by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D, Joseph Kenn, MA, CSCS, RSCC*E, and Peter Kenn, CSCS
Coaching Podcast December 2021
Learn about pursuing strength and conditioning roles from father and son, Joe Kenn and Peter Kenn. Joe “Big House” Kenn brings perspectives on program...
Learn about pursuing strength and conditioning roles from father and son, Joe Kenn and Peter Kenn. Joe “Big House” Kenn brings perspectives on program leadership from over 35 years in the strength and conditioning profession. Joe’s son Peter, a recent graduate in the field and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at United States Military Academy West Point, shares his story of learning the profession from a young age with his dad coaching in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Football League (NFL). Tune in to hear dinner table conversation, as Joe and Peter connect with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, in an episode that bridges coaching generations. Find Joe on Instagram: @bighousepower or Twitter: @bighousepower | Find Peter on Instagram: @peterkenn1 or Twitter: @peterkenn1 | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
Learn about pursuing strength and conditioning roles from father and son, Joe Kenn and Peter Kenn. Joe “Big House” Kenn brings perspectives on program leadership from over 35 years in the strength and conditioning profession. Joe’s son Peter, a recent graduate in the field and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at United States Military Academy West Point, shares his story of learning the profession from a young age with his dad coaching in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Football League (NFL). Tune in to hear dinner table conversation, as Joe and Peter connect with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, in an episode that bridges coaching generations.
Find Joe on Instagram: @bighousepower or Twitter: @bighousepower | Find Peter on Instagram: @peterkenn1 or Twitter: @peterkenn1 | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs
“If you don't start that process until you've already graduated from undergrad, well, yeah, you're probably going to be working for free until you're 24, 25, 26. If this is what you want to do, you have to get in early. And you have to get in often.” 16:50
“But I always said, want to do it your way? Go run your own program. You think you got what it takes? Go get a job. Run your own program. And then you can dictate the demands of what you think are right and wrong.” 33:08
“If we're going to run internship programs as coaches, well, if we have a job open up, we better at least be considering one of the guys that was just in our program. Because, if you're not considering one of your own interns, you probably don't have a very good program.” 36:55
“I think the communication style that you choose as a strength coach is probably going to be a culmination of all the different coaches you've heard speak. And you've pick and chose which dynamic is the best and which best matches your personality and what you're comfortable with moving forward.” 53:56
“But I would urge any new coach coming up to be around as many different coaches as you can possibly be, both in their office time and coaching time, to understand how they deal with certain situations and figure out where their voice needs to be. And if you don't have a voice, I'm not saying you can't be in this profession. But you better find one quick. Because it's going to be tough.” 55:13
“Go to practice. Meet the athlete where they're at. A lot of times, they're, oh, you just worry about us doing weights. You don't come-- the showing up at practice will do more for your weight program than how good a coach you are and how well you write a program.” 56:33
[00:00:00.63] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast episode 114.
[00:00:05.09] So when people start gaining experience, the last three to four years before they land a full-time gig, well, if you don't start that process until you've already graduated from undergrad, well, yeah, you're probably going to be working for free until you're 24, 25, 26. If this is what you want to do, you have to get in early. And you have to get in often.
[00:00:24.63] This is the NSCA's 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.
[00:00:35.41] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we're joined by big house power Joe Kenn and his son Peter Kenn, father-son episode here on the NSCA Coaching Podcast. And I want to jump right into it. Joe, you've been on the podcast before. For anyone new to the field, doesn't know who you are listening in, give us some of the key stops along the way and just what you're doing right now.
[00:01:02.95] So my last stop in coaching was a nine-year run at the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2019. Spent 19 years in the college ranks at Louisiana State, University of Utah, Arizona State, and Louisville. Started my career as an assistant strength coach at my alma mater at Wake Forest. Spent two years at high school at Pinecrest Prep in Fort Lauderdale, a year in the private sector. And now I am the vice president of performance education for Dynamic Fitness and Strength out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
[00:01:41.45] I had to laugh at national conference. You've been a member of the NSCA so long. And we had the 20-year tab for 20-year members. And you're like, hey, where's the 30, 35-year tab? So you had to put a couple of different tabs on your name there. But it's great all the work you've done in the field. So I thought that was hilarious. And we're going to have to up our--
[00:02:06.79] Have a little fun with it, right?
[00:02:09.84] It's funny because, again, I mean, you look at it from it all started right around, what, 1979, I think is when it really launched. And I've been a member since '86. And people need to-- I mean, I think the NSCA has got to realize that there's been some people that have been in it for the long haul.
[00:02:28.67] Yeah. And it's important. Your talk at coaches, it's important we recognize those voices, lessons of a veteran strength coach. And I know we're going to get into some of that here today.
[00:02:37.94] But I want to give Peter a chance, your son, to tell his story getting into the field. He is in his first full-time strength and conditioning coach role at Army. Peter, welcome.
[00:02:52.52] Hey. Thanks for having me. I'll just do a little bio kind of something similar, I guess. Did six years of track and field through college at Appalachian State and Iowa State, finishing my tenure at Iowa State.
[00:03:06.86] Interned for the Carolina Panthers, Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Iowa State, and then also had a short stint in two different summers with Performance Course in Dallas, Texas, and then was fortunate enough to land this position here with a really great department at Army. So short little synopsis. But that's kind of how it's been. And I'm excited to be here, for sure.
[00:03:30.73] Yeah. Peter, I want to ask you. I think this is kind of what brought this episode together. You grew up in the field of strength and conditioning. A lot of us maybe learned about this profession as a college student or a student athlete. You were exposed to it much earlier. Talk about that experience of just lessons learned in the field from just being a kid with a dad who's been in the field for so many years.
[00:03:59.88] Yeah, I think it's funny. You get those questions every now and then. I had a question for him the other day at 7 AM. And it's funny. You give him a call. You ask him. And he's like, hey, this is the way it goes in certain situations.
[00:04:13.23] But for a lot of it, it was just osmosis. And, obviously, I didn't know I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach as a kid. You always talk about being a professional athlete, especially if you grow up around sports. At least, that was big for me.
