Start Trial
Schedule Demo
14-Day Free Trial

Roadmap to Becoming a High School Strength Coach

Thomas Dellota
Feb 16, 2024

About 5 years ago, I was able to land my dream job of becoming the head strength and conditioning coach at the high school where I’ve always wanted to work.  However, that was after 10 years of teaching and gaining little experience from my post-bachelor’s degree life.

Now that I have a total of 14 years in the teaching game and 15-20 years in the strength and conditioning world, I have been blessed to be in a position to help out future strength coaches.  Below are the 5 pieces of common advice that I’m consistently giving out.

1. Get certified.  

I have my NSCA-CSCS, which is considered the gold standard in strength and conditioning. You should do your due diligence and see what’s right for you. Having a certification, allows one to train groups, whether in a school setting or not. This is a good chance to get real-life reps working with athletes, create programming, and most importantly, see if this is a field that resonates with you. Recently, the NHSSCA (National High School Strength Coach Association) has put out a certification geared for coaches or support staff in High School weight room settings. It is a great option for PE teachers who want to deepen their knowledge and bolster their credentials.  
2. Volunteer.

I originally graduated with an exercise science degree, like many of those pursuing a strength coach career post-undergrad.  It was after working with High School-aged kids in an outpatient rehab setting, that I realized that I worked well with this population and this was a field worth pursuing. I think can speak for most strength coaches, we are always open to welcoming rock star volunteers.  With the large groups that we see, it’s always nice to divide up groups and give more individualized coaching. Volunteering is also a great way to get your foot in the door, I’ve hired many previous volunteers in some capacity to work with me in the weight room. In the high school setting, it is critical that you can connect to the kids and volunteering is a great way to find that out.  

3.  Get your teaching certificate.

Unfortunately, it took the better part of a decade for me to figure out my path. With your teacher’s certification, you can be hired on as part of the teaching staff and not as support staff.  Essentially, this gives the school district much more leeway and flexibility to employ you and justify your position. There are a few options for you here:

Immediately pursue education in your undergrad and graduate with a bachelor’s - this is the fastest and cheapest. If you already have a bachelor’s degree there are two ways you can operate. You can look at nearby universities to see if they have teacher certification programs. This is the route I took, I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology first, and THEN I concluded that it would be best if I went BACK to school and earned my teacher’s certificate (essentially, a second bachelor’s).

Another option that I recommend to many up-and-coming strength coaches is to look at a Masters of Education program that will certify and endorse you in PE. This way you can work towards your Master’s degree and obtain your teacher’s license simultaneously. If you have the means financially, this is the most efficient way to get your teaching certificate. Additionally, a Master’s degree in our state will typically lead to a higher starting salary.

Having my teacher certification AND CSCS put me at the top of the candidacy list since it’s currently rather rare at the educational level to carry both.  Separate yourself from the pack!!

4. Network. 

You need to find and get involved in the strength community if this is something you want.  Reach out to local high schools: ask to shadow, volunteer, and pick their brains about programming.  Go to clinics and conventions. This is also a great opportunity to soak in information and meet other like-minded individuals. I was lucky enough to stumble across the NHSSCA.  This organization has been instrumental in helping me learn, grow, and evolve as a strength coach. I truly don’t know if I would be in this position without being a member of this organization. I’ve made some great friends and trusted advisors from all the clinics and conferences I’ve attended.

5. Immerse yourself.  

Soak up as much knowledge as possible in the S&C field. Follow your favorite strength coaches and/or programs on social media. Listen to podcasts, there are several that focus strictly on high school strength.  You can also look for your favorite coaches and see what podcasts they may have appeared on. I have a long commute to work, so I’ll spend this time bettering myself. I’m also big on audiobooks that deal with motivation and self-improvement. The more stories you hear and the more familiar you are with the high school strength world, the fewer surprises you’ll see once you’re officially in the setting.  

6.  Put in your time.  

More often than not, you’ll have to be patient when landing an ideal role. Before I was an official strength coach, I taught 5 years in an underfunded charter school. Think: Cafeteria which served as a gymnasium and traveling to nearby parks to conduct traditional PE units. My next stop was another school in the Chicago Public School system. This time larger, however still underfunded. I began with teaching 5 classes of freshmen then moved on to teaching Driver’s ed for a few years. However, it was there that I started offering my expertise to the football team. I proved my worth and that led my PE chair to assign me strength classes.  

The road wasn’t an easy one, but it was certainly worth it.  I feel that my previous experiences have contributed to the coach I am today and I would not change a thing.

learn from the best cta


Subscribe by Email

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think