Archive for “Career” Tag

A Strength Coach Career Path: A Winding Road – Joe Powell

As the popularity of sport continues to boom across the globe, so too does the interest in pursuing a career linked to our favorite past times. Coaching, athletic training, front office personnel, and you guessed it, strength & conditioning/athletic development, have all seen meteoric rises in popularity among young adult choosing a college major and career path. Unfortunately, the number of people interested in the field compared to those who actually earn a living in it is quite unbalanced. So, why do so many individuals get turned off to these career paths and change their route altogether?  That answer is complicated and multifaceted, but perhaps the most simplified response is that there simply aren’t enough jobs to satisfy the overwhelming demand.  Because of this imbalance, it is very difficult for mediocre coaches to land a good job and stay employed.  And, when the going gets tough (because it absolutely will) the pretenders often get going… on to a different career.

To begin a career in the word of athletic development, whether it be in the high school, collegiate, professional or private sector, a hopeful coach typically has to go to lengths above and beyond what is required in other fields just to land an entry-level position. Unlike other majors, there aren’t any “exercise science job fairs” just before graduation where we land our dream jobs. This alone is a turn-off and exit sign to many hopeful S & C coaches. Essentially, many strength and conditioning hopefuls finding themselves out of the game before they even started. Internships, clinics, conferences, apprenticeships, and more free hours worked than many prisoners locked away in a penitentiary, are all commonplace for young professionals in hopes to land a graduate assistantship, and then possibly if all goes well a full-time job.

Much like life, nothing is promised in the world of strength and conditioning. Many things can go wrong along the journey to achieving one’s dream job.  I’m not here to paint a picture of doom and gloom, or to scare you off into another career.  Instead, I’d like to let you know that you’re not alone, and offer you my story as a way to inspire you to persevere through difficulties.

The road hasn’t been easy for me.  While your path won’t necessarily be the same as mine, I feel like my experiences may be able to help you to land your dream job in athletic development. I certainly haven’t had the most conventional career path, but as I reflect on it, I realize that things have fallen into place for good reasons.

What’s Your Why?

As I began my journey into S & C, the question I heard over and over from coaches, mentors, and speakers was “What’s your Why?” Three words can essentially define your entire motivation to succeed. My why was first discovered immediately after my high school sporting career had finished. I was in incredible shape after the last wrestling meet of my life, and I felt that I wanted to stay that way.   I also need to fill a void that now existed in my life. Being active my entire life, the decision was easy, and I decided to start lifting weights. Even as an ignorant teenager who sought out muscle magazines for guidance, I was able to see results quickly and I was hooked.

I also became a little bitter wondering what could have been if I had begun weight training years prior. My high school had an abysmal “weights class” that’s probably similar to many people’s experiences.  We’d basically go into the weight room with no guidance and wait for the allotted time to expire so we could all go home. It finally hit me that I was ripped off by not having a solid program in place. I immediately thought about pairing resistance training with sports, but I had no idea there was actually a career path for this. I quickly realized that my why was to be the person I wished I’d had when I was younger.

I eventually attended college at Central Michigan University and began my path toward becoming a performance coach.  After discovering that “Athletic Training” wasn’t actually learning about “training athletes” (they really need to come up with a better name) I was left incredibly frustrated and 2 credits at about $750 was wasted in my foolish attempt to take classes to become a “trainer.” Luckily, an instructor explained the difference, and I was able to start moving in the right direction.  

Never Give Up

My program was mainly designed for cardiac rehab or for those heading to PT or PA school. I started to wonder if there was a different option when I was told I should look into the “personal training” minor.  There was no mention of anything related to strength & conditioning. We had an internship supervisor, so I eagerly set up an appointment to try to find any experience in the field that I could. I was actually scolded for trying to find an internship before it was time to graduate and that I had better not seek one out until that time. I was absolutely dumbfounded and discouraged, but I refused to settle. I listened to my gut, and my first big break came shortly thereafter.

