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4 Ways to Build Your Network Without Conferences

Autumn Lockwood
Sep 8, 2022

If I have learned anything in the last five years of being a strength and conditioning coach, networking and building relationships with fellow strength coaches in the field should be one of the top three priorities for every coach. Strength and conditioning is heavily built around serving others and building relationships. I believe strength and conditioning is also built around development. The development of our athletes, the continued development of ourselves as coaches, and the development of those that work with us, around us, and those that are just entering the field. There are multiple ways to grow your network as a strength coach. Obviously, the longer you’re in the field, the more connections you will have. Attending the annual conferences at the rotating locations is great for in-person connecting but depending on the teams you work with, not everyone is able to make it. I’d like to share a couple of tips for building a network without attending a conference.

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1. Use Social Media

 First and foremost, I’d like to believe that in today’s day and age, social media is the best and easiest way to connect with coaches in our field. Social media has basically turned into our daily live resume. It’s a great place to showcase your coaching style, your passions, your training, and your athletes. It’s like your own mini-brand if you will. Instagram and Twitter are great tools to network with other coaches. Both platforms make it very easy to share your thoughts, highlight athlete training days, share information on a topic you’re interested in, and engage in conversations.

By leaving a comment, sending a DM, or even pushing the like button, you are letting that person know that you like the content that they are putting out. That brings opportunity after opportunity to network with the coaches that you follow. After connecting on social media, you’re able to build a relationship from there. Once you establish a relationship, the strength and conditioning world is small, and more often than not, you will have multiple run-ins with the strength coaches you connect with on social media. Whether that be webinars, presentations, virtual presentations, or onsite visits if you are in their city.

A big way of communication for me after connecting on social media is hopping on a phone call for 30-45 minutes. It is always great to hear a person’s story. I like to ask about them, their previous stops, where they hope to be as their career continues to unfold, and what they are passionate about. Although we have busy days, a phone call to connect on the way in to work or on the drive home is always a win.

2. Take Advantage of Team Travel

 Another great opportunity to network is when you travel with your teams, doing a little research before the trip to see the strength coach that works with the team at the opposing school. A lot of times social media will do the work for you as most people post about the movement in their careers. Connecting via email or social media to find some time to connect in person is my favorite way to set up these meetings. There are a couple of different ways to go about connecting while on the road. In the last year working with basketball, I’d go during shootaround or practice if I had 15-20 minutes to chat and see the weight room if it’s close by. If I knew the strength coach already, I’d try to meet them for coffee in the morning.

I've had examples of these opportunities in my own life. Houston Women’s Basketball played Alabama Women’s Basketball in Tuscaloosa twice this past season, both times, Ashleigh Beaver and I got coffee from her favorite local coffee shop and went to walk down by the river. It was great because we both got a change of scenery, me from the hotel and her from the facility. Also, what strength coach doesn’t like coffee and being active in the morning? We talked about our approaches to training and how we develop our athletes. We also talked about the similarities and differences we face working in our field. We also connected with the people that we both know at different places and how everything seems to come full circle in the sports performance world.

3. Build In Professional Development Days

If you don’t travel because you have multiple teams, another way to build your network is professional development days. Sometimes, days off can be scarce in our line of work. If you’re an older coach that has been in the field for some time, days off are usually spent with your family. If you are a young coach just breaking into the field, I 100% recommend planning out personal development days where you can go and visit a university of your choice and connect with all the strength coaches that work at that school. You can make it a weekend trip or even a day trip. I believe the best connections come when you can meet in person and see the coach in their element with their teams. You can see how they interact with the staff and with the coaches and players. You can gain insight on programming through their eyes and ask them questions and develop by having them walk you through their thought process. You can ask them for advice on how to handle certain situations you’ve faced etc. It is in these networking moments that you will see there are a million and one ways to do almost everything. Any opportunity to ask questions and see how someplace else does it with less than, similar to, or more resources than the place you’re currently at opens up a lot of possibilities to help make your athletes better!

I always love professional development days too because being a natural foodie (I think that comes with being a strength coach) most coaches will show you their favorite restaurant in their city for a meal of the day. Who doesn’t love a good food place to add to their guide list to visit next time they travel to a specific city?! ALWAYS sign me up for that.

4. Attend Virtual Opportunities

Lastly, about one of the only good things that came out of COVID is how our strength and conditioning field adapted to having to be separated for the year. Online live webinars and zoom presentations are more prominent than ever in this time we live in now. Strength coaches found a way to prevail and stay connected through tough times. Even better, we still got a chance to learn from each other and tune in as our peers presented something they are passionate about in a multitude of ways! A lot of times, coaches would drop their contact information in the chat so that created a lot of networking opportunities. Live webinars and zooms are keeping us connected and giving us more opportunities to engage with our fellow coaches to this day.

We all know the inevitable reality that as strength coaches, we have one of the busiest schedules known to man (or woman). The ability to be able to log in to a webinar or zoom when we have some free time during the day, in the evening time, or on the weekends is great to be able to build your network across all platforms. 

If you haven’t caught on already, networking is built solely on connection. So, if you take nothing but these next couple sentences from this article…PRIORITIZE CONNECTION WITH COACHES!! CONNECT, CONNECT, CONNECT! I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it a million and one more times for the people in the back. I truly and honestly believe that our field is built solely on building relationships with everyone we encounter, serving others, and developing our athletes, our staff, and ourselves. There are multiple ways to grow your network, it doesn’t always have to be attending a conference. If you have social media, reach out on every platform. If you don’t have social media, go old school and connect via email or a handwritten letter to connect with your contact information. If you have multiple teams, prioritize professional development trips. If all you can do is connect virtually, log in to every webinar and zoom meeting that you can. Opportunities come from those who you genuinely connect with. Networking is what makes our field go round. Once you’ve established a relationship with someone, they can recommend you for different career opportunities that you may never have heard of yourself but they know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone that is looking for a person exactly like YOU! You are the best at being you (words from the one and only Alan Bishop) so make sure that when you connect with coaches, are you nothing but yourself! Finding the right fit for a job only comes through getting to know people and seeing how they operate. If you are a kind person, you smile, and you’re consistent and persistent with reaching out and connecting and establishing relationships with the coaches in our field, you are winning at life!

With all this being said, I am very much a people person. Networking comes easy to me because I am a very relational person. If you need any more advice on how to reach out and build your network, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I love meeting new people, hearing new stories, and traveling to new places. I also love hearing and seeing different perspectives to help make the athletes that we work with better. At the end of the day, that is and should be every strength coach’s goal. For the next 365 days, make it a point to connect and build relationships with 10+ people. Watch how much your life flourishes when you pursue genuine relationships with those who want you to WIN at everything you do. Wishing everyone the best this upcoming year and GOD BLESS! 

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