NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 100: Molly Binetti and Scott Caulfield

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D, Molly Binetti, MEd, CSCS, RSCC, and Scott Caulfield, MA, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D
Coaching Podcast April 2021


Molly Binetti, Women’s Basketball Performance Coach for the University of South Carolina, and return co-host for the 100th episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast, Scott Caulfield, Director of Strength and Conditioning for Colorado College, talk to the NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about coaching philosophy. Topics under discussion include navigating strength and conditioning careers, creating value, and building a better weight room environment for athletes.

Find Molly on Twitter: @CoachBinetti or Instagram: @mbinetti22 | Find Scott on Instagram: @coachcaulfield | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“And then each year my career as I progressed, I knew that I was going to take a chance, not really knowing if that was exactly the route that I wanted to take. But I knew if I didn't go after it, I wouldn't know either way.” 10:32

“Because I think one of the challenges for all of us is that we don't really learn, and we're not taught how to navigate our careers, as strength and conditioning coaches.” 11:55

“And probably the first three or four, you're so laser focused on writing the best program, making sure your athletes are as physically prepared as possible. But then you really come to the realization that that's really the 5% of what we do.” 19:28

“But we've got to do a better job of just understanding that we have a shared humanity. And we are all more alike than we are different. And we can help each other out a lot more by continuing to share our stories, and connect with each other, and help each other grow in ways that traditional resources just can't.” 42:17

“And I think the hard part is realizing that you've got to be able to adapt and shift gears. And you've got to be able to show multiple sides of your personality and know when and where to have conversations.” 47:02

“I think the approach that I've taken, and maybe it's as simple to sum up my philosophy, in general, is just human first and athlete second.” 49:33

“And the most success that you're going to have and find is when you are true to who you are, and you're not afraid to follow that, and being authentic. And that's a hard thing to do, when you're young, and you're still figuring out yourself.” 57:52


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:00.66] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 100.

[00:00:04.53] I think the approach that I've taken, and maybe it's as simple to sum up my philosophy, in general, is just human first and athlete second.

[00:00:14.61] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:25.42] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we are joined by Molly Binetti, the head women's basketball strength and conditioning coach at the University of South Carolina.

[00:00:36.06] Molly, I've heard you speak a few times over the past year on leadership and other topics. But I think more importantly, whenever your name has come up in conversation with other coaches, everybody's like, man, she's awesome. You got to get her on the podcast. So I'm really excited to have you on today.

[00:00:53.35] Thanks, Eric. I really appreciate the opportunity. And I know you and I haven't met, but we've crossed paths through various events, like you said, over the course of the past year. So I'm excited to get to chat with you a little bit today and get to know you more and, again, really appreciate the opportunity.

[00:01:08.86] Absolutely. So there's one more thing here. This is the 100th episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast.

[00:01:17.47] And I thought it'd be great to bring back former host of the podcast, Scott Caulfield, with us. So we have Scott. Welcome back.

[00:01:28.37] Thanks for having me. I appreciate being involved, especially given the-- well, one, given the 100th episode but two, given that it's Molly who's a friend of mine as well. So it's really neat to be involved in this for many different reasons. I appreciate it.

[00:01:44.40] Yeah. You guys know each other. I think it's going to be a lot of fun today just catching up and talking shop.

[00:01:49.53] So Molly, I just want to give you the chance to a typical start to a podcast question. Just take us through your journey in the field. How did you end up at South Carolina? And talk about your role a little bit.

[00:02:03.62] Yeah, of course. I want to start in, just start by saying that all of us, and I think I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the entire strength community, owe an enormous amount of gratitude to you, Scott, not only for your efforts in just improving the quality and the standards of not just the NSCA but our entire profession. The numerous amount of connections that you've helped foster, and just for continuing the push to make our profession better, and hold ourselves to higher standards.

[00:02:33.41] So I think, on behalf of all of us, I just want to start by giving you a big thank you. I really appreciate you and appreciate our friendship. So I'm really honored that I get to share this episode with you. But you're the best. So I appreciate you.

[00:02:46.64] Thank you. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

[00:02:50.44] And to answer your question, Eric, I owe, really, my start to strength and conditioning to Todd Smith who is still the head strength coach at Marquette University, where I did my undergrad. But I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or knew that strength and conditioning even existed until he came and did a guest presentation in one of my classes my freshman year. And he was gracious enough.

[00:03:13.66] I invited him to do an interview for one of my assignments. And he was nice enough. I met him in the weight room, and he opened his doors to me and just said, at any point, if you want to come, check it out, volunteer, observe, whatever it is, the door's open. And I think the next morning at 5:30 AM I showed up, had no idea what I was doing.

[00:03:33.92] But I was absolutely enamored by his presentation and, also, just by watching him coach and seeing that environment. And I just kept showing up. And my entire freshman year, sophomore year, just came anytime I was not in class or at work. And that turned into an unpaid internship my junior year.

[00:03:52.27] And then by the end of my junior year, he found a way to pay me as a student assistant. I think it was $8 an hour. And again, any time I was free I was in there. My senior year was in there as well.

[00:04:03.28] And I made that decision because of him and getting to learn from him and his wife, Maggie, who was really my first exposure to a female strength and conditioning coach. I decided then that my goal was to be a Division I collegiate strength coach. And so I pursued an opportunity to do an internship at what was Athlete's Performance, which is now EXOS, down in Phoenix, and did that, and got exposure to a wide range of athletes and experiences, and came back, and did my masters at Minnesota.

[00:04:34.87] I interned with Cal, and Sarah Wiley, and a bunch of other people while I was there. And through my connections that I made, and I guess just putting myself in a position, I ended up getting what I set out to be my goal. And I was a Division I strength coach at the age of 23. And I had no idea what the heck I was doing. But it's something that I've just continued to ride the wave, and pursue, and go after the best opportunities that I can.

