So you want to be a strength and conditioning coach?
Head of strength and conditioning at the Manly Sea Eagles NRL team, Donny Singe, gives an eye-opening snapshot of what it takes to excel as an S&C coach.
Another day in the office for Donny Singe
So, having built a successful career out of personal training, you have decided that strength and conditioning (S&C) is where your passion lies. Your sights are firmly set on working in an S&C unit – but do you really know what the role entails?
S&C can mean many things to many people; let’s take a look at what comprises S&C coaching. S&C seeks to:
- Prescribe the correct and appropriate exercises for the required physical conditioning and the physiological system demands placed upon the athlete.
- Maximise outcomes of your exercise regime to optimise your athlete’s performance.
- Educate participants in pre-habilitation exercise techniques to reduce and prevent injury.
- Periodise and schedule essential training activity into specific energy systems and logistically achievable timeframes.
- Ensure the professional longevity of the athlete in both capacities of athleticism and skill acquisition.
OK, so you’re fine with all of that, and haven’t been dissuaded from pursuing your dream job – good! Let’s look at the skills you’ll need for the role.
The skills-set required
The following points detail the skills and abilities that an S&C coach will ideally possess. This list is not exhaustive, of course: depending on the position held, there will be many other requirements for success. Generally, however, an S&C coach will confidently be able to:
- Structure and implement the individual strength and conditioning program for members of their team.
- Combine and develop the micro to macro essentials (working from a day, to a week, to a month program) into a complete seasonal periodisation table.
- Identify key staff and specialist personnel required to complete all program directives to full capacity.
- Coordinate team logistics with appropriate staff, e.g. GPS unit with the high performance (HP) unit or injuries with the physiotherapist.
- Monitor intensities and volumes of all physical sessions, and consult with skills staff on all field sessions.
- Coordinate the S&C unit for all levels of the club.
- Manage research and budgets for equipment and supplementation.
- Oversee player health and wellbeing.
‘Easy’ I hear you say! But wait there’s more… consider the sheer logistics of moving a group of athletes numerous times a day, every day from one location and task to another.
The logistics of people
One area that many coaches initially find unexpectedly challenging is people logistics. To give some insight into this, the following short list highlights what is required of an S&C coach with regards moving large groups of people. The S&C coach must:
- Always, always, always ensure they know in advance where, when and why they are moving the athletes.
- Condition their athletes to recognise precursors or cues they utilise to prepare them for their instructions.
- Have a clear and very loud voice that is easily noticeable above others.
- Always deliver clear instructions: this is a key to consistent success.
- Have a logical and organised approach to the instructions they give.
- Be able to visually ‘read’ people in the group, i.e. their state of mind, preparedness etc.
- Be very clear about who is where and when and why.
- Display confidence in requests.
Everything an S&C coach does in every moment they spend with their team either strengthens or weakens their position. Everything they prepare for the team, and then the way they deliver and apply it, will strengthen or weaken their position of command. So, when the time comes to kick an a@# or two, the team will respect and, in my experience, empower their coach.
Still got your sights set on the job? Great. Now add meetings, preparation, reviews, data analysis, dietitian reviews, upskilling, player reviews, coaching debriefs and, of course, the fact that no week is the same as the one before it! Still interested? Excellent! Let’s continue.
After all the challenges of the S&C role have been laid bare, the truth is that strength and conditioning offers an exciting, ever-evolving profession, packed with thrills and spills. We can be a pretty ‘out there’ bunch with some of our edge-seeking initiatives; but challenging, rewarding and motivating it most definitely is!
The way to move successfully through this industry is, as with every other, to get results. One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t produce results on your own. Having a good crew working with you, and hard-working coaches or managers on your side, can be instrumental in aiding your success.
Donny has been head of strength and conditioning for the Manly Sea Eagles NRL team since 2003, and has two NRL premierships under his belt plus a World Club Cup Challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, presenting for international sporting companies, commercial businesses and government law enforcement agencies. A fitness consultant to Cadence Health & Nutrition Courses, his online Strength & Conditioning Essentials to Success course at www.cadencehealth.com.au is accredited for 4 CECs.