[00:04:27.69] And it wasn't until I was about 17, my last year of high school, where training started to become fun. And I fell in love with it. And I decided this is what I wanted to do. And from that point on, it was full speed ahead.
[00:04:41.59] I mean, we chose-- I chose Appalachian State for that purpose because I knew I wanted to be a strength coach. And that was one of the best exercise science departments in the country. And it was right down the road.
[00:04:53.18] So a lot of that stuff was no-brainers. But I think the most important aspect of it has just been, once you make that decision and even prior to that, growing up in weight rooms, it would be foolish of you not to realize all those lessons that may not have been explicit in nature. But seeing how my dad interacted with athletes and how that evolved from the time, maybe we were at Arizona State, until the end, when we were with the Carolina Panthers, and seeing that evolution and trying to come up with the lessons in your head, maybe if he wasn't coming home and talking about them, I think that's where a lot of it stemmed from.
[00:05:31.78] At least for me now in how I try and treat athletes is seeing where we started and where it kind of has left off from his coaching career and taking all those bits and pieces and adding them up to make this great kind of playbook, if you will, throwing homage to the tier-system playbook. But it's just been a really, really smooth transition for me. There were some bumps along the road. But that osmosis of, once you know what you want to do and kind of diving into it as a whole, his lessons have just carried on through a majority of the things I do.
[00:06:10.72] Joe, did you think he would become a strength coach? What were your thoughts when he was starting to pursue this more seriously? And I think it's interesting. As fathers, our kids have this idea of what we do, but it's sort of through the lens of what we share with them. How did you communicate the field with Pete over the years?
[00:06:37.51] I think a lot like Pete said, I don't-- I'll be honest with you, when he did tell me, I was pretty shocked because there was never a hint of it. And with both my sons, I learned valuable lessons. And, I mean, there's a lot of things that I don't want to say I wish I could do over again. I just think that it is what it is.
[00:07:00.31] And I've learned from one son to the next. But both of them were involved with team sports. And I felt my expertise in lifted weights and as a competitive power lifter was I wanted them, at that time, to get into lifting and actually compete. And I didn't know, at that time, Pete would wind up being a very successful thrower, which is team/individual.
[00:07:26.92] But I wanted them to be aware of you can't hide from competition. That's one thing about what Pete wound up doing as a thrower and what most lifters do. You can't hide behind your teammates. When you walk up to a platform and you're attempting a weight that you possibly have never lifted before, and now you've got to show how much your training and how much your competitiveness all comes together.
[00:07:54.35] So I wanted them-- and maybe it was force fed a little bit. But I wanted them to compete to learn what it's like to be out there with no help. Like you've done the work. You've accomplished what you can accomplish in training. And now you have to show people what you can do.
[00:08:13.21] And I preferred for them to do it in a competitive setting instead of, what's your max? Well, I bench 225. OK, well, you benched it in the gym. Why don't you go do a meet. And let somebody tell you you've officially benched 225.
[00:08:29.05] I just believe in that even for myself. I'm just like that. I mean, I don't-- you can call me what you want. But like even to now, I have another goal I'd like to do when I get healthy to pull a certain number of the deadlift at 56 or 57 years old. And it's not going to happen in the gym.
[00:08:49.54] I'll go to a meet. And I'll pull it in in a meet. Because I want people to tell me it was a competitive lift. I don't-- people may say, oh, that's stupid. You know? I don't know. But that's foolish or whatever you want to call it.
[00:09:03.53] But I just think that way. And I thought that way for both my sons. If we're going to do this, if we're going to train, if we're going to set a max, let's set a max where it counts, in a game type position.
[00:09:16.45] So the lifting, to them, like I said, probably was a little force fed early on. They were both different athletes. Pete was definitely a hard gainer. Pete trained way more on his own, because I had already started with the Panthers, than my oldest son did. I don't know if my oldest son ever did a workout without me around. Pete did most of his without me and a lot with Travis Mash, coming through his earlier development.
[00:09:46.60] So I didn't need to think about it. Pete was extremely smart in school, was in the student government. I thought he may go that route, some type of business of politics. And, out of nowhere, he came back and say, you know, it's getting close to college time. Applying for schools. Figuring out what he wants.
[00:10:04.36] And then he said, hey, I want to be a strength coach. And I was like, oh, like that's like the last thing I would have thought. But he made an interesting point he just showed you.
[00:10:14.93] He was thinking about things more than he was discussing it with me or his mom. And he said, well, why wouldn't you even think I'd consider that with the network that I already have at my disposal? And when he said that, I was like, OK, guy's pretty sharp.
[00:10:31.84] And that's when, especially with his mom, he applied to several schools in state. Some of them aka bigger names than others. And I said right away, I said, well, with the schools you've applied for, if you want to be a strength coach, you've got to go to Appalachian State. Like in our world from just name recognition with those degrees, it's going to carry a little weight.
[00:10:57.22] What weight that carries, I don't know. It could have been the difference of him and another person going for the same job. And, because he went to App State and most of us in our profession know that App State is one of the qualified or one of the top, if not the original exercise science for strength and conditioning, that might put you over the top. And then the fact that he wound up getting a master's from there too, he's a double winner.
[00:11:25.78] But I was-- when he did it, the first thing I told him was, you can't trade off my name. Like I wasn't trying to be an ahole about it. But I wanted him to establish who he was for himself. Because I've seen where a lot of times, in coaching, the sibling or, what is it, the son or the daughter rides the coattails and never gets the type of respect they truly have earned or deserve through their own process.
[00:11:59.02] So I wanted him to be aware of that early on. And I'll help the best I can. But, in the end, you got to play it out and see how it goes. And there was a lot of times, I mean, Pete can talk to this that he was asked, in a lot of the interviews, oh, well, you're Joe Kenn's kid. And I'll let him go ahead. And he'd go, yeah. And then they'd go, well, why didn't you say anything?
[00:12:23.01] He can fill you in on that. I thought that let them do their homework. You be who you are. And I would say, obviously, again, man, when you look at how quick he's got where he is, name recognition helps. It's like anything else. You're not getting there on your own.