[00:05:02.11] And now I've found myself-- this is my eighth full time year. And I'm in my third year at University of South Carolina working directly as the head of women's basketball and in a position that truly is a dream position. And it's just really been through a combination of being able to connect with the right people, and put myself in a position to be successful, and just pursue and not be afraid to pursue opportunities that have come my way, and just have rode the wave, and seeing where it takes me.

[00:05:33.92] That's awesome. And just to go back on a couple of things you said. You mentioned just the contributions that Scott has had to this field. And I can speak to that personally. Him and I go back.

[00:05:51.68] It's funny thinking about it now that we both are from Vermont. And we met years ago, and had progressed separately through the field all these years, and just to be able to stay connected. But I think one thing, and this podcast is proof of it, just the amount of communication that goes on in the field today versus maybe when we started. And it speaks to your path into this. You had somebody that really just opened the door of this is a viable career path for you to pursue.

[00:06:27.15] And I think everybody has that story or some experience that brings them towards the field. So I think it's really great that the different ways that people learn about our profession. But just it's also, I think, really important to recognize how far we've come in terms of just how connected we are, and how open we are to sharing this path, and just the positives that are a part of this profession.

[00:07:00.02] For sure.

[00:07:01.41] From me, thank you Scott as well. And I want to give you the chance to ask some questions here too, bring you back into your old podcast days.

[00:07:10.68] Yeah. No, I know. I appreciate that. I know, I think, like Molly, I was fortunate enough to have some good mentors and people that point you in the right direction.

[00:07:22.58] I think through-- I met Molly through friends as well, Megan Young, Katie Fowler, the people that I hung out with. And I think that's an important aspect of it is just the amount that-- and I had met some of those friends just through NSCA events, very just you're at a conference. Or it was at the CSCCA conference, potentially, as well.

[00:07:48.74] And that was always fun too for me, because I didn't have to work there. So I got to just hang out. And I would always joke around that I was the easiest one to find, because I was the only person wearing an NSCA shirt. But--

[00:08:01.48] [LAUGHTER]

[00:08:01.85] And you had the biggest biceps.

[00:08:04.16] [LAUGHTER]

[00:08:05.08] Thanks. [INAUDIBLE] tightest shirt, tight shirt, that's what Dan and Ken would say, tight shirt award winner. But no, Molly too, I think you have gotten this premier basketball job.

[00:08:20.81] And I think we see people specialized now. Did you set out that you always wanted to work with basketball? Or did that just come as a product as you worked along through the field?

[00:08:34.64] A little bit of both, to be honest. I got exposed to basketball, both men's and women's, when I was an undergrad. I played basketball my whole life. I always had an affinity for it. And when I started out, and actually, I'm going to tell a quick story after. But when I started out at Purdue, that was my first position.

[00:08:54.50] I worked with seven or eight different teams and had a hand in everything. But I also tried to be around basketball as much as I could. And when I left after a year, I pursued an opportunity at the University of Louisville.

[00:09:06.83] It was partly for the opportunity to learn under Teena Murray, again, another incredible female mentor and someone that really helped me navigate my career. And also, because the position was assisting her with women's basketball and then also having softball, and volleyball, and tennis, which were all sports that I also really enjoyed working with. And throughout my four years there, I knew at some point in my career, that I wanted to explore the basketball only route for several reasons.

[00:09:38.15] And this position, obviously, I'm connected with Katie Fowler. This position was available or open after my third year at Louisville. And I just wasn't in a place where I really felt like I wanted to explore that and interview for it. And I just felt like I was still growing and in a place where I really enjoyed the position that I was in.

[00:09:58.97] And fast forward a year, and the position comes open again. And I knew, again, that if I wanted to pursue basketball, there was really no better opportunity than to go down to Columbia and work for a Hall of Fame head coach, obviously, a very successful program coming off of a national championship. And it was really an opportunity for me to take everything that I've learned and create and build something of my own and, also, a chance to work for one of the premier basketball programs in the country.

[00:10:27.39] And so it was something that I always knew I wanted to explore. And then each year my career as I progressed, I knew that I was going to take a chance, not really knowing if that was exactly the route that I wanted to take. But I knew if I didn't go after it, I wouldn't know either way. So fortunately, the chips fell in my favor. And I'm in a position that I really love.

[00:10:53.53] When I've heard you share and speak, I love that you're not afraid to tackle some of the challenging topics in our field. Leadership topics have been evolving in college sports and in strength and conditioning for a number of years now. But I heard you speak recently to some of the stereotypes that are placed on strength and conditioning coaches, and how that sets us back, and doesn't allow us to progress as a profession. And I wanted to give you a chance to share just your journey in navigating some of those challenges, as you are the current generation of college strength and conditioning coach taking us forward, laying a better landscape for future coaches. I just wanted to give you a chance to share on that.

[00:11:49.96] Yeah. No, I appreciate that. And I actually want to start by telling a quick story. Because I think one of the challenges for all of us is that we don't really learn, and we're not taught how to navigate our careers, as strength and conditioning coaches.

[00:12:04.84] And our profession is still so young. And so many of the faces and the names that-- the shoulders that we stand on are still in the field. And we're still evolving.

[00:12:17.50] But I remember when I was interviewing for my very first position, and this was-- so I went down to Hudy's conference at Kansas, when I was a grad student. And I didn't know a single soul. I drove from Minnesota down to Kansas, whatever it was, seven or eight hours by myself. And I was in the process of interviewing for a job at Purdue, and I was there.

