Start Trial
Schedule Demo
14-Day Free Trial

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming TSAC: Part 1

Kosta Telegadas
May 19, 2022

I spent years thinking that I wanted to be a college strength and conditioning (S&C) coach. However, after finishing up my graduate assistant position, I realized there were some areas that really frustrated me within the realm of athletics. Personally, I was uneasy with the fact that a head coach could have final say on my program and held my professional future in their hands. Secondly, as we all know, the hours can be brutal without proper finical compensation. I found that the “old school” S&C coaches took pride in making little to no money while working 70-90 hours a week. Unfortunately, this can lead to coaches getting frustrated and taking it out on interns, GA’s, Assistants and more. I met several coaches at my first NSCA conference while I was in graduate school who told me to go to the tactical side as soon as I could. They all felt like the work that they did was significantly more appreciated, had a good ethical/moral standard and the finical compensation/work life balance was better. Currently, I love my job within the tactical strength and conditioning (TSAC) community, however there are lessons I wished I had learned prior to beginning a TSAC Job.

Sales Training For People Who Hate Sales

Lesson 1: Culture is Different in Every Area

In most S&C environments, the coach must be able to adapt quickly and be a “social chameleon” so to say. However, this is heightened to the next level within the tactical setting and can be exhausting if not managed correctly. The key is to build trust on every front and understand any subcultures at play. I would highly advise any young coaches to get to know the “lingo” within the population you work with. The population you coach could be much older than you as well so embracing the culture that the older personnel has set can be a big win early on for any young TSAC coach.

Another big thing to consider is that as a coach you are relatively new in the past 20 years within the span of the tactical community. Military, police, fire, SWAT have all been performing their jobs for generations without the help of a S&C coach. So, with that being the case, why do they need you? Make sure to find ways to stand out in a positive manner and augment the mission at hand. Most of these communities are very tight knit brotherhoods that go beyond their building’s doors. Understand who you are talking to, the chain of command, and how you can assist them in the long run while building up a program to reduce the likelihood of injury and increase overall job performance. Lastly, you as a coach, are an outsider and every day is a test early on. Take time to go through the paces, introduce yourself, and remember key things about all personnel within the community.

Lesson 2: Sales Skills are Key

In a good amount of TSAC jobs, the program is not mandatory. This can cause a ton of changes in programming, organization, and funding for the coach. On top of that, biggest variable the we face as TSAC coaches is the operational tempo changing. This could hinder the tactical athlete from getting the needed training. In my current role, I have had athletes come in after hours, before I get to the facility, and even when I am away in meetings. Sales skills is what helped drive this culture change for our program. However, the first thing I had to ask myself was, “How do I fit into the unit and help them do the job at hand better?”

The major issue at hand in my role was the operation tempo combined with the training schedule. This is a real example of a common schedule our staff still sees below:

  1. Week 1 – 5 days a week available to train
  2. Week 2 – 2 days a week available to train
  3. Week 3 – 3 days a week available to train
  4. Week 4 – 5 days a week available to train

After a month of running 5 day a week programs, we sat down to re-access program weaknesses. With operations tempo at the top, we found a solution. Our staff created a 5 day per week program then took the most important parts of each training day and combined them into a 3 and 2 day a week a day program per week based off the 5 day a week program. Each training cycle our staff assess which supersets, EMOMs, AMRAPs, Giant sets and conditioning blocks need to take priority and are selected carefully given the needs of athletes.

Lesson 3: Always In-Season

One thing that is a common misconception within the tactical community is the fact that they are always “in-season”. There is no traditional early, middle, and late off-season training at hand. So, make sure to check several factors. The factors are listed below:

  1. Overall Stress – The hours worked can really take a toll on certain athletes in the tactical setting. Some may go as long as working 24-36 hours with little to no sleep. Make sure to utilize questionnaires if time permits. However, if time does not allow for that to be done, see how your athletes are during the warm up. If they are a chatting and laughing a bunch, chances are they are good to training somewhat hard. If the athletes are silent, have sagging eye lids and look exhausted, be ready to modify the workout. I highly recommend rep ranges or intensity range such as the ones listed below:
    1. Intensity range – 7-8 RPE or 70-80% 1RM (training or true max)
    2. Volume range – 5-8 reps leave 1-2 “in the tank”
      1. These help account for uncontrollable factors such as fatigue accumulated on the job, schedule changes, etc.
    3. Intensity – In the college setting I loved percentages and autoregulation. However, once I really got into the tactical side of programming, I realized that may only be beneficial for certain individuals. Utilizing an RPE scale of 1-10 might be a better option. Traditionally, once the athlete is educated on what a 7-10 RPE feels like, the results come easier. Take time to push education while obtaining buy in. This will add more credibility to your name and help autoregulate stress accumulated in the weight room.

      Note: Having signs up around the weight room detailing this is a great way to help the athletes understand if the facility is accessible for 24 hours as well.