[00:12:42.15] But he did get there on his own. Because I reached out when I could. I gave him more advice through the process than I did as far as calling people in advance or doing anything like that. I mean, there was a lot of schools that I had no clue he even applied for that he got interviews for.
[00:13:00.72] And what I think helped him is kind of like with a colleague of mine Adam Feit. Because he knew what he wanted to do early on, his resume was pretty good for an undergraduate kid coming out of college right away. He'd done multiple interns. He worked full time.
[00:13:21.93] Well, I mean, I guess you can call it. He worked full-time summers, two summers for performance course, where he's coaching. He's not being led. He's leading groups. He's coaching 500 athletes a day from middle school up through the best high school team in the country in Allen, Texas.
[00:13:41.07] So he worked with five-star athletes. He worked with male athletes. He worked with female athletes. He's understanding what that day looks like. So I don't think he necessarily skipped any steps.
[00:13:53.87] I like that.
[00:13:54.66] I think he did what he needed to do. He did the free internships. He'd worked for money. I didn't think that he did the-- I mean, we could talk about what my definition of a graduate assistant is in this day and age. But he did what I would consider nowadays defined as a graduate assistantship while he was throwing with Coach Dombrowski at Iowa State.
[00:14:17.40] So he had touched all the touch points. It was just a matter of how people recognize what he could bring to the table, what he had to offer, and who was going to be willing to give them that opportunity. And like my wife always has said, from the beginning, don't sleep on Peter. And I think, in some respects, based off of listening to some of the journey of his interview process, I think some people are going to get caught sleeping on him.
[00:14:47.60] Hey, Pete, I want to ask you about this. You know, just looking at your resume, you've done a lot of internships. You used your college and grad school years really well. Yeah, maybe you had a little head start just learning about the field. But what's been your approach through your education? And just talk about some of those things, the interviews you've had and experiences you've had already.
[00:15:13.38] Yeah. I think, as my dad mentioned, I never-- we talked about it early. It was never going to be a ride off the name situation. And so a lot of it for me was I may have doors opened. But then how do you stay in the door?
[00:15:29.57] And that's something that I try and talk to a lot about with any of our interns or anything like that is you may get a recommendation that gets you somewhere. But you're not going to stay there if you don't have what it takes. And so the number one thing that I made sure of was, at the end of the day, it didn't matter where the name got me or any of that.
[00:15:50.03] I was going to make sure that, once I got there, they realized what was really going on. And it was that I had some juice to me. And I'm not trying to sit here and say I'm the best coach in the world or I have every answer to that in regards of programming.
[00:16:03.11] But I know I'm doing something right because athletes come up to me, tell me they feel stronger than they've ever been. And that could be anecdotal, in a lot of ways. But, I mean, in my short tenure here, I feel like we've culminated a good amount of success with three different teams I work with.
[00:16:19.86] But in terms of the journey, it was simple. It was-- and I've always been this way-- how can I get from A to B as quickly as possible? And it just so happens that, for most people in this profession, it can be a three or four-year journey of interning and GAs or working part time or whatever it is. I just started when I was 18.
[00:16:42.39] And so that journey for me, which is I think it's pretty typical to see stuff like that from an internship perspective of when people start gaining experience, lasts three to four years before they land a full-time gig. Well, if you don't start that process until you've already graduated from undergrad, well, yeah, you're probably going to be working for free until you're 24, 25, 26. If this is what you want to do, you have to get in early. And you have to get in often.
[00:17:08.39] And, obviously, that's part of the perks of growing up within the system and having my dad be who he is. We knew that process. And that sucks for a lot of these kids who go to an exercise department, exercise science department in school, where maybe they don't have the same practitioner levels that Appalachian State does. And they don't have an internship curriculum or credits built into the system. And no one ever tells them that they need to intern to get a job.
[00:17:33.57] Well, now you've graduated undergrad. And now you go to your master's degree. Great. You finish that. You still got no experience. Newsflash. You're going to have to intern for three or four years just to even get a sniff.
[00:17:45.32] And that's part of what I try and tell everyone that I get a chance to speak with is, if you're not getting out there early, it's going to be a harder process. It's much easier to work for free when you're already paying for school than when you're done paying with school. And now you've got to work for free again.
[00:18:03.05] So that whole deal went down pretty smoothly for us. And, obviously, I had the opportunities and connections through my dad's name to get into those places. But I also made moves on my own.
[00:18:14.87] I got in on Iowa State on my own. I got in on Appalachian State on my own. Now, when I got there, they knew who he was. But that's not the reason I got there. I mean, people are going to accept free help most of the time, regardless of what university you're at. You just got to ask. And sometimes you got to ask more than once.
[00:18:33.14] And I think another big part of why I was successful in some of those journeys was, when it came down to applications, for those of you moving into that section of your journey, I was crushing applications. Like every day, three or four a day. And I know a lot of people have that same anecdote through their career, where, when they first started, they were sending out unsolicited emails to coaches telling them what they're about, what they want to do, writing cover letters, constantly changing everything.
[00:19:07.00] It's a grind. It wasn't easy. I mean, I interviewed and talked to a few different places before I was even offered a spot. And it was pretty interesting how it all went down. But I wouldn't say I was handed anything by any means in terms of when I actually got offered a job.
[00:19:25.86] I'm sure some people may have called back. But, at the end of the day, like my dad said, it was, hey, are you Joe Kenn's son? And I'm like, yeah, I am. And I really didn't like answering that question or even bringing it up.
[00:19:38.64] My dad was never on my resume. He was almost never to be found other than the Carolina Panthers' internship that I had on there. So their question was, why don't you want him on there? And I'm like, because I don't want you to want him. I want you to want me.
[00:19:54.60] And I think that's how a lot of young individuals in this profession need to start thinking is you've got to stop downplaying yourself, which is something my dad said a lot of times. But if you don't think you're the best coach in the room, why are you in the room? And I don't care if I am the best coach in reality. If someone's better than me, there's plenty of that are, but I need to believe that I'm the best, so that my players don't think that they got some scrub in there.
[00:20:21.22] And that's important for me. That's going to help build our relationships. And that's something that I try to do even when I was an intern was be what the coach needed to be foremost, who I was under, who was supervising me, and making sure that I follow all those lessons that they needed for me to follow. But then also bring in some juice when you need to. Because, if you're just walking around changing plates all day and you never ask the coach if you can coach, well, then they're never going to let you coach.
