Right step, left step, crack, pop, shift, pain. That’s it. In less than two seconds everything you have worked for no longer seems obtainable. With a clenched fist you pound the ground in denial. “I think I got kicked – I’m good now.” Your coach bows down, helplessly placing a hand on each knee as he/she awaits a hint from the athletic trainer. “You’re done for the day. Let’s go have a look with the doctor”, your trainer says with empathy. You enter an immediate state of anger . “The pain is gone! It’s not as bad as it was. Let me walk it off. I can still play.” Up on to your feet after a lift from your teammates and BANG, a sharp pain jolts through your leg, both up to your hip and down to your ankle. “Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this?”
That’s the question. What did you DO or NOT DO to earn this injury. More likely than not, you may not have deserved this injury, but you certainly could have done more to prevent it. Your strength coach could have too.
Keep the following thoughts in mind and you and your strength coach will be in a much better position to avoid injuries to your knees, shoulders, elbows, ankles, hips, and spine for many years to come.
A zebra will always be a zebra. The saying “old dog’s don’t learn new tricks” couldn’t be more applicable than in the strength and conditioning industry. Bigger, faster, stronger by way of heavy Olympic lifts, low reps, and moderate cardio is so 1990’s. One-rep-maxes are outdated by metrics, correlations, and a wealth or research. The industry has taken a progressive approach to strength training and if it is not obvious that your strength coach has done the same, it’s probably time to move on. A zebra without stripes is not a thoroughbred, it’s a zebra. An old school strength coach with four shiny new training locations doesn’t make him progressive, it makes him old school in more than one location. On the contrary, a quality strength coach has a full diversification of experiences – not just credentials and locations. Credentials and locations can be bought. Experiences are embraced, lived, and learned from.
Internships, grad Assistantships, residencies, fellowships, and full time positions require the applicant to be referred, interviewed, and vetted by authority figures in higher positions than the position being filled. Business cards are like nutrition labels; the further down the list of ingredients that the abbreviations lay, the less impact they have on the final product. If you are serious about hiring a perfect strength coach for the goals you are trying to achieve, it is appropriate to follow these three suggestions.
- Ask for a copy of the strength coach’s resume. A qualified strength coach will be happy to elaborate on their professional path.
- Interview the prospective strength coach. You are hiring THEM, they are not hiring YOU.
- The best strength coach for your neighbor’s family isn’t necessarily the best strength coach for yours.
Get to know the training ethos. Success isn’t a just a product of anecdotal accomplishments and therefor your training experience shouldn’t be either. Success is groomed and harvested through an environment put in place to allow you to grow as an athlete and person. Take the time to get to know your strength coach on a personal level. Understand their core beliefs and why they preach and teach the way that they do. Sign up for a complimentary training session and assess the attitude of the other athletes around you. If there is any sense of negative energy you should certainly search elsewhere. Sport performance development and injury prevention alike require a great deal of focus, deliberate action, and positivism. The quips and slanders that harbor within the walls of a locker room should stay there. Strength training is a personal, emotional, and financial investment that should be free of ego and sarcasm, but overflowing with comradery. If you don’t have complete trust in your strength coach and the other athletes you will be training along-side, look elsewhere.
Find the three p’s. Now that you have gained knowledge about the people you will be working around and the product you will execute, take time to investigate the process as it has been laid out for you. An adequate strength training and injury prevention program will have a number of qualified professionals put in place that create a functional synergy with all parties involved. Don’t be overly consumed with a one-stop-shop business. It’s in the best interest of the strength coach and athlete if they both stick to what they excel at. Strength coaches aren’t sports nutritionists and massage therapists aren’t strength coaches. High quality professionals take a high level of pride in their craft and rarely have the time or capacity to be equally great at something else. Coaches that have your best interest in mind will assess your weaknesses and dysfunctions, establish a course of action, and refer you out to advanced professionals that align with their own ethos. If a clear and concise plan has not been explained to you, there simply is not a process you can trust. Without a customized plan that incorporates the people, the product, and the process, it is more likely than not that you simply will not accomplish your goals.
Get an accountant. No, I don’t mean a financial accountant. You need a professional strength coach that is so proud and certain of their life passion that they are willing to be accountable for your ongoing emotional and physical support as a developing person and athlete. Your strength coach should be as invested in your success as they are their own bottom line. Durability is an all-encompassing test of the fittest – fittest in the classroom, fittest on the field, and fittest in life. Trust above all is the bridge that will be built and ultimately crossed by you. Whether it sways, rattles, or buckles along the way, you should feel certain that your strength coach will help you cross it. Mental and physical preparation is a dark alley your strength coach should be more than willing to travel down with you. Either you are all in together, or both out as individuals.
You hold the keys. Eye contact, a solid handshake, and an upright posture can go a long way. Accompany that with a plethora of please’s and thank you’s and you’ll be well off to a respectable relationship with any individual in life. Swearing, being bold, acting like you’re from the “hood” or “Southie” (for us Boston people) only makes you sound ridiculous and insecure. Authenticity is great but not at the cost of those around you. To be impactful, the majority of your leadership should come through your actions rather than your vocal cords. Rise early, study often, and train throughout. Exercise self-advocacy when you have questions or are uncomfortable with situations. Be brave in times of adversity and proud in moments of success. Do what is right, not what is popular. Believe in yourself, remain loyal to your friends, and respect your parents. In the end, the only thing you will possess in life, is what you have earned. You will never know how far you can go until you get there.