So you want to be a Youth S&C Coach? What are you signing up for? (Part 1)

Being a Strength and Conditioning Coach is very “in vogue” right now. More and more universities are providing degree programs in strength and conditioning science. Even more have degrees in the wider topic of sport science. So just what are you really signing yourself up for? If you really are determined to pursue a path in S&C, how do you do it?

I’ve been involved in Strength and Conditioning for nearly 10 years now and have been involved in a number of sports. In fact, right now I am writing this post from Colwyn Bay in Wales, where I am currently in the middle of a Camp with the Scotland U16 Reds representative team. For some of you this may sound ideal, for others you might see this as a necessary evil to get to a role of a senior squad. For me, the adolescent age group is where I really feel I am best utilised and the population I can have the most input in and get the most satisfaction from.
I started a role within Scottish Rugby as a contractor, moving to a fulltime position in August 2017. This might sound glamorous and perhaps you think it’s all gym sessions, fitness testing and acceleration technique. News flash –  IT’s NOT!

You might not think this is your job, but if it the team needs it doing – get it done!

Below is a list of some of the tasks/roles I’ve performed in addition to the usual gym sessions, speed sessions, warm ups/cool downs:

  • Timekeeper
  • Waterboy/Messenger
  • Smoothie/Protein shake maker
  • Barista (This is a daily one and a vital part of the regular coffee routine!)
  • Logistics Manager
  • Driver (transporting rugby, S&C and medical equipment)
  • Cleaner (setting up/cleaning up changerooms)
  • Tackle bag holder
  • Makeshift defender
  • Makeshift attacker
  • Makeshift Line out jumper
  • Makeshift scrum half
  • Nutritionist (delivering nutrition workshops/tasks, reinforcing nutrition principles!)
  • Psychologist (delivering goal setting and mindset workshops)

This is just to name a few! Aside from the last 2 above, I don’t think any of these are covered in a degree program! A lot of people are under the misconception that as an S&C coach all that you are concerned about is the specifics of physical preparation, recovery and monitoring. If this is what you think, be prepared to eat a big, fat slice of humble pie!
Quite simply, as an S&C coach, you have 1 over-arching role: To help the players, coaches and management do what is needed to get better. Or, as the Sydney 2000 Gold medallist in Rowing, Ben Hunt-Davis has been attributed as saying, “Will it make the boat go faster?” The idea here being, that this question was the underlying one when making decisions on what to do/not to do within his rowing team.
Essentially, if it will help the team and there is no one else doing it then it falls under your remit. You are there to serve the team. Forget what the job description says, ask yourself, “Will it make the boat go faster?”
If you look at those additional roles/tasks above and they turn you off, perhaps S&C/Sport Science isn’t for you? For me, these are just as important as running the warm up, writing the strength program or coaching a session. All these little things help the team.
I recently had a discussion with a Tight-Head prop who was frustrated at being asked to play out of position at Loose-head. After speaking with him, I said to him, “There’s a vacancy at Loose-Head, do you want to play or not?”
Ultimately, you can’t always choose what role you’re given in the team, you can only control the effort you give to the task you’re given, a task that will contribute to the progress of the team overall – and that is what you are there to facilitate.
In the next part of this series, I’ll be discussing what you should be doing, how and why in order to stand a chance of landing a fulltime role in sport…
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