Strength & Conditioning on the Olympic Side – A Perspective
My good friends over at BIG BOE STRENGTH have started a great series designed to help young strength coaches navigate the profession. The series looks at the differences in settings and they have had strength coaches write about their perspectives. I recently wrote about my perspective as a Strength Coach working in the Olympic Sports sector. I’m going to share my post below, but I’d also like to link other posts in this series as well.
Each of these posts provide a great deal of insight into the profession and are truly great resources for anyone looking to get started or learn more. Please take the time to check out each of them and give the guys over at BIG BOE STRENGTH some love.
Strength and Conditioning on the Olympic Side - A Perspective
I have had the privilege of working as a Strength and Conditioning Coach since 2011. Most of that time has been spent at smaller Division I schools where I was lucky enough to work with Football and Olympic Sports simultaneously. I also have some experience at the Division II level as a Director of Sports Performance. These experiences have been extremely rewarding and eye-opening. I’m currently in a role on the Olympic Side only and I’ll discuss what my role looks like, the pro’s, the con’s, and some major differences from other roles I have been in.
First, let me start by explaining my current role and what a normal Olympic role may look like. I am directly responsible for the year-round strength and conditioning programs for 6 sports. Of those 6 sports I have a primary responsibility (Baseball) in which I travel and attend practices. I would say my set-up is pretty normal for this sector. Although there are certainly some schools (primarily power 5’s) where the number of sports is decreased and responsibilities for those sports are increased. There are some staff’s where a Strength Coach may only have 1 or 2 sports responsibilities, but may have travel and practice requirements as well.
There are a lot of positives to working as an Olympic Strength and Conditioning Coach. Job security has to be at the top of that list. Unlike many Power 5 football programs, you are not usually tied in with the Head Coach or Coaches you may be working with. Working with multiple sports also helps with your job security. If your primary sport responsibility coaching staff leaves the institution, you will likely be kept on because you’re working with other sports and sport coaches as well. Another major positive of working in the Olympic sector is variety. I’m the kind of person who enjoys variety within the day or week. Working multiple sports is great for achieving this. I also enjoy the process of programming and problem solving for athletes, and working multiple sports allows me more opportunities to “solve the puzzle”. I believe this is also a huge positive for younger strength and conditioning coaches. As a young coach you may not know the exact route you want to take, but by working in the Olympic sector you will be exposed to a variety of teams, coaches, administrators, and will have to program according to each of those unique situations. This could be great for a young coach as it can provide confidence in programming, problem solving, and working with other professionals. A young strength coach working in power 5 football might not have any programming responsibilities at all and will only work with a few coaches and administrators. These experiences are very different and could affect their chance of finding the next job.
Unfortunately, the perfect job doesn’t exist. There will always be some negatives to the position you’re in or the one you’re aiming for. A major negative of working in the Olympic sector is salary. Generally speaking, Olympic Strength and Conditioning coaches do not get paid as highly as their football counterparts. There are certainly positions that do pay as well, but generally they are harder to find, require a lot more experience, and usually have director or administration roles tied in to them. Another potential negative of an Olympic position would be workload. While working with multiple teams and coaches can be beneficial, it is ultimately more responsibility. This means more time doing small things like programming, setting up/breaking down weight room, cleaning, meetings, etc. This could also mean more time away from home. However, this isn’t always the case. My current position affords me great flexibility in my schedule which allows for more family time. Due to the volume of athletes that generally train in the Olympic sports programs, time in the weight room is limited and early morning lift times are very common. It is not uncommon to have a 5:30am start time and a 6:30pm end time on any given day.
Everything in Strength and Conditioning is a matter of preference and perspective. The right job or the best job is no different. I’m happy to sacrifice a little bit more of my time each day for job security in the long run. I’m also willing to sacrifice a little salary for the opportunity to spend more time with my family. These are the kinds of things I have learned through experience in the field, and things that I have made a priority in finding the right job for me at this point in my life. Once again, a positive for you could be a big negative for someone else. Doing your best to educate yourself on the field and gain experience in many sectors can go a long way into finding the best fit for yourself. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I hope I was able to give you some insight into a role in the Olympic Sports sector of Strength and Conditioning. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback.