A strength and conditioning coach develops and trains athletes to improve their fitness, athletic performance and reduce their risk of injury. As a strength and conditioning coach, you could work with youth athletes in middle or high school, collegiate teams or even Olympic or professional competitors. As a specialty within the fitness industry, organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the American Council on Exercise recommend taking specific steps to expand your knowledge and experience in this area of coaching.
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Even if you have experience participating in a specific sport, you will need to broaden your knowledge to learn how to properly train an athlete's body for the demands of a sport. You will need a firm understanding of applied human anatomy and physiology, exercise assessment and prescription and sports performance design. You can take courses or read books on these subjects. However, if you plan to seek a coaching job at the collegiate or professional level, you will need to earn an exercise science-related degree.
Strength and conditioning is a hands-on field and requires practical coaching experience. The ability to perform and teach training exercises and drills, including power and Olympic style lifts, is essential. If you are new to the field, visit local high schools and sports performance centers and ask if you can observe or volunteer as a coach-in-training. Most college programs require students to complete a practicum or internship. Although these positions are often unpaid or receive a low stipend, these opportunities can be extremely valuable to a future coach. Seek knowledge from the supervising coaches, ask many questions and work closely with the athletic training staff. Take note of different coaching styles and program development theories to help you form your own coaching approach and philosophy.
The Art of Program Design
While the athletic coaches will develop athletes' skills and strategy, you will develop a sound strength and conditioning program for both in-season and offseason workouts for athletes. Developing an effective training program for an athlete goes beyond writing down a list of exercises. Familiarization with current exercise science research and practices is important to create an appropriate periodized program.
In addition to basic first aid and CPR training, you will need one or more personal training or sports performance specific certifications. To coach at the collegiate or professional level, athletic departments often require the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance certifications. Some certifications require an exercise science-related degree or have additional perquisites. Other certifications, such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine's Performance Enhancement Specialist and the American Council on Exercise's Sports Conditioning Specialist, are also commonly accepted. Research job descriptions for the type of coaching you would like to do to learn what qualifications and certifications are required. Regardless of which certification you choose, be sure that is a nationally recognized and third-party accredited certification.