Jan 29, 2015
Making Moves

jacobs-head.jpgBy Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS

Unlike at major corporate companies where the opportunity to be promoted is usually internal, as strength and conditioning coaches, we often need to move to a new university for better pay and larger responsibilities. Recently, I left a great university for a job offering at a higher level of competition and on a larger stage, where I am excited to test my abilities as a strength and conditioning coach.

When entering a new environment there is a transition period with coaches, athletes, and athletic trainers. These new personalities result in different challenges and ultimately are very engaging.

For me, adapting to new coaches is great because I get a different perspective on familiar situations. Everyone approaches their team differently and every team has different goals. As a strength coach, it is important to accept new ideas and modify the program as needed to be consistent with your training philosophy as well as the coaches. Compromise must be a tool in the box for success. What was implemented at the previous university successfully may not be an exact fit for the new situation. This is a great opportunity to restructure a philosophy and learn new techniques that may enhance the current plan and make you a better strength coach.

Working with new athletes can be both a blessing and a challenge. It is easier to back off than to amp up the discipline later, so I always go into new situations as a disciplinarian. I lay out my rules and expectations along with consequences if the expectations are not met. I get detailed about the plan to make the athletes feel secure and confident in where we are heading. They need to buy in right away or the transition may take longer than desired.

The first couple of days of training usually consist of at least one of the leaders getting penalized. This helps to set the tone that I am not bluffing about consequences of not meeting expectations of effort and commitment, and that the athlete’s job is to get better, not test the strength coach.

Discipline is important, but a big part of my plan is to always give lots of positive reinforcement when something is done correctly. This helps to balance the environment and I get a higher level of response from the athletes. They appreciate that I notice the good as well as the bad.

Another area where I work to build relationships is with the athletic trainers. Trust between these two people is essential. Strength coaches and athletic trainers must have a synergistic relationship that benefits the athletes and the coaches. Working with the athletic trainer instead of against him or her will also make life easier.

The NCAA has given athletic trainers a lot of decision making power over the strength and conditioning coach, so it is important that these two positions are on the same page. I always make it a priority to meet with the athletic trainers I will be working alongside to create a positive relationship early.

Almost every strength and conditioning coach will move to a new institution in his or her next position. Transition is a reality in any career, but how the transition is handled makes all the difference in the success or failure at the new position.

Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS, is now an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Florida. He previously was Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University.

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