I received an email a few days ago from a budding young coach who asked a question I'm sure plenty of readers would be keen to hear the answer to. I am writing to you as I subscribe to your website OLD BULL FITNESS and get a lot out of the articles you write. I especially liked your article from November last year titled "my top ten hints for getting an S&C role in professional sport" as this is my goal in the future. I found the article very informative and after reading it my passion to learn more and improve myself as a coach grew even more!! One thing i often wonder is the level of education required to work at the elite level and therefore direct this question at you... When hiring strength and conditioning coaches do you look favorably upon those with a Masters or do coaches with a basic undergraduate degree in sport science combined with great practical skills still fit the mold?! Your advice is much appreciated, Thanks for your comments re my website and for signing up. As I wrote in the article you noted, I rate academic qualifications to a point. Ideally a sound undergraduate degree should give you the foundation in biomechanics, anatomy and physiology on which you need to expand through both professional development channels (some academic, some not) and straight up experience. Experience under the guidance of a seasoned professional coach is critical to your long term success. No matter how you do it, beg, borrow or steal, you need to get yourself under the wing of a mentor in order to ensure that your education is well rounded, particularly from a practical perspective. There is no one size fits all formula for getting a job, certainly with me anyway. I've hired an Olympic level athlete with no academics but absolutely elite experience, who has gone on to do a S&C Masters and now runs a team in the AFL. I've let others go who didn't know their way around lifting or running sufficiently, and I currently have three Masters grads (one guy with two) working for me. Essentially there is no hard and fast rule. So, if our paths were to cross and you wanted a job with me here's my cheat list to get you to the front of the line; I like referrals from people I know! Getting your name around as a good practitioner and hard worker is a great way to get in the door. The S&C world is a relatively small place so finding somebody who knows your work isn't generally too tough. I will revert to references as a last resort because lets be realistic, nobody supplies referees who may offer a poor review. My preference is for an independent opinion. Remember from the previous two articles in this series...Getting a Job & Keeping a Job, I place a high value on personal and professional integrity, so I will search high and low for an unsolicited opinion on how you hold yourself. I read resumes, but I don't like them for much more than a page. All I want to know is where and what you studied (university only), where have you worked and a basic philosophical position statement. I don't care about you being the school captain or batting "third drop" in 2nd XI!, nor do I care if you carried glasses at the local pub. The absolute "no-no" is don't supply a cheesy photo of yourself! My aim is to find someone I can work with, not a piece of candy for my arm! On the experience / education front I can be a little more clear. Most people I've ever hired have fallen into one of two categories; Well rounded academics with solid professional experience or Elite level (and I mean Olympic or Comms Games level) experience as an athlete, preferably with academic background, but not absolutely necessary. In short, if you were to be successful interviewing for me you would need to fit at least one of those models. There are obviously other possible profiles such as straight out professional experience, which while I acknowledge their existence, personally I have never hired from this profile subset. In the first interview I usually meet people casually and discuss basic theories, principles and experiences. Be confident and engaging, and say what you know and understand. I hired my longest serving coach off a single phone call in which he clearly illustrated his philosophical perspective by bagging someone I knew well with a great logical argument! I'm not perfect and I don't expect my staff to be. What I'm looking for is a person that I can work with effectively. Are they open to learning? Do they have a platform of understanding to start from? Will they fit my system (I will write about that soon...stand by). Second interview is practical. Lifting, running and general multi-plane movement! I get down to the nuts and bolts here – can you coach? Do you understand the critical functional patterns and relationships that required for combative team sports? I need people who can start from the basics and "teach" an athlete to move more efficiently. Then I am looking for knowledge on progression and problem solving. How far can you take a beginner? How far can you take a chronic injury? Are you capable of supporting the culture I have developed in my environment. This gets back to the first few points I made in my "Top ten tips for getting a professional S&C role". In my environment, you'll need to be strong enough lead young men at a time in their lives when they need guidance but often they believe they know everything! Lastly the formal interview with the "powers that be". By this time I usually have my mind pretty well made up. That said, any opportunity I have to listen to your opinions and attitudes, particularly when being questioned by other people gives me an insight into who you are. You can't get the job in the last interview…but you sure can lose it by showing signs of arrogance or any other undesirable personal traits. I hope this gives you an insight into how I work, and provides some direction for you. My Performance Mentorship programs are up and running! Next intake of Southern and Northern Hemisphere programs will be announced soon. Keep an eye out for updates on the website or simply SIGN UP for free so you don't miss anything! Regards JW
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