Those are harsh words so when I was channel surfing last week and heard those words I stopped surfing and listened. One of the ESPN pundits, a former pro football player (so of course he must know everything about football and even more about strength training) was expounding on the recent failure and perceived deficiencies of a pro football team. He identified the fact that even though there had been three coaches in recent years for that team the only common denominator had been the strength coach, so he must be the source of the problem. He had somehow survived all three coaching regimes. I was struck with the irony of this. Maybe strength coaching has truly come of age when the “experts” are pointing fingers at the strength coach. I don’t think that is the case. In so many professional situations across sports the strength coach is window dressing. Get this, many NFL teams assign the strength coach as the “get back coach” on game day to keep the players away from the sideline so they won’t be penalized. I take affront at that, they don’t ask the trainer or the assistant line coach to do that.
Many teams do not require the players to workout with the strength coach. Across sports the players have their own trainers and therapists, either because they feel the team’s personnel are not competent or they prefer the personal attention. Now that this is out in the open I think it is something that must be addressed. I was fortunate to work in a situation in professional baseball where the program was mandatory and we endeavored to make it cutting edge in all aspects from performance, to prevention and therapy. I had the backing of ownership and management. I am not sure that today, with a couple of notable exceptions that this is the case. In 1998 with the US World Cup soccer team I had the opposite experience. At best I was the warm-up coach. I was given a maximum of 20 minutes a day to help prepare the players for success in one of the toughest tournaments in the world. We were terrible, eliminated in the first round, very unfit. Was it my fault, yes to a certain extent. I should have never taken the job with those restraints. In 2003 my successor was given up to an hour a day. The result the highest finish ever by a US team in the world cup and a very fit team. It was a component that was emphasized and supported by the staff.
I think that the strength coaches have themselves to blame for the current lack of support and respect. As I have said many times the label “strength coach” marrows the definition of the job and the perception of all those involved, that is one reason I have been pushing for the designation of athletic development coach. It implies a multi dimensional job that entails preparing the athlete for all the demands of the sport.