24 Sep Tales Of A Washed Up College Strength Coach – “The Reason”
By: Paul Oneid
I have worked at 4 levels of collegiate athletics – D1A, D1AA, D2 and CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport). I have been an intern, an assistant coach, an associate director and a head coach. Each level of sport and each level of seniority presented its own set of challenges and provided its own set of perks. Having been out of coaching for about a year and a half now, I have had time to reflect on a lot of things related to my former profession. I am going to use those reflections as the basis for this series of articles. In this first installment, I discuss the most important question you can ask on any subject, “why?”
Having worked at almost every level of collegiate sport in the US and Canada, and having spent time in many different facilities across the country, I can say that every school is unique. The administration, the culture, the tradition, the caliber of athlete, the funding, the sports offered, the staff, the physical environment etc. all varies depending on what school you are at and it can change from year to year. That being said, they are more similar than they are different. This similarity arises from the fact that every coaching environment has one common denominator – the kids. The kids you train are the reason we choose to pursue strength and conditioning as a profession. We become strength coaches because we want to use weight training and physical conditioning as a vehicle to impact the lives of young people in a positive way. Money (ha!), notoriety, excitement, free swag etc. will all come and go, but the only permanent is the way you changed the lives of the young people you worked with. The lessons they learn through hard work and sweat will stay with them for life.
Training athletes can be one of the most fulfilling careers in the world. You most likely won’t get rich. You will work an unreasonable amount of overtime, early mornings, late nights and weekends. You’ll get yelled at and blamed for things that are completely outside of your control. But, when you see the look on a kid’s face when he hits a PR, or makes the starting line-up, that is all the reward you need. When an athlete acknowledges your contribution to their success, none of the other stuff matters. All the hours of programming and coaches’ meetings, years of research, education and practice…all to see the smile on that young person’s face. While I was still playing football and about to have knee surgery, a mentor once told me, “when you are done with football, make sure that you gained from it more than it took from you.” As a coach, it is the exact opposite. You must be willing to give more than you are rewarded with. This is the reason so many coaches are divorced or single. The reason so many coaches do not have children. The reason why there are so few coaches who actually retire as collegiate strength coaches. They give themselves to the young athletes that they train.
The reason I left coaching is a personal one and perhaps I will share it in the future, but the only thing that makes me miss being a coach with all my heart is the relationships that I built with the young people I trained. To have a young man call me and tell me that he got drafted to play professional football because of my motivation, or a young woman tells me that she was able to pursue a career in her field because of the leadership skills that I taught her is the one of the most amazing feelings in the world. It is a feeling that I will never take for granted and it is a feeling that only the luckiest of coaches get to experience. It is the reason you become a strength coach.
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