[00:20:47.43] And that was big for us was making sure we were coaching early and often. Because some people don't know how to coach a squad anymore. And it's interesting, for sure.
[00:20:58.28] I really liked that point on confidence. It takes confidence to get up in front of a group and coach and communicate on that level on a daily basis. And something we don't necessarily talk about a lot.
[00:21:11.37] Joe, I want to ask you. We talk education a good amount just of how things have changed over the course of your career. I think one thing that has held true is the value of experiential learning. We might call it internships now. And maybe there were more GAs back in the day. Talk about that progression that you've seen and related to just the advice for young coaches that Peter was talking about.
[00:21:42.66] I think there's two ways for me to look at it from where I stand now is, one, from the up and coming strength coaches trying to figure out what decisions to make and then from a-- I don't like to say it that way-- from the decision-making process of administration above me. And in my role as a director of sports performance or whatever the title is at the school you happen to work at and figuring out, what are the best practices to put these positions in a successful spot for the student to, I guess, win, right, to be successful at and have something on their resume that qualifies them for positions of what we recognized in the past?
[00:22:36.69] And, as you know, my big soapbox is, what's the definition of a graduate assistant in this day and age, especially at the power five schools that don't have graduate assistants much anymore as their investments have gone all-in with full-time coaching? Which is great, right? The problem I see is some of these I don't know how many qualified coaches have those positions. Because the internship, graduate assistant part has kind of fallen off a little bit.
[00:23:08.00] And one of the things that I think we need to address is, what is an internship versus what is a graduate assistantship in this day and age? To me, I would define a graduate assistantship in this day and age as any student coach who goes to school as a master's degree student at that school and is working in that school's strength and conditioning or sports performance department. Like I just visited Appalachian State. In the Olympic side, I think they have six interns that are working with Travis Triplett in the exercise science department.
[00:23:51.30] And, again, because they don't offer what we consider a graduate assistantship through the athletic department, they're considered intern. But most of those kids are putting in a legitimate 15, 20, 20 plus hours a week. Well, in this day and age, because we're paying five strength coaches just for a football program, to me, that qualifies as a graduate assistantship.
[00:24:16.35] An intern is an undergraduate situation or an offsite internship. So say, like at Springfield, I know they used to have to do offsite internships. If you are going to be a graduate student and one of the responsibilities for you to graduate is to do an offsite internship, that, to me, is an internship. Then if it's paid, right, we're talking about different types of pay structures.
[00:24:49.95] Is it more in tune for you, on your resume, to say you had a paid internship or a fellowship, right, when you're looking at nomenclature and what we deem as something that may rate higher. To me, I don't know a whole lot. But I know if it said fellowship versus internship, I'm probably rating the fellowship higher than an internship if they're both paid.
[00:25:16.14] So these are things that are not being discussed. They're not being discussed at the NSCA. They're not going to be discussed at many of the other associations that say that they are for the strength coach.
[00:25:30.04] And we need to do this. Somebody needs to champion for these students that are coming up that want to be strength coaches. It's extremely hard. And the good part about some of the division-- I call it Division I AA still. That tells you how old I've been in it.
[00:25:49.39] Division II and Division III programs are, they still offer a traditional graduate assistantship. And they also, those student coaches, I think, are in an ideal situation in respect of they're getting their school paid for, which is always a plus, right? Because now you're on scholarship.
[00:26:14.80] You're getting the two years of education that we all ask, right, master's plus two, master's plus two. We have to rethink that. And they work with multiple sports. Because, a lot of times, at that level, you're still a traditional strength and conditioning staff, where you oversee the entire athletic department. So they're getting a multidisciplinary approach to coaching.
[00:26:37.50] The problem is when their aspirations are to be power five coaches. Because now they're going to be labeled. And that's just the way it is. I was told that the day I got the head job at Boise State when we were still I AA football. I called one of my coaches to let him know I got the job. And the first thing he said was, don't stay too long. You'll be labeled a I AA coach. That's in 1994.
[00:27:06.34] And even now, with the separation of how some of the larger power five conferences are just taking it to another level financially, from facilities, from staff. And I'm not talking about strength staff. I'm talking about the addition of we've got five people in sports science, whatever that term means, right? We've got a high-performance director, whatever that means. We've got a full nutrition spot.
[00:27:31.84] So there's a lot of things that are up for grabs that we need to figure out how to manage this. And I put a lot of that on individuals that are in the association. Not you, but the people above you. And just like I put it on the people in HR in the universities and these administrators who, allegedly, oversee strength and conditioning but really don't know what strength and conditioning is.
[00:27:59.41] So they don't have the understanding to help. They're supposed to be evaluating strength and conditioning. They've never been in a weight room. Some of these positions are coming up. But let's really be realistic.
[00:28:13.24] A lot of these positions, where you're seeing strength coaches get like an associate AD for sports performance or health and wellness, is because they had to connect. It's not because a lot of them are still being hired through the medical. They see sports medicine and trainers and medical holds more weight than strength and conditioning. And we have to figure out a way to get a seat at the table.
[00:28:38.19] You know, how we communicate different job descriptions and positions does have an impact on the perception of those roles and how they roll out. A personal example, I go back to early 2000s. And I'm just getting into the field. And I'm in college. And I'm seeing job descriptions on the NSCA job board. And there weren't as many job boards around at the time.
[00:29:05.35] And knowing full well I wasn't qualified for a lot of those jobs at that time, but it was the language there was really valuable to me. Because it showed me the path I needed to go to get whatever the next step would be. What am I going to need to be an assistant DI college strength coach or to eventually be a head strength and conditioning coach?
[00:29:30.69] So I do think just how things have changed the name game of what we're calling jobs, how we're labeling positions, how we're describing benefits and salary, there is definitely a lot to talk about there. And, yeah, it's something that comes up from time to time too with young coaches. Because I know how valuable that was to me. If that resource wasn't available, I would have been lost. You know?