[00:12:40.13] And part of the reason I went was because I was going to have an opportunity to meet the director, and talk in person, and go through that. And so when I was down there, I think it was the first night. Megan Young was there. Katie Fowler was also there. That's the night that I met them both.

[00:12:56.92] But I remember Megan. I knew who she was, because I'd heard her speak. She was a prominent female figure in our field. And she just walked straight up to me and introduced herself. And we became friends right off the bat.

[00:13:11.86] And it wasn't until later that I found out that the director at Purdue had talked with Megan, and asked her if she knew me, and asking him questions about me. And if I was suited for the position, and her not knowing me at all, talked me up, said I was the best candidate for the job. And it was because she wanted to promote and help women get a foot in the door in our industry. And I remember that being the kickstarter in my career.

[00:13:38.92] But also, it really gave me-- it goes back to what we talked about before. We don't learn how to navigate our careers other than through the conversations and the connections that we make with other people that help us navigate our careers. And so as I've gone through this journey, we walk into it. And we all learn from mentors, and we learn from people that have done it before us.

[00:14:01.76] And before we truly know who we are, we resort to mimicking and trying to be like the people that we learn from. And it isn't until we grow and really figure out who we are as people, and I'm not talking about just as a coach, but really, just as individuals, and can really form our own beliefs, and values, and attitudes. We are constantly blending this mix of being a little bit like this person and doing a little bit of that.

[00:14:27.20] And for me, I really struggled with that, especially within the first few years of being a coach. Because I felt like I was being somebody that just wasn't true to who I was. And it came from these perceptions and this idea of what it meant to be a strength coach, and what it is that we do, and the value that we provide.

[00:14:46.48] And I really found myself trying to emulate, especially working for one of the strongest women in the field, trying to emulate my boss. And we are very, very different people and similar in a lot of ways. But I really struggled to really find my footing and find my voice. And it was a combination of trying to just be somebody that I'm not, trying to fit into the shoes of what I am supposed to think, and feel, and say, and do.

[00:15:14.62] And each year, and especially, I would say, in the last three years in particular, when I first got to South Carolina, it was more of the same for me, really, trying to come in and be this authoritative figure, and put my foot down, and try to almost just be a hard ass, and fit into some of these stereotypes that our coaches have about us and the outsiders have about us. And it's just has always led to a lot of frustration for me and a lot of this cognitive dissonance. I talk about this a lot, just like this bashing between these ideas and things that I'm supposed to believe versus what I actually believe in and who I am.

[00:15:55.22] And so I think the most important lesson that I've learned is that it doesn't have to look a certain way. And I don't have to fit into a certain mold. And I'm most effective and I find the most joy in coaching when I'm authentic to who I am. And the relationships with my athletes, and my coaches, and administrators, and honestly, just anybody in my life have grown so much just from having the courage to maybe be a little bit different than what the industry says that we should be, or maybe being a little bit different than those that came before me.

[00:16:27.17] And so it's a never ending journey. It's a journey that I still battle and still work through. But I'm in a place now, where I'm so comfortable in my own skin as a person and as a coach. And I think that really shines through. And in return, I think, I finally have hit my stride in my career, and finally making the impact, and having the influence that I always set out to do.

[00:16:53.25] That is so interesting to think about it that way. Because we are a young profession in a lot of ways. And while our scope of practice and the disciplines of strength and conditioning have been around for a while, and we can go into the reps, and the sets, and the science. I can think back to a lot of areas, where I feel like the current growth of our field, in the last 20 years, is solely because we've become more professional as a field.

[00:17:24.26] We show up, and we know how to present ourself. And we've bucked that stigma of kind of that old meathead strength coach mentality that's out there. And I know from my background in professional baseball, that was huge to overcome that. There was a time when baseball strength and conditioning wasn't even, oh, that's not even real strength and conditioning. That's like you're just catering to these egos or whatever it was.

[00:17:52.28] And that's come a long way. But there are so many tracks and opportunities in our field now. And I think it's important we recognize that professionalism is probably the number one reason for that. And I love that you speak to your journey as well, because we get into this field so young. Right? And we don't have it all figured out.

[00:18:18.44] Still don't.

[00:18:19.50] Yeah, exactly. And we're in this position of giving advice to college students and people who, at times, probably give us way too much credit for our life experience. And we're figuring things out too. And so I think that's really valuable.

[00:18:39.65] For sure. I'm curious to hear, I would love both of your perspectives. I think you almost go through this pendulum shift or swing throughout the course of your career. When you first start out, I mean, all you're really taught is the science and how to write a program, how to monitor, how to do all these things. But nobody teaches you how to coach.

[00:19:03.05] Nobody teaches you, like we talked about before, how to navigate your career. So when you start out, all you care about is really the training. And don't get me wrong. Some people truly get into the field because training is the part that they really love. And I think there's the majority of us get in it, at the heart of it, we love people.

[00:19:21.08] And I think about the eight years I've been in it. And probably the first three or four, you're so laser focused on writing the best program, making sure your athletes are as physically prepared as possible. But then you really come to the realization that that's really the 5% of what we do. And maybe the importance of it-- don't get me wrong-- you can't be negligent. But it's not hard.

[00:19:49.10] It doesn't-- it becomes pretty easy to write a program and make sure that your athletes are taken care of. But the 95% of it is the people, and how we build relationships, and not just with our student athletes. But again, how do we not prove but provide more value outside of the four walls of the weight room? How do we build better relationships with our coaches, our administration, whatever outside community?

[00:20:16.05] And so you almost shift from the science to, OK, now, we know how important people are. And that's what I think is hard is because we don't have necessarily the resources to help us guide that. And I just, I guess I would be curious, in both of your experiences, maybe Scott in particular too, having been and seen the growth of the NSCA. What are your thoughts on that?

