Jan 29, 2015
What’s On Your Resume?

markBWsharper-head.jpg By Mark Brennan MS, SCCC, CSCS

Wondering what it takes break into the strength and conditioning coaching ranks at the NCAA Division I level? A recent study queried head strength and conditioning coaches across all levels of Division I to find out what they look for in a candidate.

Aspiring strength and conditioning coaches usually ask the same questions regarding how to break into the field of collegiate strength and conditioning: • How do I get my foot in the door? • Which certifications are better than others? • What should my education focus on?

In a study conducted during the 2006-07 academic year, 327 head strength and conditioning coaches at the NCAA Division I level were asked to complete a survey on the preferred qualifications they look for when hiring an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Of the 327 coaches in Division I, 193 completed the survey. The breakdown of coaches from each subclass goes as follows: Division I Bowl Championship Subdivision (BCS) had 82 responses out of a possible 119 (68.9 percent), Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) had 74 responses out of a possible 121 (61.1 percent), and Division I-AAA had 37 responses out of a possible 87 (42.5 percent).

The survey addressed certifications, experience, and educational background. Each question ranked the coaches’ opinions using a 3-point Likert Scale (1 = very essential, 2 = somewhat essential, 3 = nonessential).

When asked about the importance of specific certifications, 57 percent of BCS coaches responded that the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) credential was “very essential,” as did 59.4 percent of FCS coaches and 56.7 percent of I-AAA coaches. The Strength and Conditioning Collegiate Coach accreditation (SCCC) received a rating of “somewhat essential” by 41.4 percent of BCS coaches, 35.1 percent of FCS coaches, and 51.3 percent of I-AAA coaches. The United States of America Weightlifting (USAW) credential was listed as “somewhat essential” by 50 percent of of BCS coaches, 60.8 percent of FCS coaches, and 48.6 percent of I-AAA coaches.

Head strength and conditioning coaches listed a bachelor’s degree as “very essential” at these rates: BCS, 91.4 percent; FCS, 67 percent; I-AAA, 91.8 percent. A master’s degree was listed as “very essential” by 42.6 percent of coaches at BCS schools and 40 percent of FCS coaches. When looking at the preferred majors (exercise science or physical education), exercise science was seen as “very essential” by 48.7 percent of BCS coaches, “somewhat essential” by 44.5 percent of FCS coaches, and 54 percent of I-AAA coaches.

When evaluating previous work experience, 69.5 percent of BCS coaches viewed graduate assistantships and internships in a collegiate weightroom as “very essential,” with 82.4 percent of FCS coaches and 72.9 percent of I-AAA giving the same response. Volunteering with a Division I university was viewed as “somewhat essential” by 46.3 percent of BCS coaches, 58.1 percent of FCS coaches, and 45.9 percent of I-AAA coaches.

Researchers hope that aspects of this study will initiate future research in the emerging profession of assistant strength and conditioning coaches. Further research would potentially explore the preferred qualifications of assistant strength and conditioning coaches at NCAA Division II and Division III universities, as well as in professional sports.

With the growing importance of strength and conditioning professionals at the collegiate level, coaches need to be equipped with a great depth of knowledge and experience. The findings of this study highlight the important factors that for aspiring strength and conditioning coaches.

Mark Brennan, now a minor league strength and conditioning coach with the San Diego Padres, is the study’s lead author. He conducted the research while pursuing a master’s degree in Athletic Coaching at Central Washington University. Contact Mark Brennan at: [email protected]

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