Becoming a strength and conditioning coach had been a dream of mine ever since I got hurt my freshman year in high school.
Like most new trainers, I wanted to figure out how to make myself resilient to injury and perform better in my sport (basketball). As time progressed, I got hurt again my sophomore year of college. I realized I had to call it quits.
This time, I was interning for world renown Joe DeFranco, and DeFranco’s Training Systems. Talk about an introductory period of getting acclimated to training athletes.
I was reading everything I could get my hands on. All the old school training books, Charlie Francis, Eric Cressey, Joe’s T-Nation articles, you name it.
Shortly after, Joe DeFranco moved down to Austin Texas to partner with Onnit. At this time, I completed another internship at Varsity House Gym (where I currently work).
This internship was much different. A lot more was required of me. I had the standard “gym intern” jobs such as mopping, cleaning, and organizing weights.
However, I was required to read, write, and take tests. I was required to present in front of the ENTIRE STAFF. I was required to take a CSCS. Most importantly, I was required to lead a few classes a week and be graded.
These were all significant leaps towards the career that I wanted.
When you ask most “mentors” in the industry, “how do I become a successful sports performance coach?” They all regurgitate similar answers.
- Work hard
- Become the smartest in the room
- Do the little things
- Attend seminars
To make matters worse, social media has provided a jaded view of what it means to truly be a successful PROfessional.
Social media tells you to study, be extremely smart, and grind (I fricken hate that word.)
Successful does mean how much you know, it means how much do you actually make, and how many lives do you truly impact.
So, I dove right in head first. I started training basketball players and getting real results.
I’m going to peel back the curtain on what it actually takes to build a career you are proud of. It takes an extremely high level of focus, discipline, and systems. However, I guarantee anyone can apply them and see similar results.
Step 1: Do Your Research
Breaking into any new industry without prior experience and/or the right connections is difficult. I know for a fact that many basketball organizations hire ex-players as strength coaches these days. You can’t overlook the benefit of being an insider and knowing the people who make hiring decisions.
And if you want to become a strength coach in a sport you didn’t play at a high level (like me), you have to work even harder to get a chance to prove yourself. In the beginning, it’s not what you know, or how skilled you are as a coach; it’s about who you know.
For me, it would take much more than a phone call to an old teammate who (conveniently) happens to run the show at one of the biggest clubs in the country, and letting him know I’d be interested in a job.
I would have to chase my opportunities.
Step 2: Create your Dream 100
Digital marketer Russell Brunson talks about the concept of your Dream 100, which is essentially a list of 100 people you need to connect or work with to move your business forward. The idea is that by reaching out to every person on this list, just by the law of averages, you’ll establish some sort of connection with a small percentage of them.
For me, this meant sitting down and listing all the middle schools, high schools and colleges within a 10-mile radius of my business. Then I hit the staff directories on the schools’ websites and collected the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of every coach, athletic director, and phys ed teacher. I created a DETAILED excel sheet.
To dive deeper, I went through my social media account and did the same. I made a list of coaches, athletes, trainers and categorized them into tiers.
This was the beginning of my strong network I have today.
Step 3: Seek the RIGHT People
I cannot state this enough. Everyone knows your network = networth.
However, If you truly want to make money, build lasting relationships, and create a community of people who will be life-long clients, let me tell you something…
Stop trying to connect with influencers and “well-known” names in the industry. Begin to build YOUR community and network. Making you the
“GO TO” coach in the area.
Think about it. I would rather know every local middle school, high school, and collegiate coach, the athletes, and their parents any day of the week and twice on sunday.
Because they don’t know any better and you have the opportunity to prove your worth.
A buddy of mine whom you may know Luka Hocevar, asks me every time I see him “what seminars, presentations, and event ARE YOU hosting this month?”
He has told me numerous times, he leveled himself up by creating an unmatched culture and community that attracted other people. Making him the EXPERT.
I’m not saying, don’t network with others who are extremely powerful in our field. I do it regularly, but don’t do it until you have created something to hang your hat on first.
Step 4: Introduce Yourself as a Resource, NOT a Savior
Once I identified my Dream 100, I crafted a letter to introduce myself, explaining exactly what I do and why it would benefit their school and its sports teams.
Everyday I would pick out a new coach, team, or facility and introduce myself. I studied the facility first and would see where they were lacking and how I could help.
Initially, I offered free speed and performance clinics to get in front of people. I knew what I was capable of. Once I got the opportunity, I knew I could sell my services.
I also would attend every local high school basketball game, both male and female. People got used to seeing me and started asking about Varsity Hoops.
Lastly, I always told potential clients that I didn’t have all the answers but I ensure I will over deliver and put them in the best possible position to succeed. If you are truly good at what you do, all you need is a chance.
