Justin Loudon - NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Season 7 Episode 20

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*D and Justin Loudon, CSCS, RSCC
Coaching Podcast February 2024


Have you ever considered getting a K-12 teaching license, with your CSCS, to gain employment as a high school strength and conditioning coach? Coach Justin Loudon serves as the Chair of the NSCA High School Coaches Professional Development Group (PDG). He shares PDG updates with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, including highlights from the 2024 NSCA Coaches Conference and direction for the future of high school coaching. Learn about the impact of school-based strength and conditioning beyond the weight room, and important benefits for students over their lifetime.  

Connect with Justin on Instagram at: @coach_loudon or by email: loudonsc@gmail.com| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or X (Twitter): @ericmcmahoncscs | Here is a link to engage with NSCA Professional Development Groups.  
As mentioned in the episode, check out the book: NSCA's Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning

Show Notes

“I think it's more about being a physically literate individual. So for me, being able to teach these kids and educate these kids on how to do this, I think it just sets them up for success later on in their life.” 6:38

“Our job is really to help mold those kids, the whole child aspect. It's not just focusing on sports. And if I can get that 93%, 94% stronger and better and more athletic, than the other 6%, 7% is going to come with it as well.” 12:48

“Being a coach is being a teacher and being a teacher is being a coach. And I think if you can get that education background, even a couple of classes on it, that's really going to help you out as a coach, whether it's in the college level, professional, or wherever, just being able to look at things maybe slightly different.” 25:10


[00:00:00.46] [ROCK MUSIC]
[00:00:04.13] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, season 7, episode 20.
[00:00:10.37] I honestly think you've said before, being a coach is being a teacher and being a teacher is being a coach. And I think if you can get that education background, even a couple classes on it, that's really going to help you out as a coach, whether it's in the college level, professional, or wherever, just being able to look at things maybe slightly different.
[00:00:32.51] 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.
[00:00:43.47] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today we're joined by a PE teacher, strength and conditioning coach from Tennessee, Justin Loudon. He is the chair of the NSCA's High School Coaching Professional Development Group. We're going to talk about that today. Justin, welcome.
[00:01:02.09] Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
[00:01:04.62] Yeah, we were just connecting in Orlando at the Coach's Conference. And we had really some strong discussion in that group, really good attendance at the High School PDG meeting. And I'm excited to tackle some of those topics for today. But before we get going, in typical podcast fashion, take us through your progression in the field. How did you get into strength and conditioning, and specifically, at the high school level?
[00:01:32.94] Yeah, great question. I think I've got kind of a different background. So I went to the Lock Haven University for health and PE. I was athletic training for my first-- really, first two years. And then to be honest, I was wrestling there. And I wanted to wrestle and continue to wrestle and didn't really have time for athletic training, so switched over to health and PE.
[00:01:57.66] And my strength coach in college was really kind of the jumping start for me, because trying to lose a lot of weight for wrestling, and it didn't go well. And then he kind of helped me out with that nutrition-wise, came up with a game plan. And then graduated college, moved down to Alabama to help my uncle start a wrestling program, and needed a job.
[00:02:20.70] And I think, like a lot of us, we're going to a gym and got a quick, simple personal training cert, and allowed me to work there. I was also fighting MMA at the time, too. So that was kind of-- it was an MMA gym slash regular gym as well. So kind of got my start there as a personal trainer.
[00:02:40.47] And then from there, my wife and I wanted to move out to Colorado. I got a teaching job out in Colorado. So we moved out there. And I spent eight years in Colorado, all in public school. And the first four years, I was really just a health and PE teacher. But I taught weights classes, too, and ended up just falling in love with it. And I'd have 45, 55 kids in the class. And it was just one of those things where as a PE teacher, you figure it out. You figure the flow out and how you want to run your class.
[00:03:12.49] And then I think it was my third or fourth year as the health and PE teacher I really got serious about my CSCS, fell in love with being in the weight room, wanting to be there more, and went and got my CSCS and became one of two CSCS strength and conditioning coaches in D38, up in Monument. And the other one was the other wrestling coach at the high school, at the other high school.
