Sep 18, 2023
Dynamics of Creating a Competitive Internship Program

As a new semester starts, strength and conditioning departments across the country welcome new internship classes into their weight rooms. Whether your department has the privilege of hosting several interns at different pay grades or the adversity of pulling one or two individuals to a small school, it is likely that the minds of young, aspiring strength and conditioning coaches focus on how to capitalize from your guidance. Personally, I knew from my sophomore year of college that I wanted to become a strength and conditioning coach and I was lucky enough to have fantastic internship experiences that showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly of this job field.

I graduated with my degree in kinesiology and immediately tested for the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification. Realistically, while some students in undergraduate programs have adopted strength and conditioning as a career field or even a degree program, few and far between graduate with the definitive aspiration to get into the field of strength and conditioning. At least, as the internship coordinator at my current university, that is the scenario when it comes to hiring each semester. Taking over the internship program has been challenging, but I have taken a step back to look at the bigger picture of where the career is going as well as the future constituents of the industry. Our department aims to create an experience that stacks up against bigger universities that may have more material resources than us. As I look to elevate our internship program, I hope to be able to share these ideas with the intent of challenging others to push their programs forward no matter what level your department is at.

The first component that our department looked at was what we offered as a program. With 33 varsity sports, 6 full-time coaches with varying experience, and a colossal weight room stocked with 36 racks and two fifty-yard straight away double-track lanes, we ultimately decided that we bring a unique component to the table in our facilities and rapport. The more eyes we can get in the room, the better standards we can hold our athletes to as well as more exposure for the young coaches (we don’t refer to our class as interns).

As the internship coordinator, I challenge the full-time staff to quickly show our young coaches what the major parts of their program are, how they coach them, and what the most common mistakes are. We don’t gatekeep! The first few weeks of observation are crucial to allow for each young coach to learn their primary coach and plant the seeds to let them grow in such a large space. If space is not on your side, taking into account the experience and network of the coaches on your staff could be another route to capitalize on.

With each full-time staff member at this university ranging from a handful to over a dozen years of experience, each can provide a different perspective on how to look at programs and coach their lifts. While we may not have the ability to provide graduate assistantships or fancy gear and textbooks, we are able to foster a multi-faceted experience and extend beyond the mundane curriculums of the past.

Every department will have obstacles, but taking what you DO have (network, technology, space, outside-the-box training techniques due to the lack of either, etc.) and creating an experience around it will bring in the right young coaches who will be better off having learned from that experience than to be at a brand name place cleaning sweat and spit off the floor.

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