What can parents do?
Well first, talk to people and try to find out if it’s possible that there is a qualified personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach in the area. Ask the athlete’s sport coach what are his or her thoughts on getting your child someone that can help develop them physically. Chances are the head coach won’t say, “I am completely against your kid working on getting stronger so they can swim faster”. But this is not to say you should go to your neighborhood YMCA and hire the first personal trainer you see. Training an athlete to improve performances and develop them to succeed takes experience, specialization, and a great deal of education. Once you find a list of names it’s time to do your homework. Here are some questions you need to ask:
1. What is your education background?
2. What are your currently held certifications?
3. What experience do you have working with athletes?
4.What kind of success did those athletes have?
5. What is your philosophy of training?
These questions really get the most bang for your buck when trying to find the right match.
Education is huge because chances are, if they have an education in the field they have spent a lot of time reading and working towards sitting in front of you now. Education isn’t everything, as there are many great strength coaches out there who are “self-made” because of their drive and ambition, but it’s less likely.
Currently held certifications tell you that the trainer has done the minimum required to be hired and is definitely at least qualified to have the conversation. NSCA, NASM, ACE, ACSM are the most popular certification you will see and at least show the fitness professional has gone through a testing process to prove an understanding.
Experience with athletes is now where you really find out if this person can help. Having an education and certifications is great gets you into the conversation, but in order to help your child develop into a better athlete they need to have previous experience actually dealing with an athlete. Not a Crossfit WOD athlete, not a tuesday night bowler, and not someone who casually exercises….I mean an athlete that needs to be able to run fast or they will be tackled, jump high or they will be blocked, throw harder or they will be hit, etc. There is nothing wrong with training the weekend warrior, but there is a very big difference in developing a program that literally makes a human being run a second faster and making a program to do more pull-ups by December. Experience with athletes ensures this person has had to make a program that actually makes someone better, which brings you to the next question. Finding out what kind of success this strength coach had in the past tells you a lot about them also. Lots of people get opportunities to work with athletes and after 2 months get fired for making a cookie cutter fluff program that didn’t cause improvements. Make sure you know what to look for and if this person was any good at doing it in the past.
Finally, finding out the training philosophy or even if the coach has one will let you see how passionate the strength coach is and what they hang their hat on. If his philosophy is “I make everyone big and strong” and your daughter is 13 years old wanting to be a collegiate soccer player, it’s probably best you stop the conversation there. Regardless, these questions give you a blueprint and some kind of idea whether who your speaking with can deliver on whatever promises he or she makes. If your son is a scrawny football player and your personal trainer is promising flexibility and “toning”, save your money for buying your son more chicken breasts at the grocery store.
Using these 5 questions, you should have a pretty good idea if you will be saying “that was money well spent” when hiring a strength and conditioning professional.