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8 Do's and Don'ts From My First Year In The Field

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Without question, I am still very green in a field as hands-on and nuanced as ours is. One’s evolution as a strength and conditioning coach, much like the journey of any other professional, is one of continual growth that hopefully only deepens with time. With that said, the weight room is an environment where your skills as a coach and leader are tested by every session you instruct. You will find out fairly quickly if you have what it takes to run the show, what works, and what does not. In what seems like the fastest year of my life, here are 8 tips, paralleling do’s and don’ts, that I’ve found to hold true in order to deliver a quality session.  

  Do Don't
1 Prepare for each session by arriving early and having equipment set up  Arrive to a session unprepared, short on time, and aware of what’s programmed 
2 Give succinct training age appropriate cues  Over Coach 
3 Correct form when necessary   Be a helicopter coach 
4 Engage enthusiastically with athletes  Be a cheerleader 
5 Move attentively throughout the room  Sit idly by 
6 Have a coaching voice  Not be heard, or speak unreasonably loud in a small group setting  
7 Coach every session like you’re auditioning for your dream job  Deliver a shitty product 
8 Know your role  Start from the bottom expecting to coach your preferred clientele, sessions, and hours  
  1. Poor planning leads to poor performance. Arriving early allows you to set up needed equipment and get your bearings prior to coaching. On the contrary, showing up short on time is a sure fire way to give yourself anxiety, negatively altering the way you carry yourself and the session’s flow. People like to know they are under the supervision of a competent, confident professional.
  2. Speak less say more. Especially when you’re new to coaching, it is easy to start listing every exercise cue you’ve ever heard. Too much information is impossible for a person to take in and apply all at once. Deliver short and to the point instruction, using a mix of training age appropriate cues.
  3. Allow room for autonomy and form discrepancy. Not every athlete is going to perform an exercise with textbook form, but does that mean they’re doing it wrong, or the exercise’s benefits are negated?Within a set parameter of movement variability, allow for individual autonomy. Nobody wants their every move micromanaged. Step in when the intent of a given exercise changes or when there is a perceived risk.
  4. Find the balance between teacher and hype-man. A large part of being a strength coach, at least in the HS and college is setting, is about creating an environment where people want to work hard. You should be the epitome of good energy in the room. However, your job description doesn’t end at hype-man, you still have to coach. Make meaningful connections to those you work with. Teach them what they need to know, so that they can work to reach their goals.
  5. Proactive not reactive. Don’t wait for your athletes to come to you with questions or needed help. The coach on their phone in the corner is doing a service to no one. Put yourself in a position to see all your athletes, and be proactive in anticipating what they may need from you next.
  6. Own the ground you stand on. As head coach of a session, all eyes should be on you. You should be heard clearly and those around should be drawn to what you have to say. Coaches who aren’t loud enough will often leave part of their intended message on the table. On the flip side, speaking unreasonably loudly in a small group setting can be off putting. Developing a coaching voice takes confidence and experience on the floor.
  7. Every session you coach reflects your competence as a coach. Every time you step on the floor, you are putting your worth as a coach on display. People and organizations are paying you to deliver a quality product. Failure to do so leads to lost future income and client buy-in. Consider every session, big or small, an audition for the job you wish you had.
  8. Know your role and own it. Nobody in this field first starts coaching at their dream job, let alone a stable 9-5 position. The reality; you have to put in years of effort and sacrifice to establish yourself. You have to be comfortable going home tired, eating a late dinner, and getting up early to get after the next day. But in time, as you progress through your evolution as a coach, more opportunity will come your way. Good things come to those who consistently show up and work hard.

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