    4. Rehab/Prehab – The primary goal of majority of TSAC programs is and should be reducing the likelihood of injury wherever possible. For the tactical communities I have worked with I prefer to add in prehab work for the shoulders and hips to prevent common injuries seen in their specific population. Some examples are below:
      1. Upper body pressing prehab:
        1. Cable Face Pulls 2x20
        2. Crossover Symmetry Band I,Y,T’s 2x12 each
          1. The overall goal is increase upper back activation and stability so the athlete can push heavier loads without compensation and decrease overall stress on the anterior side of the shoulders
      2. Lower Body squatting prehab:
        1. Lateral monster walks 1x50 ft each
        2. Forward/Backward monster walks 1x50ft each way
          1. Unfortunately, modern day life style shortens the hip flexors and lengthens the glutes. This results in the glute now firing incorrectly and increase the low back activation within the squatting pattern. To reverse this effect, the glutes need to be firing properly before we load the back with a barbell.
      3. Lower Body Deadlifting prehab:
        1. Single leg glute bridge 1x20 each
        2. 3-way plank 1x30 sec each
          1. Similar to issues that come with squatting, the firing pattern can be thrown off from modern day lifestyle. Since the deadlift involves heavier posterior chain extension, it is best to restore the firing patterns via single leg glute bridges. To assist in decreasing the likelihood of back injuries as well, the core must be fired up primarily in the rectus abdominus and internal/external obliques. The 3-way plank is one of many variations that is time friendly and still fires up the core prior to a heavy deadlift or hinge-based pattern.
        3. Olympic lifting prehab
          1. 4-part squat 2x5
          2. Split Squat Isohold 2x10 sec each
            1. Hip mobility and isometrics for tendon health are crucial to decreasing the likelihood of injury in Olympic lifts. The 4-part squats open the hips while opening up the shoulders from a deep squat position. To increase tendon health the isometric split squats can prime the muscles for force absorption and deceleration needed in the “catch” phase of the lift.

Lesson 4: Make Variation Make Sense

In the collegiate setting, we rotate exercises every 2-4 weeks while programming. This way the athlete obtains a good training stimulus in a controlled setting and can build up a tenure and movement competency. There will be a decent amount of this in the tactical setting, however, I have been put in situations that required daily and weekly variations to be used. While I do not like doing this, it is a great way to establish buy in while still getting results early on in the programs development. Another positive byproduct of utilizing high amounts of variation is an increase in movement understanding and literacy. However, the key is making sure the progression makes sense in conjunction with the volume & intensity.

Examples of this are below:

Horizontal Pressing Variations, Stimulus: Hypertrophy






Weighted Push Ups

3 x Max Reps

Add load as needed


Incline DB Bench Press

3 x 8 (6 sec eccentric)

Add load as needed


Barbell Bench Press

3 x 8

RPE 7-8


Single Arm Neutral Grip Decline Bench Press

3 x 6 each

RPE 7-8


Lower Body Pressing Variations, Stimulus: Strength






Goblet Squat

3 x 10-12

Ad load as needed, Heavy KB


Belt Squat

4 x 6 - 8

RPE 7-8


Back Squat

5 x 4

RPE 7-8


Walking Lunges

3 x 50

No missed reps


The outcome of increasing the specific adaptation needed is what we are trying to do as coaches. This does not mean we solely squat, bench, and deadlift to increase strength or build numbers up. Getting creative with the programming can be beneficial, however I recommend coaches watch out for DOMS and fatigue building up rapidly due to new variations constantly being used and little specificity being used. Make sure to undulate intensity week to week (and if needed day to day) to assist in counteracting this measure.

Lesson 5: Be Flexible

Whether it is starting up a TSAC program or entering an established one, you will always have to be flexible as a coach. Injuries come up out of nowhere, operational tempo changes, budgets go up and down, etc. You will have to adapt quickly and how you handle some of those scenarios you are put in is how you will be judged amongst the tactical population. If you are the new coach in the door, establish trustworthiness from day one. This could be as simple as giving a concise introduction that hits all the major points or even going out of your way to do something simple that you are not required to do in your daily responsibilities.

 A great example of this was in our last budgeting cycle. We had put in for some specific equipment for our facility and needed to make some cuts fast due to certain funding not being given. Luckily ahead of time our staff had marked down our needs verses our wants in a color-coded fashion within the budget sheet so we were still able to operate as the program expanded. We were quickly able to give a revised budget sheet to our supervisor with little to no interruption on our hectic day.

In conclusion, becoming a TSAC coach was easily the best decision I have ever made in my career. It has led to some of the most meaningful work, incredible connections, and international impact being made where I am at currently. I highly encourage any younger coaches to reach out to me to expand upon these lessons in further detail to improve your chances of success if/when they start up programs. I will be writing a follow up article to this where I will discuss even more lessons that I wish I would have known. The lessons for part II are listed below:

Part II Lessons:

  • People first programs second
  • Be open to being criticized like you are one of them
  • Both qualitative data and quantitative data matter
  • Networking can be tricky in tactical, build an excel sheet
  • Never break or change tradition

New call-to-action

Subscribe by Email

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think