[00:03:39.20] So like I said, spent four years at Palmer Ridge High School, and then a job opened up about, I don't know, a mile or a mile and a half or so from my house, which is right up the street from you at Vista Ridge High School. And applied for that, and spent the last four years at Vista Ridge High School as the strength and conditioning coach there, how to build up a really successful program, and just kind of really fell in love with it.
[00:04:07.62] And then what, basically about two years ago, a year and a half ago, I got a phone call from Corey Stewart, the football coach out here in Tennessee. And after spending eight years in Colorado, my wife and I wanted to get closer back to family. With her family being down in Alabama, I've got family in Alabama. She's got relatives that live about 40 minutes away in Franklin.
[00:04:27.74] And Coach Stewart called me up and was just got hired the football coach, and was looking for a strength and conditioning coach. And I said, Coach, I'm in Colorado. And he's like, well, will you take a phone call? And I was like, well, yeah. Let's take a phone call. We'll talk. And next thing you know, my wife and I are packing up everything from Colorado and moving to Tennessee.
[00:04:48.18] And I think through that time in Colorado and so far, out here, we've been successful in the places I've been at. Won the Strength of America award in Colorado, and then won it this year as well. So things are going well. But really, I think I come more from the PE side of things, instead of going from internships and grad assistant jobs in the college and then working our way back down, I've always been in a high school, and honestly, just love it.
[00:05:17.55] Yeah. I like how you mentioned you come from that traditional physical education background, thinking about dodgeball and some of the other things that maybe we played growing up. And then now, we have access to a lot more in physical education, strength and conditioning being one of those areas. And you mentioned the weights classes that you teach. So it's not just the athletes at the school. It's the rest of the kids that want to sign up for that.
[00:05:45.44] One initiative we talk about in our professional development group is early exposure to strength and conditioning. What's the value, as you see it, for kids to get access to strength and conditioning during their high school or even their middle school years?
[00:06:00.86] I think it's absolutely amazing for them, especially for our field. We're trying to get more strength and conditioning coaches that are qualified and know what they're doing, qualified and certified. And giving them access to strength and conditioning, for me, in my case, I see them from 7th grade through 12th. And roughly, it's pretty much if I see them 44 weeks out of the year three times a week, it's just under or just shy of 800 times where I get to train these kids. So getting that early exposure allows them, I think, to honestly see what it's like, especially if they're going to college level to play the next level.
[00:06:37.76] And then also, I think it's more about being a physically literate individual. You look at the state standards, the national standards, I mean, we're hitting them every single day in class. I don't know any other class that's going to hit every standard every day in class, where strength and conditioning, we do that, especially the national standards. We're hitting those.
[00:06:59.31] So when those kids can hit those standards and can see these standards-- and realistically, if you think about where we're all at, most of the time you see the older population, it's like, hey, what are you doing? Well, I'm going to the gym. Yeah, they may go play pickleball, they may play some pickup basketball. But most of the time, they're going into a weight room. They're going to get on cardio machines or they're going to get on some other type of machines or they're going to lift weights.
[00:07:22.06] So for me, being able to teach these kids and educate these kids on how to do this, I think it just sets them up for success later on in their life. I look at what my wife does as a physical therapy assistant at the hospital. She's doing the same thing with the older population, but just slightly different, and hitting their needs. So if we can get kids stronger now and learn how to take care of themselves now, what does that do for them in the future?
[00:07:48.03] What does that do for us as a profession then, too, when they-- let's say they're done with their high school career or their college career. Maybe they do want to go into strength and conditioning. Now they can look back at their time in high school or their time in college with that early exposure. Maybe they end up going that route.
[00:08:08.25] Coming up through the college ranks or professional or different areas of the field, we might have a good idea of what that typical day in strength and conditioning looks like. But is that different at the high school level? Or is it more like, a, maybe one of the other teachers?
