Last week I briefly recounted what I considered highlights of the recently concluded NSCA National Conference. In this piece I’d like to proceed forward with a perspective that I was developing before attending the conference and in response to the input I’d been getting over the past few years from a number of interns and my own impressions regarding the sphere of strength and conditioning.
Sometimes the leadership of an organization can be too close to their own perspective and not fully aware of the way in which their goals and momentum are perceived.
A Short Historical Perspective
Many of the founding organizers of the NSCA were sport scientists and as such seized upon the opportunity to provide fact-based rationale for the validity of coherent strength and conditioning. This resulted in a great deal of valid information being published and released. And so it continues to this day.
What has been overlooked is that lots of people don’t care about the peer review process. You can have all the well documented supportive evidence there is and many people are just going to continue to believe and partake of whatever they want to believe.
No matter how many pieces of well documented research verified the value and safety of full squats, many people continued forth with the belief that squatting below parallel is dangerous. Same thing with snatches and cleans & jerks.
So in spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence available that properly implemented strength and conditioning can effectively improve athletic performance, not nearly enough of the right people understand the difference between proper and improper strength and conditioning, and how it can affect the won-loss record.
People Who Don’t Know
While most of the thoughtful strength and conditioning coaches have a pretty good idea of how their practice can make a difference in athletic performance there is a pretty good population of people who do not. They include:
Athletic Directors: Both high school and university A.D.’s largely understand that a good athletic program has a strength and conditioning component. They’re not always sure what it’s supposed to be doing, but they know that they don’t look competitive if they don’t have one. If they did realize the true value, they would allocate more funding and make it possible for it to be even more effective.
Sport Coaches: If a strength and conditioning program produces great results, oftentimes the sport coaches think that it is something that was done through their own program that made the difference. They’re not tracking fourth quarter victories, 3-point percentages, injury rates, effective bench play and other parameters that are indicative of a good S & C program. The time has passed when talent recruitment, skill development, player deployment and strategic planning are the only areas in which coaching must excel.
Parents: Plenty of parents have heard about the importance of S & C, but most have no idea of how to identify an able practitioner. Most can’t separate one from a personal trainer. They just know that both S & C coaches and PT’s hang out in gyms and show people how to train. To the benefit of some unscrupulous PT’s, they have been able to market themselves as S & C coaches and are doing quite well.
Athletes: Most athletes know they have to put in some weight room time, but are about as clueless as parents when it comes to picking the best mentor.
I feel that the NSCA needs to realize that they really can’t do anymore than what they have done to justify the validity of Strength and Conditioning, but they can do a great deal more to sell the concepts to the consumers.
There are two marketing approaches necessary. One is to the A.D.’s, Sport Coaches and gym owners who are really the retailers. One way to lift the tide for all concerned is to educate these three groups so they develop some enthusiasm selling our product to the consumers, athletes and parents. This group is not really phased by science reports. They need to be the target of marketing that will convince them that an athletic program without good strength and conditioning and all other factors being equal, is much less likely to be competitive.
The second approach is to the athletes and their parents. They need to be educated as to the benefits of sound training so that they can achieve their dreams or at least make significant steps toward attaining them. I know of a number of athletes who have gone from high school to college only to experience a downgrade in strength and conditioning. Such a situation can turn off athletes from engaging in proper training.
The NSCA needs to set sail on a mission of evangelical fervor if the practice of strength and conditioning is to become all that it can be and should be!