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Carving Out Your Place in History

Don Pump
Dec 5, 2017

One of the greatest things about the field of strength and conditioning is our ability to communicate with each other and share our experience to better future coaches and athletes.

This field is changing so much. With what seems like an overabundant, oversaturated fitness industry and an ever-increasing rate of college graduates, we still have a shortage of qualified strength and conditioning coaches employed throughout the country.

The growing demand for qualified professionals has been evident in the recent deaths of student athletes throughout the country. It is the responsibility of both the administrative and coaching departments to cover each other and set a course for successful athletic development of student athletes. In many situations education administrators don't necessarily know what is available to them.

I feel that we can do more to help educate the administrators united in an effort to develop the strength and conditioning within the high school community.

My experiences have spanned 20 years in a multitude of subspecialties within the field of Kinesiology. Most notable, and my most recent, is my involvement in human and sport performance.  As the state director for the National Association of Speed and Explosion and a member of the NSCA Hawaii state board of advisors I have slowly positioned myself to develop the relationships necessary to gain acceptance into the highly rewarding world of high school strength and conditioning.

I would like to take some time to share my experiences with you. The challenges have been enormous and I can honestly say it has always been more about relationships with people than any other element.

Hawaii, like most states, has a very unique culture academically, socially, and athletically.  Hawaii consistently produces some of the most highly qualified athletes in professional sports. Unfortunately, most high school programs lack a structured strength and conditioning program. Moreover, coaches tasked with the management of such an endeavor are sport coaches assigned to the weight room operations in a collateral supervisory capacity. Don't get me wrong, there are pockets of reputable programs; however the majority have grown accustomed to a more old-school approach to training. Not right or wrong, simply different.

Not unlike many states I felt there was a need to be better. After a number of years in the private sector I grew increasingly frustrated with the nuances of managing a business vice managing, leading, and coaching athletes.

Here is where some of the challenges came into play. There are simply a finite amount of strength and conditioning coaching positions. Not to mention, almost none of them are paid.

This is where a decision had to be made. Under the guidance of some of the best coaches in the world, most notable in my mind Gary Schofield, I decided to "press the I believe button" and reject any reservations and go all in. I walked into the athletic director’s office, without an appointment mind you, and introduced myself. I told him what I do and pitched him a synopsis of what is possible.

He agreed there was value. The process only then began as it took months to even step into the weight room, then maintain somewhere in the 30-hours-a-week area of volunteer time. All of which was developing quality materials and processes necessary to prove what needed to happen in order to elevate the program. All the while demonstrating that I was the one that could help develop the way forward.

It was at this point that I had created just enough “buy in” make an impression on key decision makers within the organization to offer me an opportunity to teach two recently vacated Kinesiology courses.

The process culminated with an assignment to a faculty position. I believe the interdisciplinary nature of sport science lends to the importance of a multidimensional application within sport performance at the high school level. I predict in the future we will have eliminated the line between the scientist and the coach. I truly believe in the phrase "think like a scientist, speak like a coach", especially at the high school level where it is imperative to get down to the athletes’ level while maintaining those open lines of communication with administrators, who, let’s face it, really appreciate the statistical analysis produced in the scientific literature.

Ultimately, I hope to share my experiences and offer one huge takeaway. Simply trust that when you follow the dream and not the money you will find the success you seek. Believe in the experiences of others and learn from the wisdom of those who have paved the way before you. Had I never met Coach Schofield at an NSCA event I may never had chosen such a path. Thank you to the selfless coaches in this industry who do what they do every day to educate, equip and empower coaches and athletes in this great.

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