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.

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