[00:30:04.65] Like an intern, right? Let's face it. Depending on where you go with your internship will determine if that internship really has value, regardless of the name recognition. I get a internship at a power five football program and all I did was clean the weight room, never was allowed to coach, folded towels, and stocked the fridge at the end of the day. But, yet, because it was at so and so university, that may get me a job over somebody else because I was at this hot shot university.
[00:30:40.21] So there's a lot behind the scenes too that has to be investigated with some of these alleged internships, just like, what is your role? Just like, to me, what is the-- I was thinking about this the other day. It's something like, what is the role of a director? Because, in this day and age, what is your definition of staff?
[00:31:05.17] To me, a staff is a group of individuals that are working together as one. So the director overseeing this sets certain parameters in place. And then the staff goes out and performs certain duties.
[00:31:23.35] In this day and age of strength and conditioning, I don't know if there's a term staff anymore. Because these directors are hiring assistants and then turning them loose. There is no commonality to training plan. There is no commonality to the training terminology.
[00:31:39.58] It's, let me hire somebody who already knows what they're doing, so I don't have to do my job as a leader. That's something that needs to be understood. The word staff really ties into the football-only guys or if the basketball has three or four strength coaches.
[00:31:57.13] But let's be realistic. Go to a lot of these schools now that have directors of Olympic sports. See how many people work under them. And see if they're doing the same terminology, the same programming, the same periodization models. Because, if they're not, that's not a staff. That's just somebody.
[00:32:19.01] It's just like we always say, right? Who's the person who's organizing the schedule for the weight room? All you're doing is you're just overseeing a bunch of people. Yeah, you could say, oh, well, we have professional development meetings.
[00:32:31.49] Yeah. That's just that's all CYA, just like daily staff meetings and week. Anybody can meet to meet. Anybody can check boxes. So when they meet with the higher ups, oh, we've had a staff meeting, this, this, and this.
[00:32:44.30] And you still haven't accomplished anything. What are you doing in that role that allows you to say, well, I'm a leader. What are you leading? You turned everybody loose.
[00:32:54.41] So we've got there's a lot to be addressed. And, again, I came up in the world where it was done differently. And now things have changed. I'm not saying I don't want free, independent thinkers. I've always had those.
[00:33:07.61] But I always said, want to do it your way? Go run your own program. You think you got what it takes? Go get a job. Run your own program. And then you can dictate the demands of what you think are right and wrong.
[00:33:22.44] And I always would say that when we hire people. I go, you got to understand now, when you come work for us, this is how it goes down. And you will earn the right to have some autonomy in certain things. But, in the end, this is the terminology. This is the schematics. How you create and make that your own, that'll show how well of a coach you are in the future.
[00:33:46.15] Yeah. It makes me think. There's always been a little bit of a labor crunch of like, hey, to run this program the right way, I'm going to need three, four assistants. Well, I don't have the funding for that.
[00:33:57.02] So I need volunteers. I need GAs. I need assistants. And we've always been advocating for more roles in the department. Pete, I want to ask you about this, where you're navigating this right now. When you see opportunities in the field, jobs that get posted, in your eyes, as a young strength and conditioning coach, what do you view as a good opportunity from a learning standpoint and just in terms of where you're at today?
[00:34:25.09] So I kind of want to throw a couple of things in here that I was thinking about when my dad was talking and some of those other questions. For one, if you are looking to enter the full-time process, you need to sit down and say, where can I live? Where can I not live? What am I comfortable with accepting as my role? What is the division that I want to be at? What's the lowest I'm willing to go?
[00:34:48.63] You need to answer all those questions in your head first. And then when you apply somewhere, regardless of if they have a preferred qualification or what it is, if you don't have a job, you better be applying to every single place regardless if you have the minimum qualifications or not. Because the worst they can do is say no.
[00:35:07.95] But I got a lot of emails back. I got a lot of even interviews with places that I didn't necessarily meet their direct criteria, where, at the end of the day, if I don't ever apply because I don't hit those minimum qualifications, you're never getting a shot in the first place. But a lot of people will save your resume for when you're later down the road.
[00:35:27.19] And I think a lot of young professionals in this field just see, oh, minimum qualifications, two years and two years. And it's like, no, bud. You can still apply. That apply tab is still open for you. And if you're never going to give yourself a shot at a job that you may not think you deserve, it's never going to happen.
[00:35:46.87] And then I think that's for the young people coming in. I think for the coaches now, especially for internship processes, right, if we were going to break it down in what would be considered pretty common sense, right, you would think a power five internship is going to yield more educational opportunities for the intern themselves to grow and progress as a coach. And as you work your way down, typically, you're going to see less and less value of education.
[00:36:14.06] Where we're at now is we're seeing maybe lower-level deals providing more opportunities and educational experiences for interns that you don't see at the power five, like my dad mentioned, where you are just folding towels all day in the ACC. You're going to fold towels all day in the SEC. But, guess what? When you're at some small school university in Alabama, well, they only got two guys. And there's 22 teams. So you're running three teams. So who do I want to be my coach? Someone who actually has coached before.
[00:36:46.58] And I think it's important for-- and this is something that I've been thinking about for a while now, if we're going to run internship programs as coaches, well, if we have a job open up, we better at least be considering one of the guys that was just in our program. Because, if you're not considering one of your own interns, you probably don't have a very good program.
[00:37:08.23] And that's one of those deals that's frustrating, I'm sure, for a lot of people who come out of internship programs is, oh, we had this job open up. Coach, I want to put my name in. Oh, you're not ready yet. Well, then why the hell was I just interning for you for 11 months if I'm not ready? You know what I mean?
[00:37:25.03] Well, you must not be a very good educator, or you must not have provided enough for that intern to be ready to take that job. And if they're not ready, it's on you. Because, if a job opens up at your school and you're not even going to at least give someone a shot-- and I'm not saying there aren't extenuating circumstances for whatever the hiring process is from an administration that may be passed down to the director and what it may be, I understand those completely. But you better give your intern a shot. Because, if you don't, you don't have a very good internship program.
[00:37:54.07] And I think that needs to be thought of a lot more, especially for some of these bigger universities, is we see all these chains of, oh, coaching chain. Here's this, this, this, and this. And it's like, did you really get them there? Or did you not?