[00:20:42.98] And has that been true for you? And how do we accommodate for that and maybe help provide resources? Because it really is about human behavior, and connection, and communication. And how do we provide help in those areas?

[00:21:03.92] Yeah. I think too, I mean, I didn't get into this when I was young. I appreciate, Eric, thinking of me as young too.

[00:21:11.56] But I think, I was-- because I had gone to college and been a poor student, went in the military and got back to school. I didn't really start working till I was 33 or 30. I think my first actual college experience was around 35, so definitely a different career path.

[00:21:31.60] The one thing that I will say that translates and transfers over is I coached-- first job I ever had out of high school was coaching basketball at a basketball camp. I was a camp counselor two summers, probably the best job, actually, I ever had. I'd just coach kids all day, and then played pick up all night with the other coaches, and then drank for a couple hours after that, and then did it all again.

[00:21:53.35] That's ideal.

[00:21:54.31] But that coaching, my mom was a basketball coach. So I was getting drug around to the gym as a little kid all the time. Though it was like I just saw-- again, a lot of what I learned from coaching was seeing other people do it, and then getting experience in coaching basketball.

[00:22:11.29] And strength and conditioning came into my life through the military for my own personal self and seeing the application to sports, like realizing that could be a profession, and then seeking out some people that I wanted to be like. But no, I mean, the opportunity to go to the NSCA headquarters was really huge. And some people have probably heard me say this. That wasn't the Holy Grail. I took that job, and then I got there.

[00:22:43.84] And me and a couple of my good close friends still, Kevin Cronin, Jason Dudley, guys that were there at the time, we were sitting in these cubes in the education department wearing a business casual every day saying, what do we do? Like we were only coaching a few hours a week. And again, experience and all of that came into play.

[00:23:06.57] I was lucky enough to get into the full time performance center and coaching education manager all pretty quick. But I did. I noticed a gap that there was that no one's really talking about coaching. We talk about X's and O's 100%, and science, science, science. And yes, that's the foundation of the principles.

[00:23:27.85] But that's why I've been on that coaching philosophy rant for lack of a better term for the last four years or so. And I'm thankful for Dr. Garrity and the DU master's program that gave me the push and the experience to look down those areas and say, yeah, well, everybody knows you're supposed to have a coaching philosophy. And nobody, really, pretty much, nobody knows how to do that, or what it actually means, and why self reflection is important, and evaluating your program, and why your core values need to be things that you stand for and represent, and that your athletes should learn from that.

[00:24:11.39] You made me laugh when you were talking too. Because I thought about one of my first experiences with Dartmouth football, and the football coach, especially, was adamant. And I love him to death, still a good friend of mine. I ran into him at the DIA a year ago. And we hit it off. We've been friends since.

[00:24:31.81] But he was like, you got to yell! You got to yell! You got to yell more. And it was actually easy because the music was insanely loud. If you had an Apple watch, it would probably be alarming like that it was too high.

[00:24:44.32] But I was like, oh my God. I'm not a yeller. Like this is not-- I can't do this. This isn't me. So I, obviously, was able to survive that.

[00:24:56.84] And I realized after getting some other teams that, oh wait, I don't necessarily have to yell all the time. And I was super uncomfortable doing it. And I'm like, this isn't me. If I have to yell all the time, I'm going to have to find another job.

[00:25:11.05] Yeah.

[00:25:12.81] And then the music turns off. And you're at the top of your lungs.

[00:25:17.26] [LAUGHTER]

[00:25:18.70] Oh, wait, never mind. So yeah. One thing that helped me a lot in my early years was I was-- and I felt like I had a good grasp of this. And I'm not sure really where it came from. But I knew that strength and conditioning was new on the scene in a lot of ways.

[00:25:42.36] For example, in professional baseball, athletic trainers would take players to the gym, and manage the team travel, and do pretty much all the ancillary responsibilities outside of taping ankles and things that athletic trainers do. And it got to the point where their workload grew. And they couldn't manage just being out on the line for stretch every day or going in the morning to take guys to the gym.

[00:26:15.29] And so that brought an opportunity for a new position to be added. And that was really strength and conditioning getting added to professional baseball on a larger scale. So when I think of the value we provide, there's obviously a context to how we've been introduced to our institution.

[00:26:35.03] But it's largely based on, I mean, when you're in a director level, Scott, you're dealing with budgets. You're dealing with positions just don't emerge out of thin air. There's some strategy and thought that needs to go into those.

[00:26:53.63] And so it largely is going to be based on the number of resources that you want to provide. And we want to do as much as we can for our athletes. I think every athletic program does. But based on the resources of a program, that's going to look a lot different.

[00:27:12.99] So one thing I've always realized is that there are a lot of different roles within this profession. We say this a lot on the sports science side right now. And I've been speaking a lot on that. But I think it applies to strength conditioning too. Just the CSCS and our credentials unify us, but there are a lot of different kinds of strength coaches.

[00:27:38.21] Those are core understandings and principles that we all connect on. But when it extends to the professional level, I think back to I played college football. And I had this realization recently when I was talking to someone with a volleyball and just different smaller team background. I think, when you play college football, and you're on a team with 100 guys, and you don't expect to have as much TLC and just connection with your individual coaches as you would on a basketball team. And I think there's-- and maybe that's the sport in a way.

[00:28:22.10] And so that really wasn't the soft skills of coaching and the things we talk about today, it took a little while for those relationships to develop within the sport of football. But football staffs have grown. I think all of our performance staffs have grown. But when I think of the value of what a strength and conditioning provides, and we can look to a number of coaches in the field, we're an additional resource. And we're an educated resource.

[00:28:53.10] And we bring a lot of value and context beyond the scope of strength and conditioning. And that's extremely valuable to our institutions. Sometimes it's a tough sell. And Scott and I can probably joke from our NSCA roles.