My first break came when I applied for a scholarship for 1st generation college students. During a meeting with my advisor, I explainedJim Kielbaso and Joe Powell what I wanted to do for a living.  She had no knowledge on the subject, but she referred me to Dr. Roop Jayraman who listened to my career goals and stopped me in my tracks. You see, I was applying for a scholarship that would lead me to a free Ph.D., when I told him that I wanted to “train athletes.”  He very kindly told me this scholarship probably wasn’t what I wanted, but he referred me to his friend Jim Kielbaso at a place called Total Performance (now Impact Sports Performance).   He showed me the website and I felt like I struck gold because the training center was located a mere 10 minutes from my hometown. He gave me Jim’s contact info and set up an interview for a summer internship.  That summer changed everything for me.  

I ended up doing a totally volunteer internship at Total Performance Training Center with Jim during the summer before my senior year, and it was exactly what I needed. I finally found what I had been looking for.  It went well enough that he invited me back to work as a part-time employee whenever I could get chunks of time away from college. At the time, CMU had a very short list of internship sites for those entering the fitness field.  So, I chose to spend my post-education “required internship” at Total Performance since it was the only place that offered what I was looking for.

When my time at Total Performance was nearing an end, I was admitted to graduate school as a teaching graduate assistant at CMU where I would help teach labs for health fitness classes.  I accepted the position, and this experience really helped me hone my knowledge of exercise principles, anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. Sure I had studied these topics before, but I firmly believe you truly understand a concept when you have to teach it. I couldn’t fake it in front of the class, and I began to get more comfortable with the science and application of exercise.

It’s not what you know, or even who you know. It’s who knows you.

Nearing the end of my first year of grad school I had two unique opportunities present themselves. Option one actually involved going on tour with the “Vans Warped Tour” rock festival. Option two was applying for an internship with the University of Michigan football team. Jim Kielbaso knew the coaching staff at Michigan and trusted me enough to pretty much get me the phone interview that secured the gig.  He also pushed me toward this option even though being on a “rock tour” sounded pretty awesome at the time.  

This was how I learned my next valuable lesson – “It’s not what you know, or even who you know. It’s who knows you.”

I know this is the case because I was told by my boss at Michigan (and now one of my mentors), Mark Naylor, that my resume looked terrible. But, because Jim vouched for me, I got a chance and was welcomed aboard at Michigan. (HUGE lesson learned here in building a resume which will be addressed later on). It was at U of M that I realized exactly where I wanted to do; I needed to be in a collegiate weight room. (Lesson in interning as much as possible to find out what fits you best in the S&C world).

As my time at Michigan was nearing its end I was preparing to return to CMU for my last year of grad school. I had done a good job, and Coach Naylor made it clear that in order to stay alive in the field I needed to find a way inside CMU’s weight room and become a part of the football program. CMU had undergone a coaching change and hired new S & C coach, Jason Novak. Jason had come to CMU after 11 years in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Coach Naylor did not know Coach Novak personally but had common connections. A former U of M player who now plays for the Titans happened to be the connecting factor. It turned out that a football player who didn’t even know my name helped get my foot in the door.

It once again came down to not what I knew, but who I knew and who knew me.

I interviewed for a graduate intern position and before I knew it I traded in my Maize and Blue for Maroon and Gold and was able to become a part of the strength staff at CMU. During my interview with Jason Novak he said something that will stick with me for the rest of my career. He told me he was given some incredible opportunities as a young coach and felt lucky to have some people along the way who simply gave him a chance. He also encountered those on the opposite end of the spectrum, and he had vowed to himself that he would help those out just as he was helped out when he was young. I swore to myself that when I was in a position to do so I would do the same. It’s something that I’m grateful for and just one of the countless reasons why I admire Coach Novak so greatly.

I spent the entire second year of grad school taking classes, teaching classes, and spending any free minute helping train the football team. I counted as one of the 5 strength coaches associated with football, which meant I could full-on coach and be with the team on the sidelines of games. It was a taste of exactly what I wanted to do for a career and it only strengthened my appetite to make it in the S & C field.

