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How to Succeed as a Strength and Conditioning Intern

Rich McLoughlin
Dec 13, 2018

It’s that time of year again; whether you are gearing up for a spring internship or still trying to figure what you are going to do for the summer, it’s never too late to get yourself prepared for making the most of your opportunity.

It goes without saying, completing an internship is one of the most important steps you can take to becoming a strength and conditioning coach. This is a worthwhile opportunity because it allows you to get practical experience and learn from coaches who have been on the floor longer than you have probably been walking.

With the ever-growing popularity of the strength and conditioning profession, the competition for entry-level jobs is only heating up. One of the best ways to market yourself in this tough job market is to prove yourself in your internship and leave a lasting impression with the coaches who may be responsible for your ability to land a job or not.

As a former intern who has completed several internships at the collegiate level, in the private sector, and at the high school level, the differences in experience has given me insight to the most common characteristics and qualities coaches are looking for in their interns. Regardless if are completing an internship as part of your required undergraduate course work or you’re a coach looking to get a foot in a door, these bits of advice have proven to be the keys to a successful internship.

1. Punctuality

This one may be too obvious, but it can’t go without saying. Showing up every single day on time, if not earlier than the rest of the staff, is an absolute must. Nothing sets a better first impression more than beating the strength staff to the weight room and having them open the doors to the weight room for you. Yes, you’ll most likely be stuck outside in the cold and in the pitch dark, but it’s worth it. Early is on time, on time is late.

2. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Probably some of the best advice I have ever received; thinking two to three steps ahead will not only make your life as an intern a lot easier but also the work of your head coach. Your job is to anticipate what will be needed before the need arises. Be prepared for the worst, while ensuring everything is at its best.

3. Be Open-Minded

No matter how long you think you’ve been in strength and conditioning, done your own training, or how many articles you’ve read, everything you will see as an intern will be brand new. If it doesn’t look new to you, watch and listen to the coach’s cue. If you think you have a great deal of organization, key into the processes that are used to keep multiple teams and hundreds of athletes organized. Having a close-minded attitude might be the greatest wrong you could commit as an intern because there is always learning to be done. Stay curious and you will never stop learning.

4. Ask Questions

If you think you know the answer to the question, ask it anyways. You may be surprised. However, finding the best time to ask the questions is crucial. When a coach is on the floor coaching up athletes, it definitely is not the right time to side track him or her from their job. Carry a pocketbook, write your question down, and ask it at a more appropriate time. This advice is not limited to just exercises or training philosophy questions. If you’re given instructions to do something, asking clarification questions will ensure that you get the job done exactly how the coach wants it done. Again, use your notebook. That way you won’t have to ask that question the second time around.

5. Communicate With and Befriend Your Fellow Interns

Like I stated before, the strength and conditioning is getting more and more competitive. You may even find yourself in a competitive internship environment where you’re competing for a position or the head coach’s approval. However, you’ll most like be spending 12-15 hours a day with the same people trying to make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. If you are not in constant communication with your intern class, all of your jobs will be much more difficult. Outside of just being together for the internship, having colleagues and friends inside the industry is a huge benefit. Some of my best friends now are the people I spent everyday with during our internship. Having people to talk shop with, bounce questions off of and speak the strength and conditioning language with will make your job a lot easier and more enjoyable in the long run. Stay competitive, but don’t be reluctant to make friends.

Being a strength and conditioning coach is one of the most gratifying professions out there, but it starts with internship work that is not be as rewarding. Remember that your work as an intern is a privilege and an opportunity to learn. If you respect the process and are continually willing to help, others will be willing to help you. Hopefully you’ve found this advice helpful as you prepare yourself for your future.

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