Strength and conditioning education is on the verge of a revolution.
Sorry, the unpaid internships, long hours, and unexpected trial-by-fire situations are staying. Instead, the change comes from how and from whom to learn. Brass opinions that once launched folks to the top step aside for orthopedically sound, science based methods applied by coaches who can connect. In other words, the revolution is happening at the sources of knowledge.
The process will not become easier. In fact, honestly appraising the industry’s current depth of information may scare people away. This is all the more reason proper direction is necessary to accelerate education and sharpen skills like communication and connection.
The time is now to establish a base level of strength and conditioning knowledge by cracking the bone and sucking marrow from every opportunity.
Let’s git to learnin’.
Evolution of Opportunity
Strength and conditioning needs more coaches armed with information, as stated no better than Ron McKeefery during Power Athlete Radio – Episode 194:
“Get to a point where you can finally learn.”
This represents a coach’s base level of knowledge, akin to a novice athlete’s Base Level of Strength, but instead of establishing a platform for which all of athleticism is built, coaches establish a platform for which experience is built. Education opportunities are countless: podcasts, books, studies, conferences, and clinics. But, taking an athlete where they cannot take themselves is more than just absorption. It’s organizing information then prudently applying it. When coaches apply what they’ve learned in an attempt to understand, they gain experience.
Understanding S&C principles is a key part of this process. Principles provide direction for program application and serves as its feedback board for success. They define a process, which allows a coach to notice and correct missteps. Principles amazingly become more detailed and effective with each use, turning them into more than just a memorized definition.
Call me crazy, but to gain coaching experience, you must actually coach. If you’re looking to get into the college game, catch up with PA Radio Alums Stacey Torman and James Kiritsy and find a school that allows interns to work directly with athletes.
Empty Your Cup
Each year, I search past internships and coaching gigs for lessons learned that I didn’t have the experience to understand at the time. @John’s recent penchant for dropping Bruce Lee quotes –sprinted- (because jogging is for suckers – @Cali, write that down) my memory.
In one instance, I was hired to support another coach’s program. The overarching mission was to deliver a clear, unified message to the teams, regardless of how I felt about program application and execution. Not battling superiors was a challenge at first (Vans are now banned in one my former college weight rooms). For me to succeed (not get fired), I had to empty my cup of existing knowledge and learn from a new perspective. As a result, I found constructive ways to question, test, and if appropriate, suggest adjustments. Emptying my cup enabled me to turn cognitive dissonance into coaching experience. I also apply this same approach when I travel to conferences or clinics, or when interacting with guests on the Premier Podcast In Strength And Conditioning.
Expand your coaching horizons by interning with a sport you never played or seeking an expert in a performance interest. NEVER seek affirmation of your program or approach. Instead, bring your proverbial empty cup.
Credentials Are About the Process
I’m a goal oriented coach that values investing in education, particularly credentials. A credential is not the end all be all of a coach’s abilities, but they do demonstrate value via the time, effort, and (especially) dedication to a craft.
In the book PEAK, Anders Ericsson discusses the concept of deliberate practice, a highly structured activity with the specific goal of improving performance (1). Deliberate practice is NOT logging hours at work, messing around in the weight room, or simple repetition of coaching movements. It requires effort, it has no monetary reward, and it is not inherently enjoyable (1). Unless you’re a twisted individual like myself (see below), immersing yourself in the teachings of others is not as ‘fun’ as coaching fitness.
Studying and preparing for a certification plays into the two requirements for deliberate practice Ericsson discusses in PEAK (1):
- A field that is already reasonably well developed
- A teacher who can provide practice activities to help a student improve performance.
While many paths lead to becoming a strength coach, and no particular credential is dogma, I genuinely enjoyed the process of studying and preparing for the NSCA’s CSCS and the CSCCa’s SCCC. Their testing process exemplified Ericsson’s requirements. The written tests challenged understanding principles, theories, and coaches’ abilities to apply a program in particular situations. The CSCCa requires applicants complete a 680 hour internship under an experienced coach.
Early in their careers, many coaches are fortunate to have a mentor provide direction. I was not one of these lucky coaches, as my mentors (for which I am grateful) came later in my journey. This is why I value credentials and its time investment. I learned to monitor myself, spot mistakes in my athlete’s movement, and how to communicate – the hard way.
The timing paid off. Connecting with a mentor post-education allowed me to dive deeper into their program. Earning those letters following my name provided a solid base from which I could further learn.
Combine the How and the What
Clinics are undervalued. Where else can established coaches meet to share experiences, distilling years of trial and error into best practices per relevant psychology, sociology, and physiology? But what happens when attending coaches aim to apply these best practices? Some (many) apply said best practices to their teams, which likely have different psychology, sociology, and physiology. We are all the same but we are all different.
It is one thing to understand what a training program can accomplish, but it’s another to understand how it works. It all comes down to understanding training principles and getting to “the point you can finally learn.” Stop blindly applying programs (and percentages) because they worked for another coach.
There aren’t a lot of education practices in strength and conditioning which combine the how and the what.
Until now: enter Power Athlete Methodology – Level One.
This course is essential for the aspiring strength coach needing direction, the gym owner who can’t afford the internship route, or the passionate individual or athlete who’s ready to unlock the next level of performance. We combine the what – a tried and true set of principles for developing all levels of athlete, and how – a turn key program for you to implement. With those two elements you will have what is needed to unlock athletic potential.
Empower Your Performance: Establish A Base Level of Knowledge
Even after establishing a base level of knowledge, coaches must still focus on sharpening and adjusting coaching skills.
As your experience and subsequent coaching perspective expands you will gradually become a Power Coach. Per Ericsson, skilled professions build new skills and a deeper understanding of the big picture (mentors, internships, experience) on top of existing, fundamentals (education), minimizing the need to re-learn later from a more advanced level (1).
Coaching is not any different. An education revolution is coming, and it will be televised. Will you be part of it? Or will you be the coach who has it all figured out?
- Ericsson, K. Anders. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Boston: Mariner /Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. Print.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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