At the end of that year, I found myself finished with school, a masters program in hand, and no full-time coaching job lined up. This was a pretty difficult time for me because I felt like I had done everything I was “supposed” to do and things just weren’t happening.  Fortunately, there was an opening as a fixed-term faculty in the school of health sciences and I was offered a semester-by-semester contract where I taught undergraduate classes and a lab for the physical therapy students. While it wasn’t a full-time S & C gig, it allowed for me to continue working with CMU football so I embraced the opportunity with optimism.  During this year, one of my colleagues at CMU got his big break and became a full-time coach at Florida International University. His good-fortune proved to be a turning point for me as well. Since our staff was now shorthanded, I began getting compensated for being a strength coach as well as seeing my role in the S & C department increased significantly.

My time at CMU eventually evolved further than even Charles Darwin could’ve foreseen. I began as a confused undergrad who spent $750 on a course that focused on taping ankles, to being a “professor figure” and coach at my alma mater. Life was pretty good, so I spent another year at CMU.  In doing so I became a fixture in the health fitness undergraduate program, teaching and helping students in the very same situation I found myself in just a few years prior. I loved my dual role teaching and coaching, but I was burning the candle at both ends. I was putting in countless hours, working for peanuts, and it started to get to me. 

I missed out on several opportunities before I was finally able to hit pay dirt and catch my biggest, most unlikely break yet.  I interviewed for a job at Utah State University and ended up being offered an assistant coaching position with strength coach Dave Scholz. I accepted it and suddenly found myself saying goodbye to those I loved and cared for most to take an opportunity 1600 miles away. I packed up everything I could fit in my Toyota Corolla and traded in the great lakes for sprawling mountains. My life was flipped upside down, but as crazy as it may sound, it felt so very right because I had been preparing for this opportunity for years.

Fast forward a few years, and my former boss, Jason Novak, got hired as the Head S & C Coach at Michigan State University.  Because I had developed a strong working relationship with him at CMU, he offered me a job at MSU.  It was a dream come true to come home and work in one of the biggest athletic programs in the country.

The point of sharing my journey was to highlight some of the moments that changed my life, share some lessons I’ve learned, and to demonstrate that things can eventually work out.  You may be struggling to open a business, land a job or make your next big move.  Wherever you find yourself, the best piece of advice I can give is never, ever give up. I was told no. I had to blaze my own trail, and I had minimal guidance until I worked hard enough (and was lucky enough) to find it.  My journey is far from conventional, but with persistence, pride and passion for everything I did, I was able to make it work. There is no set “way” in this profession, rather there is a set of intangibles we have in all of us that will serve far more important than a resume ever will. The funny thing is that if you understand that last point and work harder than the person next to you, the resume and references will have a way of filling themselves out.

In the next installment, I plan on sharing more about the lessons I’ve learned and some of the things I wish I could have done differently.  Until then…..

Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for football at Michigan State University.  He held a similar position at Utah State University and has been an advisor to the IYCA for several years.  Before his stint at Utah State, Joe was an Asst. S & C Coach at Central Michigan University where he also taught classes in the Department of Health and Human Performance.  Joe is a regular contributor to the IYCA Insiders program and is one of 20 strength coaches who helped create the High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist Certification.   Join IYCA Insiders or get the HSSCS to learn more from Joe.


Modifications to Training Programs For a Young Athlete on the Spot


Young Athlete Programming Modifications


By Wil Fleming

When I first started training I figured out quickly that the best coaches developed
programs ahead of time. They approached each session with a clear picture of their
goals for a young athlete and designed a program that would accomplish those goals.

As I began coaching I knew that is something that I wanted to do as well. I want to
be a coach with a clear vision and purpose, plan for everything, and get results with
my athletes.

In my “eye test” for other coaches, making training sessions up on the spot is one of
the things that leads me to believe that the trainer or coach is not going to make it.

