Death of a Strength Coach

Death of a Strength Coach

It’s time for a change

Over the past few months consulting and mentoring coaches across many sports one topic has come up repeatedly. It didn’t matter if it was MLB, NFL college or tactical, the same fundamental challenge remains – the role of the traditional Strength Coach doesn’t exist anymore.

One coach put it best “I spend more time as a ‘therapist’ in the weight room than our psychologist does”

Another “I am the therapist. I’m the one the guys feel most comfortable opening up to.”

Another professional strength coach said: “I am also a manual therapist and when I’m working on guys, we chat about the psychological challenges almost every time.”

This does certainly not mean that the strength coach is more important than any other role, it means that they have greater influence than simply counting reps or writing programs.

Everything is Psychological
First of all, everything is psychological. No matter whether you are the receptionist or caterer, you have an impact on everyone’s psychological well being. For more on this see the excellent book “The Power of the Other” by Dr. Henry Cloud. Thanks to my good friend Mike Sanders for the recommendation.

It’s not just psychology – as a nutritionist you can put the best plans you want in place, but the strength coach also impacts and influences your area too. With the strength coach support, the players will buy-in, but without it the challenge gets harder.

Another strength coach said recently: “Almost every day a guy will walk in and hand me a supplement and tell me the nutritionist told me to take this, what do you think?”

The converse works too. A psychologist or nutritionist who doesn’t support or isn’t aware in detail what the aims of the strength staff are cannot support the player properly.

The Renaissance Answer
The solution has been staring us in the face for a long time. Everyone in the program is in reality a ‘performance coach’ with a senior responsibility for a certain area. The days of very specific titles and isolated roles for successful teams is long dead. Specialization is ironically the biggest disadvantage.

The model I’m helping many teams transition to currently, is based around a holistic unified performance staff with the focus on – performing. Within that model each ‘Performance Coach’ has a primary and secondary role. Yes for a strength coach, primary responsibility may be Strength & Conditioning, but they also may have secondary or tertiary responsibilities for nutrition, welfare, recovery, lifestyle. All performance staff are included, psychologists, nutritionists, athletic trainers, rehab specialists, reconditioning experts or whatever specialist title is now in vogue.

Naturally the human reaction is insecurity or fear of losing influence or control of your area. However, this is a completely wrong mindset to adopt. You’re not giving up control, you’re multiplying your effectiveness in each area and you’re creating a cohesive message in every area. Your whole performance staff are now force multipliers for your unified message.

Death of the Performance Director
Finally, the management of this system is not based on a model of ‘management’. There is no omnipotent unquestioned Performance Director role. These roles are served by one or more Performance Facilitator(s). The responsibilities of the Performance Facilitator are to facilitate the performance coaches to do their job to the best possible standard. This can be done by one or more people who work together to facilitate for their performance coaching staff. The performance coaches are the experts, they are at the cutting edge, as a Performance Facilitator it’s your role to serve and help them find the best way to achieve the overall performance goals.

Continuous Professional Development
One last key element of this model is an underlying professional development system. This is based on a matrix where the key skillsets, not taught in university, the coaches need are taught. Based on a system of reading, activity, presentation and follow-up action-based processes in the field, the performance coaches develop their skills to be more effective. There is a false natural assumption that once a staff is hired everything is fine. If something goes wrong organizations simply fire or replace coaches. Nothing is more foolish. The initial and constant reaction should be developing staff. This can only be done with a coach development pathway and continuous professional development system.

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