3 Things I’ve Learned NOT To Do Since Becoming a College Strength Coach

06 Feb 3 Things I’ve Learned NOT To Do Since Becoming a College Strength Coach

3 Things I’ve Learned NOT To Do Since Becoming a College Strength Coach




Most people learn more from mistakes than from successes. That’s just human nature.  Behavioral experts claim that it’s because the “scar” that we get from our mistakes leaves a lasting impression that shapes our future thoughts and efforts.

Personally, I know this is true for me.  A growing person uses a mix of personal mistakes and learnt mistakes from others to shape his future judgment. I’d like to say that I learn from other’s mistakes as much as my own but most of the time I’m pretty hard-headed. I seem to  have to experience something myself.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll read this post, maybe agree that they’re good points, and then make the same mistakes yourself. But, if you’re smarter than me you’ll learn from my mistakes and grow much faster than me as a coach, lifter, or athlete.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a college strength coach and have been able to see how workout programs and concepts work with large groups of athletes. This is an opportunity that a fitness coach who takes on clients one by one doesn’t have at first and one that and athlete or lifter of course doesn’t have.

So this is my list of 3 practices I’ve learned not to do since I’ve become a college strength and conditioning coach. Hopefully you’ll learn like I wouldn’t.


1.     Not understanding that an athlete needs to be “sold.”

When I left the personal training life, I thought my woes of convincing clients of the effectiveness of my program and coaching was over.  After all, athletes are required to listen to their strength and conditioning coaches in college settings.

There was a problem, though. I was coaching teams of over 30 athletes and there was no way I could keep an eye on all of them. So, if an athlete thought that what I was telling him or her to do was a waste of time, he or she would skip reps and ignore the weight that was set for them to do. You don’t have to be a genius to know that when someone skips reps and ignores the weight set by the program, progression won’t work. Being that no progression exists at that point.

If the best program is the one that the athlete believes in, the worst program is the one the athlete doesn’t do.  No duh.

When certain athletes weren’t seeing the gains that others were, I figured it was their fault. Later, I came to realize that my lack of explanation in the validity of the program was the limiting factor in their success. I had failed to make a good case for what I was having them doing . So naturally, they didn’t understand.

For a client or athlete to progress in any program, there has to be faith in it first.


2.  Thinking That A Generalized Mobility Circuit and Warm-Up Suits Everyone

Being a strength coach for a large team can turn you schizophrenic. You have to be a different person for different athletes. Some athletes respond to yelling and embarrassment and some need you to put your arm around them and tell them that “Mamma knows child.”

Writing a program that suits every athlete’s needs can be an even more daunting task. It’s often impossible to write more than one or two different programs for the entire team.  Everyone ends up doing the same thing. This can be fine if the program is sound. After all, the goal of the entire team is the same.

Using my Neanderthal thought process, I figured I would institute a standard mobility circuit and warm-up when I first became a strength coach too. Just make sure to include every common need, I thought, and the athletes would be good to go.

Well, I missed the mark on that one. The mobility circuit was instead the perfect time to “individualize” the work to suit everyone’s personal needs.

I’ve seen personal trainers do the same thing even in one-on-one sessions. They take the same recycled warm-up and mobility drills and make every client do it whether it’s addressing his or hers needs.

Instead, assess the client or athlete individually first and come up with a mobility program and warm-up just for him. Once I took the time to do this, injuries went down and performance increased.


3.     Not realizing how much a former, bad coach can impede an athlete’s growth

When you’re the new strength coach, you usually inherit other people’s problems.  I figured that every player on every team that I would work with had great movement patterns when I first started. After all, they probably had a strength coach before me and these are athletes that have been in the weight room since high-school.

That’s the problem sometimes.

Well intentioned high-school team coaches and unfortunately some college strength and conditioning coaches teach athletes faulty patterns and bad form in the weight room. Fixing a movement pattern that has already been established (like a bad squat) is ALWAYS harder than working with the athlete who has no previous experience.

Many coaches and trainers, including me, throw the athlete into a periodized program thinking that the basics have already been established.  I had athletes doing power cleans who couldn’t even squat without knees collapsing.

These same athletes may have been told over again to push the weight in the squat, bench, whatever when they should be worried about building strength relative to their actual sport. Why would I have a hockey player back squat a ton of weight and completely ignore any lateral work?

Well, I wouldn’t…now. Earlier in my career, maybe.

But that’s why I’m shouting from the rooftops here to make you better.

You’re welcome.


What about you? What lessons have you learned that can help others? Let me know in the comments!



Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam.(Thanks toTim Ferriss and  Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)


Like this post and want to learn more about adequate movement patterns? Check out my Flexibility For Performance Series.

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