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Improving Communication and Developing Awareness – From Student to Coach

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My history in the fitness and strength and conditioning industry is rife with education and internships:

  • Undergraduate degree in Kinesiology
  • Over 1500+ hours of internship time with 4 various private facilities
  • Several continuing education courses from various organizations
  • Multiple speaking engagements; both in-person and online

With this time, I have personally seen over 30-40 interns come and go with respect to the internship process while working full time as a strength coach for a handful of private facilities.

While the question has evolved over time, my professional philosophy has largely remained the same:

What does it take to get to the next level of [sports] performance?

This question has taken me quite literally all over the nation, and it has been fun and interesting to meet with a large group of individuals who seem to be swept up under a similar personal question.

Further, by identifying the components of this question, I have begun to understand how several different models may be utilized in order to attain that “next level” of performance. I have currently found myself to be employed by Cressey Sports Performance, where I’m happily creating several outlets for this high performance model.

Every fresh crop of interns I encounter, either here at CSP or from previous positions, involves two questions:

  1. What do you want to do after the [Cressey Sports Performance] internship?
  2. What is your intention on being here during your internship?

The above questions aren’t meant to be antagonistic, as they can come across as such if asked out of context. My purpose is not to engage in a zero-sum competition; it is to engage in a genuine conversation to see where the individuals state of mind is with respect to professional work, educational goals, and/or personal obstacles that may be impeding them from achieving these goals.

The context that the answers to these questions provide involves knowing what motivates individuals who come through our internship process. The faster I can get caught up to speed with what your (the incumbent intern class) intentions are, the more value I will be able to provide based on your answer. If you want to know where the best beers are in Boston, we can talk about that. If you want to know what the assessment process involves, then we can go down that route, for sure.

Not many places better than this.

Not many places better than this.

Further, my intentions for identifying the answers to these questions involve understanding how I can utilize key individuals for improving the high performance training process that we deliver here at CSP.

If I can provide some guidance towards your answers as quickly as possible, I hope to achieve these items:

  1. I genuinely enjoy helping others.
  2. Scratch your back by providing value, so you in turn will scratch our backs by working.

If people can recognize my altruistic nature, I hope to impart the fact that I am merely here for our athletes and clients.

If others live with item number 2’s motto, then I hope to provide value in understanding that they will also provide value for our staff down the line (by working within our model).

Improving the Learning Process

There are several ways that we as a staff can provide value for any given internship class:

  1. Weekly educational in-services
  2. Observational opportunities for various models with respect to fitness, strength and conditioning, and rehabilitation modalities.
  3. Constant and consistent interaction with staff who deal with various types of populations
  4. Access to library of various types of information with respect to the above items.
  5. A training environment that is often imitated, but rarely duplicated.

Why is Miguel spotting Tony doing a bowler squat? I honestly have no idea. #gregphotobomb #CSPfamily

A photo posted by Cressey Sports Performance (@cresseysportsperformance) on

I make my best attempts at asking each intern quite literally on their first day during their internship, “What do you want to learn?”

Now not everyone is super aggressive with the learning process, but when this question is thrown at certain individuals, I can quickly identify if these individuals are up for a specific type of logically oriented learning. If these individuals don’t respond in earnest, there is no harm. Not everyone is up for a rapid learning process right out of the gates.

If the intern responds with (xyz) topics, I know how to better direct them in terms of ideologies, philosophies, and how to best communicate thought processes.

Analogously, if I went to CSP as a high school or collegiate athlete to learn how to get stronger to help me on the field, but all that was communicated to me was the best practice for stretching, I would feel underserved.

Essentially, there is a lot of value that can be extracted from a high performance oriented internship such as this one.

Subjectively, there are a few ways that I can categorize the types of individuals that come through our internship process, along with other private facilities that I have worked at before as well.

If someone comes into an internship process to “hang out”, the staff is relatively quick to realize this. After seeing close to 100+ interns total, and interacting with them all, I’m of the belief that reading people quickly is something of a sixth sense that all of our staff has (but no one will admit it).

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing inherently incorrect with hanging out.

In fact, Pete has written about how creating an environment for hanging out has created a “third place” for our athletes to flourish and improve the clubhouse feel.

However, when there is only between 3 to 4 or 5 months of a learning and training environment that you won’t get anywhere else, I’d rather take that time to commit 1000% to absorbing everything around me. There is no time to hang out when taking things at that pace!

