Well, it took a few months, but I finally had my first article run on Michael Boyle's StrengthCoach.com. If you are a fan of the HSP Facebook page (which you can like it at www.facebook.com/henleysp), and a member of StrengthCoach.com, you were able to see the article, and now I would like to share it with everyone: The Other Roles of Being a Strength & Conditioning Coach (from StrengthCoach.com)
Being a strength & conditioning coach in a team setting carries far more responsibility than simply writing workouts and teaching exercise technique. There are several ways you are called upon to help your athletes, coaches, and teams other than making them stronger, faster, and more powerful. For all of the importance put into certifications and advanced degrees, interpersonal skills are an indispensible trait in a successful coach. Below are ten of the different responsibilities I have taken on over the course of my career that have proven more useful than most of my training ability.
Counselor – Athletes have their ups and downs like the rest of us, the only difference is how much harder it is for them to handle them. They might be having relationship trouble, lost a loved one, struggling on the field, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and still be expected to perform. We all know the importance of a strong mentality to succeed in sports, and being rattled could cost these players playing time, a scholarship, or even their job. As strength & conditioning coaches, we see these athletes in a different atmosphere than their sport coaches or ATCs, and it is important to recognize when to pull an athlete aside and let them vent or do whatever they need to get their mind right.
Mentor – Most athletes I have worked with have been younger than me, but age seems to matter less than I originally thought. I have had athletes ten years older than me ask for my advice on matters far beyond my expertise, or change their habits due a conversation we had. For example, I had an athlete who was 8 years older than me ask if he should propose to his girlfriend (who I had met a few times). I'm not married, or even in a serious relationship for that matter, and here he is asking me about one of the biggest decisions of his life. (I used a trick I learned and said, “You know the answer I'm going to say and the answer you want to hear, so why are you asking?” He proposed, and they recently celebrated their two-year anniversary and the birth of their first child.)
Motivator – This is obvious in the weight room when an athlete is going through the motions, but also carries over to the field/court/etc. The head coach and assistants may be too busy with game responsibilities to light a fire under an athlete who is slacking.
Middleman – As mentioned in #2, we see athletes in a different setting than their other coaches and listen to both sides of any story brewing between players and staff. Hearing the message the coach wants the player to understand, and then being able to convey it to the athlete is a skill that comes with time. Likewise, every athlete has an aversion to the training room and fears being shut down, so it's important to make note of any little issues players mention and discuss them with the medical staff.
Buffer/Bouncer – Depending on the level, some fans will be determined to get the attention of your athletes. Be sure you do what you need to do to allow your athletes to remain focused on the task at hand. If that's getting to the locker room for an ice pack or finish their conditioning, it's ok to tell fans to wait until later for an autograph or picture.
Gopher Guy – This is more for your coaching staff and athletic trainers. In most settings, S&C coaches are the bottom rung on the Totem pole. As such, you can either alienate or endear yourself to your staff by doing any and everything needed to make their jobs easier. Working in pro baseball, once the first pitch was thrown my day was essentially done. If the coaching staff needed their jackets from the clubhouse and couldn't reach the clubhouse manager, I was making a mad dash down the foul line between innings. In college sports, with NCAA sanctions, coaches are limited in their interactions with athletes so they like to know how the effort when they aren't around. Even when I was working at the high school level (as an assistant basketball coach/head S&C coach), it was up to me to write up practice plans, round up players for film, and contact parents if something changed with a tournament schedule.
Comedian/Mood Breaker – Things get tense, and sometimes that can spiral into something terrible. Let's be honest, the head coach and athletes have far more riding on their shoulders (i.e. receive more criticism when things go bad) than the strength staff, so they can easily lose sight of the fact they are living the dream. They are athletes/coaches doing what they love, possibly getting an education or even paid to do it. Being able to lighten the mood is a huge help in breaking a slump.
Drill Sergeant – On the flip side, sometimes athletes need a swift kick to the backside if they aren't taking things seriously enough. This can fall under your duties to the head coach, as he or she may be too furious to deal with the frustration of lackadaisical players. It's important for athletes to have short memories when it comes to losing, but to not feel anything is a fast track to failure. Remind them why they are competing, take it seriously, or step aside because there are others out there who will gladly take their place.
Mediator – Athletes have egos, and sometimes egos clash. Having a cool head and a strong presence can help athletes see through their differences and remember they are teammates playing for the same cause. This isn't strictly for strength coaches, but I've had to handle it more than I ever expected.
Enforcer – This is another responsibility bestowed by the coaching/medical staff. Curfew check? Sure, I'll go around the hotel at midnight to make sure grown men are behaving themselves. Someone needs to get treatment NOW? Ok, I'll slap the sandwich out of his hand and drag him by the ear to the training room (don't do that, it ends poorly). You get the picture, often times strength & conditioning coaches are the coaching staff muscle (rightfully so, I don't see many anorexic strength coaches) and get asked to use it occasionally.
As you can see, your responsibilities as a strength & conditioning coach reach far beyond the confines of the weight room. It can be daunting, but at the same time incredibly rewarding. Make sure you recognize the importance of connecting with your athletes and coaches as best you can to make these additional responsibilities as smooth as possible.
I would like to thank everyone who has visited the site, as last week we broke 10,000 views and continue to grow. Thank you for your support and I hope you have enjoyed the content. If there is ever anything I can do to help you or your program, please don't hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES