10 Thoughts for Aspiring Strength Coaches

By: Schuyler Schmidt

Not trying to brag, but my Christmas break was exceptionally awesome. While it was great to see my family and friends for the first time in 4 months, I also used the extended break to get some hands-on experience in the strength and conditioning/performance coaching world.

I was fortunate enough to job shadow with three different coaches whose clients range from professional and Division 1 athletes, to weekend warriors, to kids in training for various rec leagues. Now that I have had some time to digest everything I saw, heard, and learned, I want to share 10 of my thoughts with other aspiring strength coaches, athletes, and blog readers.


10. Know your athlete.

Although your job as a strength coach is to train athletes off the field, it is also important to know what they are like on the playing field—their style of play, strengths, weaknesses, role on the team, etc. Knowing this information will help you see the whole picture, “know the sport,” and enable you to design more effective programs.

An athlete or coach may tell you what he/she needs to work on, but what they say and what really needs to be done may differ. It’s your job to make the athlete attain peak performance safely, so truly understanding the sport and the athlete are top priorities.

9. Athletes train like athletes.

The coaches I spoke with really emphasized this. Whether you are training a hockey player or a field hockey player, the main components of their program are the same. In season, their sport-specific training is done during practice and games; they come to you to maintain fitness, power, strength, speed, and to stay injury-free.

In the off-season, the focus is more on sport-specific training, especially what the athlete needs to improve on.

8. Be wary of overtraining.

Between games, traveling, training, and daily life, it is easy for an athlete to become overworked. Again, it’s beneficial to know your athlete on and off the field.

A player whose wife just had a baby is most likely not getting the right amount of sleep, while a young client, new to living on her own, is probably not getting the proper nutrition to fuel her demanding schedule.

While it isn’t necessarily in your realm to offer solutions to these problems, it is your job to recognize that a problem exists and to take appropriate action, whether that’s referring them to someone who can help or modifying your program. Make sure you aren’t the one overworking them.


7. The mind is super powerful, like super powerful!

I know this is common sense, but after I saw it in action, I was amazed. An athlete kept insisting that his low back hurt during bench pressing, so the coach stopped the exercise. The athlete then proceeded to ride the exercise bike for five minutes, proclaimed it really helped his lower back, and finished his bench press.

While I am only a second year kin student and might be wrong on this, I don’t think riding the bike did much of anything, what matters is that the athlete thought it did. The athlete’s mental game also becomes extremely important during a losing streak or a slump. Things you say can really tear them apart… Choose your words wisely.

6. Pre-rehab work isn’t that important.

All coaches do some pre-rehab work, but there isn’t as much emphasis on it as I thought. When I asked why, the two main reasons were lack of time in the weight-room, meaning the athlete would have to do the exercises on his/her own, and lack of interest by the athlete. I was surprised by the second reason, but the coaches said some athletes don’t “buy-in” to corrective exercises.

If I ever become a coach, I will strive to find the right balance between corrective work and what the athlete wants.


5. Proper core training is where it’s at.

Anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion, and anti-extension, to be specific.

4. Never stop learning.

Your program may work wonders, but there may be a better way out there. While it’s important to continually look to improve your training and coaching style, make your own educated decisions. You shouldn’t completely revamp your program every time a new article is posted on the internet.


3. Networking is key.

All three of the coaches I worked with said the same thing – “it’s about who you know”.

  • Get your name out there.
  • Ask questions.
  • Attend seminars.
  • Don’t be afraid to hear, “No.”

2. Being a team’s strength coach isn’t all glamour.

In addition to your training, you’ll most likely be an equipment manager, laundry person, and all-purpose helper. Don’t expect a 9-5 job.

1. You are your own best advocate.

Be passionate about what you do. It responds, and people respond positively to it.

While a lot of this may be common sense to some people, it was an eye-opening and motivating experience for me. I have so much to learn, and the opportunity to work with these professionals was an awesome starting point.


Which of Schuyler’s thoughts resonate most with your training experience (as a coach or an athlete)? Comment below and remember to”like” us on facebook!


Schuyler is a second year honours Kinesiology student at Waterloo. She enjoys everything fitness and looks forward to learning more through her classes, training the varsity athletes, Dave Wu’s classes, and the Strength & Conditioning Club. She also plans to minor in Human Nutrition. Having dabbled in distance running to powerlifting, Schuyler has a broad view of fitness and is a firm believer that “one workout doesn’t fit all,” when it comes to exercise. Outside of academics, Schuyler enjoys hiking, canoeing,  jewelry making, and working at a vineyard/winery in her hometown.


1 Comment

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One response to “10 Thoughts for Aspiring Strength Coaches

  1. Great stuff Schuyler! Some real world stuff there.

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