[00:38:08.66] And I think a lot of people have. And that's great. And I think a lot of people haven't. You're just pawning off these names of schools that kid got to because they worked 40 hours a week at a D I while still being an intern at your gym or your institution, rather.
[00:38:23.81] So it's things like that that get frustrating. But I think it's important for both sides to see where they can be better. And if you're a young up and comer, you better be applying to everything. Big name, small name doesn't matter. Because you're going to get a shot from someone.
[00:38:38.90] And there's no doubt about it. It's hard and frustrating. I mean, I was sitting there from April, March, April till July looking for a spot. And that's with everything I had been through and done. And it was a long search. But, eventually, you're going to find a spot that it all makes sense. And it works out. And you just have to be willing to do that.
[00:39:01.27] And, by the way, I was working part time at an apartment complex at Iowa State interning, taking graduate classes, and doing track and field. Not trying to toot my own horn, but that's part of the journey is, no matter who your dad is, you're still going to be interning and working part time. And you got to understand that as you start this journey.
[00:39:23.43] That's great advice. Pete, I want to ask you also, you're at Army. And we know the unique demands put on those student athletes.
[00:39:35.91] I wanted to pick your brain. You're working with sprint football, wrestling, and rifle, some uniquely different sports. What's your experience there? And how does that maybe differ than a typical college environment?
[00:39:53.67] Right. So one of the things that we're always having to look at is, from a scheduling standpoint, where do these athletes have mandatory things? For us, we're going to have scheduling breaks at the middle of the day from class start to class finish where they are not allowed to do anything. And, typically, for us, that's from 7:30 or 8:00 till 3:00.
[00:40:18.42] And during that break, student athletes are in class 24/7. They are not allowed to leave. And, I mean, there are some circumstances, obviously, where that kind of gets shifted. But, for the most part, our job is to make sure that we're following university code. And, OK, do they have authorizations to miss a morning formation at this time of year if they're in season or out of season? So those are the kinds of things that we talk about and discuss in our meeting groups.
[00:40:49.88] You also have combatives or classes where dudes are literally boxing each other or females are wrestling each other. And someone's going to get hurt on a rear naked choke. And then they come to your lifting session, and they got issues. And that's one of those things that is also a part of the entire dynamic is we try and discuss management of fatigue and things like that, nature of what they're doing in sport versus out of sport.
[00:41:19.37] And we have the ACFT, which is our Army Combat Fitness Test, which you have to score certain marks on that to be admitted. There's also an obstacle course that we have here. Where, if you don't pass that, you don't graduate.
[00:41:30.27] So if a kid comes into you on Wednesday morning during your 5:30 AM session, he's like, coach, I can't go today. I got to do the obstacle course. Well, that kind of changes the plan. So a lot of what we do is adapting on the fly.
[00:41:45.11] In some circumstances, we try and plan things out as best we can. And, luckily, a lot of the head coaches here are well-versed in where they need to be and how that schedule plays out. But, for the most part, it's just continually adapting to an everchanging schedule with study days that move around, so days where they don't have any class but we still can't work with them for a certain point because they're supposed to be studying that day, holidays, which there's nothing allowed to be done.
[00:42:14.06] There's a myriad of different things that interrupt the schedule. But, at the same standpoint, it's a really cool environment to see how these kids operate. And, truthfully, it's got to be one of the hardest schools in the country to attend from an academic standpoint, especially if you're a student athlete.
[00:42:31.58] But it's really, really awesome to see where some of these kids end up. And, obviously, I work with two sports that are weight dominant in nature. Sprint football, you have to weigh less than 178 pounds. And wrestling, obviously, there's a myriad of different weight classes in which cutting is often a part of some of that implementation.
[00:42:53.42] And I got a sport like rifle, where, arguably, almost nothing we do in the weight room is going to have a direct transfer to their sport. But we utilize our time in the weight room to improve general health, wellness, fitness, as well as try and get better at the ACFT. And now we're slowly moving into a transition where we've dialed in on a lot of the little things, and we're having the conversations with athletes, where, in a unique situation like this, hey, what do you need to do? What do you want to learn? What are areas of your improvement that you want to see in your own personal life?
[00:43:28.20] So with a sport like that, it's much different than the rest of it. When I go into wrestling, no. Me and the head coach have talked extensively about what the plan is, what days are going to be moved around because they either do have authorizations or don't. And these are our go days. These are our non-go days. Here's how it all rolls out.
[00:43:46.85] And that's part of that shifting and understanding what the Army is like. That, frankly, the Army doesn't care about your sports. They just want to make sure that they have soldiers, at the end of the day, when they're done with their academic journey at West Point, that they're ready to go and battle. And that's what we've got to try and think of too is it's not just related to programming sports specifically but making sure that these kids are going to be able to do their job and serve afterwards.
[00:44:21.32] I think those are such unique and cool scenarios to think about our field. Because it really kind of checks us, you know, of how we would typically think of training just for sport specific or just for training athletes for the one activity that they do regularly. Well, these athletes have a lot of other physical demands.
[00:44:45.32] Joe, we've talked about being an Olympic sports strength coach versus being a single sports strength coach. There's a huge voice across the profession but maybe just the world in general, business and all these different types of careers of being well-rounded and being a generalist. But Pete's talking about just the value of some of these unique roles or opportunities in the field. What do you see in terms of preparation for strength coaches that relates to working with a number of sports or really targeting in on a specific path or a niche that you can put next to your name when you're applying for jobs?
[00:45:38.46] Well, obviously, I'm not against what I call sports specific strength coaching. I mean, I had a lot of success being one of those at three different universities. But I felt that I was better prepared for that because of my background in training multiple sports, whether it be directly, where my hands were on that sport, or indirectly, where I oversaw a coach who saw that sport but was implementing our program.
[00:46:15.81] So I've met and I've worked with well over 60 head coaches for various different sports. Just those meetings alone have a very unique effect on how I approach meetings in the future. Because you, generally, you stick with one sport. You meet with those coaches.
