don’t think of it as sailing yourself, think of it as giving back to the industry. I know that for most of us this is our vacation time, but there are plenty of young, knowledge-hungry strength coaches (myself included) who want nothing more than to learn from you. “Hey, thanks, Mean Joe.”

If not for the youth, then maybe this will help turn on a light bulb: we all will be let go at some point in time. Whether it’s that your team wins, and your coach moves on, and for some reason, you’re left behind or your team isn’t winning and you’re all let go. Our shelf life isn’t infinite. So the more people you get to know, the bigger your safety net is when the inevitable happens, which will happen. Hopefully, you go out and meet people for the sake of being a good human, but if you don’t, then remember, eventually you’re going to need a friend to help you find an opportunity one day.

And that is my list of do’s and don’ts for the conference. Remember at the end of the day, this conference is designed for two things: having fun and growing. So go out have fun, learn from all of the presenters, and meet new people. It’s one of the biggest collections of strength coaches gathered in one social setting, so go out and be social.

And like I said earlier, God blessed me with the gift of gab, so don’t hesitate to come up and say hi. This year, hopefully, I’ll be at more speakers, but more than likely, a safe place to find me is the exhibit hall. And be prepared for me to pick your brain because I always want to learn something cool!

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