Who is a Coach?

Who is a Coach?


I have been waiting to write this article for over a year now. My good friend, Coach Mark Watts, wrote an article over a year ago concerning coaching. Specifically, he was talking about who is qualified to be called a coach. Now let me preface this by saying Coach Watts is brilliant, and he is someone I look to as a peer in the Strength and Conditioning World. However, in this instance, I don’t agree at all with him.

To sum it up, Coach Watts made the argument that personal trainers, private athletic performance coaches, and CrossFit coaches aren’t really coaches. Basically anyone that takes money for their services haven’t earned the title of coach. His argument was that coaches hired by universities or high schools have earned their title of “coach”. His belief is that people in the private sector have given the title “coach” to themselves. Let me say before going on, I have been on both sides of the coin, so I bring a unique view to the topic.

I am not fully disagreeing with him, but here are a few points. I have met Division I Strength Coaches that couldn’t spell their own name. We all know that the strength and conditioning world is a “who you know” industry. Some organizations hire people based on credentials, past performance, and solid references, and some just hire whomever they know. I challenge you all to visit ten different college weight rooms. I guarantee that you will see ten different quality of coaches.

Of course, I have seen some crazy private coaches. I mean CRAZY! Almost anyone can call themselves coach or trainer based on some crazy piece of paper that they received one weekend. Not only do these people not deserve to be called coach, but they don’t deserve to be in the industry at all. They have entered this field for all the wrong reasons. They don’t know how to teach someone to squat or deadlift, but they are doing it anyway. They are seriously endangering their clients, but no one says anything. It’s insane!!! Nothing makes my temper spike like watching a trainer(that’s the only title they deserve) play on their cell phone while their client works out. What are you doing to deserve being paid one dime? Nothing!!!

This industry needs a better “checks and balances” system in both the private and non-private sectors. We need better hiring standards, and I believe that we need a Licensing Board to set and maintain some solid standards. We need to be just like doctors and nurses because people are trusting us with their goals, health, and their lives. This is a big deal folks!!! This is not to be taken lightly. If you don’t have what it takes, then consider leaving on your own.

Here’s the thing about coaches in the private sector. I believe that they earn the title “coach” as much or even more than the college or high school coach because no one has to go to them. The men and women in the private sector that are successful have normally produced major results for their clients. That’s the way it works! If your athletes/clients produce, others will notice. When someone is giving you their hard earned money, they expect results. If they don’t receive results, then they will not continue to shell out that money. You have to earn their patronage.

Coaches at schools are hired, and they are on staff. They can be terrible, and the young athletes still have to work out with them. It’s crazy! There is nothing that they can do. Did that coach really earn anything? No way!!! I have seen it so many time when my athletes go to college in great shape, and come out in worse or at best the same. What is that? My college strength coach at Appalachian State University was awesome. Matter of fact, he was my favorite coach on the team. He made me stronger, bigger, and faster, and he grew me as a man along the way. That’s a coach!

Coach Kenn, the Carolina Panthers Head Strength Coach and Mark Watts are great coaches. They both blow me away with the amount of knowledge that they have gathered over their careers. Their love and concern for their athletes is second to none. Coach Kenn maintains his relationship with his players for life. I have watched him do so.

With that being said, here are the elements that I believe one should have to be called a strength coach:

• A degree in exercise science or athletic training.
• A legit certification like NSCA
• More importantly on going continued education outside of the required amounts
• A passion for continued learning
• A thirst for knowledge
• Internships with other coaches that are accomplished
• An honest love for their clients/athletes
• A desire to grow their clients/athletes as people

Ryan Grady is a CrossFit Coach, and let me tell you he is a Coach. That guy studies more than any college strength coach that I have ever seen. Ryan loves his client/athletes with a passion that is simply inspiring. If someone doesn’t believe that Ryan is a coach, then I don’t know a coach anywhere. He teaches safely, correctly, and consistently. People go to Ryan because he is awesome, and not because their head coach says that they have to go.