[00:08:24.45] No, I think it's long days. In Colorado, I'd be at school every morning at 4 o'clock, because that was the only time that I could get a workout in. And so I would lift from 4:00 to 5:00, 5:30. And then I would have teams coming in or some kids coming in at 5:30. And they would lift until 6:45, 7 o'clock, get ready for class. And then I would literally teach all day until 2:45.
[00:08:51.63] And then after school, I'd have two or three or four more other teams that would come in. Or it could also be kids need to make up a class or whatever it may be. So they're really long days. My job here now in Tennessee, I still get my workout in early. And my son and I-- I have a four-year-old that goes to school. And he's fortunate enough that-- I'm fortunate enough that he can go to the school with me. They have a pre-K there.
[00:09:19.42] But I still get my workout done around 3:30. And then 3:30 in the morning, work out till 4:30, get Asher up. And then we have to leave the house by 5:30. And then I get to school. And I'll train one or two of the administrators or teachers, teach all 7 out of the 8 classes, depending on the day, all day, and then have maybe one or two teams after school.
[00:09:43.78] And I also do a teacher-parent workout, too, so trying to get the community involved and get more relationships built with parents and administration and teachers. So it's still a long day. And I think when you look at other courses, I don't think, just from my experience, I don't think you really see a lot of teachers spending all that time at school. Yeah, they'll help out. They'll do some things. But I don't think it's the same as a lot of strength coaches will do.
[00:10:13.96] Yeah, high level of commitment in our field, being willing to get there, work with athletes before school, after school. We're always-- really, in any area of the field where you're dealing with classes in school, you're accommodating course schedules and the other demands that are placed on student athletes. So that is important.
[00:10:34.81] And I think it's-- I mean, one, you're a wild man getting up that early and getting your workout in. But it seems like you've made it a routine and a sustainable routine for you, for your family. And that's something to take away from this as well, is that regardless of where you're at in the field, there's this evolution from coming up as a GA into your first coaching position, and then you're in a full-time role and maybe you're married or have a family or other demands. And so how those balance, maybe those are areas we don't talk about enough, or we're just starting to with the whole work-life balance conversations.
[00:11:14.64] Yeah. And as a strength and conditioning coach, especially at the high school level, you may see-- like for me, I see 97% of our student population in 7th grade through 12th. And that's fantastic. But there's also days where you want them coming and lifting with their team. You want that team-building experience.
[00:11:35.15] So I have football that will come in, and they'll get an extra lift in after school Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I've got softball that will come in Tuesday, Thursday. And right now, they're really focused on speed and agility. They're still getting the training. But if you're in a large public school, like I was in Colorado at Vista Ridge and Palmer Ridge, you only see so many kids. And you can only get so many kids in the class.
[00:11:57.89] Well, what about those other kids that couldn't get it into their schedule with the schedule conflicts? So being able to provide that opportunity for teams to come in is huge. But it also allows you as a coach to become more of a mentor. It allows you to become more of that person that's going to help these kids and provide information for them that's going to be really beneficial and really build the relationships with them.
[00:12:24.58] When you go to team sporting events, when you go watch a kid in your class that's not an athlete-- maybe they're more in the arts and they're in their plays or their musicals, going to see those, those kids love that. And I think I've said this before. But only 6% or 7% actually go to the next level. So what about the other 93%, 94%?
[00:12:47.98] And PE, our job is really to help mold those kids, the whole child aspect. It's not just focusing on sports. And if I can get that 93%, 94% stronger and better and more athletic, than the other 6%, 7% is going to come with it as well.
[00:13:07.87] No, I like that. I like that. You take a broad approach toward your entire student body. And what makes me-- what comes through loud and clear is the fact that you have an educator mindset towards your job, even when you're working with the football team. Let's explore that a little bit.
[00:13:27.95] We discussed it with the professional development group, about teacher licensure and the importance of having a teacher licensure to be able to get certain jobs at the high school level in strength and conditioning. We also obviously, from the NSCAC, value in having a CSCS. What are some of the areas that you see as important around teacher licensure and just educator curriculum that we should know about as a strength and conditioning field?