[00:29:16.60] These are sort of office jobs, where we do a lot of marketing and have conversations that are outside the scope. But it's like this strength and conditioning coach skill set, we really become well-versed in a lot of areas. And in a lot of ways, we have to sell and promote our programs all the time to administrators, to athletes, to players, and build those connections.

[00:29:44.79] And just the value of creating buy-in, that doesn't just serve the weight room if we do it right. I think it serves our entire institution, our entire-- it's pretty admirable some of the goals of our colleges, universities, organizations, when you look at who we work for. And sometimes we separate ourself in the weight room and don't try to be a part of that bigger institution.

[00:30:15.36] There's a lot of value to recognizing what's around us. And so got me thinking when you were saying, what's the value of what we provide? So that's a great question.

[00:30:30.10] Yeah, and Eric, you mentioned Molly being a leader and thought leader and some areas that brought up. One thing I think that I was impressed with her recently, and I say, recently, I don't really know when that is. Because the pandemic has made--

[00:30:45.54] 10 years.

[00:30:46.02] That last year feel like seven years, yeah. But I think it was in the last year. But Molly, I do appreciate how vocal you've been about needing to have more women involved in the field.

[00:31:01.08] And not just in the coaching field, speaking at conferences, and being vocal about calling out maybe some conferences here and there. Oh hey, there's another line up with eight white 40-year-old males. And I feel like, again, it's part of the way I was brought up.

[00:31:21.86] But my mom was a single mom. I was always drug around. She was a coach. It was instilled in me. One of my first, really, first mentors in the field was Liane Blyn--

[00:31:31.56] She's the best.

[00:31:32.36] Who's at ASU now.

[00:31:33.51] She is awesome.

[00:31:35.01] Amazing, super strong coach, and physically stronger than pretty much any of us, maybe all of us put together, but I had sought her out to help me with with Strongman, and then we ended up hitting off a friendship. And I really learned about being a strength coach from her.

[00:31:56.37] So I just think, given your opportunities, how do and how does the NSCA and these other organizations get more females involved? Because I mean, and I think we are seeing more people get into the profession. But it's also, well, how do we empower them to be on more podcasts, and speak at conferences, and rise through the ranks to become athletic directors, et cetera? So yeah, I'd love to hear anything you have from that.

[00:32:23.79] Yeah, absolutely. It's hard. I think I want more than ever for it to-- I think it started out, and rightfully so, it had to be, OK, we have to include a token female in this conference or this lineup. Or we have to have a token Black person or whatever it is.

[00:32:44.64] And we have to make a conscious effort and conscious choice to include a variety of people that are actually representative of who we have in the field and the people that we serve. And it, no doubt, is going to continue to take a conscious effort purely for the fact that, I mean, women and minorities are outnumbered. It's minority for a reason.

[00:33:06.84] So I think we're at a point, and because we are such a young profession, we were brought up, and there were the token women that were the well-known names, and the ones that paved the way, and were trailblazers, and the ones that were being promoted, and the ones that you constantly heard repeatedly in different conferences, and podcasts, and whatever it might be. And like you said, we have so many more young women in the field now. And they're out there. And they want opportunities to present and speak.

[00:33:39.64] And I think it takes even a little bit more conscious effort now to help highlight, and lift those people up, and give them opportunities on big stages. And I think part of it is because of how our field has been, there are-- and I know I've spoken with a lot of women that don't necessarily feel like they're qualified or like they're able to have a seat at the table and some of those opportunities. And that's partly our responsibility is we've got to be able to have the courage to say, yes, to an opportunity. Even if it's something that we may not feel like we are ready, or prepared for, or deserving of, it's saying, yes, to those opportunities.

[00:34:21.63] And I think it's also really making a conscious effort to go outside of the first layer of women that we know and that we've heard repeatedly. And how could we use our network to find someone that maybe you haven't necessarily heard of but somebody in your network has? And how can we give them an opportunity and put them in the spotlight?

[00:34:44.10] And then I think the women in this field do an incredible job of promoting each other, and lifting each other up, and empowering each other, and giving each other the spotlight that we deserve. And it's going to continue to take male advocates and people that have a seat at the table. It is, I think we're seeing more female, but still it's typically more men that are in the positions to make these decisions and put these clinics, or these podcasts, or whatever it is together. And it's going to take their advocacy to help promote.

[00:35:17.37] And it's something that is growing, and it's evolving. And I see people making a conscious effort. And I know that's appreciated. So I think there's a responsibility on both parts, both on those that already have a seat at the table, and then it's also on us to say, yes, to having a seat at those same tables, and being in those conversations, and knowing that we are just as deserved, and we are just as capable and qualified to be able to share space, and to share our stories and share our ideas.

[00:35:50.19] I love what you said. I think there are so many personal sacrifices in this profession that it's a tough-- there's always been this natural attrition of coaches. And I think one thing I've been thinking about is we haven't always been the most welcoming profession in general. Think about, I mean, we all have these GA cleaning the weight room stories, or just go back to the beginning, where just being the grunt on the staff of making sure everything was polished and out, set up for the athletes.

[00:36:30.39] And one of the things I think the mentality of that is, oh, we're paying our dues. This is our sacrifice. We're going to keep our head down, and these head strength and conditioning coach opportunities will emerge from that. I think we're maybe getting a little wiser in that there's a healthier way to approach this.

[00:36:53.61] But obviously, the diversity topics have gained so much traction in the past year. And I think it's extremely valuable to carry this momentum into positive messaging that tackles an even bigger issue for our profession is how do we bring in our next generation? How do we train that next generation to support diversity but, also, support our athletes in a way that's welcoming and safe? Not just safe under the bar but safe mentally, emotionally, and that really challenges us. That's not always the area that we're trained.