[00:46:39.37] Most of those coaches have the same personality. And they don't vary from that. I can only imagine a wrestling coach like meeting with a wrestling coach. Those guys know what they want. And it's not that they're hard headed. They just know what they-- most wrestling coaches wrestled.
[00:47:01.05] There's a handful of football coaches who didn't play football. But most wrestling coaches, they've wrestled. They understand the demands of what they're asking those athletes. So they have certain, what I would call, nonnegotiables that, as a strength coach, you've got to understand, how are you going to accept certain things?
[00:47:26.51] Where other sports, the tennises, the golfs, and those types of sports, they're more open, in some respects. Unless they, well, I played on tour. And this is how we did it. And there are certain things, again, track and field is a lot different.
[00:47:47.02] Pete can tell you. Depending on the university, depending on the setup, one of the first things I talk to young strength coaches when they get their first job, if they're overseeing a program is pick and choose. I don't want to say your battles. Just pick and choose discussion points.
[00:48:05.18] And if a track and field head coach says, my throw coach does the weights, you're not winning. So, hey, anything I can do to support. And then just make sure, which I'm sure they do, they understand the rules. If that's the case, they need to be certified. You know?
[00:48:23.46] But there's also the case of track and field where each sport, each position coach runs their deal. Like the sprint coach does the sprint workouts. The long-distance coach does the long-distance coach. Crosscountry does crosscountry. Jumps does jumps. I don't know if I necessarily agree with that. But that's the way that, in that culture, some of that happens.
[00:48:47.19] So I think that these are things that you won't learn if you jump right into the big three of men's basketball, women's basketball, or football. And now it's gone into baseball too, I know. And in some schools, I even have heard that, because of the financial status of these schools, their ultimate goal would be to have one coach per sport.
[00:49:12.07] Now, I would like to think that they're still assisting with other sports. And that's where I go back into the terminology of staffing, right? Is, how do we get to-- because I would venture to think-- and again, I'm not going to speak for Peter. I've only talked to him a little bit about some things at Army.
[00:49:30.24] But it's a lot easier for assistants to help their staff members and their teammates out when everything's copacetic. If I train three days a week and you train four days a week, Eric, and you go on vacation, now I've got to learn a whole different program for the two weeks you're out. And you may call five exercises differently than I call certain exercises.
[00:49:57.94] Now I'm asking the kid, hey, what is this exercise? And they're looking at me like, you're the coach. You should know what that exercise is. So I think that's another thing that I think needs to be discussed when you talk about staffing, right?
[00:50:13.33] But I think but that's growth. And that's where I think that it's like anything else. Oh, look at all these kids who played multi sports in high school. And now they're this, this, and this. I think there's a lot of truth to that in our profession, in our career.
[00:50:28.45] I think the more diverse you learn from different athletes, different movement patterns, different personalities of those athletes, different personalities of those coaches, dealing with male athletes, dealing with female athletes is going to give you more arsenal in your toolbox when you do choose what direction you want to go in. For example, if I've never coached baseball directly, but I've coached volleyball. Not that I'm not saying that spiking a volleyball is the same as throwing a 90-mile fastball, but I understand training overhead sports.
[00:51:10.45] I'd feel more confident going into baseball knowing that than if I just was a football strength coach. I mean, that's a real simple example. But I can go to the same thing.
[00:51:24.93] Look at different sports. Look at what basic relationship they may have. They're all going to run. They're all going to sprint, right? They're all going to need to be explosive.
[00:51:36.64] Even the crosscountry athlete is going to have some type of explosiveness they're going to need. Because, what does the coach ever tell you about? The kick. Just like you're going to need to figure out ways to have a high level of capacity in most duration sports because everybody is like, we've got to win the fourth quarter.
[00:51:55.24] So everything has there's the circle of everything we do is going to fit most sports. It's just the uniqueness and the outliers in that sport, which really is in the protection part of where you've got to gear in. And I think that gives you a different mindset than the single sport perspective, especially if you lose your job.
[00:52:21.01] Because now you're really limited. And if you're the third or fourth football strength coach and lose a job and never was in any of the programming and all you were were the cleanup, setup, spot, and run a drill, it's going to be hard time to find something. Unless the guy who hired you takes you somewhere else.
[00:52:40.58] Yeah. That's a great point about being well-rounded in the field. And if you find yourself in a scenario where you are working with only one or two sports, continue to educate and make connections outside of that, so that you can have opportunities. Because, Pete, you probably didn't anticipate being a rifle strength coach early in your career. I mean, it's not as common a sport or a sprint football, for example. So you have some unique things going on.
[00:53:17.62] But, hey, I want to take it to the dinner table, guys. You guys are both in the same field, different stages of the profession. Pete, we'll start with you. What are some areas that maybe you guys have disagreed or debated on within the area of strength and conditioning? And share a little of that insight with us.
[00:53:41.76] I don't know if we've ever really disagreed on anything X's and O's wise or scientifically. We definitely disagree on possible communication styles here and there. But that's one thing where I think the communication style that you choose as a strength coach is probably going to be a culmination of all the different coaches you've heard speak. And you've pick and chose which dynamic is the best and which best matches your personality and what you're comfortable with moving forward.
[00:54:15.10] And I think, that, obviously shows the difference in communications that one from my dad's generation to mine in general outside of this in all of society. We have a much different communication style. And what's expected from a respect level, right? Like a lot of people my age aren't elders don't necessarily get respect right away or respect has to be earned by everyone. That's a pretty standard cultural barrier for my generation compared to previous generations.
[00:54:47.41] And I think, for us, I haven't noticed significant differences or areas that we have talked about where we just flat out disagree on things from a scientific and/or coaching aspect. It's more of, if anything-- and I don't even know if this has happened all that much. But, like I said, it leads back to that communication standpoint. And I think that those are just generational differences.
[00:55:13.45] But I would urge any new coach coming up to be around as many different coaches as you can possibly be, both in their office time and coaching time, to understand how they deal with certain situations and figure out where their voice needs to be. And if you don't have a voice, I'm not saying you can't be in this profession. But you better find one quick. Because it's going to be tough.
[00:55:39.46] Joe, how about you? What are some areas you maybe try to relate your experience to Pete and maybe have a little back and forth or difference of thought?
