Team Strength Coach Meets Personal Trainer
You love training athletes and like the idea of making it a career. What would you rather be--a team strength coach or a personal trainer? Better yet, as an athlete, who would you prefer to have as the primary influence on your physical development? If you’ve played sports, think back on your greatest influences. Chances are they were your favorite because you learned valuable information by listening to them. But one less obvious consideration in their likability is the possibility that they took a personal interest in your development as a person.
We, at Fairchild Sports Performance, believe the best qualities of both the team strength coach and the personal trainer can be encompassed within one individual, and that is why we utilize the the term performance coach. But how do we go about finding the right people to become performance coaches at FSP? Well, at this time, we are trying to fully understand and answer the following questions:
1) What environment do I want my performance coaches to have worked in previously?
2) How much knowledge do I need them to have?
3) What type of personality do I want them to possess?
Previous Environment (Background)
One of the components to understand when searching for the right trainer is the environment in which they have worked. For young professionals, early work experience can be style and philosophy formative. Spending significant hours, even years, training large groups of individuals rather than one person at a time can shape the trainer’s understanding of their role.
One theory is that if the team setting is exclusively a trainer’s background, chances are they would be personal trainers who are less detail-attentive than expected. The nature of team coaching is one of broad, uniform exercise prescription with the primary emphasis often on load/intensity. Coming from a team background they could be comfortable “letting form slide.” In essence, if a single athlete’s form is not great, the coach may not correct him, chalking it up to the nature of the beast (team training). Ask yourself this…If a player: coach ratio is 32:1 in a division 1 baseball program, is the coach’s greatest concern his mid-week starter’s humeral positioning on his third set of TRX rows? How could it possibly be? There are 31 other guys needing to complete their workout in the allotted 60 minute time period.
When looking at the profile of the average collegiate or professional team strength coach, one will often find that the coach played the sport at a relatively high level. This can have value from a skill development/social comfort perspective. But being comfortable and developing skill are not the objectives when a team or a company, OR a parent, for that matter, hires a strength coach. Attribute (speed, mobility, strength) development conducive to skill is the objective.
The nature of personal training is just that—it’s personal. There is no distraction. A personal trainer’s mindset within a session is singular: to ensure proper execution of the slated activity. In my observation of personal trainers, the takeaway is that decent personal trainers do not allow a single detail to go unnoticed, nor flaw uncorrected. These personal trainers are attentive to, and care about the correction of, any perceivable form error. They are, of course, training one-on-one, so an attention to form is much more easily achieved. But who value quality of work tend to gravitate toward settings that allow for quality to be upheld.
These trends, of course, are generalizations. There are exceptional team strength coaches who have every form detail accounted for, and I’m sure there are a multitude of deplorable, apathetic personal trainers. There are components of both worlds that have great value, so in summary, we desire our performance trainers to have experience in the team setting at a high level to be able to manage group dynamics, but prefer them to possess years of experience and an appreciation for the relationship-based personal training setting.
How much knowledge does the trainer possess? What are his/her credentials? Because of the lack of regulation, and dramatically increased popularity of fitness training in this generation, there are millions of people who are “certified” trainers. Who certified them? Was this a weekend certification? What did they have to do to obtain this certification? And why do so many of them train-for lack of a better word-poorly? So, the question we strive to answer is what is the requisite amount of subject knowledge we want in our performance coaches?
At the college and pro level, a bachelor’s degree minimum is assumed to be requisite education for a team strength coach. Personal training on the other hand is quite different. A 17-year-old high school dropout could technically become a “certified” personal trainer by passing a course in one weekend. How much could this person truly learn about the body, or the complex craft of properly managing people, in these few days?
I do not believe that formal education is the only indicator of knowledge, but it does suggest a level of passion for the subject matter and a willingness to go the extra mile to become better. We require that our performance coaches have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and/or graduate education in conjunction with their National Strength and Conditioning Association Certification (this is the most respected certification with the highest failure rate and it requires a 4-year degree to sit for the exam). These achievements lets me know they possess a supreme interest in being a professional and a desire for the greatest depth of understanding in their craft of sports performance training. Professional athletes or parents of young athletes should also ask these same questions when deciding on the right trainer for them or for their child.
Another component to understand when searching for the right trainer to hire from a pool of team strength coaches versus personal trainers is their personality.
Successful team strength coaches, of course, can have varying personality types. More often than not though, you may find someone who is comfortable in large groups of boisterous, confident athletes. These types are also, typically, unafraid to assert themselves when they feel strongly about something.
Personal trainers, conversely, may be less likely to have team experience as a player or coach. These professionals usually enjoy one-on-one relationships with athletes, and/or working with them in small groups. At the highest levels, this appeals to the personality types that are very detail – oriented and want to see things done perfectly. If having ascended to a high level of training, these types are also likely assertive with their messages. Personal trainers value the individual relationships as their business is built on responding to their clients’ needs.
The old adage “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” resonates with us at FSP. We want assertive but caring people who have the desire to learn everything they can and who want to give each client, regardless of the setting, the attention he/she deserves.
To summarize, we look to create performance trainers at FSP who:
If we were forced, however, to recommend the attribute one should value the most, we would say performance trainers must, above all, be attentive to detail. With the effect one’s performance can have on everything from their choice of college to the size of their professional signing bonus to their career longevity, the stakes are just too high for one not to be fully attentive to his/her client’s needs, and the effect that exercise programming and execution can have on their end-objective of maximum performance.
We have a system, thankfully, that allows portions of both worlds that we consider best. The programs created are unique to each individual athlete (as in personal training), but allow them to draw from the energy of others (as in group/team settings), while working through their own exercises under the attentive eye of our highly qualified, experienced performance coaches.
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What should be on the athlete’s FAQ to his/her performance coach:
1) How long have you been training?
2) What do you assess? Do you assess more than my body fat and lean muscle mass? Do you have a method of evaluating my movement quality?
3) How long have you been assessing?
4) Do you use my assessment results to build my program? If so, how do you use my assessment results to build my program?
5) How do you gauge my progress?
6) If I am training in a group, will I have my own program? What will the athlete:coach ratio be?
7) If I am training in a group, what is the ratio of performance coaches to athletes?
8) How will you prevent me from developing injuries?
9) What is your education level?
10) What are your certifications in?
11) Do you have any athlete's testimonials on hand? Have formerly injured players gotten healthy and improved performance using your system?