I'd really like to know where the left hand turn was, for where we went wrong as a fitness industry. Personal training is really at the core of every strength and conditioning coach, of every nutritionist, and every athletic trainer, Any person that works with an athlete or private sector clients, bariatric patients and anything in between, it always comes back to personal training.
My title as a strength and conditioning coach is just that. I work on building strength and increasing an athlete's conditioning. I do that through understanding the principles and methods of exercise science. Sadly, the title strength and conditioning coach seems to be becoming more watered down and more flippantly used than ever before.
And I think this is because of a couple of reasons...
People don't want to be called personal trainers anymore. It's not the 1990s where if you saw a personal trainer, it was a sign of status. You were elite. You had money to be able to have somebody personally work you out. Whereas fast forward to today, people need a personal trainer because they need the accountability, they need the guidance, and they're craving education. In some instances people are crazy for human interaction!
Strength and conditioning is a little bit different because it's a far more precise field. As of 2017, everybody wanted to be working with athletes, developing high-end talents. It only seems natural that people gravitate towards being called a strength and conditioning coach. Part of this upsets me because I hold the title strength and conditioning coach very dear and because I've worked for the better part of my career to secure that title in terms of the work that I do. I'm very proud of the qualifications that I've earned and the study that I've done and the study that I continue to do into earning the title strength and conditioning coach.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who feel that the title strength and conditioning coach will help them make a quick buck. They think it’ll help add a level of prestige to whatever it is that they're doing. When in fact, THEY are the product of strength and conditioning without actually having the credentials or the experience or the knowledge. I know far too many athletes that have gone on and taken my programming and changed the logo and have now claimed it as their own. (I’ve also had others ask for permission and I’ve granted them permission of which is the honourable thing to do.)
To put it frankly, if you have no idea of the energy systems involved in strength training, nor understand how energy is created, let alone the deep inner workings and anatomy of the muscles, then you shouldn't actually be calling yourself anything. You should just shut up, get back to learning and master the basics before calling yourself anything.
But I digress…
I truly think the term strength and conditioning coach is under attack, or needs to be protected. With the world of social media, it's so easy to label yourself as something. Very few people nowadays will fact check unless they’re apart of the dreaded cancel culture. More or less, all you have to do it put a half-naked photo of you lifting a weight for that to be a convincing argument for you to call yourself whatever you want. You can pay a videographer to create a hype video for you and that can categorically proven that you are (insert popular label or buzz term here.)
I can understand how some people would see this as a snobbish argument as to why are you complaining that someone is calling themselves something. I totally get that. But this ‘brain dump’ of mine is more so for the other amazing strength and conditioning coaches out there who are doing amazing things in their fields. I’m an athlete-centric coach which means my sole focus is the athlete. Period. By fighting tooth and nail for some quality control of the title of ‘strength and conditioning coach’ means that it also fights and protects those who’re trying to working with their clients and athletes in getting results.
It's the same line with nutritionists. It's the same line with psychologists. These are all very, very esteemed positions that you need to do a lot of study to be certified and qualified. Just because strength and conditioning is less medical and clinical than a surgeon doesn't mean it is any less specialized. I deal with orthopedic surgeons on a monthly basis to best serve and help those coming out from major reconstructive surgeries. There are very few surgeons out there that understand strength training, or understand basic exercise science principles whatsoever. However, their knowledge of anatomy and being able to surgically repair an ACL graft from someone's hamstring into where an ACL should live, that's a skillset that I don't have and not one that my stomach could handle anytime soon!
So the question is, why can't we all live in harmony in the fields in which we are qualified?
Not the field that we wish to be qualified in, but the area of current qualification. And again, it comes down to the idea of self-promotion, of marketing, of what it is that you want your audience to think you as. If you can create a video or a certain amount of pictures to put on your social media, then that is justification for whatever title you claim to be.
I think it needs to stop. I'm a big believer in fact checking, and not only keeping people accountable, but also proving your point. If someone claims to be a strength and conditioning coach, I would love for them to post where it is that they've qualified as a strength and conditioning coach, so that everybody knows their qualifications, so that people can actually agree that this person has done the work to achieve a bare minimum standard.
Click here to see the Australian Strength And Conditioning Association website that is chock full of useful resources
I think the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) has done a very good job in doing their best in leveling up the cohort of strength and conditioning coaches in having different levels and then different categories within those levels. There's room to grow. There's room to develop. And you will be awarded and qualified based on your competency, experience and justification.
We need to grow up. We need to be mature in our thinking. And we need to stand up and voice our concerns when people label and call themselves something when they're not actually qualified as that said title.
I get emails almost every day from aspiring strength and conditioning coaches all around Australia, looking for mentorship and looking for education and work placement and being able to clock off their hours for this certification. I'm very well aware of the ones who are aspiring strength and conditioning coaches. Unfortunately, it's becoming easier and easier to spot the Instagram marketers and social media gurus looking to brand themselves as something of which they're not qualified.
Calling somebody out, sadly, nowadays seems so confrontational. It's one of the most feared things for people is to be called out. Whereas I feel calling somebody out is more or less raising a topic of conversation. If we do it in a professional manner, we will get professional results. I am also one that is guilty of calling somebody out negatively with my own anger towards what I feel is stupidity being promoted on social media. That’s advice I’ll be taking on board myself.
However, I feel if somebody is calling themselves something or recommending something or trying to teach something, you need to have some level of qualification. It all comes down to ‘staying in your lane.’
There needs to be a healthy level of debate where we can actually sift though the information that's being presented. So we can actually show our audience, followers, friends, and our colleagues that this information is reliable and its accurate.
I hope one day we can get there…