Lessons learned

Posted: September 15, 2015 in From my vantage point

When I was younger, I told myself that being a Strength and Conditioning coach is my dream job. While most would pay to train in a gym for 1 hour, I could be in the gym all day and get paid for it! But that got me bored after a few years. I shifted career and enjoyed new adventures. I experienced working conditions far from the comforts of a gym but was still able to apply knowledge and skills about training to myself and to my unit. Then, as if by fate, I found myself working again as a Strength Coach. This time it is not a dream job, but a real job.

the thinker

Shifting careers and going back made me appreciate a lot of things. Working for different countries also made me see some realities. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. The Strength and Conditioning Coach is relatively unknown in Asia. Even after the Beijing Olympics, many sports coaches and athletes in Asia do not know that there is a coach whose job is to improve the athleticism of athletes so that the sports coach can focus on their sports skills and strategies. The hiring managers sometimes confuse a strength coach with a personal trainer, an athletic trainer, a group exercise instructor, and so on. Obviously there are mismatches between the job title and responsibilities. When people ask me what my job is, I always get a puzzled look after I tell them.
  1. It is  relatively less stressful than other jobs. It depends on one’s expectations, the management, colleagues, and general attitude of athletes and sports coaches. But it is up to the Strength Coach to find fulfillment in what he or she does. Being in a position to compare it to other jobs, I say it is relatively less stressful. Well, sometimes…
  1. It is a thankless job.  The Strength Coach takes pride in being able to influence an athlete positively but should not expect medals being hung on his neck. It is the athlete’s job to receive medals. The Strength Coach is just one of the many support staff working in a Sports Institution. Most of the time, other support staff always want to have a say about the athlete’s strength training. Mostly it is being wrongly blamed for injuries, causing too much gain in body weight for a growing boy, not enough “cardio”, “core”, and “stabilization” work, not enough supervision, training is not fun, tires the athletes, and so on. Most of the accusations are just plain BS and if the Strength coach just wants to please everyone of the “experts”, the result is a useless training program. But when it comes to giving credit to the strength gains and power improvement, no one remembers the Strength and Conditioning Coach. Other “experts” always attribute it to their “excellent” advice. And no one also remembers the janitors and maintenance guys who work to make things run smoothly. They deserve credit for their efforts too.
  1. Strength and Conditioning is a piece of a big puzzle, just like all others. To be honest, so many factors affect performance. It is not possible to give an accurate numeric rating on how much it has contributed to an athlete’s success. But this is also true for all other interventions like nutrition, psychology, & rehabilitation. Studies which measure the contribution of Strength and Conditioning to a certain activity is very specific to the subjects in that particular study. In the real world, everything contributes to performance- both positively and negatively. It is impractical to try to measure accurately how one factor contributed to a given outcome. We can just infer intelligently. Keep it simple. Will the athlete be better if he or she is stronger, faster, more powerful, and injury resistant? What would make the athlete stronger and more powerful?
  1. The Strength and Conditioning Coach is an easy target. The Strength Coach is easily targeted as an escape goat for poor performance but rarely thanked for his or her positive contributions. Imagine removing strength training. This would affect all other support staff: injury risks increase, strength drops which lowers power, speed, and endurance. Athletes won’t be as confident compared to a well trained and more athletic opponent, more work for sports coaches to get their athletes into competition fitness, & no escape goat for other staff who do not know what they are doing.
  2. Learning never ends. There are basic principles that do not change, and there are new concepts. Situations and conditions are very dynamic. A Strength and Conditioning coach has to keep learning to keep up with the developments while differentiating fads from useful concepts. Sports rules change and this has implications on Strength Training. As sports rules change, strategies and tactics need to change. Physical preparation enhances the most effective winning strategies  and as rules modify strategies, so would physical preparation. And a lot of physical preparation is done by the Strength and Conditioning Coach.
  1. Play politics if you want to be famous. Office politics plays a big role in everyone’s career. Some Strength Coaches “choose” the athletes he or she works with. Some choose to work with already famous athletes and then suddenly take credit for the athlete’s success. Some patiently coach and work for a year or two with athletes who may not seem talented. But when the athlete starts to improve and becomes famous, others would take credit. That always happens. Shit happens.

These personal observations are shared so that any aspiring Strength and Conditioning Coach knows what to expect from the real world. It is not always smooth sailing yet it can be rewarding. The pay is just enough but if money is not your ultimate goal, it is a great job to show others how to Train Better! Live Better!

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