Step 4: Reaching Out to Mentors
I couldn’t see myself forging a relationship with a mentor just by blasting out my résumé to coaches and messaging them on social media. If I wanted a real shot, I would have to make connections in person.
Of course, I couldn’t just show up unannounced at someone’s facility and ask to watch a training session.
Instead, I would ask real, meaningful questions about their work. I would send them very specific emails that were pertinent to the topic at hand.
From here, it would be an on going back and forth over various topics – once they saw I was serious.
As time progressed, I would offer to travel to see different coaches, take local coaches out to lunch, and sit in on training sessions.
*It should be noted that the DREAM 100 list should be created for every category of individual you are trying to connect with.*
Parents, Coaches, Sports Performance Trainers, Mentors – all need a dream 100 or in my case, a dream 500 list.
As time progresses, you will begin to slowly build real relationships that will amount to something down the road. Heck, you may even get yourself a few partnerships.
Step 5: Offer Your Services for FREE
Let’s just get this out of the way, nobody, is too good to offer services for free. If you are running a real business both online and in person, you need to offer people your services for free to prove your worth.
It’s hard to get someone to pay you for your services when you don’t yet have a reputation, especially when they aren’t even familiar with what your services are.
To get my foot in the door, I had to offer my time and knowledge for free to anyone willing to listen. But even though I wasn’t charging, I still had to deliver something of real value, without expecting anything in return.
Based again on our Dream 100, Here’s how I connected with three different tiers of people:
1. Connecting with Coaches: Prepare to be ignored
I sent letters to every coach in every nearby school district, offering to meet with them, at no charge, and discuss how to put together an off-season training program for their team. Out of the 100-plus letters I sent, only one a couple basketball coaches responded. That one coach has now brought his team to train with us each of the past three summers.
Another way to connect: Offer to train the coach’s son or daughter for, say, four weeks—just long enough to show how your program can boost performance. Once the coach sees his own kid’s improvement, he’ll be much more likely to refer to the rest of the team.’
2. Connecting with Administrators: Focus on what’s new and innovative
My approach to athletic directors was simple. I had a track record of working with a few of their top players at this point and the program was improving.
Furthermore, I talked about how our training was different, we had a full team ready to handle the volume of athletes, but most importantly, we had created a culture that was unmatched and fostered winning.
We would invite the local AD’s to come and watch a training session in which we would put on “a show” to prove that we had what it took to train some of the best basketball players in the country.
3. Connecting with Parents: Promise performance and safety
If you’re the parent of a young athlete, the dream of seeing your kid excel is tempered by the fear of seeing that dream derailed by a catastrophic injury.
Parents are impressed when we show them specific movements their athletes can improve, and explain why it matters.
One thing about parents: They almost always equate speed with performance. That’s why I put together a free clinic to show athletes how to improve speed, quickness, and agility. The clinics focused on drills and activities I knew they’d do in practices and training camps. By showing immediate improvement in those drills, I planted the idea that my methods would correlate to them earning more recognition from their coaches, and with it more playing time. Which, of course, is exactly what parents need to hear.
Connecting with Athletes: Speak the language
You can get coaches to buy into your methods and parents to trust you with their kids, but if you don’t win over the athletes, they won’t be your clients for long.
If you ever needed an excuse to catch up on the latest video games, or spend more time on social media, or binge-watch TV shows, here it is: They help you speak young athletes’ language.
But even teenagers aren’t going to spend time with a coach just because he got a Victory Royale on Fortnite, hangs out on TikTok, or has seen every season of All American. You still have to earn their respect. The best way to do that is by showing you can perform the way you expect them to perform.
It goes beyond demonstrating the drills with competent form; you need to use them in your own training, giving you the ability to blow the kids away from time to time with your strength, power, or agility. Kids not only become more coachable, they turn into your ambassadors when they brag to their friends about how high their coach can jump.
One last way to connect with athletes: Showcase their progress and celebrate their success. Our athletes love being featured on our Instagram page or in our monthly newsletter.
Five ways to tell an athlete’s story:
- Before-and-after photos
- Videos showing improvements in form
- Game highlights
Now, Time for You to Get in the Trenches
For me, training athletes is the best job in the world. But it’s not a way to get rich quickly. Be prepared to work a side job or two to support yourself financially until you get a full-time position. Pay your dues. Build your reputation. Deliver a quality training experience, and most important of all, get results for your athletes.
The payoff comes later—sometimes much later—but it’s there for those who earn it.
Incorporating the things I just described helped my business get off the ground. That gave me the opportunity to get results, which in turn built trust. Along the way, I made sure never to act superior or belittle coaches, parents, or athletes who’d never been exposed to the information or methods I brought to them. First and foremost, we connected.
Your training knowledge will only take you so far. If you have questions about building out ways to include athlete experience into your business for long-term success, check out our Free Educational Resource Below, Turning Pro!