Internships – especially the unpaid ones – can sound like a drag or a waste of time, but in my experience they are extremely valuable. It’s an opportunity to gain a ton of knowledge and exposure in the field, and it gives you an advantage when diving into your career.
Part of my studies required interning at a high performance facility. The hands-on experience taught me a great deal about strength and conditioning. At first, a lot of time was spent shadowing, observing, and cleaning (but this is all part of learning). Shortly after completing my internship, I was fortunate enough to be hired as an assistant strength coach! Hard work pays off!
Here are 10 things I learned from my internship (not in any order) and that an internship can teach you too:
1. Build a good work ethic. Establishing a good work ethic allows you to emphasize on quality, discipline, and a sense of responsibility which can help improve your overall performance when training a client. Take the extra time and initiative to perfect your craft (don’t rush!) because this builds good habits in the long run.
2. Communication is key. When communicating verbally, it is important to be clear and concise so that your clients can learn and understand. Also, non-verbal communication is important because your tone and non-verbal behaviour can have an emotional impact on the client you are training.
3. Small details matter. Put effort into small details – everything from taking initiative to showing up fifteen minutes before your session, and taking the time to talk to your client to know what is going on in their daily lives. When the client is happy, motivated, and comfortable, it makes it easier to set a successful and positive environment.
4. Assessment is important. A good assessment is the foundation to a solid program. It can help identify a client’s weaknesses that need improvement in order to achieve the first step towards his or her goal.
5. Use simple cues. Back to communication, keep cues simple! Do not give out too many cues to a client. Instead, give the client self-regulation (the chance to figure it out themselves) and understand that their technique might not be perfect in the beginning. Use the whole-part-whole method by demonstrating the full movement, then breaking it into series, and demonstrating the full movement again. Also, it is helpful to give one or two cues prior, during, after the movement. Simplifying your cues (it may take some practice) will make you a better coach!
6. Ask a lot of questions. At an internship, you are surrounded by strength coaches who have experience under their belt. Even if you disagree with some of their methodology, it is still a good learning experience. The more methods you know and understand, the better you can build your own training philosophy.
7. Appreciate all the coaching you receive. The coaching and advice you receive from your mentor or strength coach shows that they care about you and want to help you master your skills. They’ve already been in your position and can give you an edge to becoming a successful strength coach.
8. Remember names. It is tough to remember names when you have many athletes or clients training at your facility. However, remembering their names creates a personal relationship between you and the client which makes them feel welcomed and part of the team.
9. Be prepared. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! Really! When you are organized and ready, you become more efficient at doing your job and it decreases the chances of you forgetting stuff. Most importantly, it shows professionalism.
10. Love your job. By far, an internship is the best way to get a feel for potentially the career of your dreams! Remember to do what you love. For myself, I knew right at the beginning of my internship that being strength coach was for me (who doesn’t want to go to work in gym shorts?!).