[00:37:46.44] And another thing, you mentioned advocacy. We largely are in an awareness phase of this journey. It's like, I remember even in coaching education, it's, hey-- I was fortunate to take some classes, where you get in front of the group, and you teach a clean or whatever it is.

[00:38:09.17] And it's like, OK, well, there wasn't a curriculum of how to stack this up, or what to say, or how to do it. You just had to feel your way through it. And that largely is the experience factor of our role.

[00:38:24.95] You get the curriculum, but then you have to take it, and apply it, and figure out what works for you. But I think we're working towards better ways of messaging, and communicating, and welcoming new coaches into the field. But it is extremely challenging. So I really liked what you shared there.

[00:38:49.98] Yeah. Eric, I think you bring up-- I have so many thoughts running through my head. But you bring up a great point in that the bottom line is we all experience a shared humanity. As strength coaches, but just all human beings have shared experiences. And like you said, we really gravitate towards people that we know.

[00:39:12.51] I mean, to be honest, we were a profession founded on the good old boys club. And it's kind of who's in your circle. And you tend to gravitate towards those people. And the cycle's been repeated as to the voices that have been the loudest.

[00:39:26.79] But we all suffer, and struggle, and experience the same feelings of, whether it's insecurity in comparison. And we're a profession that loves to argue about minute details of things that don't truly matter. And we're very judgmental and critical of other people in our field. When in reality, we're all going through and experiencing very, very similar things.

[00:39:54.61] And when it comes to making ourselves and our athletes better, and when it comes to making our profession better, we're really quick to pick up the next book, or read the article, or the podcast, or whatever it is, and get ourselves better at some technical aspect of training. But when we think about moving the needle the most, it comes to our own personal growth. And some of the things that we have a really hard time coming to terms with and accepting in ourselves, and that usually comes from our blind spots, and just being more vulnerable with ourselves to where we really need to improve, and how we can help other people improve.

[00:40:35.13] And, also, understanding that, while we may not agree with someone fundamentally on, whether it's how they train, or how they coach, realizing that we're all in this thing together. And we all want the same thing. And we all have the same complaints, and the same frustrations, and the same experiences. And we can help each other out so much more.

[00:40:57.57] If we point the finger back at ourself first and figure out how we can grow as humans, and like you said, it's how do we create the experience? How do we make a better experience for our athletes? How do we create better perceptions of what we do? How do we provide more value in ways that people don't traditionally think of us bringing value?

[00:41:21.93] And it takes some really reflective work. And it takes digging a little bit, but it's the work that matters. It's the work that's going to continue to give people a seat at the table and make this a more diverse group of coaches and professionals. It's going to be the ones that helps mentor the next generation at a higher level and help this field truly evolve to where we know it can and should go.

[00:41:47.13] But we polarize ourselves, and we like to put ourselves into categories. And we like to-- some people still, they just want to train. And they just want to be in a weight room and help people lift. And that's great, but we've got a lot, a lot of coaches that really want to push and be better, better humans, better people for our athletes, and create a better environment, and a better experience for other strength coaches going forward.

[00:42:13.48] And so I think there's so many factors involved. But we've got to do a better job of just understanding that we have a shared humanity. And we are all more alike than we are different. And we can help each other out a lot more by continuing to share our stories, and connect with each other, and help each other grow in ways that traditional resources just can't.

[00:42:35.62] For sure. One thing that unifies us on that is we all wanted to do this for a long time. We all pursued this. You talk about being brave and accepting opportunities. We knew this wasn't the highest paid profession.

[00:42:51.81] We knew there would be a lot of challenges. But we took this journey in hoping to make it better for the long term, for sustainability of a profession. We knew we'd have to fight that battle and navigate those challenges. But it's really on us now. It's on us now to take it forward.

[00:43:13.18] So yeah. I think about this stuff a lot. I think it's really valuable for our field to have these healthy conversations of what are we doing?

[00:43:25.29] Not just to expand our mind in the exercise science realm but beyond that. And there are so many more opportunities that can come from this profession just by having those conversations. So I really love that perspective.

[00:43:45.08] Well, I think, Molly, this is unrelated to the heavy topics I was thinking about. But I really want to know, in such a high level, high profile position that you're in, and program that you're in. I want to know-- I think I know what you'll say for the best part. I want to know what the best part about your job is.

[00:44:08.65] But I want to know also what the hardest part about your job. And I don't mean putting an extra half inch on a vertical that's already 37. The stuff we don't talk about, what's the hardest part?

[00:44:23.14] Yeah. That's a great question. I mean, the best part, there's so-- I mean, there's obviously, everyone always asks, what is it like to be part of a winning culture and winning environment? And what's it like to be a piece of that puzzle? And I think to walk into a program that was two years removed from a national championship, I put immense pressure on myself to come in.

[00:44:50.25] And I had huge shoes to fill. I mean Katie Fowler is the best of the best. And so I put so much pressure on myself to do her right. But also, I was now working for a Hall of Fame coach. And I obviously wanted to be great.

[00:45:04.59] But the best part has just been seeing how, I think, different a winning environment is from almost the perception that we have of it. It's so more relaxed. And everybody is so free to be themselves, and to be autonomous, and support each other. And it's just like this. You're walking into an environment every day, where the standard is the standard.

[00:45:39.75] And all you have to do is be yourself and do your part. And it keeps these wheels turning. And it's just been really easy to come into a situation where I get to just do my job at a really high level by just being myself. And I get to have a lot of fun.

[00:45:58.72] It's a fun environment. It's more relaxed than you would think. Now, that's not to say that our standards and our execution isn't high. But to be able to experience how Coach Staley coaches and loves her players and how much of that I've learned from and been able to just take lessons from, I think, every day is something new. And I learn something, whether it's from our coaching staff or our athletes, for sure.