Creating a workout from thin air leads me to believe that my athletes are going to
get better results and dominate their athletes.

Recently though I had an athlete with an unexpected limitation in their program that
took away her ability to do many of things that we normally do in training. After a
surprise surgical procedure she was unable to clean, snatch, squat, etc. (Literally
everything I like to have my athletes do).

Being that she is a track and field athlete, in the middle of her season, just taking
time off from training was not going to cut it. I literally had to come up with a
program on the spot.

I was able to do it, and have her produce the best performance of her career in the
weeks following because I came up with training sessions that fit in with the rest of
her program. Her daily training sessions were extremely modified but were in line
with the goal of this phase of the program.

How was I and the young athlete able to do this?


1) I had a clearly defined goal for training. In this scenario the young athlete was in the
middle of a strength phase for her track and field season. By having this goal laid
out I had a rep range and set range that each exercise could fall into. By having a
goal laid out I was able to select movements that could fall into this rep range.

2) I have a pre-determined programming system. In my program each day
follows the same general order of exercise.

1A—Explosive assistance (Oly lift pull)

2A—Bilateral lower body (Push or Pull)
2B— Core (Anti-Extension)

3A—Upperbody (Push or Pull)

3B—Unilateral Lowerbody (Push or Pull)
3C— Core (Anti Rotation)


There is some variation to that set up based on the athlete and the time of year, but
in general that covers it all. In the case of my injured athlete replacing exercises was only really replacing movements. If a particular exercise was going to cause pain
then I knew that I needed to eliminate it, and replace it.

3) I have exercise progressions and regressions. When it comes to replacing
exercises this is key. All exercises that we program fall into one of the
categories above. Olympic lifts were difficult to perform for my athlete so I
was able to fill the explosive training slot with medicine ball throws. Bilateral
Quad dominant exercise was limited so we substituted heavy sled pushes.

By having a programming system, and with a little thinking on the fly this
athletes training did not miss a beat. After performing her training in a modified
fashion for 3 weeks, this young athlete is back to full strength and has equaled training bests in
lifts she was unable to perform for the past 3 weeks.

Without the 3 keys to programming above we would likely be starting behind
where her training was and would be playing catch up for the rest of her season.


The Young Athlete Who Changed My Life




Young Athlete Who Changed My Life

This story is going to change your day.


It may even change your perspective permanently.


I’m going to tell you about Tom – the young athlete who changed my life.


Exactly 7 years, 3 months and 5 days into my career as an Athletic Development Specialist, Tom walked into my training center with his Mom.


I had been prompted on the phone the week before.


"Tom had an accident when he was a child" I was told by Tom’s mother.


"He is a very bright boy, but the brain trauma he experienced has left him very uncoordinated and lacking some basic motor skills".


I wasn’t concerned. I had worked with young people just like this before and had always found that my brand of coordination-focused athletic development was perfect for re-instilling certain degrees of normal function.


As I watched Tom walk in with his Mom, nothing in particular seemed or looked too out of sorts.


Tom walked with a slight limp and his left arm rested at his side rather than moving in unison with his walking gait.


He looked a little nervous and unsure and I could see that he had rounded shoulders and a slight external rotation to his right hip (what can I say… I assess athletes right from the time they walk in the door!).



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Become Part of our International IYCA Family Now…. And Experience the Difference –




The Young Athlete That Changed My Life




Young Athlete Inspires His Coach…

This story is going to change your day.


It may even change your perspective permanently.


I’m going to tell you about Tom – the young athlete who changed my life.


Exactly 7 years, 3 months and 5 days into my career as an Athletic Development Specialist, Tom walked into my training center with his Mom.


I had been prompted on the phone the week before.


“Tom had an accident when he was a child” I was told by Tom’s mother.


“He is a very bright boy, but the brain trauma he experienced has left him very uncoordinated and lacking some basic motor skills”.


I wasn’t concerned.  I had worked with young people just like this before and had always found that my brand of coordination-focused athletic development was perfect for re-instilling certain degrees of normal function.


