I used to think that my story (background, experiences, etc.) didn’t matter as a coach. I thought, “hell, I’m a coach, so I just need to be great at coaching (and programming). I don’t really need to talk about myself or connect with my athletes (or the other people around me).” Of course, this was quite awhile ago when I was in the beginning of my career.
I was kind of quiet, an introvert, of sorts. I kept to myself, studied strength and conditioning as much as I could, from as many sources as I could find. This kind of thinking wasn’t out of arrogance, or lack of interest in others, but out of reticence.
I didn’t realize, at the time, that it was important to form the kind of relationships that I currently hold. And a good thing I did learn, or I wouldn’t be where I am. This profession is built on relationships of many kinds…
This peer-to-peer relationship type may be the most important that you can hold. The more relationships you build, the more people you have to help you, whatever it is you may need. Though, don’t forget that relationships work both ways, so you will need to make yourself available when they need you, as well.
In my mind, the best thing about professional relationships is that these people become your friends, not just contacts to use in order to get your next job. They make you a better person and a better professional. You can lean on them when you need to learn something about programming, coaching, or whatever. If I have a specific question about velocity-based training, I could research for hours, or I might just shoot Dr. Bryan Mann a Tweet because I’ve developed a solid relationship with him and know he would probably be willing to help me.
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Dedicated to all new strength and conditioning coaches. What is expected of you? How do you land that first job?
Our relationships with our athletes are extremely important, both in terms of the enjoyment from our everyday jobs (from which our overall happiness is generally derived), as well as the “buy-in” to our program. We are their mentors, like it or not, and we hold power (even if just a little); use that power to create positive effects.
If we don’t get along with the people with whom we work (which definitely includes our athletes), than we’re setting ourselves up to be miserable. Likewise, if our athletes do not like us, they usually will not be inclined to work as hard in their training. My experience has shown, and this is completely anecdotal, that the more an athlete likes/respects you as a coach, the harder they will work for you. In my opinion, this is why complete buy-in of a program is a leading driver of success of that program.
It’s extremely beneficial to form strong relationships with your athletes. If nothing else, just for the sake of helping them as people; to help in setting them up outside of sport, for successful lives (which is really what it’s about – to me, anyway).
The relationships we form with our administrators is another, often overlooked, important relationship. Without these bonds, we may find ourselves out of jobs faster than we can obtain them. Being in favor of these people is a smart step to not only making more valuable friends who can help you learn more about the “backend” finer details of your department, but can also help in making your position more stable (at least that’s the hope).
I am still, by far, more of an introvert than an extrovert, but I force myself to stay outside of my comfort zone. When I coach, I play the part of an extrovert because that’s who I need to be to perform at top levels. Also, if you haven’t already noticed, it’s really tough to remain completely introverted and be successful in strength and conditioning.
The same goes for social events; at my core, I would be more comfortable in my home, alone, reading a good book. However, I force myself to go out and spend time with peers to form these important relationships and create these experiences.
Get out of your comfort zone…