[00:46:29.91] I think the hardest part is-- I used to think the hardest part was figuring out how to be the best strength coach ever. Now, I think the hard part is continuing to just be adaptable to every day and every situation, and really focus in on how do I be a better person to these athletes every day? And that's hard, because people are so dynamic. And every day it's something different.

[00:47:01.86] And I think the hard part is realizing that you've got to be able to adapt and shift gears. And you've got to be able to show multiple sides of your personality and know when and where to have conversations. And it's just navigating the ins and outs of human relationships. And that's the most enjoyable part as well. But it's also the hardest, because human beings are hard.

[00:47:25.92] So figuring out how to get the most out of, obviously, we have 18 to 22-year-olds who are extremely talented and athletic and really good at basketball. But it's like, how do I get the most out of them as humans too? So they realize a part of themselves that they didn't before. And that's just, I mean, that's a never ending journey, and that's hard.

[00:47:46.74] And I think I'll add one more thing. Coming into a situation where our strength and conditioning department as a whole really had a different perception from our administrators, and really wasn't a department that has been truly valued in the past, and creating relationships with our administrators, and allowing our department to be seen and valued a little bit more, that's been a journey, and one that's, again, always evolving. But I would say those are the biggest two.

[00:48:26.18] It just popped in my head. You came into a pretty successful situation. And you put some really big pressure on yourself to succeed. But it got me thinking about, from year to year, team dynamic is going to change some. And it's going to evolve.

[00:48:45.66] And we need to be dynamic professionals. And it's interesting, because we've been so go back on like, we need to have a philosophy. Or we need to be based on principles. And we need to carry those values with us.

[00:48:59.22] But do you have a process from year to year of evaluating or thinking about how your process is going to get put into play with the team that year based on the personalities and individuals that you have? Is that something that coaches should think about more? Do you have any thoughts on that?

[00:49:31.21] Yeah. I 100% think so. I think the approach that I've taken, and maybe it's as simple to sum up my philosophy, in general, is just human first and athlete second. And so I guess my process always starts with conversations with the athlete and trying to get to know them as best as possible first.

[00:49:54.01] And that, to me, it starts with just a general. We do a general one on one. And this is for everybody at the end of the year and, also, when everybody comes back in the summer. So it includes our new players and incoming freshman, transfers, whatever.

[00:50:08.20] And it's just a conversation about them. And to be honest, I'm not afraid to ask them about their training experiences, what they like, what they don't like, what they feel like helps them. But really, the conversation is more about just them and trying to understand who they are, where they've been, their family situation, things they like to do. Because I've shifted my focus more on the environment that I'm creating and the experience that they have with me as a coach, but also, the experience they have training in general, when they're in the weight room.

[00:50:41.32] And I think about their schedules, and I think about their lifestyle as a student athlete, where everything is controlled, and everything is structured. And so most of them come in. I mean, you guys have probably worked with athletes that don't inherently like the weight room. And so my process is always about, OK, how can I connect the dots, and connect with them, and reach them in ways that matter to them? And also, create an environment where they want to be a part of it, and they have some choice, and they have some say in the things that they do.

[00:51:13.78] And I think some coaches are afraid to do that sometimes. Because we have to relinquish our control. But I've found, when you get to know athletes well enough and get to build their trust, I think, one of the things-- sometimes we make the mistake, as coaches, of we demand that people trust us and respect us right off the bat. We just assume that because we're the coach and these athletes are coming in and training with us that they automatically need to trust us and listen to us. And that's just not the case.

[00:51:42.38] We've got to win them over. And we've got to win their trust. We've got to win their affection. And we've got to show them and have them experience that we care about them. And so that's the process to me.

[00:51:52.90] And it's a never ending process. But the better we know our athletes, and the more work we do on the front end to discover some of those things, the better environment and training atmosphere we can create for them. And when that happens, the training and all of those things comes easy.

[00:52:11.29] But it's about that, again, the human experience. And what kind of value am I bringing to this person? And how am I creating an environment that they want to be a part of, where they're also maximizing their results, while they're in there? And also, learning how to train, and learning how to think for themselves, and learning how to take care of their bodies, so that when they leave me, they understand the process.

[00:52:36.35] And so it's all about a partnership. I think that's the best way to put it. It's an athlete partnership. It's not a dictatorship.

[00:52:43.84] How can I involve them as much as I can and give them some say? Because while we're the experts in training, we're not the experts on them. And they may be 18 to 22-year-olds, but they know a lot, a lot more than we give them credit for sometimes. So I think that's something that we don't think about enough.

[00:53:01.55] We think a lot about creating the training structure, and how disciplined we want our-- we want everyone to be on a whistle. And we want everyone to be doing X, Y, and Z. But what are the other factors? How are we thinking about how we're structuring our communication, our language, our messaging, our process for growing these people over time? Not just as athletes but as people.

[00:53:27.46] I like it. And I think too that's talking about building leadership with the athletes, and giving them opportunities to grow, develop, but grow to lead. And I say that to a lot of our coaches here sometimes. And I'm like, look, if you need me to run a 10 minute warm up for your team, you've got bigger fish to fry.

[00:53:53.51] And I'm not saying that I don't do warm ups. I 100% will. But at the end of the day, if I'm not going to be your practice or your session, and your kids, who have been with me in the weight room plenty, and I feel like we're educating there. If they don't know how to do that at that point, then I have failed them. Because I'm trying to teach them the bigger picture.

