Considerations for Choosing a Strength and Conditioning Coach
Coaches in the current sports system, especially at a high school or college level, are typically not trained to properly integrate conditioning and weight training with tactical and technical training for their sport. This can lead to a number of negative outcomes for the athletes like injury, poor skill development, improper management of fatigue, and others that can impact their performance.
Strength and conditioning coaches (SCCs) are educated and trained to specifically focus on the physical development of athletes, helping them to reach goals, perform at their best, and reduce injury. Choosing the right strength and conditioning coach for your athletes is a major decision – here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
What Does a Strength and Conditioning Coach Do?
An SCC typically has a bachelor’s in exercise science or a related field and is responsible for establishing and maintaining a strength and conditioning program for a sports team or athlete. The primary goals their programs should work to accomplish include:
- Improving athletic performance
- Reducing athletic injuries
- Teaching fitness and movement skills.
These coaches can identify and target areas of improvement and achieve enhanced performance for their athletes. And while it seems similar, SCCs are different from personal trainers due to their specialization in working with athletes.
Additionally, these coaches may work with all age levels and skill sets.
What To Look for When Hiring a Strength and Conditioning Coach
Proper exercise and nutrition are integral to fitness and performance-related goals. Hiring a quality strength and conditioning coach is essential to help you exercise in a way that gives you optimum results, improves performance, and reduces your risk of injury,
It’s important to ensure the coach can give you the best exercises for your skill level, regardless of the sport you play, with a positive, motivational approach to wellness and strength. If you’re looking to hire a strength and conditioning coach, here are the top things to consider:
Strength and conditioning coaches should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, preferably in exercise science, kinesiology, biomechanics, or another major related to exercise and/or sports medicine. They should also be trained or certified by a reputable certification agency, such as:
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification (CSCS)
- Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach (RSCC) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) from Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA)
The SCC you hire should have a proven track record of working with athletes of all abilities. You can ask them to provide testimonials and/or references from athletes they’ve coached or worked with, or even other coaches. Ask for current or past testimonials from people who have trained with them and don’t be afraid to reach out to those people and ask questions.
Your coach should stay on top of current research to ensure understanding of effective new training methods. They should be able to create effective programs that build on themselves and have a focused method. It may be helpful if they design their own programs as that shows a thorough understanding of their science. However, they should keep athletes focused with training that transfers to performance, not necessarily “fun” or “gimmicky” exercises or equipment.
Also consider how they coach and interact with athletes. For example, what is their coaching voice? Are they yellers? Tough? Understanding? Flexible? What is most important to them? How do they see their role with the athletes? What do they expect from the athletes, and from themselves? These are all questions you can ask a potential SCC.
Injury Prevention/Rehab Techniques
Your SCC should have a safety focus. The coach should be properly trained on how to push athletes during sessions without injury, and also train athletes how to avoid injury. Strength and conditioning training itself can help build muscle, improve flexibility, increase endurance, and other benefits that reduce the risk of injury on the field, but the coach should be able to enforce proper technique that keeps the athlete safe.
However, if an athlete does get injured, the coach should be able to pivot their training strategy to support the athlete’s new needs. They should be trained in rehab techniques to get athletes back to their potential.
Top Qualities of a Strength and Conditioning Coach
A few of the best qualities of a strength and conditioning coach include:
- Motivator: They instill confidence in the athletes and inspire them to be their best. They can push the athlete to their limits without overwhelming them, while making them want to be better and work harder.
- Effective communicator: These coaches should understand the importance of making connections with athletes and other coaches and be able to foster their relationships Not only should they communicate effectively in preparation, but also in sessions. They should listen to the athletes and create an environment where they will be listened to.
- Adaptable: An SCC should be able to make optimizations during sessions to ensure safety and continuous progress towards goals. They should remain flexible and work around the athlete’s schedule, injuries, and shifts in goals. They can adapt to feedback from their athletes or other coaches. Additionally, they should remain open to learning and implementing new opportunities.
- Accountable: A great SCC should show up every time. They are confident and well prepared for sessions, and they can create a well thought out and organized program designed specifically around each athlete. They would never ask an athlete to do something they couldn’t do themselves, and their focus and priority should always be on the athlete.
- Goal oriented: An SCC should help their client with both short- and long-term goals. They can set up a day-to-day plan, but also see the bigger picture. They can also set up and thoroughly explain a training structure designed specifically for achieving goals.
- Professional: The SCC you hire should be committed 24/7, not just while in the gym. They should keep complete records, be consistent and focused, and have a passion for learning while fostering a desire to help athletes develop into capable professionals. Most importantly, they should set a good example for the athletes both on and off the field.