Modern Strength Coach

Happy Groundhog Day! Hopefully Bill Murray won’t see his shadow so we stop getting dumped on with all this snow!

For whatever reason, my ’99 Saturn is pretty good in the snow. Although, if you looked at it, you’d probably be wondering what is holding it all together. Last week on my drive back home from Endeavor, I stopped on the side of the road to help out a van that had swung off the road into a ditch. As I approached, I saw that there were two guys trying to push it up the small bank as another hit the gas. I hopped in behind the van on the left side to help push. About 4 seconds later, the van hit an icy patch, slid a few inches to the right, and I got blasted in the face with mud from the back tire. The next 15 minutes was filled with more of the same, but eventually we were able to push it out. The moral of the story is twofold

  1. If you see someone stuck on the side of the road, do what you can to help. Not everyone is okay on their own and most people don’t want to shell out the hundreds of dollars to be pulled a few feet by a tow truck.
  2. When abiding by “1”, opt to push in the middle…it’s much cleaner.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I look like “that guy from Modern Family.”

What?! I’m not a red-head. I’m not gay! (Not that theres anything wrong with that)

The concept of the show highlights, as the title alludes to, the structure of the modern family in America. Having heard this comparison for the 3rd time in a few weeks and having just re-listened to Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Boyle’s State of the Industry got me thinking about the structure of the “modern strength coach.”

In the development of a strength and conditioning professional, the commonly assumed path seems to be:

  1. Get a degree
  2. Get a certification
  3. Get a job

This was probably a great route when the profession first came to fruition, but now that’s only a piece of the puzzle. Because the field is so young, information is changing constantly. As a result, there are few (if any) academic programs that provide an adequate educational background, as a lot of the information in textbooks is overly narrow-focused or outdated. Similarly, I don’t think there’s a great single certification out there. While the CSCS is still the gold standard for people involved in training athletes (hopefully this is changing), I know quite a few CSCS certified people that I wouldn’t let train my dog.

This isn’t to say that an academic background and certification aren’t part of the equation, only that they are limited in their ability to continually prepare an individual for the requirements of this profession. In other words, these things are just the first step in a never-ending journey of continuous education. A “modern strength coach” needs to be well-versed in recognizing proper movement and movement impairments. They need to be able to quickly teach and cue exercise technique, using varying language to most effectively convey this information to specific individuals. They need to have sufficient knowledge and professionalism to communicate with sports medicine professionals of other specialties, including manual therapy, physical therapy, and orthopedics. Similarly, they need to build a referral network of these professionals to best serve their clients. They need to know how to motivate their clients, when to be a coach, and when to be a friend, and how to build a success-oriented atmosphere. Go here to stand on the shoulders of giants!

All of this stems from a foundational in-depth understanding of functional anatomy, the neuromuscular system, and  biomechanics, coupled with a sound comprehension of strength and conditioning methodology and programming, and finally, with countless hours of experience. This is certainly no easy task, which is why the drop-out rate in our profession is so high. So how do you stay on top of everything to keep up with modern changes? I think Mike Boyle said it best in his “State of the Industry” talk:

“Watch, read, and attend.”

This means watch as many DVDs as you can, read as many books as you can, and attend as many seminars as you can. I’d also add in to observe as many other professionals as possible, seek out and learn from great mentors, and surround yourself with as many like-minded people as possible.

I’ve been fortunate to learn from some of the best. I’m permanently indebted to Mike Boyle (who has been training athletes for longer than I’ve been alive) and Eric Cressey for all the guidance they’ve provided me over the last few years, and am incredibly thankful to have other mentors like Chris Boyko, Brijesh Patel, Sean Skahan, Mike Potenza, and most recently Charlie Weingroff to help guide me along the way. Nothing I’ve done in the past or plan to do in the future would be possible without those guys. The collective wisdom of this group is astronomical.

One slice a day keeps the ego away

Regardless of what you do, it’s likely you’ll have more people telling you why you can’t or shouldn’t than telling you why you can or should. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is key for your development, and for your sanity. Doing things on your own is tough. When I first started at Endeavor, the rest of the training staff was pretty much gutted, leaving me on my own. As I’ve slowly rebuilt a staff I can trust, I continue to get the same feedback from them, that they love being here because everyone is so passionate about the field. In truth, I’m lucky to have them around. Being surrounded by passionate people helps keep you motivated; it also broadens the range of information you’re exposed to as everyone has different backgrounds and seeks out different information.

I’ve learned a lot in my first few years in the field, but more than anything I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning; that’s what makes this so much fun. Mike Boyle once said “I’m not young enough to know everything.” I think there’s a profound wisdom in those words.

The modern strength coach, amongst other things, is ever growing.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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