With advances in the science of human performance, nearly all coaches have come to recognize the advantages of conditioning in high-level competition. This means strength and conditioning coaches are important contributors to most athletic teams. A strength and conditioning facility at a university resembles a fitness center but has significantly more weightlifting equipment because strength and power are crucial to success for most athletes.
Strength and conditioning coaches have two primary goals. The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength, and power (although specifics vary according to athlete and sport). Conditioning coaches develop systematic training programs for both teams and individual athletes, often working in close association with coaches. This usually includes teaching proper lifting techniques, supervising and motivating athletes as they work out, and assessing their performance before and after the program. The nature of the conditioning program will vary depending on whether the sport is in season or not. During the off-season, conditioning programs can be quite rigorous. In season, conditioning programs tend to focus more on maintaining athletes’ conditioning than on improving it. Conditioning programs also vary by sport, and even by position within the sport.
The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries. To that end, conditioning coaches often design regimens to strengthen body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport. Coach Larry Wade, Strength & Conditioning Coach agrees, saying, “Athletes can have a great training plan that improves their speed, agility, strength, explosiveness, etc., but if we can’t keep them healthy and out there competing, then all of the training improvements don’t help.” Thus to prevent athletes from getting injured during training, conditioning coaches must know the correct exercise and lifting techniques and be able to teach them to athletes. The conditioning coach also monitors athletes’ general health, sometimes providing nutritional advice or referring athletes to a registered dietitian if they need more sophisticated nutritional counseling.
Athletic exercise programs can be fairly rigorous, and it can be difficult to get athletes to train as hard as they should. For this reason conditioning coaches must be good motivators. Because of the diversity of their clientele, coaches must be organized in how they administer each conditioning program and be detail oriented in terms of record keeping. Much like a personal trainer, a conditioning coach must be a good teacher because he will be trying to educate athletes on how to execute weightlifting and other exercises correctly. Conditioning coaches must also be perceptive; they will be monitoring athletes as they train, correcting any lifting errors they make. Finally, to work successfully with an array of athletes, coaches, etc…, the conditioning coach requires above-average interpersonal skills.