Keeping up to date with all the latest information and developments in the strength and conditioning field is now easier because of the instant information that is available via the Internet. There are many quality websites accessible to anyone with internet access. The information available via the National Strength and Conditioning Association Web site is expansive, providing valuable peer-reviewed material for nutrition, strength and power training, speed, agility, conditioning and training philosophies. YouTube is also a really good source of visual instruction; once you get past all the “self-promotional” videos, there are some well-produced and informative productions.
Despite all the technological advances that have provided us access to instant information, I believe that the most effective way to advance your knowledge and ability as a coach and educator is to visit and observe other programs and to communicate with other practitioners. I was fortunate starting out many years ago to have very respectable coaches in established and successful programs open up their doors to me. I found that standing in the corner and observing was a very powerful learning opportunity. These same coaches also made themselves available via phone and Internet conversations and in most cases were very forthright with the sharing of their knowledge and philosophies. Today, when I find myself busy with the daily routine and grind, I remember the time and patience that other coaches gave to me when I am put in the position to reciprocate with younger professionals.
In some ways, I have come full circle with the exchanging of information with my peers. In the past, I relied on the more experienced senior coaches in the business. Now, I rely heavily on the former students who have passed through our program and are now established professionals, as well as our student and graduate assistant coaches. These motivated young coaches are very passionate, knowledgeable, and keen with the latest information and training philosophies; I am able to continue evolving as a coach because of them.
Another excellent way to stay on top of the always advancing information in our field is to attend conferences and seminars. The NSCA National and Sports Specific Conferences are excellent continuing education options. I usually alternate between the 2, or if finances permit, attend both. With many resources available at these gatherings, it is an excellent opportunity to stay current with novel scientific and practical knowledge and information.
To keep current with strength and conditioning practices, my number one method is talking with other strength coaches. I enjoy the benefit of asking questions and getting different perspectives. I also like bouncing ideas off of other coaches for their opinion on effectiveness, improvements, or other ways to implement an idea. I learn new/effective coaching techniques, cues and exercises by watching other coach's coach. Humbly observing has been invaluable in my career.
There is a great benefit to online blogs and strength and conditioning Web sites. The Internet provides numerous video demonstrations of different exercises. Blogs and Web sites connect me with coaches of whom I have heard but never met, and can provide knowledge of their philosophy and training ideas.
I have also greatly benefited from reading research. The credibility in a strength training program comes from research-based benefits with data to back up your program; this applies to nutrition concepts as well. It is my opinion that a well-rounded athletic performance program incorporates flexibility, mobility, strength training/conditioning, recovery and nutrition; with all of those components applied because of the benefits shown through research. It is my way of ensuring the program design for each team is valid and safe.
There are many ways to stay current with strength and conditioning practices. Some of the most effective ways that I have found include the following.
SELF-SCOUTING AND EVALUATION
Throughout the year and at the end of every training phase, gather the strength and conditioning staff to examine your program. Examine and grade every aspect of the program in terms of its effectiveness in meeting goals and objectives. This process may be as simple as determining what worked, what did not work and why it did or did not. Attaining established goals; performance testing results; and feedback from strength and conditioning staff, sport coaches, and student athletes all give insight to your program. Failure to meet goals or poor testing results may give the strength and conditioning coach areas to research and consider alternative training strategies. This allows you to begin building a better program for the next year.
USE OF PEER COACHES
One of my favorite ways to stay current with training issues and practices is to reach out and communicate with other coaches. Strength and conditioning coaches should have or build a group of coaches they talk to about a variety of subjects. This group can act as a great sounding board for training issues and strategies. These peer coaches may provide valuable insight to issues common to your program. However, coaches should be seeking out new members to add to these circles of influence. If you read or see material that raises a coaching question, you should contact that author or presenter. Subsequently, authors who publish or present information should be willing to take a few minutes to respond to those legitimate inquiries.
OBSERVATIONS AND VISITATIONS
Visiting strength and conditioning staff can be a very effective way to stay current with training trends and practices. If there are schools or staffs that interest you, contact the head strength and conditioning coach and inquire about any opportunities to visit. Be sure to inquire a couple of months before your proposed visit. If you are able to establish a time to visit, there are ways to make your visit more effective. Let the staff know what areas of the program you would like to observe. This may save the host staff time by letting them prepare a few things before your arrival. You should also find out their rules and policies to the visitors and respect their requests. This might include wearing your school logos to their facility and taking notes and pictures during your observation. Finally, try to set a time for a possible roundtable with some of the staff to discuss any questions that you may have. There will be things you see that might spark questions and want to discuss in depth.
SPEAKING AND PRESENTING
Volunteer at clinics to speak and present. Speaking or presenting forces strength and conditioning coaches to become experts on a specific topic. Besides talking about your current knowledge base, further research into a topic will help broaden your knowledge and perhaps change certain aspects of your own strength and conditioning program. Presenting also allows you to meet other strength and conditioning coaches who may become part of your peer group.