As I watched Tom walk in with his Mom, nothing in particular seemed or looked too out of sorts.


Tom walked with a slight limp and his left arm rested at his side rather than moving in unison with his walking gait.


He looked a little nervous and unsure and I could see that he had rounded shoulders and a slight external rotation to his right hip (what can I say… I assess athlete’s right from the time they walk in the door!).


“Brian?  Nice to meet you – this is my son, Tom”


“Hey Tom, what’s going on?” I asked as I stretched out my hand.


“Not much” Tom said sheepishly, as he looked straight down at the floor and extended his right hand.


“Let’s get started” I said


I was looking at Tom’s mother.


“We’re going to start with…”


Tom’s mother cut me off.


“I’m not staying.  Tom insisted that he wanted to work with you on his own – no interference or observing from me.  You just let me know about when you will be done for the day and I’ll be back to pick him up”


“Well this is just out initial assessment, so we’ll only need about 30 minutes”


“Fine, I’ll be back by then” Tom’s mother said as she walked towards the door to my facility.


The briskness of her departure startled me.  I immediately turned to Tom for some kind of explanation or clarification.


But there he stood, looking straight down – exactly the same as he was when we shook hands.


For the next 30 minutes, I worked with Tom on basic movement skills.  First, I would ask him to perform things like skipping exercises, linear and lateral acceleration drills and some throwing games.


I began to ascertain some standard abnormal patterns of movement that Tom had, and worked at correcting some of the ways in which he performed basic motor skills.


As was my style back then, I was coaching Tom in my customary upbeat and loud way – I prided myself on being a positive coach who could always be heard over the din and hubbub in the rest of my facility.


I say ‘back then’ because I’m writing this story almost five years to the day that first met Tom… this time of year always makes me remember him.


As the weights clanged and the other young athlete got louder, I always made it a point to be heard above all the other noise – that’s what good coaches do. 


They remain consistent in their coaching style no matter what… or so I thought.


If only I knew then what I have come to know now.


“Here we go, Tom.  Just like that.  Perfect!” I was practically yelling at this point in sheer excitement to see what Tom and I had been able to do together in just one 30-minute session.


Then, something out of the blue hit me.


Tom was barely talking. 


He was polite and certainly listened to my instructions – you could tell that from the way his movement patterns had become more crisp and clean.


But I was clearly more happy and excited about his improvements than he was.


Being the caring Coach that I am, I decided to investigate.


“Things are looking awesome, Tom!” I declared in my usual loud pitch.


“Ya” Tom countered while looking down


“If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you seem more excited about that?”


“I am” he insisted, “It’s just the way your yelling at me – It’s kind of making me nervous”


His words hit me like a racecar going 150…


…So much so that I had to stop myself from declaring my innocence to this 15-year-old kid.


I decided to probe instead.


“How do you mean I’m yelling at you, Tom?”


“You know.  You keep raising your voice and calling instructions out to me in a loud way”


But this is the way I coach, I thought to myself.  I always prided myself on being the kind of coach that all my athletes could actually hear… even in the middle of a loud, crowded gym.


“So, when you hear me raise my voice, you feel as though I am speaking negatively towards you?” I asked uncertainly


“Ya… of course” Tom explained.


Just then, Tom’s mother came back.  Our 30-minute session was over.


I shook Tom’s hand again, thanked him for doing such a great job and made an appointment later than week to see him again.


Tom walked out of my gym exactly the way he had walked in – with his head down and looking kind of nervous.


The story doesn’t end there.


I trained Tom for another 3 full years and watched him go 0 – 22 in his high school wrestling career.


For many, that would have been considered an awful experience, but for Tom, and everyone who knew him, it was nothing short of miraculous.


Here was this teenager with significant motor skills impairments, a limp and various other structural abnormalities, joining the high school wrestling team where he and everyone else knew that he was bound to ‘lose’ every match – but he didn’t care.


Tom was a fighter.