[00:54:15.86] So I think that sometimes coaches, strength coaches, get too wound up right with that whistle, and that line, that control, and having our thumb on top of every aspect. And how are they going to learn to be leaders and develop? I mean, it's not going to be just from getting to choose what we say on 1, 2, 3, go. So I think you have to give them opportunities. And I feel there's a lot of opportunity in the weight room, where you can put them in charge, and let them have that.

[00:54:49.31] For sure. I couldn't agree more.

[00:54:52.68] Yeah, just a thought. Leadership as a term, when you look at it historically, or in the grand scale of things, means a lot of different things. But you're speaking to empowerment.

[00:55:07.14] And that's something I think we all understand and we all connect with of our role is to empower young men and young women towards brighter futures. And that goes way beyond our role just to make them stronger, or just to make them perform on the court, or on the field. And it's really great for us to talk about this.

[00:55:36.06] This is a question I'm stealing from Scott's old script here. But I think we ask it a lot on this podcast, because we have a lot of young coaches just getting into the field who listen in on these episodes. And what advice for young and aspiring strength and conditioning coaches do you have? Just given all the things we've talked about today, and if you were starting the field over, what do you wish you knew?

[00:56:03.49] Yeah. I think, first, it would be to seek out people who are doing what you think you want to do. You might not have a full understanding of what it is. But if it's a young female strength and conditioning coach, seek out women in the field that are doing it already. Or regardless of who you are, seek out people who are doing it a really high level and try to build a relationship with them.

[00:56:30.29] I think one of the best pieces of advice that I heard about-- because when you're younger, especially in school, or you're just starting out, people talk about the importance of your network. And people sometimes mistake that for introducing yourself or knowing a huge array of people. And I can't remember who said it, but it was the quality of your relationships with those people is more important than the quantity. So it doesn't matter how many people you reach out to, or to introduce yourself, or to talk shop.

[00:57:02.72] It really doesn't matter how many people that you know. But it's what is the quality of relationship with maybe the handful of people that are going to really help you navigate, and get you a job, or help you navigate whatever issue you might be facing? So I would say to not worry about necessarily how many people you're getting in front of. But the ones that you get connected with, how are you actually fostering a relationship with them, and growing it, and where you can both mutually benefit?

[00:57:35.54] And those are going to be the people that are in your corner that are going to help you throughout the course of your career. And I think, going back to what we talked about before is just understand that it doesn't have to look a certain way. And the most success that you're going to have and find is when you are true to who you are, and you're not afraid to follow that, and being authentic. And that's a hard thing to do, when you're young, and you're still figuring out yourself.

[00:58:06.11] But understanding that there's a lot of different, like we talked about before, a lot of different roles, a lot of different aspects of our job. And just be who you are, and that's always going to be enough for the right environment, the right people, and the right situation. So there's probably, I mean, there's so many more things. But I'll keep it short with those.

[00:58:28.55] That's awesome. That's great advice right there. I want to give you a chance, if our listeners want to reach out and get connected with you, what's the best way to do that?

[00:58:39.28] Yeah, absolutely. You can reach me by email or by social media. I'm active on both Twitter and Instagram. My Twitter handle is just @CoachBinetti. If you don't know how to spell that, B-I-N-E-T-T-I.

[00:58:56.58] But on Instagram, mbinetti22. And then my email is on our university website. I'll be honest, I'm probably better at responding on social media than I am to email. But any of those are valid options.

[00:59:12.23] Awesome. And Scott, I'll give you an opportunity to share your contact info, even though, I think we all know we can find Scott on Instagram pretty regularly posting some things out there, quite a following and well-deserved, just with all the great work he's done for the profession. So I'm really happy that we had you on as well today, Scott, just 100 episodes.

[00:59:37.16] You really did all the work. And I came in for season four and get to catch the alley-oop take it home. But yeah, man, how can our listeners get in touch?

[00:59:48.38] Again, I appreciate you guys having me as part of this episode. It means a lot to me, especially with Molly being the guest. And yeah, I mean, I didn't-- when they came to me and said, you want to do a podcast? I was like, what? I don't know about that.

[01:00:03.63] So it's great. And like we were sharing before, we started rolling here, I think, just to have to step in and fresh eyes, fresh, different perspective. It's awesome to see the direction that you guys are going. And I'm just glad. That was a big plus for me leaving the NSCA was still being involved.

[01:00:21.98] I'm super glad that I can be involved in a different way now and, hopefully, promote that to other people that, no, that this is your organization. And you need to stay involved, and you need to get involved. And you need to run for committees, and get on advisory boards, and do what you can.

[01:00:40.04] And yeah, it's going to be volunteer, but it's worth it at the end of the day. And you never know what those things lead to. You never know who you're going to meet or where that's going to come from. And I think that's huge.

[01:00:51.68] Yeah. Like you said, I spend way too much time on Instagram @CoachCaulfield. So check it out there if you haven't. But I really look forward to, hopefully, sans pandemic seeing people in person again at some events. So let's get the NSCA--

[01:01:07.52] [INTERPOSING VOICES]

[01:01:08.78] Yeah. We're working on it for national. Full speed ahead right now, we're doing the best we can to have a live event. So we're really excited that that's a possibility.

[01:01:18.62] To all our listeners, two great resources here in the field of strength and conditioning, very thankful to you both being on today. We appreciate everyone tuning in. And we'd also like to thank Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.

[01:01:34.91] From the NSCA, thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We serve you, the coaching community. So follow, subscribe, and download for future episodes. We look forward to connecting with you again soon and hope you'll join us at an upcoming NSCA event or in one of our special interest groups. For more information, go to nsca.com.

[01:01:56.31] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[01:01:57.29] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

[01:02:15.83] [MUSIC PLAYING]

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at publications@nsca.com or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

NSCA Headquarters

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Molly E. Binetti, MEd

University of South Carolina

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