[00:14:02.24] Yeah, I think, if I remember right, looking at that survey, I think it was like 45% of our strength coaches at the high school level are coming from that alternative licensure. And I think that's huge. But when you look at alternative license, things that I've kind of noticed is when you have that teacher preparation, you understand classroom management a little bit better.
[00:14:23.15] And the PE setting, they'll-- counselors-- will literally dump 40, 50, 60, maybe even 70 kids in a class. How do you run that class? How do you manage that class? And I think when you look at, for me in my experience at Lock Haven, I think they did an amazing job at teaching us how to manage that large of a class by yourself. And then also how to co-teach-- so if you have a co-coach in there, how do you guys work together?
[00:14:53.01] So learning classroom management, I think, is huge. I also really think talking about the language in education-- what is differentiated instruction? What is what we call annual plan? What's a curriculum? So getting these education terms down are huge. I think Coach Tobias talked about that at Coach's Conference.
[00:15:19.14] Yeah.
[00:15:19.68] So when you can go through this educational program, whether that be PE or education, whatever it may be, your alternative license, there's several things that you really have to learn. And it's more on that administration side. Coming from CSCS, you have your CSCS or you're coming from the college realm, you can teach a squat. You can teach a hinge. You can teach this. But can you teach these kids but also know how to uptalk, if that makes sense?
[00:15:49.89] Yeah.
[00:15:50.47] And I think that's one area where having that alternative licensure route allows coaches from the college level or the private sector, whoever, to get into the high school setting. And I think there is a difference when you look at public schools and private schools. So public schools, where I taught for eight years, you have to have a teaching license. Private schools, not necessarily. Some will want that, but you don't necessarily have to have a teaching license. And that's fine.
[00:16:21.42] Public schools, they're going to want you to have that teaching license. And if you don't have that right now, that's where the alternative licensure comes in. That's where the emergency license comes in. And I think those are ways for coaches to get that.
[00:16:38.78] Yeah. I liked how you tackled it from the curriculum and education side first and the value to the students of having a teacher that's trained as an educator. And that does go beyond a little bit of the scope of when we're talking strength and conditioning. So it really expands us to being good instructors and good teachers and good communicators. I know that's a hot topic within the field.
[00:17:06.98] But as we enter the profession, we want more opportunities. We want more jobs. And our NSCA salary survey has shown at some different stages that having a teacher licensure may give you as much as a 70% increase in your salary as a high school strength and conditioning coach. And we probably realized there that that might be the difference just of being a full-time strength and conditioning coach employed by the school or just a part-time person coming in after hours or on a coach's contract on a part-time basis. So the value of a teacher licensure as giving you more opportunities, that's really one of the takeaways for me.
[00:17:52.66] Yeah. No, it is. When you have that license, it does give you more opportunities. One thing I talked about down at Coach's Conference on how to get admin support in building a program is that education component. Again, especially in a public school-- and actually, really in any school-- they're really about the whole child. It's not just about athletics. So if you can bring an education component to it, you're going to get a little bit more buy-in from administration quick.
[00:18:21.43] And that education component isn't just coming in, oh, what are your kids learning? Oh, they lift weights up, and they put it back down. It's not that. They want to know, are they learning the difference between the health and physical, health skills of components of physical fitness? Can they look at the state standards and actually hit these, or the national standards? Are you talking to them about nutrition? Are you talking to them about muscles or how to build a program or whatever it may be?
[00:18:49.42] What is your curriculum? And I think if you provide a curriculum that you bring with you to the administration and say, here, this is what I have to offer and this is the curriculum that I want to teach, you're going to get a little bit more support from the administration really quick.
[00:19:05.74] One of the areas that I hear about a lot in education now is STEM education-- Science, Math, Technology. And the areas that you're talking about really do connect to STEM and allied health career paths that are very important career progressions. When you go talk to, maybe, a guidance counselor your senior year, and you're saying, hey, I want to do this as a profession, what type of college program do I need to pursue? do you feel like strength and conditioning provides maybe an early motivation or access point to some of those different areas that are just outside of the weight room?
