Guest Post: The Age Old Question

As the Head of Athletic Development of the Port Adelaide Football Club, Ian McKeown is someone we should all listen to. Recently he completed his PhD while working at the highest level, in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. 

Now the cool thing about this article is that there are others in the industry that have contributed - check out the names at the end of the article. (PS Use this article as a #FF for the coaches mentioned. Click on the link and it'll take you to their twitter account). 

The age-old question: How to become a good Strength and Conditioning Coach?

Recently I was asked to do a guest lecture on an introduction to the strength and conditioning profession, as part of this presentation I was tasked with providing some advice on how to get in to the field and how to become a good S+C coach.  To give the students a rounded opinion on what is best, I felt it was important to ask as many people as possible. Therefore via the weird and wonderful world of Twitter I asked “what would be your advice to uni students looking to make it in S+C?” The proviso being I would only consider answers from actual s&c coaches. (A particular pet peeve of mine is the uni student, already a self-proclaimed S&C coach (without any credentials) posting advice and statements without any backing. I hate to knock people and welcome discussion but seriously, get a grip on reality, do the work, listen and stop making noise)

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From this harmless tweet I got quite a few answers, all of them great and from some superb practitioners in our field and consequentially some requests to summarise the answers.

There were some common themes with each answer:

  1. Uni won’t give you all the answers
  2. Find a mentor
  3. Seek a variety of experiences
  4. Learn to communicate

After stewing on this summary for a bit, I feel that a lot of the learning is spoon-fed to people looking to get into this profession. One of the points I made in my lecture was that strength and conditioning and any of the sports science professions are extremely competitive and only suited to the highest motivated and highest skilled people out there. If you cannot engage or can’t be bothered to investigate the field for yourself then you simply don’t deserve the opportunity; there are many out there who will be proactively looking. I have actively gone out of the way to ask experts for their opinions, they are above and further details can be easily found… if you go looking; just look at the fantastic resources on this website or Google "strength and conditioning mentorship" there are some great resources out there. How many of you have emailed these guys or even know who they are?

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Look, I may huff and puff about this topic but I really cant stand people who bitch and moan and don’t offer any solutions. I try not to be like that. I mightn’t have all the answers but please if you want some help get in touch. I am willing to help, you have to work for it, but we have the best job in the world and it is bloody worth it!

Here are some of the top tweets from said conversation. Pay attention to each of them, just look at the reputations of these guys! Every one of them is excellent and with a wide range of experiences.

Vern Gambetta ‏‪@coachgambetta

Get out of the lab & classroom & practice coaching!

Darren Veness ‏‪@DazVeness

You've got to love the gym if you want to teach someone to love the gym, plus word for word what Pete Ibbott said!

julie gooderick ‏‪@juliegooderick

Get out and learn, many uni's only teach elite methods of periodisation/testing etc, need to be aware of simpler methods too.

Tom Turner ‏‪@tom__turner

My serious advice would be to prioritise your people skills-effective interactions with athletes are so important.

 Grant Jenkins ‏‪@Grant_Jenkins

'Observing' doesn't give you 'experience'.

 Harry Brennan ‏‪@DrHarryBrennan

Learn how to coach from the best coaches, get as much hands on experience as you can. Be prepared to work harder than everyone else.

 peter ibbott@peteibbott

1/2 Learn how to communicate with people of all levels.

peter ibbott ‏‪@peteibbott

2/2 Uni's fail to teach you this skill, and if you can't communicate no matter how much you learn it's not worth thing.

Paul Devlin ‏‪@pauldevs

Understand anatomy of joints, movement and biomechanics before loading patterns, reps and sets. ‪#bellsandwhistles

Terry Condon@coachcondon

Be open to making mistakes but loath to repeat them.

David Sutton ‏‪@davidcsutton

Be willing to work in ANY sport. Experience is experience.

Jorge Carvajal ‏‪@carvperformance

Choose a good internship program - makes all the difference.

Barry Solan ‏‪@BarrySolan

Intern & choose your mentor wisely!

Des Ryan ‏‪@ryan_des

Complete practical courses and don't listen to your lecturers in relation to the real world ‪#theywouldntknow

Ian McKeown is passionate about coaching and it shows in the quality he consistently produces. Follow him on twitter @IanMackers

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