Career Development for Women as Strength and Conditioning Coaches

by Andrea Hudy, MA, CSCS,*D, RSCC*E
Career Series December 2015

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This article discusses career development and progression for women in the field of strength and conditioning. Coach Andrea Hudy provides her personal insight as she touches on goal setting, core values, and professionalism.

670x200_Career_Series_BannerMy Story


Upon graduating college, the first thing I expected to do was to apply for a job in my field and start my career. While exciting, the process of trying to secure a position can be much more daunting than it seems. For anyone that has been through this before, you can understand the anxiety of putting your resume out there, going after something, and then facing the possibility of failure. But who would not want to hire me, right?

Wrong! When I applied for the job, I was completely dismissed and also very disappointed. I asked the interviewers that chose not to hire me why I did not get the job. They explained to me that the applicant who actually received the job offer had already been communicating and volunteering extra time in an effort to secure the position. In short, this applicant simply wanted it more than me. As much as that pained me to hear, I understood. From that point on, I immediately chose to change my mindset from one of expecting to be hired to one of working hard to separate myself so that an employer would have no option but to hire me. If you want something bad enough, you simply have to go get it.

Applying for that first job and being denied was probably one of the biggest lessons of my career, and my career had not even started yet. Simply filling out an application and waiting on a phone call was clearly not an option anymore. Without that very first failure, I probably would not have learned what it takes to be successful. It was early in my career that I learned to aggressively chase what it was that I wanted.

What Do You Offer?

After the unsuccessful attempt at securing a job, I knew I needed to show future employers why I was the more attractive candidate to hire. I gave great thought as to what those people would want to see. I came to the conclusion that I had to show them who I was and what I had to offer. This would ultimately include my vision, my philosophy, and essentially my worth to their program. This was the beginning of my portfolio, which was a clear picture of what I had to offer. There would be tough questions in the interview process, and this would hopefully answer any of those with certainty.

In Your Portfolio

1. In your cover letter, state why you are interested in the job, and do it convincingly

a. Include the reason you want the job
b. Be authentic when you speak of the reason; state why you want the job, not what you think they will want to hear
c. Show them you have done research on their particular company or program; this makes it personal and shows your investment to the process

2. In your resume, sell yourself

a. Think of other skills that set you apart from other candidates
b. List your education, professional experience, presentations, publications, awards, and memberships/certifications. The following qualities will enhance your chances of being successful:

1. Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in an exercise-related field
2. Certifications from established organizations (e.g., National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)/United States of America Weightlifting (USAW))
3. Abilities to communicate, teach, and motivate
4. Qualities of loyalty and adaptability
5. Connections from regional and/or national conferences

List your Goals 

Goals are similar to your mission, but more specific. Think about your long-term mission and your short-term battles. Your mission should provide the framework and each goal should complement one another. Put yourself into the perspective of the coaches and administration when you make goals. Be flexible and adapt your goals to those of the athletes, coaches, and administration. Your goals should build on each other so that you can continue developing your philosophy and become a well-rounded professional. In your goals, include things such as:

1. Learn lifetime skills
2. Learn that strength and conditioning must be consistent
3. Efficient time management
4. Exceptional training environment
5. Gain the trust of athletes/coaches
6. Assist with athlete recruitment
7. Be involved with individual sports

The resume and cover letter will be what catches an employer’s eye, but the information within the resume including your qualifications will be what ultimately sells someone on your worth. As simple as it sounds, to show you are a strong candidate, you need to show your strengths.

Mission

You will undoubtedly get asked at some point in your interview process why you want that particular job. Creating a mission statement within your portfolio is an easy way to convey to future employers what your intentions are. If you are able to place yourself in an administrator or coach’s position, try to predict what important questions they would have for you and then weave these answers or themes into your mission statement.

This hardcopy is a concrete reminder to someone of your plan. You will want to very clearly lay out the ways that you plan to build a weight room culture with professionalism. You will want your plan to coincide with the coaches, administration, and university’s mission. State this and then confidently build a vision of what this will look like at their particular university and for their team. Any well-rounded sports performance mission should include some goals similar, but not exclusive, to the following goals of my personal mission statement:

• Physically and mentally prepare the athlete for the rigors of athletics
• Enhance and develop sport performance: muscle power, muscle strength, endurance, speed, conditioning, and all other parameters of sport
• Prevent injury through various components of our program (e.g., core/torso strength, organized prehabilitation, etc.)
• Provide nutritional counseling to each student athlete via recipes, menu books, and additional information
• Administer a safe sport-specific conditioning program in a positive environment at all times
• Provide a framework but tailor to individual needs of student-athletes (e.g., academics, time, injuries, etc.)
• Interact with training room, administration, and researchers (weekly meetings)
• Commit to the principles of ethical conduct, integrity, and excellence
• Provide a well-designed strength and conditioning program based on physiological research
• Have a periodization philosophy

It will be important to mention how you will utilize various research-based methods and also include programming with a strong knowledge of the parameters of strength and conditioning. This well planned mission will become part of the reason for a successful career down the road. Make sure it includes the various ways that you plan to implement the program as well as the assurance that you will commit yourself to being highly accessible to the athlete. This includes in the weight room and on the field, ice, or court, and during any breaks.

