The Life of a Strength Coach: Doing More than Making Athletes Strong

What is life really like as a strength coach? Imagine, being judged everyday of your life. Imagine having coaches, parents, and athletes placing their future career in your hands. With so many eyes on you, you are given a platform to create a monster, be a role model, create bonds and relationships that will last forever, and improve a kids character and work ethic. Personally, I don't think I was meant to be anything else in life! This article is meant to give you an inside look at the hours spent working with athletes.


What Strength Coaches Are Suppose To Do

This past summer, I have helped multiple athletes exceed their wildest dreams in the gym. I have had kids falling over trying to do the FMS because their knee hurt so much. I have also worked with kids who had no experience squatting, be able to handle over 315 for multiple sets. I have taken elite HS athletes and made them even more elite. 60 yard times, 40 yard, 30 yard, pro agility tests, have dropped by over a second for some athletes. Quality of movement has drastically improved. I have seen kids who haven’t been able to touch their toes in years actually reach their toes again without a problem. Multiple pairs of boxers have ripped as a result of heavy squats, pulls, and lunges. Varsity teams were made, and the “slow athletes” aren’t so slow anymore. Each and every athlete has learned some random training info, now has a greater understanding of creating tension, and knows why we train the way we do. Oh, and not a single one of my athletes got hurt either in their sport or in the gym (knock on wood for my guys and girls).


The Behind The Scenes

Needless to say it’s been an awesome summer. The attributes above are all things you should expect from a strength coach. Parents and coaches see the numbers. A strength coach sees all the hard work put in. We see the sweat. We help clean up the puke. We help kids fight back tears and conquer the frustration. We provide the challenges, and also the motivation to overcome them. And, depending on the athlete, we choose the exceptionally loud music that helps them get that final rep. These are the things that go on weekly and go into every workout, ultimately making 1RM Performance monsters.


To make a monster takes time; some need more time than others. Some athletes purely need help developing physically, while others need to take giant steps developing mentally as an athlete. I know I might offend a few people by saying this, but I feel as if kids are getting soft. I know I am not the only one out there that thinks this. When I say soft, I’m not talking about the obesity epidemic; I’m talking about work ethic and mentality. I’m talking about kids not understanding what it means to be strong. I'm talking about kids giving up mid-set. I'm talking about kids who complain about coaches instead of putting their head down and working harder. I know I’m not physically the strongest guy in the world, but I’m also not weak. I pride myself on my east coast, blue collar, hardworking mentality. I expect the same out of every single athlete I work with. This expectation has presented several challenges, but also really showed some athletes what they are capable of, and how much they really still have to learn.

Establishing A Winning Work Ethic

I have had some battles with athletes, but I can honestly say each and every one of them turned it around. As one athlete started to get the big picture, he goes “coach, you mean you want me to have a little jersey in me?” From that day forward, I, as well as parents have been able to sense what I am getting across.

This past summer I had some athletes who LACKED a mental edge. There were complete misconceptions on what it means to be strong, and what is heavy. The first time an athlete would see a plate on each side “it felt really heavy”. Or the first time they squatted or benched 200 they were “strong”. By the end of the summer, and as they continue to progress, they are learning what it truly means to be strong.

They would complain about the air conditioning not being on (believe it or not it isn’t always 74 and sunny here in San Diego, we had a 2 weeks period in the 90’s). Some kids would shut down if they couldn’t do an exercise right, would blatantly not try, and not give 100%, would show no aggression in anything they would do, fail when THEY THOUGHT the weight was too heavy, only to find out they were able to crush the set the whole time. Worst of all, some kids would show ZERO confidence.

Building Confidence

You can't be a successful athlete, let alone touch a heavy weight, if you don’t have confidence. To me, time in the gym is a tremendous way to build confidence in your athletes. I tell my athletes all the time you can’t be strong if you’re not confident and aggressive. Stepping underneath a heavy bar that can crush you needs confidence. In your mind, you have to be ready to go. If you’re not, you will fail. Before every set I set up behind my athletes and tell them “confident, strong, and aggressive”. Those three words are what they need in order to complete the set. If one of the three is missing, and I know if one is missing by the look on their face, they always fail.


An Unbreakable Bond

Through the struggles and pep talks I have shared with my athletes, I have created an unbreakable bond. This is what you don’t see in a strength coach. We are role models, we are leaders, and we have been given the privilege to directly impact the lives and futures of each and every one of our athletes. The role we play sometimes comes as a surprise to parents, but it is something I hope for with every athlete. Being 26, I am close enough in age to communicate about nearly everything. This is powerful stuff. To be honest, if you don’t have incredible character, and an incredible work ethic, you should not venture into the world of strength and conditioning.

Athletes confide in us. They come to us with a dream of making it, or show up broken/lacking and in need of something more. We bring them as close to their dream as possible, and make sure they keep sight of it. We mold them, correct their movement patterns, rebuild their confidence, and as I like to say, I create some bad ass athletes, that ultimately become monsters. That is how I see my role as a strength and conditioning coach.

I can speak for Melissa when I say this, every athlete we work with gets stronger, establishes a friend for the rest of their life (me and Melissa), gains themselves a huge fan, and will acquire the ability to be able to push harder than the athlete they are competing against. Mentally, they will be stronger and more confident, which will enable them to be able to dominate their sport, if they don’t already do so. And through the frustrating, sweaty, and loud times, they know they will always have someone in their corner, willing to give them a huge hug after crushing a new best on a lift, blowing away an old sprint time, or elevating themselves to new heights and distances, regardless of how covered in sweat and smelly they are.