Are you really an S&C coach...or just being fashionable?

On any given morning in most cities in Australia (and I suspect around the world) parks, beaches and playgrounds are beset by armies of Personal Trainers and their charges, huffing and puffing their way through their daily workout.  An even more contemporary trend these days is the same huffing and puffing taking place in low density industrial and commercial parks in scantily clad concrete “boxes”.

Who runs these sessions?  Some call themselves personal trainers, some call themselves strength & conditioning coaches.  But hang on a second…aren’t the guys working in professional sport teams called strength & conditioning coaches?  Hmm…seems there may be some confusion.

Don’t worry I’m not going to lay into personal training.  It is what it is…a very viable and arguably important component of the broader fitness industry.  As with many in the sport coaching community, I did time as a PT in the early years to make ends meet, and maybe at some point when I get off the "merry-go-round" that is professional sport I may be one again.  One thing I've learned in this game…never say never!

Let’s get to the point…being a strength and conditioning coach is not strictly defined.  Some of us have advanced degrees, some 3 month online certificates, and some of the more militant threads of our industry simply have completed a weekend course! 

The ASCA are doing a good job of trying to pull the industry together with their nationally recognized coaching accreditation, ESSA are try to figure out where S&C coaches fit in the whole Sport Science thing and CrossFit just scream “show me the money” and let everybody in the door (don’t get me wrong I love circuit training too…I just have a different opinion on one size fits all programs!).

I’m not going to debate education because its speaks for itself and its been done to death even by me (click here for more on this subject).

There are two points I’d like to make about the big differences between the PT industry and the Pro Sport Industry

Many guys in pro sport, myself included, sacrificed a lot in their early days, particularly from an income generating perspective, in order to endure what was required to get started in sport.  That level of commitment breeds a quality in the profession in general and as individual practitioners that ensures the highest standards of practice are maintained at all times.  

“Those with the most invested will be the last to fall”.  

That degree of commitment is also evident in many PT’s and S&C coaches outside the pro sport ranks, and those individuals should be equally respected.  My concern is the transient population of “coaches” that are riding trends in the industry, and treat the role like many university students treat bar tending.  Coaching at the highest level is a function of technical knowledge and experience, and both are born of time, and can not be attained in a short period.

If you want kudos as an S&C coach then COMMIT!  Get the required education, learn off people who know and practice…lots!

Accountability is undoubtedly the biggest differentiator between the “wannabes” are the “real-deal”.

Recently, I heard one relatively popular PT (if that can be measured by their social media comments) who owns his own facility comment that he is far more advanced as a coach than any coaches in pro sport.  That’s a fine statement to make when nobody is checking your work, its not in the public eye, you have nobody to report to, and as long as you turn a profit you get to stick around.

Similarly, just this week a few of my peers and I watched a quite outspoken “coach" running his own facility on the East coast who posts his work with athletes, in which he very clearly illustrates his coaching technique (or lack there of) and cues.  Suffice to say we unanimously voted not to invite him to run any PD workshops with us.  

Are we right or just arrogant…I guess we think we are as right as the previous two examples think they are right.  So where does this leave us.  

Pro Sport is an absolute furnace!  You’ve got to be on just to get in the door.  If you’ve failed to make it, don’t start up your own little business and start “ragging” on my profession!  Surviving in business is one thing…but surviving in elite sport is quite another.  You can fudge it in business, because nobody who is assessing you really knows what is going on.  You can not hide in professional sport!

I don’t for a second think this discredits the small businesses that are out there operating as S&C coaches.  There are many doing a great job, and let’s face it we follow the trends in the U.S. and this is just the next one.  The key is for these independent operators is to establish a form of accountability.  Maybe the ASCA need to run a facility accreditation?  Beyond that associate yourself with peers who can give you a kick in the arse when you need it…because everybody needs it from time to time.

The inspiration for this article was because I was approached by a young coach from Ballarat this week asking me to review his Facebook page, which was complete with training videos (creatively done) and an overview of his facility.  You know what I think of that…fantastic!  Here’s a young coach getting his business going and seeking peer review.  Outstanding approach and attitude.  

It’s people like this that inspire me, and make me feel confident that we are not producing a generation of militant, cult based, cut and paste imbeciles!

Never stop learning, be humble and respect that the choices we make impact people’s lives!






Jason Donaldson

Many great points JW.

Would love to see some sort of facility accreditation. Even if it was just something that a facility owner applied for, ASCA assessed, and gave the thumbs up to. Or maybe even just a set of guidelines. Certainly couldn’t hurt.

Mick Chiovitti

Couldn’t agree more! Ask one of those so called S&C coaches to show you an annual periodization plan for each of their “athletes”. Highly unlikely you’ll get anything more than a handful of notes and a few generic programs.

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