About Chris Hays:
- 2nd year Graduate Assistant at George Washington University
- Oversees Baseball, Swimming and Diving and Women's Waterpolo
- Attended Slippery Rock University Class of 2015
- CSCS, USAW, FMS
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chaysstrength
Introduction - Recently I had the opportunity to attend the NSCA Coaches Conference for the second year in a row, this time in Nashville, TN. Below I cover five of my biggest takeaways - most of which go far beyond the science or X’s and O’s of the field.
- Young Coaches: Trust the Process
I am speaking to myself as much as anyone else here (while giving way to my hometown Sixers’ current motto). Being around professionals that you’ve only seen on television, social media or major conferences can be intimidating. At times, it may feel like you’re a fan among celebrities - trying to muster the courage to say hello or think of just the right question. The least you can do, I’ve come to learn, is shake their hand and simply offer a “thank you” - if it’s the right kind of person, they will appreciate you for it. I didn’t ask the NSCA for a census, but I would venture to guess that the average speaker age is somewhere in the mid-to-late 30s. There are no overnight success stories. Mike Boyle is known for saying that he was in the field for 20 years before anyone cared about who he was. I firmly believe that if you continue to work hard, grow as a person + coach and pay your dues - your time will come.
- If You Have a Problem with Something, Be a Part of the Solution.
Many may be familiar with the famous quote from the late Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Dr. Bryan Mann put it a little more bluntly, but the message is the same - rather than whining & complaining about a problem, why not be a part of the solution? This particular message applied specifically to the moans & groans of the ‘lack of applicable research in the field,’ - which led to the creation of the NSCA Coach publication, and subsequent need for pertinent submissions. Research aside, the rule can apply in many situations for S&C coaches. It’s so easy to nag or complain behind the scenes about an old school sport coach or by-the-book athletic trainer - but instead of adding negativity, why not find ways to pull together, critically think and come up with a better solution?
- Word of Mouth = Word of Media
Social media is both a blessing and a curse - largely in part by how you use it. A few months ago, at my high school’s five year reunion, the content of my social media accounts became the topic of conversation with many people that I hadn’t talked to in, well, five years. Almost everyone that was “connected” with me knew what I was doing at GW - and in most cases, thought it was pretty cool. More recently, at the Coaches Con, our one-of-a-kind Director, Matt Johnson, challenged myself and fellow graduate assistants to live tweet using #Coaches2017 as much as possible - first and foremost to share and publicize the high level content, but also, perhaps selfishly, to garner some attention for ourselves (after all, our positions are terminal!). The result, just after the conference had ended, was this: 25 followers, 85 retweets and 172 favorites (and counting). I’m not a computer or math guru, but I’m pretty sure those numbers multiply exponentially based on the exposure values of Twitter. Will it get me a job? Of course not - the tweets’ material weren’t even mine. But it doesn’t hurt to get my name and ugly mug in front of the eyes of fellow coaches (and potential employers).
- Find the Needle in the Haystack
During the conference, I would often find myself waiting for the “ah-ha” moment - thinking the next slide would be the one to finally reveal the next revolutionary program, the one piece of information that would make the entire trip worthwhile. Unfortunately, none of the talks were titled “How to better train (insert one of our teams) at George Washington University” or “How to easily find the perfect job after grad school.” Not every presentation will be perfectly geared to your situation, population or training style. But, rather than formulating a quick opinion, resorting to your phone, or just straight up walking out - give it a chance. There have been talks that I’ve loved and have had a direct, almost measurable impact on what I do. There have also been talks that I have not loved, and may have only jotted down one or two bullet points. The point is to find those 1-2 key ideas that can provide value. Find the needle in the haystack.
- Count Your Blessings
After all things are said and done, I will have virtually paid $0.00 to attend the conference this past weekend - aside from a few uber rides, quick meals and responsible adult beverages. Our leader, Coach Johnson (the term “boss” just doesn’t fit right) pays for our flight and conference fees out of our S&C budget, and our academic department has been gracious enough to reimburse the hotel stay. I didn’t have to save a chunk of the modest stipend that I make or empty any savings to attend the event - as I’m sure many fellow coaches had to do. As I am writing this, I’m on another plane (my third of the week - probably a personal record) to San Diego, CA to join our Swimming & Diving program for their annual winter training trip. Virtually all expenses paid. No, 99% of strength coaches don’t make a lot of money - especially interns, GAs and plenty of full-time assistants & directors at lower conference schools. But, in some circumstances, we do get to experience some pretty cool stuff, and do things that many would only dream of. So for that - I am very grateful.