Jan 29, 2015
Working it Out

By Gregory White

Gregory “Graig” White, Strength & Conditioning Specialist at Rutgers University-Camden, shares his philosophy for working with sport coaches. This is the first installment in a two-part series.

I love my job. There is nothing I can see myself doing in the future other than what I am doing now. What do I do? I prepare athletes to compete. Though that may sound simple, it’s not.

If you peel back the skin of this onion, you’ll find many layers underneath. Depending on your perspective, these layers can be viewed as either issues or obstacles. One that often pops up in our field is communicating with sport coaches.

Communicating ineffectively can be the undoing of any strength and conditioning coach. Getting coaches to buy into your system often requires diplomacy. Some coaches may feel they need your expertise. Others may welcome you with open arms, eager to soak up your knowledge.

Conventional wisdom says strength coach should concentrate on working with coaches who welcome them–but that’s not really how we should approach our jobs. We need to give every coach all our effort, regardless of their viewpoints.

During the early part of my career, if a coach didn’t see the value in working with a strength and conditioning coach, I didn’t try to convince them otherwise. As I’ve grown older and more experienced, I have learned to soften my stance, check my ego, and put more effort into working with those coaches. Over time, my ego has become less of a hindrance. With patience, I have become a better communicator. I have become more adept at convincing coaches to give my approach a chance–even if they don’t initially believe in the importance of strength and conditioning coaches.

My degree in psychology serves me well. By trusting the principles I learned, I have become more successful at reaching once-resistant coaches. Creating and building relationships is the secret (if you want to call it that) to getting their support.

One example is my experience working at a local tennis club. The head teaching pro worked with a lot of the area’s best high school athletes–athletes I wanted to work with, too. To accomplish my goal, I worked hard to let the teaching pro see my desire to work with his athletes. He made me jump through some hoops, but once he realized I was prepared to do whatever it took to earn his trust–and the trust of his athletes and their parents–he gave me the room I needed. Today, I consider him one of my better friends and we continue to work together creating players who dominate in their sport.

Through this experience, I learned the importance of adjusting my approach. My dad once told me, “Every day you have to make a believer of someone.” Early in my career, I used to get annoyed at having to prove myself with each new opportunity. But that training has certainly helped me in the long run and I have embraced the idea of “selling” myself to everyone I meet.

Diplomacy isn’t always easy. If it were, more people would be good at it. Diplomacy doesn’t mean that you always agree. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to compromise a position you truly believe in, keep this thought in mind: Agreeing to ideas for the sake of getting along can easily backfire. Never let anyone shake your faith in yourself. Trust that you are good at what you do.

When you are wrong, quickly acknowledge your mistake and move forward. But if you know that you are correct, stand your ground. Using communication to build a bridge with a coach will bring both of you to common ground: your shared goal of improving athletes.

To be continued…

The second installment of this blog will appear on our Web site Fri., Jan. 18

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