I suppose it makes sense to end the story there, doesn’t it?


Tom’s courage, tenacity and determination have impacted me to this day.


In fact, I can honestly say that my life will never be the same after watching Tom do what he did during the 3-years that I trained him.


This article is about how Tom changed my life, and I have certainly explained one part of how that happened.


But the ‘rest of the story’ is something even more important.


Tom taught me how to coach.


That sounds funny doesn’t it?


I mean, when I met Tom, I had already trained Olympic Champions, Professional Athletes and traveled throughout Europe and North America as the Conditioning Director for National Team programs.


I had coached A LOT of athletes – and felt like I knew what I was doing.


But the real impact Tom had on my life was when he taught me that not all athletes like to be coached the same way.


I was always positive, upbeat and excited for my athletes.


That was how I coached.


But Tom didn’t like being coached like that – when he heard my voice raise, all he processed was that I was ‘yelling’ at him.


And it made me think.


How many athletes ‘process’ what you say in a completely different way than they way you had intended them to hear it?


Because of Tom, I created my ‘Art of Coaching template’, which is a categorization of athletes based on their personality and temperament.


It requires no extensive assessments or surveys, just a subjective analysis that allows you to classify your athletes into one of 4 very unique and very critical coaching templates.


From there, you will know exactly how to coach each athlete in order to get the very best out of them you possibly can.


I had it wrong for so many years.


All I cared about was how to develop speed, agility or strength.


Learn as much as I could about what exercises best developed blazing speed…


Understand which way of squatting was the most important to developing killer strength…


Tom taught me that the key to it all was in the way it was presented to the athlete.


After all, what’s the use of having the best training program in the entire world if your athletes aren’t even paying attention to you?


And that’s why I created the Complete Athlete Development Program.


It is a perfect combination of all my internationally field-tested training programs that have been proven effective in every continent in the world, along with the free bonus of my revolutionary Art of Coaching template.


After presenting a seminar in Phoenix last year to a group of me peers, I had one attendee post this message on a sport-based message board 2 days later –


“No insult to the other presenters, but Brian’s talk was the most engaging and enlightening… This man is a Coach – Capitalization intended”


I appreciated the comment, and you will appreciate the Art of Coaching template.


It’s exactly what you have been looking for to become the best Coach or Trainer possible.


And your athlete’s will appreciate it also.


Tom did.


Click on the link below and find out what you’ve been missing when it comes to becoming the best Trainer or Coach possible –





‘Tlll next time,












IYCA International Summit: This Is Your Last Chance…

This is it.


The last day for you to register for the IYCA International Summit and receive an unbelievable f.r.e.e.


The first annual IYCA International Summit is set for February 20 – 22
2009 in Louisville, Kentucky.


The line up of speakers is world-class.


The information will be priceless.


The missed opportunities if you don’t attend, extraordinary.


I’ve given you every reason to come.


I’ve outlined each and every reason why attendance is absolutely
mandatory if you are serious about your career.


I suppose the final kicker is simply this:


Exclusive entrance into my closed-door "Secrets to Profitable Speed
Camps and Clinics" seminar is available for the last time today.


Register today and you gain access to this information for absolutely
no extra charge whatsoever.


Delay and the opportunity is gone.


For good.


A complete done for you system that will show you precisely how to host
your own profitable speed camps.


And the information I’m prepared to give will change your business forever.


:: Press Releases

:: Joint Venture Tools

:: Camp Structure and Drills

:: Up-sell System

:: Enrollment Forms


You name it, you’ll get it.


An entire done for you, guaranteed to work system that will lead to profits
and clients.




No hype and no B.S.


I went from 0 clients to 200+ in just 3 months using this system in my last
training center.


It works and is ‘Brian Grasso’ tested.


I can’t implore you anymore than that.


Your success is in your hands.


The choice is 100% yours.


People doomed to fail find reasons not to…


… People primed for success find ways to make it happen.


Which kind of person are you?



‘Till next time,