This is, after all, a service industry in which you will hold yourself and the athlete to a high standard, which makes success more likely. Point out what makes you stand out as a coach, co-worker, and leader while explaining your philosophy. Your mission will include more specifics about how you plan to create this high standard of weight room culture and what your periodization philosophy entails. Provide the athlete with the best strength and conditioning opportunity possible.

Philosophy

In order to teach something, you have to understand it through experience. So whatever your philosophy, you should have extensive hours of practice with it. My philosophy does not have to consist of one particular method of training. For example, I combine weightlifting, powerlifting, plyometrics, yoga, etc. in my programming. If you want to train for performance, use ground-based, multi-joint movements that will require an athlete to move explosively in all planes of movement. Keep an open mind and strive to experience new ways to teach techniques.

Your philosophy will be unique in that it will come from your work experience, educational experience, or personal experience. This should represent what you believe in as a strength and conditioning coach. A complete philosophy should include the methods you use to implement your program, acknowledgment of every parameter of sport, and your coaching style.

The Art of Coaching

Your coaching section should include the different techniques you use on the floor. Coaching style is reflective of your values, so try to include some values when you discuss coaching. For example, say you want to instill hard work or identify what motivates student-athletes.

Strengths

Your strengths should consist of your core values and the experiences. Make sure to have examples of how you represent each value. Be honest with your strengths and especially your experiences. If the interviewer asks you to expand on an experience, make sure you have prepared an answer prior to the interview.

Core Values

No company wants to hire someone who has no values, so show them that you do. Your core values will help shape your philosophy, culture, and decision-making process. Here are my core values:

• Honesty
• Professionalism
• Dependability
• Hard work
• Loyalty
• Integrity

Experiences and Abilities:

• Education/experience
• Sports medicine experience
• Commitment to sport performance
• Willingness to learn
• Ability to teach
• Ability to motivate
• Adaptability
• Communication skills
• Management skills
• Preparedness
• Time efficient/effective programming
• Consistence
• Result-based work


Weaknesses

Do not be afraid to try new things and fail. Great leaders identify an area in which they are weak and face it as a challenge to make improvements in that area. The only way you will ever get better is by making yourself uncomfortable and facing your fears.

So your weakness list should not be empty. Humility is an admirable trait; if you can identify your weaknesses, then you can identify how to strengthen them. Try to turn each weakness into a positive by explaining how you would work to fix it. For example, if you are someone who has difficulty saying “no” to people, list that you have a willingness to please others. Along with your weaknesses, identify the areas you have grown and will continue to grow.

1. Becoming more independent of my supervisor
2. Administrative responsibilities
3. More training responsibilities
4. National communications with other departments
5. Budget experience
6. Professional development
7. NSCA involvement (e.g., committees, presentations, publications, etc.)
8. Intellectually (e.g., apply new research and fine tune old knowledge)
9. Personal development (e.g., travel, reading, hobbies, etc.)

Sample Programs and Testing

Do not be afraid to include some of your example programs. If you know which sport you will be involved with and then tailor the program to that sport. Program a whole week, and differentiate the program between the off-season and in-season. Also include conditioning and the warm-up, plyometrics, and/or agilities that you plan to implement.

Also explain how you evaluate or test your athletes for improvement. For example, we use Sparta and EliteForm technology rather than a traditional Functional Movement Screen or 1RM test.

Professionalism

Creating a program that will comply with the coaches’ desires will create satisfaction. Having satisfied coaches tends to satisfy the administration. A staff should function as a team, and each member of the team needs to cooperate with one another—cooperation is key. Although the coach may have the final decision in what you do, present your case in a diplomatic manner with reasons for your actions. Here is a list of things you can do to stay on good terms with the people you work with:

1. Dress appropriately
2. Look the part
3. “Over communicate”
4. Do what is asked of you
5. Be confident and cooperative
6. Show that you care about other people’s thoughts and feelings
7. Stay positive and smile
8. Provide positive feedback 
9. Adapt to the situation at hand
10. Know your role in the team
11. Speak when it is your turn
12. Be grateful for what people do for you
13. Do not create problems; create solutions

If you feel that something needs to be changed, tread lightly and try not to make anyone upset. If you find an issue, do not present the problem to your boss, but rather present a solution and plan to fix the problem. Strive to reach the goals of your department, coaches, and administration. The more a coach can adapt to a situation, the more situations they will feel comfortable in, therefore giving them more overall confidence.

Networking

Networking is the next step in building relationships. It is impossible to have relationships without networking, and it is impossible to network without relationships. Networking is the act of developing relationships to further one’s career. It is a vital part of success in the field of sports performance. A solid network of relationships means you will have a good web of support.

Conclusion

The development of your career is limited to how much effort you put into it. With the tools provided, you will be able to land a job anywhere—it just depends on how much work you are willing to perform to get it. Your portfolio is a compilation of your cover letter, resume, philosophy, values, mission, vision, goals, and strengths and weaknesses. The sample programs are important, but ultimately should reflect your philosophy.The ultimate purpose of a portfolio is to sell yourself so you can secure a position and apply everything you have learned.

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Andrea Hudy, MA, CSCS,*D, RSCC*E

University of Kansas

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Andrea Hudy, the Assistant Athletic Director for Sport Performance, joined the Univ...

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