Bob Takano has a new article up at his blog in which he mentions a talk he gave to a bunch of parents of volleyball athletes about the importance of determining whether your son’s or daughter’s strength coach is qualified to do what it is your child needs done. Good strength coaching is becoming a serious factor for parents who are hoping that their kid will get a sports scholarship when they go off to college. And if your athlete is on the verge you need to take the choice of strength-performance coaches seriously.
Here’s a quote:
I spent some time discussing the range of abilities presented by people calling themselves personal trainers and how widely those abilities and backgrounds could vary. I told them to ask questions about prior experience working with athletes, the success levels of those athletes, injury rates of their athletes and what factors would be improved besides vertical jump. I provided them with an arsenal of questions to help them determine the competency of any strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer they might encounter including whether or not they were certified.
The truth is, it isn’t always easy to find a serious strength coach who has the knowledge of the unique demands that a competitive athlete faces. These include massive time demands (school, work, practice, girl/boy friend, smokin’ weed with their buddies … but you aren’t supposed to know about that one!), serious risks of over-training due to the overload their already getting from their sport-specific coach, and risks of sport-related injury that could kill their chances at a scholarship.
If you walk into any “normal” big-box gym you’ll be hounded by a slew of “trainers” who look about the same age as your kid! They’re all excited and jovial, no doubt, but they rarely are going to have a clue what they’re doing (certified or not). Not good. But, where would you find a qualified coach, and what does “qualified” even mean?
To follow Bob’s lead (again … and yet again I’m using the “5 tips” format! … oh, heavens), I’ve got my own small list of things I’d want to know about a potential coach for my kid (assuming I had a kid).
- Did you find the trainer in one of those large commercial gyms? If so, we may have a problem. Not only are the trainers at these places usually grossly under experienced, the gyms themselves are understocked with what I would consider necessary equipment: platforms, bumper plates, chalk, etc. If the gym you’re taking your young athlete into doesn’t have at least those three things prominently displayed, then you’re unlikely to find the coach you’re kid needs either. Sports performance training is a completely different animal then so-called bodybuilding training. The trainer should know the difference.
- What certifications does the coach have? If it’s ACE, turn and RUN. Trust me on this one. I would only be comfortable with one (or both) of the following: 1) USA Weightlifting’s Sports Performance Coach certification (or equivalently, USA Weightlifting’s Olympic Club Coach certification) OR 2) NSCA’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach certification. That is, the coaches business card should have “NAME, USAW” or “NAME, CSCS” on it. Oh, and a college education wouldn’t hurt.
- Was the trainer an athlete? If they weren’t, that isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it could be a sign. There is not much like personal experience to teach someone what NOT to do. If the trainer feels they could have been a “champion” if only they’d had the right coaching, then maybe they’ve developed some idea of what “the right coaching” is. The strength coach Mark Rippetoe once said, “The best coaches were mediocre athletes.” They know what it’s like to struggle, to suffer, and to be defeated. Combine those things with a positive attitude and an inquisitive mind, and you’ve got yourself a good coach … which lead me to:
- Make sure the performance coach is a “thinker”. OK, this can be hard to gauge in a quick meeting. But, designing programs (not just routines) for an athlete requires taking into account a large number of variables, all of which interact back with one another.
- Is the strength coach a “yeller”? I know that we all have memories of our high school coaches yelling and screaming at us. And in the movies it’s certainly more fun to have a guy like Mickey from Rocky – red faced, spit spewing from their mouths, veins popping out off their forehead. But, the reality is that most great strength coaches can get their point across without needing to yell. This is particularly important if your kid is a daughter. Girls rarely respond well to aggressive screaming. You know that line, “you’ll catch more flies with honey …”
I could come up with a lot more, but this will have to do for now. The underlying point is to keep your eyes open and ask a lot of questions. Anyone who is worth it will more than happy to answer any questions you have.