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

The next aspect can be described from this info graphic.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

With a fixed mindset, there are limitations towards what can be achieved, learned, and applied. This mindset can create issues for individuals who see obstacles with every scenario presented to them.

With a growth mindset, there are endless opportunities for learning, and if you have this mindset, you are often excited by the thought of being presented with obstacles (because it will keep you on your toes to create new solutions).

Creating Self-Awareness

At the end of the day, I find many interns come through the internship process with the intentions of becoming more self aware of who they are within the craziness that is known as the fitness (or S&C) industry. I wouldn’t mind personally taking a hand in that process for every individual, but if I can direct them to another more authoritative individual who can handle their modus operandi, I’d be more than happy to do so.

My Personal Expectations

My intentions for coming to Cressey Sports Performance has always been to improve and enhance the already high performance training model. If I can surround myself with coaches and other like-minded with a growth mindset, I’m of the belief that we as a collective can improve all of our athletes performance and fitness oriented goals to the next level.

The obstacles that I may encounter will come along with knowing that some individuals are merely there to “hang out”. I often joke to Pete Dupuis, the vice-president and business director at Cressey Sports Performance, that all of the coaches here right now (and many of the past interns as well) are a part of the #CSPMafia, akin to the PayPal mafia that housed Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and other investors who have gone on to create some wonderful contributions to the world.

The beginnings of the "CSP Mafia"

The beginnings of the “CSP Mafia”

If someone is there to “hang out” instead of quite literally bringing the heat from a coaching and high performance training perspective, I’m not convinced these individuals will be able to handle the logical thought processes that are necessary for improving on a daily level.

A Sampling of Day to Day Activity/Responsibilities

While the first face that is in contact with our athletes and clients is our front desk manager, our second point of contact are our coaches (and thus, our interns), which also takes up a majority of the somewhat more personal conversation for day to day activities.

Within the category of regulatory feedback, I (along with our other coaches) often find myself asking our athletes similar questions day to day to gauge feedback on their activities outside the gym.

If an individual has a week full of games from the summer league they are playing in, the person that they will communicate this with involves our coaches/interns, and this information should be handled delicately.

This is where the time for asking subjective feedback of exertion levels, quantitative information such as sleep levels, and other similar minded items take place.

While the inherent knowledge of our interns can vary from education level, to intentions for working, etc., there are two not-so-obvious items that should be explicitly expressed:

  1. Know how to coach the exercises that are under the philosophy of Cressey Sports Performance.
  2. Know how to ask relatively important questions with respect to the 23/1 rule (1 hour of in-person contact is often overruled by the other 23 hours in the day).

Often times a simple, “Switch the legs that you are using for that exercise,” and “How was your weekend?” in rapid fire succession will be enough to elicit both of these items in a quick enough fashion.

If our interns can communicate item number 1 to our athletes and clients regularly, and item number 2 to our full time staff, it makes everyone’s jobs that much easier.

Now, not only do you need to work hard, be relatively engaging on a daily basis, but you also need to understand what it means to work as a team, which is even more imperative if you intend on completing an internship at CSP.

If, as a coach, you are having issues with having awareness for why you are working in a high performance model such as the one found at CSP, let’s begin at that foundational level before evolving to the next questions of what to learn next, and what to do next in your professional career.

The bar has been metaphorically raised.

As always,

Keep it funky.

MAsymbollogo

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  • Matt Reinig

    This post helped me reflect on why I went ahead and applied for the Healthy Lifestyles Counselor position at YMCA, which essentially means Personal Trainer: 1) it is an organization that serves the underserved community and 2) I have the chance to educate these people with the knowledge I’ve gathered the last 2 years. I’ve enjoyed the 2 months of employment so far… And recently, I’ve feel like I am not stimulated enough or challenged by people who know more than me.

    My intention there was to connect with a community that is underserved and in turn, grow professional and personally through training them. But now, it’s become more of a self-reliant sort of workplace, instead of one where I am surrounded by like-minded and elevated-minded individuals who strive to learn more and be more than just what they were yesterday.

    Which, of course, is why I am currently outsourcing to fitness blogs like yours (which I came across from Eric Cressey’s Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read) and participating in discussions to fulfill that need for stimulation.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post! Enjoyable read and I love the infographic on fixed vs. growth mindset! Fear of criticism, I sense for most people, is a major barrier for growth, but if we reframe it as a catalyst for growth, for improvement, for LETTING GO OF PAST BELIEFS AND ACCEPTING NEW ONES, then surely, we will expand above and beyond!