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I talk to a lot of strength coaches and it’s obvious many of them love what they do. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of even ONE who doesn’t love what they do. So it makes sense that they have questions about how to have a long, fulfilling career in strength and conditioning. I empathize with every one of them because I used to think the same things because I also knew that being a strength and conditioning coach is one of the hardest jobs. It’s demanding in so many areas of your life from physical, mental, emotional, to spiritual being. Seriously, even going to church or a wedding was based around the competition schedule.
The purpose of this article is to share some strategies I have used over my career to increase my longevity in the profession. You likely know I’m now in athletic administration which is NOWHERE near the stress level of coaching. I can’t tell you this was a part of my strategy to extend my longevity for being in college athletics. However, several of my peers are still able to perform at a higher level later in their careers. Here are the strategies I’ve used and they continue to use:
In order to take care of others you must first take care of yourself. Use the example of putting on your oxygen mask first if you’re in a dangerous situation on an airplane. You can’t take care of others effectively if you don’t first prioritize your own physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health.
2. Stress Management
Working in athletics is a stressful job. Your employment likely depends, in some form or fashion, on the success of the athletic department or the team(s) you’re working with. Learn how to say ‘no’ to situations or opportunities where you may need to rest. Your perspective on how you see things will have a large impact on the perceived amount of stress you’re experiencing.
Eating healthy can go a long way in terms of how you’re able to function at that level over time. I’ve seen too many coaches have serious health issues that their nutrition habits could have helped them avoid. The old culture in strength and conditioning used to be about hamburgers, French fries and beers. I’m not saying I never partook-or partake-in any of that but following the advice we gave athletes helped me to continue to function at the level I wanted to be.
Try to establish some habits and routines that allow you to get as much sleep as possible. I know many of you like to train 5, 6, or 7 days a week but try mixing in some recovery circuits that you’ve prescribed to your athletes.
I don’t know why this is a more difficult skill today than it used to be. It seems like when I mention to someone to try delegating they look at me like I am telling them to give up part of their paycheck. As a younger professional it’s part of the job to do as much as you can, but at some point you rise to a level of leadership where you have to delegate.
You should spend every day of your career networking and reaching out to people that you know or haven’t spoken to in a while. Sending notes or writing a text or email will go a long way with opportunities for you or others in the future. You may be an introvert but that should never stop you from networking.
7. Growth Mindset/Continuing Education
We always expect her athletes to continue to learn and we should expect the same things of ourselves. Continue to read, listen to audiobooks, attend lectures, etc.
Read topics related to strength and conditioning and topics unrelated to strength and conditioning. Someone once told me that you should also read a fiction book while you’re reading a nonfiction book. I tried this a few times and I enjoyed it but this is something that I, admittedly, didn’t practice much.
If there are activities you used to love to do before you got so busy in your professional career you should consider revisiting them. It’s important to have things that can take your mind away from the job to create some balance in your life where you’re able to grow outside of your occupation.
10. Making Good Decisions
This one should speak for itself but it needs to be stated. Your character is who you are when no one is looking; and your integrity is doing what you say you were going to do. Make sure you always operate with the best character and integrity as possible.
11. Train Smarter With Age
I always loved lifting heavy and lifting often. I also enjoyed running, jumping and doing activities that we prescribed to our athletes. But at some point I had to realize that I was getting older and I couldn’t do the things I used to do. A friend of my name Scott Bird introduced me to Toby Keith and in one of his songs he says “I’m not as good as I once was but I’m as good once as I ever was”. I used this as my motto when I got into my later years of my coaching career.
12. Continue Growing Outside Of The Profession
Strength and conditioning is one of the best professions, and in my opinion it is THE best profession in the world. But sometimes doing what you love that much can blind you from the rest of what life has to offer. People have asked me about work-life balance and I don’t believe that that is possible but what I do believe is possible is work-life integration.
13. Yearly Physicals with Doctor
Make sure you are having regular visits with your doctor and you’re sharing your family history with your physician. When you share your family history they will look deeper into where you are physically.
14. Learn How To Say “No”
You can say no respectfully without coming off like you are selfish. Know what your boundaries are and do your best to stick with those. Know what your values are and do not compromise them for anyone or anything.
15. Take Control Of Your Finances
We took our entire staff to the Dave Ramsey Financial workshop. This was probably one of the most important staff initiatives we ever did. One of our former staff members told me they were able to make a great career decision because they had gotten their finances in order. Specifically, they were able to take a better job for less pay because they had their finances in order. You do not want to have to take or leave a job because of finances and debt you may have from college.
I hope this helps you in your career. I would love to hear your feedback and your thoughts on this article. Please contact me at pativey.com and share your thoughts with me.
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