Like many other industries in the small business world, word of mouth is huge in private strength and conditioning. Peers, teammates, and parents are all swayed by what they hear or what they see on the internet. Comments about who "so and so" has trained or where "so and so" has played are often used as reasoning when parents decide who and where they want their kid to train.
Yet, there’s a lot more to consider when it comes to the short and long term effects of working with a professional in the strength and conditioning industry.
It’s important to remember strength and conditioning is a scientific field. It requires a deep knowledge and understanding of the human body, physics, biomechanics, and of course, the ability to communicate with various populations effectively and with a level of professionalism.
Unfortunately, the private sector of S&C has no governing body requiring guidelines to open and operate a gym. None.
This means a LOT of responsibility falls on the parents and athletes to determine who is a safe, competent, and responsible coach to work with for the best interest of their future on and off the field. Unfortunately, what often happens is sports clubs hire companies, teams hire coaches, or individuals hire trainers without ever doing so much as a google search of the coach let alone a background check.
The Strength and Conditioning industry has a way of using complicated acronyms and scientific jargon that can, at times, complicate and confuse things. We don’t expect every sport coach, parent or athlete to know the difference between every national association, nor should you understand the hierarchy of the various certifications in this field. So here’s a short checklist to know if you’re on the right path:
Coaches have an undergrad degree in a Kinesiology or Exercise Science related field (it’s highly recommended that coaches hold a Master’s in this field as well)
Coaches have certifications or specialized continued education in the field (we’re not looking for one specific cert here, we’re looking for any; several is the standard). All listed certifications can be searched for validation through the association affiliated to assure they are up to date.
Coaches have sport specific experience playing or coaching at a competitive level. (This experience is invaluable in this industry)
Coaches have a network of professionals in the healthcare industry who trust and support their work (this support staff flows both ways and exists to provide total care which is always in the best interest of the athlete)
Coaches have a clean background check and are the type of people you can trust to work with kids (we’re talking a quick google search of their name to uncover any untruths or redflags and a simple “does this person give you the creeps” vibe check)
Of course it’s much more than just acquiring these certifications, it’s just as important that certs remain up to date as this field is ever changing and growing.
Now, when we talk certs I know most people think, okay they're learning how to teach kids to run faster, teach proper lifting mechanics, correct form, get stronger through programming methods, and generally improve athletically. And yes that’s part of it, the other part is arguably more important; here’s are some of the things we don’t think of but are absolutely a part of field specific education:
Basic gym safety, what to look for and how to watch a room with an eye for what could go wrong. Things as simple as how far apart racks need to be to safely load and unload barbells to how to spot each lift properly to maintain the safety of the lifter and spotter. How to maintain equipment and keep the overall environment safe and conducive to performance training.
Signs and symptoms of disordered eating or self harm, and at which points athletes are putting themselves at a greater risk if they continue to train. When untrained professionals miss this mark athletes end up in the hospital or worse. This is very serious.
Basic first aid and CPR- life saving maneuvers. It’s the nature of this game that accidents will happen. Being capable and confident in navigating those situations is absolutely critical.
How to help athletes recover from workouts and find the lines between being trained hard and being overtrained. When untrained professionals fail to recognize signs of overtraining this is not only detrimental to their development as an athlete but puts the athletes overall health at risk.
Working with untrained professionals in the field of exercise science doesn’t just mean your child won’t develop as well athletically as they may with someone more knowledgeable, often it means you are putting your child's safety and lifelong health at risk. The scary part of this is many times in this field the issues that are created in these less than optimal coaching situations often don’t fully surface until down the line later in the athletes career/life, keeping the coach at fault from ever really taking accountability for it and leaving the athlete in a compromising position. You’re planting the seeds now that will come to fruition down the line; that foundation has to be rock solid.
Today, we spend more time helping athletes unlearn problematic mechanics they picked up from peers or the internet than ever before. And what we’ve seen in doing this is they are eager to learn! They want to know why we ask them to do things a specific way and why we correct imbalances or compensations that we flag as injury risks. They want to improve and learn, both for their sport and to take care of their bodies long after sports. Let’s make sure we are surrounding them with the people that can equip them with the tools to make the most of their talents and abilities.
At the end of the day you’ll know what kind of coach you’re working with by what they produce. Qualified coaches produce. Again and again they produce. For athletes of all ages, sports, levels, they connect with the athlete, meet them where they are, and find a way to produce the results desired. They’re honest, and they’re trusted by a network of professionals. They know their limits and stick to their scope of practice. They make referrals out, and trust the professionals in their circle. They have education, they continue to add to their education, they have skills, they have experience, and they are in it for the right reasons. Qualified coaches make mistakes too, but it will rarely be as detrimental as their less qualified counterparts.
Don’t be afraid to ask your coach where they studied, where they played, how they got their credentials and what they mean. We know acronyms go over people's heads, but they are hard earned and welcome discussions. The more we educate within this field the larger the gap grows between the science and the fiction that floats all around this instagram coach world we live in. Train SMART!
PS- ALL coaches at EBA have Master’s degrees. ALL coaches at EBA have numerous certifications in the field. ALL coaches at EBA participate in continuing education. ALL coaches at EBA have playing and/or coaching experience at a highly competitive or professional level. Lastly, ALL coaches at EBA have a clean background check. We believe this should be the standard for the industry and we plan to continue to set the bar high with the expectations of our coaches and our fellow coaches in the industry.