What It Takes to be a Successful Strength and Conditioning Coach

What It Takes to be a Successful Strength and Conditioning Coach

Excuse the intense tone off the bat, but let’s start this blog with a pop quiz:

1. What muscles extend the hip?

2. What muscles do face pulls activate?

3. How do you regress a Bulgarian Split Squat?

4. What energy system is being trained at 90% of an athlete’s heart rate max?

5. How many miles (on average) do soccer players cover in a 90 minute game?

6. What leg do you load to change direction?

If you were able to answer these questions with ease, you’re legit.

And if you answered question #6 with the outside leg….

You’re a fucking idiot.

As for the other questions: if you weren’t able to answer, maybe it’s time you reconsider your career path as a strength coach.

And if you don’t do your bicep curls, maybe you should ponder the meaning of life over coffee while you’re at it.

And then move into a new industry.

Fuck outta here.

You see, being a strength and conditioning coach is more than just loving fitness. It’s more than enjoying bicep curls. It’s more than blowing a whistle. It’s more than counting reps. It’s more than rolling into a gym in your sweatpants.

Successful strength and conditioning coaches know that it takes going beyond all this jazz to stay afloat and deliver the goods.

Taking the conversation back to my spontaneous pop quiz, even if you knew the answer to all the questions, studied every exercise science textbook, memorized Stuart McGill’s Back Mechanic verbatim, and attended Certified Functional Strength Coach Conference back in 2015 and got shit faced with your boys afterwards, these are just glossing over the tip of the iceberg as to what it takes to be a successful strength and conditioning coach.

It takes exercise physiology knowledge.
It takes emotional intelligence.
It takes coaching.
It takes PASSION.

And I get your Tinder profile name has “CSCS” behind it.

Cool, bro.

If you’re a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, sure, you’re ahead of the game and can sit for a six hour exam without scratching your nuts.

But still, it’s not enough to connect with athletes and train people on the fly. It’s also worth mentioning that the chances a chick on Tinder knowing what CSCS means are 0.000000001%.

Okay, I’m part of the 0.000000001%. ;-O


Moving on…

Let’s talk about what it takes to be a successful strength and conditioning coach.

I’m sure you’re curious after this belligerent and aggressive introduction.

Let’s get started, folks:

1. Exercise physiology knowledge

This goes beyond knowing what muscles do what.

True exercise physiology is knowing which exercises work certain muscles, and which conditioning drills tap into certain energy systems.

This becomes critical when programming.

Still, I see soccer strength coaches doing timed 2 mile runs. <— hint: you’re making your players slow as fuck.

Still, I see trainers programming squats for “glute” work. <— hint: deadlifts activate the glutes more.

Still, I see coaches making athletes do crunches for “core” work. <— hint: the core is made up of more than the abdominals and should stabilize the spine. Read more here.

None of this is rocket science. Do your reading. Study your anatomy textbooks. And execute what you learn.

2. Emotional intelligence.

Active listening is a skill.

I won’t go into much depth here, but read this article.

I discuss active listening and why you need to shut the fuck up when you’re training others.

It’s critical to sit back and listen to your athletes, especially when you’re the best part of their day.

3. Coaching.

When handed a group of 20 athletes, will you coach the fuck out of them? Or will you crack under pressure?

Let’s hope the former.

But also.

Coaching is far more than cheering kids on and saying things like, “good job, little Johnny!” or “nice try!”

It’s correcting. It’s stopping a drill and telling it like it is.

Personally, if athletes are uncoordinated and half-assing drills, I yell, “everyone back the fuck up and do that again!”

Well, maybe minus the F bomb, but I’ll get in there and correct until it’s done properly.

So, newsflash: that’s what coaching is – it’s freezing drills and shining with your teaching moment, even if athletes have to do it over. And over. And over. Again.

Though it can be frustrating for the kids, that’s what you’re there for: to coach and correct.

4. Passion.

Lastly, are you passionate about being a coach?

Does teaching the athletic stance to a newbie give you an adrenaline rush?

Does teaching change of direction fill you with life?

Does correcting pull-up form make you feel warm and fuzzy?

Does wishing “good luck” to an athlete on game day come natural to you?

Good. You’re a true strength and conditioning coach.

In order to last in this career, you have to be passionate about it, especially the success of your athletes. You have to be in it for genuine reasons, namely, to improve athlete performance both on and off the field.

This reminds me: today, one of my college girls said to me, “I feel the most successful coaches CARE about their players.”

And she was SOOOOOOOOO right she could’ve dropped the fucking mic right there on the field.

Be passionate. Get people better. And help athletes live their best life off the field too.

It takes a multitude of things to be successful as a strength and conditioning coach, so nail these down and I promise you’ll be in your flow for a lifetime.


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