[00:55:52.19] Well, I mean, obviously, I want him to be successful. I want a lot of coaches to be successful. Because, if they're successful in who they are and they have the confidence in who they are, then the ultimate goal is, obviously, athlete success, right? That's why we're doing it. At the end, if we bring success to the athlete, we've done our job.
[00:56:13.29] And I think the one thing that I think Pete would attest to this because it's happened to him. We don't talk enough about it. And I've talked to several in my visits over the past semester, talked to several young strength coaches about this. And I've got feedback. They're like, I can't believe it's as simple as that.
[00:56:32.79] Go to practice. Meet the athlete where they're at. A lot of times, they're, oh, you just worry about us doing weights. You don't come-- the showing up at practice will do more for your weight program than how good a coach you are and how well you write a program.
[00:56:51.42] I told that to Pete. I said, you want street cred, go to practice. Just show up. I mean, and it's paid off. I mean, because now they're, hey, he comes to practice three days a week.
[00:57:06.88] I mean, based on Pete's schedule, I bet he spends more time at sporting practice than he does training those athletes. And I'm not saying that that's not a bad or good. That's the way his schedule sets up. And it benefits him. Because, the more he is at practice and the athletes see him support in practice, the more he understands the sports he's working with.
[00:57:30.34] And that could help in programming. It can help him understand more when the wrestling coach says, we've got to get this done. This is why. And if you're sitting in the weight room all day, you're probably like, oh, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about.
[00:57:43.65] And then you go watch their practices. And you watch how they do body weight or relative strength circuits at the end for conditioning or tumbling and things like that. And you're like, oh, man, I need to fit some of that stuff in maybe with my sprint football team. You know, how to take a fall, I mean, we've always talked about that. A lot of times, a lot of injuries in football is falling wrong, falling incorrectly, bracing the arm, separating a shoulder.
[00:58:12.20] So there are certain things that-- and, again, tumbling is a very good form of athleticism, learning how to do certain things. You know like Pete, we were talking the other day. Pete was laughing. Man, I want to do some cool stuff with the rifle team. But I sure can't do any arms with them. It might screw up how they shoot a gun, right?
[00:58:31.43] You got to think about it. You don't think about that until he says it, right? On the top of the other sports, oh, let's do arm farm. Let's do a gun show. Let's get them buys right, right?
[00:58:40.89] You do that to that sport, that could be the difference of points in a significant way. And so I think a lot of it is just me, well, I might think of something that Pete or vice versa. Like I say, call me up at 7 o'clock in the morning. He's like, hey, man, you ever?
[00:59:00.55] And sometimes it is what it is. You just got to go with the flow. But I don't-- I've tried to be-- I don't want to say I've tried to be super hands off. But I want him to know that, obviously, do I want to see him fail? Obviously, no, man. I don't want to see anyone fail, let alone my own kid.
[00:59:23.21] But he's got to figure out things on his own. Like if he came to me and goes, hey, man, I think I'm going to do this type of programming and I'm not going to do the tier system, I don't-- that's no different than I don't treat him no different than any of my assistants. Hey, man, I gave you the keys. I've taught you.
[00:59:41.70] I don't believe in this is the way it is. I created the tier system because I studied all the different programming that was out there before I created it. And I taught that way to the people that worked for me.
[00:59:56.37] And so Pete's got to go on his own path, especially at a place like Army, right, where there's scheduling conflicts. You may, allegedly, you get eight hours a week in the NCAA rules. But at Army, you may only get four. You know? And then you've got your certain windows.
[01:00:14.90] And so there's a lot of things that I think I'll wait till the question s asked of me. But the one thing I would say, and I've said it to anyone, the one thing I did tell him is go to practice. I'm telling you, if you go to practice, you will win, as you're learning, one, how to run a room, how to lead a room, and how to organize programs. I mean, those are things that I wrote a book on the X's and O's of strength and conditioning.
[01:00:46.85] That's the easiest thing we do. Like I'm not going to sit here and lie and debate it. I mean, that's the one thing that I don't care what anyone says. I've been in the boots on the ground long enough to know, if you work a kid hard and you have understanding and qualified principles of training and you promote-- nowadays, we promote in a good way, sleep and nutrition and recovery, which wasn't really spoken about a lot when I started, you're going to be successful. Like there's the only thing I always say, structured will always win over unstructured. What that structure is, man, we could-- that the debate of how to train a nonlifting athlete will go on forever.
[01:01:39.64] A lot of great takeaways here today from both of you guys. I think we've kind of brought together full-circle perspective on just advances, growth in the field. I want to give you both a chance to share contact into, so that if people want to reach out and get connected with you guys. Pete, why don't you jump in first?
[01:02:03.14] Yeah. I'm pretty easy. My Instagram is @peterkenn1. I believe my Twitter is the same. My Gmail, I would prefer you use my personal over my West Point. Because I have so much West Point clutter in there from colonels and lieutenants and all other stuff. My personal email is PeterKenn1@gmail.com.
[01:02:23.25] So, again, that's pretty much for all my platforms is Peter, the last name Kenn, K-E-N-N, the number one, for an at symbol, or at Gmail. That's how you can find me. If you have any questions, feel free to email me anytime. I'm like I said, pretty open during the middle of the day. So I often have a chance to shoot back emails and stuff like that whenever I get the chance.
[01:02:44.48] Awesome. Joe, I know we can find you on Instagram. But what's the best way to get in touch?
[01:02:49.37] I'll be honest with you. I'm on-- like Pete said, I'm @BigHousePower on Instagram and Twitter. I've got too many emails. I don't even know which one to give you. The best way to contact me is a direct message. And then I'll figure out which is the best email for you to contact me on. But, I mean, that's kind of how I've been operating right now. And it works out better that way, especially in this day and age of social media.
[01:03:21.73] Perfect. All right, guys, thanks so much for being with us today. Joe Kenn and Peter Kenn, that's a first father-son episode here on the NSCA Coaching Podcast. Want to thank everyone for tuning in and listening. We'd also like to thank Sorinex exercise equipment. We appreciate their support.
[01:03:39.92] 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.
[01:04:02.71] 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.
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