As a young athlete, you want to do everything in your power to excel in your sport. You practice hard. You listen to your coach. You make adjustments in your game. You study film. You show up early. You stay late. Now you want to invest in your strength, explosiveness, and health by working with a trainer or strength coach. Great decision. There's a reason that every professional and collegiate team has an entire strength and conditioning staff. Being bigger, stronger, and faster while learning to move and control your body translates to better performance on the field and reduces injury risk.
The choice of where to train can be tough. You can do all the research online, you can read all the reviews, and even talk to some current members, but you won't know for sure if you're in the right place until you've spent some time at the gym working with the coaches and going through some workouts.
4 Ways To Know If You're Strenght Coach Has Your Best Interests In Mind
1.) Do You and Your Trainer Discuss Your Goals?
In normal gyms, most people have really general training goals. Build muscle, lose fat, feel better. If you're an athlete, your goals are usually much more specific. You need to be more explosive off the line. You need to improve conditioning so you don't get gassed out in the 4th quarter. You need to move up a weight class. Your trainer should discuss these goals with you and plan your assessment and training around these goals.
Goal setting ensures that you and your trainer have a clear direction to go in and set the appropriate steps to get there. If you don't set specific goals, how will you know if the training is even effective? A proper goal-setting session and baseline assessment will help the trainer get you from where you are to where you want to be.
2.) Are You Just Doing "Heavy" Sport Movements?
When you practice your sport, shoot all those free throws, run all those routes, and take endless sideline kicks, you are improving and developing sport-specific movements to make you a better athlete. This is where your team's coach, the practices, and the games come into your overall athletic development. This is NOT the place of a strength coach or a trainer.
A lot of trainers and strength coaches try to make things overly "sport-specific" by having you do free throws with heavy medicine balls, run routes with a weighted vest on, and do sideline kicks with ankle weights. This will probably hurt you more than it will help because it changes your actual sport mechanics. There may be a place for this type of training in very small doses, but most of the training should be geared towards general physical preparation.
The role of the strength coach is to teach you how to move your body in a controlled environment, the gym, so that you can generally be physically prepared to be an athlete. The strength coach will build muscle, strength, and power, which will then be applied to your sport when you get back to the field.
3.) Is Your Voice Heard?
You should feel empowered to speak up if things don't feel right. Whether it's in life, school, practice, or training. If an exercise causes you pain, if it feels really awkward if you don't know if you're doing it right, if you have a history of injury, or if you just have a question, you should be able to voice your concern and ask your question. Any coach or trainer that isn't in the habit of listening to their athletes is doing them a disservice. Changing exercises, working on technique, and the process of auto-regulation (changing your athlete's program based on how they're doing) are all crucial parts of developing strong and successful athletes.
As a side note, if you are an athlete who spends your time reading and studying sport and performance you may have something to add to the conversation. If you're on STACK right now reading these articles you're a step ahead. If you have thoughts, share them with your coach! They may learn something new from you.
4.) Do You Get The Feeling They Actually Care?
At the end of the day, you want to make sure your coach actually cares about you, your performance, and your health. This is an easy one to figure out. Do they ask how you're doing? Do they ask how school went or how your last game was? Do they seem happy to see you?
The relationship between a coach or trainer and an athlete is built on mutual respect and trust. That goes both ways. There's an old saying, "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I always felt like that resonated so much in the strength and conditioning world.
A trainer or strength coach is an essential part of an athlete's performance and longevity. Make sure you're in the right place to grow as an athlete by taking an honest look around and seeing if your experience aligns with these criteria.
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- How Kids Can Tell If Their Coach Cares
- How to Develop a Successful Mindset for a Youth Athlete