How In The World Did I Become A Strength Coach?
My path to becoming a strength coach was a most unexpected one. It was 2007 when the head softball coach from Southern Oregon University combed through the local gyms in search of a fitness trainer to take charge of the team’s strength and conditioning program. At the time, I was still fairly new to the field of fitness, but the prospect of putting together a program for a college sports team was very intriguing. It not only entailed creating a training program, but also leading the early morning workouts throughout the school year. Even though I was inexperienced when it came to training a team, I decided to take a chance and accept the challenge. I was thrown into the fire right from the beginning and I did the best I could. The first few years were a brutal combination of “up at the crack of dawn” workouts and very minimal pay. I didn’t care about the pay because I saw it as a chance to learn and build my resume. If I were to look back at those early programs, I’d be embarrassed (so I don’t look at them). They were amateur in comparison to what I create now. To my credit, I continued learning, and the programs improved year after year. Intrigued by the effort and intensity of the softball team workouts, the soccer coach brought me in for a consultation with his team. I worked with them for a few weeks, but the coach was ultimately fixated on his original programming, and I never quite figured out why I was brought on board. So my sole focus returned to the softball team. In 2010, I attempted to make contact with fellow strength coaches who had experience working with baseball and softball teams. I sent out e-mails to a couple of teams in the college world series, and little did I know, it would be a career changing moment. Surprisingly, one coach replied to my e-mail, it was Dennis Love from Clemson University. Even though their team was at the college world series, he took the time to e-mail me back with a gold mine of information on putting together complete training programs for baseball/softball teams. He also opened up my eyes to another big name in the S&C industry, Eric Cressey, who happened to specialize in working with baseball players. This was the turning point in my career, where a whole new wealth of knowledge was brought to my attention. Unfortunately, the softball coach and I weren’t on the same page, and just when my programs started to get good (at least in my mind), the team phased me out. Even though we cut ties at that time, I will always be appreciative to the coach for allowing me the opportunity to gain experience in team training. Thankfully, that was not the end. I had forged a connection with the coach of the volleyball team and I was able to begin working with them. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to perfect my craft. Here are a few life lessons I learned along the way.
- If you want success, you have to risk failure. I was initially hesitant about working with the softball team. Up to that point, I had only worked with individual clients. Leaving my comfort zone at that time was the best decision I have made in my career. It pushed me to rapidly increase my knowledge as a strength coach and contact others in the field. If I had not made contact with Dennis Love, who knows how long it would have taken me to discover all the geniuses in the field of strength and conditioning, such as Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Mike Boyle to name a few. All that I have learned from them, improved not only my programs for the teams, but also the training programs for individual clients too. Sometimes it’s scary to journey into the unknown, but I encourage taking that leap, without hesitation.
- Success leaves tracks. One of my faults is my propensity to go it alone, and always try to figure things out for myself. There is nothing wrong with being independent, and pushing forward with grit and determination, but there are times when accepting or seeking help will take us to the next level of success. Figure out who are the top notch people in your sport or field of work, and ask them for help or guidance. A lot of them will probably turn you down, but all it takes is one connection to make a huge difference. You might be surprised who will be willing to share their collection of knowledge with someone who is polite, respectful, and hungry to learn. Besides my breakthrough e-mail exchange with coach Love, I have since corresponded on e-mail and even chatted on the phone with big time strength coaches from University of Texas, Minnesota, Penn State, and USC. If you are someone who is already highly successful, I encourage you to take a little time to help someone find the path to success too. I have had several students shadow me from SOU who were finishing up their capstone in Health and Physical Education, and I have tried to give them all the best tips I can think of. I try to refer them to the best online resources and books for improving their training programs and building a business. It feels good to share knowledge about something I am so passionate about, and to teach it only ingrains it deeper in my own mind.
- Have a beginner’s mind. If I had never taken on the challenge of training a team, I may have been content with my training knowledge at the time (scary thought), and could have continued to wallow in mediocrity. Luckily, the strength coach opportunity forced me to learn and improve my programming. Now days, I am always watching videos, reading articles/books, researching the internet, and attending seminars (when possible) for new strength and conditioning information. I am not the same strength coach I was a month ago, nor will I be the same coach a month from now. I will know more than I did, and I will be better. I know that I have so much to learn and I will always have new things to learn until the day I die. That is the beginner’s mind, and if you approach life this way, you will forever grow in knowledge and continually improve.
That’s how I became an strength coach. I may not be built like a house, or be an ex-superstar athlete, but I have passion for sports/fitness, a thirst for knowledge, and a love for science. Pursing a career in strength coaching was one of the best choices I have ever made. It was a game changer and gave me the spark I needed to move forward. I have also been lucky to work with some great coaches, including Coach Rohlfing of the SOU Volleyball team, along with some phenomenal athletes. I have recently had the opportunity to start some youth sports conditioning groups. During the Summer, I facilitated a speed and agility training group. Currently, I am prepping a group of youth athletes for basketball season. All the experience I have gained working at SOU has served me well in training these groups. I absolutely love what I do. If you want to become better at what you do or have a career you are passionate about, I leave you with those three things I mentioned above. Take a chance, contact/connect with experts, and approach it with a beginner’s mind (a thirst for knowledge). Best of luck to you in whatever it is you wish to achieve!