The current trend for universities is to offer a masters degree for eager Strength & Conditioning coaches.
It’s the perfect solution to the exact problem they created: 1) accept way too many students into their under-grad programs; 2) wait for the suckers to realise there aren’t many jobs on offer; 3) offer further (online – it’s cheaper) education to the unemployed coach as a way to ‘get ahead’.
Now whether a predominately online course can adequately prepare anyone for the demands, connections, mindsets and pressures of high performance sport is for another post; today’s post is earning the right to take on further theoretical study.
As mentioned on Twitter, I believe diving into a masters in high performance for a new grad is analogous to giving depth jumps to a novice athlete. Neither are prepared enough.
One criticism I have of the universities marketing and encouraging new grads to sign up is that, for the vast, vast majority of students, they wouldn’t have applied the fairly basic concepts they learned in their degree.
So below is a check list of activities, experiences and situations that should be a minimum requirement before thinking of applying for any course-based masters.
1) Coached 2 FULL, consecutive Seasons. It doesn’t matter what level (e.g. age-group, school, club, etc.) this is at but it needs to be done and it doesn’t have to be ‘Strength & Conditioning’ coaching… Just coach!
2) Made a 16yr old boy objectively faster. It actually doesn’t really matter about the age or sex; it just matters that they improved. PS If you haven’t done this you can have no real opinion on speed.
3) Tested, analysed, programmed, implemented & re-tested, re-analysed… I recently met with a masters graduate who hadn’t run a single testing session outside of the university setting! Not one. Not even a Beep test for the local u15 football side.
4) Trialled at least 3 different training programs. Think Westside, GVT, 531, etc. It doesn’t matter which programs you put yourself through; it does matter that you know what it felt like, and that it was a minimum of 12 weeks each.
5) Spent at least 30 hours observing high performance training. This should help expose you to fresh ideas and the application of the theory you’ve been taught. The more active you are in the process (even if you’re just filling up water bottles) the better this is.
6) Trialled at least 3 different nutrition paradigms. Keto, vegan, Atkins… Who cares, just try it. Monitor how you feel? Understand any feelings of deprivation, fatigue, energy, etc.
7) Trained with & without supplements (E.g. creatine). Track the differences, both physical & psychological.
8) Trialled ice-baths, steam-baths, saunas & massage. In addition to your training and nutrition, surely you should know how you responded to these inventions before studying them further.
9) Trained so hard you vomited. Let’s be clear, any trainer can make a trainee vomit (a minute sprint on an assault bike can do the trick). Then why do it? So you can see (and understand) the games your mind will play with you at your limits.
10) Coached both an individual & a team sport. Compare and contrast the difference in constraints, cultures, attitudes and personalities.
11) Taken a Mentor out for lunch. I detest the term ‘network’ but love the idea of building and nurturing relationships. Start with someone who is at the level you’d like to be in 5 years.