[00:19:48.19] Oh, 100%. I think a lot of it is that cross-curriculum portion. Especially us coaches who use, let's say, BBT or flying tents and we have lasers and we can collect all this data, how can you use that in a science world? How can you use the velocity that you're tracking or the mean velocity or peak velocity or peak power or whatever it is? And can you work together with your STEM teacher?
[00:20:14.03] I don't have that here. But that was something that I was looking at doing in Colorado. But I do know there's several coaches that are using that concept in other states. I just haven't had the opportunity to do it yet.
[00:20:31.13] No, I like that. It's outside the box. And it expands the roles and responsibilities of what a strength and conditioning coach can do at an institution and the impact they can have. And that that's really powerful for us. Share about the Professional Development Group. You are the chair of the High School Coaches PDG here at the NSCA. What are you guys working on? And share some of those initiatives.
[00:20:59.99] Yeah. We got a great group, really excited about this core group of individuals that we have on there. Right now, one of the big things is trying to find what the requirements are for PE in every state, because they'll differ from state to state. Look at what the graduation requirements are for each state with physical education. Is it one full credit of PE? Is it a credit and a half, or half of it's got to be a health credit or a wellness?
[00:21:28.67] And then also finding out the alternative licensure for each state-- what does that entail? Or, do they have alternative license in that state? And then also looking at emergency license in each state. So really looking at the PE background, really, I guess you could say in each state, and find out what each state's needs are or pre-reqs are for everything.
[00:21:52.20] And then the other one we're really focused on is bringing back the high school column in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.
[00:21:58.01] Nice.
[00:22:01.07] And talking with Coach Nick about this, and seeing the history behind it, it's something big to bring back. And we've got a great list of writers right now that are currently writing or getting ready to start writing. And then that way, we can provide some information to them as well. So it's been going great with the High School PDG, and just continue to build upon everything that they've already done.
[00:22:28.84] Yeah, it is exciting. And I think back to getting the Strength and Conditioning Journal in the mail when I first joined the NSCA. And some of those columns that got that journal off the ground, essentially, one of those was the High School Corner. I think we need another name for it though, Justin, just to give it a little bit more prominence. We need to get high school out of the corner and into the limelight a little bit more. It's a great career progression for coaches.
[00:22:55.75] But Mike Nitka, obviously a very dedicated professional in the high school part of the strength and conditioning field. He's won the Lifetime Achievement Award with the NSCA for his work. And it's actually really cool talking to him. I'm glad you brought him up because a lot of times on the research front, we'll always think of William Kramer and the work he's done on the research side. Well, he actually went to college with Mike Nitka.
[00:23:26.89] And so when you think of those two and the contributions that they've had for this profession as a whole, it is really impactful and, to me, really motivating to think over your career, just like the work you're doing with the PDG. How much of an impact you can have on the NSCA community. If we can build a resource or a database of state-by-state, what kind of requirements exists around different licensures for physical education, that only prepares us better for the next generation of coach coming out of either an exercise science program or strength and conditioning program that may want to explore that path. And it makes us stronger, gives us a brighter future.
[00:24:13.16] Well, I think it also gives an idea, especially looking at 2030 when the credentials-- not the credentials, but the requirements change for the CSCS, that can also help us help coaches. Hey, this is the requirement for this. Think about this school. Think about this school. They're [INAUDIBLE] accredited here, but not here. Are you looking to go on the strength and conditioning aspect or a health and PE with still being allow you to sit for the CSCS exam? So I think getting this information is really going to provide some valuable information for future strength coaches.
[00:24:48.65] Yeah, and there's some pathways in there to think about for coaches. If you're at a [INAUDIBLE] program and you're learning strength and conditioning as your major, maybe there's value in taking an education minor or going getting your master's in education to give you more career opportunities if you want to work at the high school level.
