Strength Performance Network

Why do you want to be certified as a strength coach?

Warning: This post might offend some of you, but it may also inspire educational efforts, so the time and money put into education translates into more clients and increased revenue for ones buisness.

“I believe a college education is quite overrated, that’s the reason I don’t put letters
after my name. I don’t belive it means anything.”

This is a direct quote from one of the - in my opinion - world’s best strength coaches, who, BTW, has a an undergraduate degree in Science as well as a graduate degree in Exercise Physiology.

Why do you want to be certified?

In the last couple of months I have - first or second hand - heard about trainers, who contact a
certifying body after they have failed a written exam by one or two points and ask the certifying body if their near missed is good enough for a pass.

Judging fellow beings is always a doubtsome act, however, begging for a pass indicates to me that that individual just wants the “piece of paper”; they just want to put the letters after their name. I am aware that in certain cases the letter after your name decides whether you have a job or not, and thus I can empathize with a trainer who, in risk of losing his/her job, tries their luck with the certifying body.

Don’t get me wrong, certifications are great if they lead to knowledge applied to succesfully help clients, but if certifications are just letters after your name, it’s misleading to those our buisness is all about - the clients.

It’s my honest opinion, that if you are taking certifications to keep your job or to add credibility by putting letters behind your name, you are behind the game.

I understand why employers tend to look at certifications when they judge a trainer; it’s easier and there are also insurance aspects involved. However, to move this industry forward we must focus on one question: Which tools do I have to help the client in front of me? And likewise, those of you who own a training facility must ask: What is this trainer able to do with the with the clients in front of them?

Besides basic all round knowledge in the form of a CPT, CSCS, BSC, MSC, etc. our continuing education, at any point in time, should focus on our “weak links” as trainers/coaches?

What are the questions you can’t answer when you create training programs?

What are the tools you are missing when you create training programs?

Those are the questions that should guide your continuing education - not the desire to put letters behind your name.

The quote in the beginning of this post is from Charles Poliquin and can be found in his book the Poliquing Principles (1997 edition).

To your success,
Karsten Jensen

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Comment by Karsten Jensen on January 5, 2011 at 3:00pm

Are you saying that the scientific background required to be a strength coach is more extensive than what is required to be a sports coach?

I agree that we teach different qualities/skills than sports coaches, but it is my opinion that the issue of certifications is the same. It all boils down to what you are able to do with the athletes in front of you. We don't have a win/loss ratio, but we still can measure the effect of the strength program through assessments and in the most physically dominated sports, it may be possible to see a clear relation between the strength and conditioning level and the sport performance.

Comment by Jesse Webber on January 5, 2011 at 2:46pm
I don't think it is fair to include sports coaches in this.  Even though we have the word "coach" in our title and we "coach" on a daily basis, we do not have a win/loss ratio to refer to.  As mentioned, the scientific background required (or should be required!) is extensive.  I personally feel that is apples and oranges.  Both fruit, but a very different variety.
Comment by Karsten Jensen on November 29, 2010 at 7:38am
Hi Beau and Samuel - Thank's for the comments! and thank's for bringing the legendary sports coaches into the discussion!
Comment by Samuel L. Chatman II. on November 28, 2010 at 10:09pm
I personally understand both stand points. I've worked under some great people. One head coach was CSCS certified, and his assistant was not. Did that make the assistant less competent because he was only a Did that make him work harder than the head coach to prove his worth.....again, no. Even though I am currently studying for my CSCS I will always feel that the paper is not as important as the person in front of the paper. I've had the unfortunate pleasure of working with nearly every known certification behind their names and couldn't coach you how to tie your shoes, yet I have to attain some of these same certifications. The certification is very important, because that's the only way I will be hired by a university, but if I can't coach and improve athletes, it's money wasted......
Comment by Beau Arney on November 28, 2010 at 8:27pm
I don't think anyone is saying that the education is not important. But passing and paying for a test does not make a better or more qualified trainer/coach than someone who does not. Did Joe Paterno, Nick Saban, or your favorite football or basketball coach have to get a certification? Nope. They prove themselves through hands on experience, being in the trenches, being mentored by elder coaches, and results. Just like sport there are way to many ways to train athletes and get results to say that one test qualifies you.
Comment by Karsten Jensen on November 28, 2010 at 1:56pm
Thank's for the comment, Jason!
Comment by Jason Roe on November 27, 2010 at 9:48pm
Becoming a successful performance coach requires education and experience. Poliquin's statement is ludicrous. Understanding physics, anatomy, biology, physiology, and chemistry allows the performance coach to apply this knowledge to developing effective training methods and understanding the adaptive response. Poliquin is very well educated and in fact he markets his own certification program! An education in the sciences is essential, certifications help establish a minimum standard of knowledge, experience, mentors, and continued education make successful coaches.
Comment by Karsten Jensen on November 26, 2010 at 11:54am
Hi Jesse - thank you for your multifaceted perspective! If I was looking for a strength coach to make my program, I would feel safe in your hands!
Comment by Jesse Webber on November 26, 2010 at 11:45am
I think we need to look outside ourselves a bit. And if we can't do that, our opinions are not very well formed.

Look at many other professions. Is your surgeon Board Certified in Surgery? Are those just letters, or does that give you a modicum of confidence that he or she knows what they are doing. I could cite many different professions: accountants, car mechanics, arborists, etc.

Now go to a different perspective. How is my athletic director supposed to know what I know and how qualified I am? My resume should cite my degrees and certifications. Much more space on my resume is taken up by my experience. Yet another entity is my references. All play a part. My CSCS doesn't make me what I am, but it plays a part. And that part is displayed proudly.

Now lets draw a comparison closer to home: athletic training. To be an athletic trainer you must have ATC behind your name. This is not considered a bad thing and as far as I know athletic trainers aren't bandying this question around. So, a good question is: why are we vilifying our own education and certifications?

Karsten, to answer your question: I am proud of my CSCS and have maintained it for 14 years now. I have it displayed on my wall under my degrees, which I am also proud of. I help those students in our Exercise Physiology department pursue theirs. I also tell them, quite honestly, that what I learned in college did not teach me what I do on a daily basis. I had to ask someone to teach me OL (and that person is still in my life, and a reference). I had to intern and ask questions. Did the NSCA help me? Absolutely. Is CSCS just some letters? No. However, I am the sum of my education, certifications, experience, integrity, continuing education, etc.

Her is another question: would I feel this way if Jesse Webber was as known in this field as Charles Poliquin? I think my perspective would change, but I would still reflect on where I came from. Poliquin has something that I do not: marketing savvy. Is he a better strength coach because of that? He has gotten where he is at because of that savvy and his ability to say outrageous things but still be taken seriously. Oh, and her is good at what he does.

Whew, I could keep going, but enough for now! Maybe I'll chime in later because I am sure some will have something to say about this.
Comment by Karsten Jensen on November 25, 2010 at 2:38pm
Hi Beau - I have heard the same thing from coaches who are CSCS! Thanks for the comment!

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