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  • Josh Gray

5 things I learned as a University Strength and Conditioning Coach

Updated: Apr 8, 2019

My untraditional path to a head strength and conditioning position.

The normal career path of an aspiring strength coach after college, will include a few years of working long hours as an intern (unpaid most times) to build up the necessary experience and hopefully connections to qualify for an assistant strength coach position. After getting hired as an assistant S&C coach and working for a few years at multiple programs, you may or may not be presented with a head strength coach position, or at least oversee the programming for a varsity sport.

Usually assistant strength coaches implement programs designed by the head strength coach, and aren’t given the freedom to innovate or test new ideas out (even if they’re more effective). While this can be advantageous for many, it can also be a hinderance for the more innovative/free thinking coaches.

I feel like I was blessed because I never had to go through the college internship or assistant strength and conditioning coach phase. My first collegiate position was the head strength and conditioning coach at University of Puget Sound (D3 school), where I was responsible for the physical preparation of 12 varsity sports (with no assistants).

This afforded me the opportunity to be creative (in my programming and research) and figure out how to use different means and methods to get specific outcomes. I could work with a variety of different sports (some at the same time), learning the similarities and differences between sporting movements, and I was forced to adapt my programming to the different fitness/athletic abilities.

Although I made many mistakes (none which included any injuries, fainting, or death) during my time at University of Puget Sound, here are five things I learned:

1. There are more similarities than differences between team sports.

- Most field and court based sport requires the athletes to sprint, jump, change direction, throw, read and react. The fastest and most explosive athletes with good perception skills will almost always be your best performers.

2. Improving an athlete’s jumping, sprinting and/or throwing ability will transfer better to sport performance than any Olympic or Power lifting program.

- Why waste countless hours learning another sport that has little to no transfer to athletic performance? Improving the actions required in sport should be the main focus of your training program.

3. Your favorite exercises are often not your athletes’ favorite.

- Choose exercises and variations based off your athletes’ needs, not what you enjoy doing. Athletes do not often share the same enthusiasm for training as strength and conditioning coaches.

4. A happy athlete is a motivated athlete. Giving your athletes some autonomy when it comes to exercise choices can go a long way.

- Letting your athletes choose exercises (not whole programs) won’t make you seem incompetent as a coach. It will actually create more buy in and more respect from the athletes.

5. The way you were taught as an athlete (or through an internship) is not always the most effective or efficient.

- Often times, coaches follow the same means and methods they were taught as an athlete. This works if you’re coming from a great program, but for most of us, consistently educating yourself on unfamiliar methods would go a long way.

Hopefully you found this article informative in some way. If so, feel free to comment and/or share. Thanks for reading.

-Josh Gray

BS Exercise Science


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