[00:25:08.39] And I honestly think, you said before, being a coach is being a teacher and being a teacher is being a coach. And I think if you can get that education background, even a couple of classes on it, that's really going to help you out as a coach, whether it's in the college level, professional, or wherever, just being able to look at things maybe slightly different, coming from a different aspect. My wife, her undergrad's geology. So getting her PTA degree, and then also now-- she was a geologist, but also is a PTA now. She looks at things a little different as well. So it's kind of just having a different perspective on, maybe, ways you can do things.
[00:25:49.31] Yes. As we formalize our education requirements, it is important to celebrate the diversity of our group as a whole. We have a lot-- there's a lot of college majors within strength and conditioning. There's a lot of backgrounds. There's also a lot of similarities, too, of just the challenges we have of justifying our positions and being able to share the mission of the NSCA and strength and conditioning and our passion for it and get access to working with athletes and different sports and really chasing our passions, turning it into a credible career path.
[00:26:29.17] But a lot of that motivation, especially for your students and your student athletes, it starts during those formative high school years, middle school and high school years. And this episode really does speak to the value of having a highly qualified strength and conditioning coach in that scholastic setting before you get to college. I know I discovered the field as a profession during my college-age years. I'd love to look back in the future and say, hey, strength coaches now are being motivated to pursue this career path earlier than they were for our generation.
[00:27:11.64] Yeah. And I can also think-- I was talking to a former student today. She's a cheerleader at Dodge City. And I was like, hey, how's things going? And she's like, well, it's the first year. We don't have a strength coach. It's one of those, you just spent four years in high school with me having a strength coach, and then these lower level colleges, JUCO or NAI or whatever it is, DD, D3, D2 don't necessarily have a strength coach. So they're used to one thing. And then going to the next level, not necessarily there.
[00:27:44.25] It's not always better.
[00:27:46.17] Yep.
[00:27:49.21] These initiatives are starting to snowball and get bigger. And we're building more momentum for middle school and high school. What resources are available now for coaches looking to explore the high school ranks?
[00:28:05.26] Well, I think one of the first things you can do is reach out to the High School Professional Development Group. I think all our contacts are on the NSCA website. And that way, we can provide some even more in-depth resources for you. I think the other thing is looking at the high school strength conditioning book, the NSCA Guide to High School Strength and Conditioning. That's sitting in my office.
[00:28:26.62] And there's so much good resources in that book, just looking at schedules, looking at different types of programs that may happen, whether it be bell schedule, whether it be the block versus traditional, looking at how you program agility, plyometrics, and just everything. So that book is a huge resource. And then even the resource pages under the high school page in the NSCA website.
[00:28:54.38] But again, I think the first thing to do would really be reach out to us. And then we can get you the resources that you're really looking in and dialed in on, and then also get you in contact with your state director at the same time and see what they can do to help you. So really, I think it's all of the above, if I had to answer that. But reach out to us first, and then we can get you what you need.
[00:29:16.34] Yeah. No, I like that. There's a lot of resources within the NSCA. We want to help direct traffic and make sure you know what resources are available. Justin, appreciate you taking the time today. Share your contact info. What's the best way for someone to reach out?
[00:29:32.76] Yeah, you can email me at loudonsc@gmail.com. Or you can even just message me on Instagram @coach_loudon.
[00:29:43.97] Awesome. Thanks again, my man. I appreciate that. It was great catching up at Coach's Conference. And for all of our listeners, you can get involved with the High School Professional Development Group. We're going to have these meetings at National Conference, at Coach's Conference every year. These are important conversations to have and to continue. And we appreciate you listening today. So thanks for being with us.
[00:30:08.87] Also, a special thanks to Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.
[00:30:13.83] Hi. This is 2022 NSCA Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, Dan Dalrymple. Thanks for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, a top resource to hear relevant stories and insights from great coaches like you. To always get the latest episodes delivered right to your phone or computer, subscribe to, on iTunes, or look up the NSCA Coaching Podcast on your favorite podcast platform. Also, go to nsca.com to join the NSCA at an upcoming conference or clinic.
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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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Justin Loudon is a Physical Educator and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist whose mission is to provide maximum opportunities for studen ...

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