This is not a bash on college strength coaches at all. I am just saying that a coach is defined by way more than someone hiring them. I hope that Coach Watts doesn’t get mad, but I wanted to give another side of this argument. At the end of the day, Coach Watts is the man, and I love him. He is very passionate about what he does, and there is no better coach in the world.

To join my online team for some online coaching, check out the following links:

Team Mash Mafia

Eat What You Want! Lift What You Want!

Online Coaching and Mentoring from Coach Mash


  1. says

    Thank you for the kind words and you know I have told you in person that the feeling is mutual. I have seen the impact you have mad on the young men and women you have worked with and it is inspiring.

    That being said, I think you took what I said way out of context. I am going through and trying to find the log post you were referencing and I believe it is this one form November of 2013. http://asp.elitefts.net/qa/training-logs.asp?qid=200629&tid=219 Let me know if that is not the one you are writing about.

    Those ideas were about a third of a log post and the general argument was c coach vs trainer. Let me say again that people can call themselves whatever they want. People do it with the word “expert” all the time. As a society, we call any dad that volunteers to coach their 8 year old team a “coach.” You want to be a coach, be a coach.

    My point was the motivation is different. Coaching someone that is paying you to coach them is different than you being assigned to them. The motivation is different. There is a different degree of effort that needs take place. I agree you have to “earn their patronage” but the motivation is already there. Either they or their parents are paying you. That is a commitment level that the majority of scholastic and collegiate athletes don’t have. You are taking the most motivated kids from their peer group and using that determination to get them better. Of course they are going to get better. I am not saying the private sector is easier by any means, just different.

    As far as me saying all private sector trainers are not coaches (are you trying to get me trolled to death?) and all college and high school coaches have “earned the right” to be a coach is totally fabricated. Like I said, you can call yourself anything you want. In fact, it would be the opposite in terms of earning the title of coach. But look at it a different way.

    When a college coach gets hired, he/she is automatically called coach regardless of their coaching abilities (I actually liked at West Point that the cadets didn’t). Same goes for what you call your trainers on your website in the private sector. The issue comes down to consequences. Travis, if one of your athletes get’s injured or you don’t get results (neither are likely in your case) you stand the chance of losing them as clients. If you are in the college setting, you stand the chance of getting fired. Do you know any collegiate strength & conditioning coaches that have retired as S&C coaches? They have all been fired, have quit, or died. You my friend will be able to retire and Rock will be running Mash Elite Performance one day. Isn’t that how all private facilities get started.

    Here is another one. What happens when one of your athletes is ineligible at school, gets arrested, or makes a dumb tweet? Is that a reflection or your business? Probably not. But, it is a reflection of the kids school and his coaches. Every time one of my athletes messed up on the field, in the weight-room, in the classroom, and in social settings; it was a direct reflection on me. I was responsible for the well-being and conduct of young men and women who I inherited. So, even a bad coach (which are at every level) is bequeathed the responsibility and the consequences of the other 22 hours in the day the athletes aren’t with them. That is the difference.

    Travis, I have a ton of respect for you and consider you a friend. We have had a lot of talks and a few beers and I appreciate what you do for your athletes. I just think you took the embedded quote from the log post which by itself is incomplete and admittedly clickbait without the rest of the post.

    Coaches/ Trainers in the Private sector are filling a void creating by absent or insufficient athletic development programs at the high school and small college level. Regardless of who pays you to train athletes, them or the institution, Coaches are the ones that aren’t stealing the spotlight and taking credit for the athlete’s accomplishments on the field, court, or platform. There are bad “coaches” and good coaches in every sector. Take out the part where I am portrayed as hating ;), and every coach should read your article.

    Respect for posting this, I tweeted it, I should own up to it, and thank you for letting be elaborate on it.

    • Travis Mash says

      I think I know what you meant. I just took the opportunity to give another side. I have nothing but respect and love for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *