Within the profession of strength and conditioning there are many avenues a potential coach can pursue. These areas include online personal training, professional sports, or high school and college athletics. One career area that has seen an increased focus on strength and conditioning is the tactical profession. Firefighters, police officers, and military personnel have greater access to strength and conditioning coaches than ever before. Organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) have also invested their resources in creating educational opportunities for strength coaches to learn more about the physical demands expected from members of the military.
Gaining experience through outreach and opportunities
Whether you are a current strength coach working in sports, or just starting your professional journey as a coach, the important thing is to take the time to learn about tactical athletes. Tactical athletes, or operators, are generally not on a structured schedule like athletes with a pre-season and regular season to consider. They always have to be prepared physically and psychologically to perform their work, oftentimes with little notice.
One way to get some initial experience as a strength coach would be to reach out to your local police, fire, or military agencies and offer your services as a volunteer. This could be as simple as assisting with their required fitness testing, or presenting on topics at pre-shift briefings. Most tactical departments have a training representative who is charge of tracking fitness and wellness. Meeting with the training representative will give you the opportunity to discuss your experience and what you can bring to their team in a volunteer capacity.
Another area where you could volunteer your time and energy would be with a campus police department at your local university. University settings are an excellent environment, since many have a fitness center where you would have access to space and equipment to utilize while working with officers.
While looking at universities, you may also consider reaching out to any local ROTC programs at colleges or high schools. These programs often have their own fitness program, but you may be able to assist in some manner in an effort to obtain more experience.
If you are currently pursuing a degree in human performance or some other athletic degree, you may be able to complete an independent study with a tactical entity. If you have a major project for a class, you might be able to consider completing the project with a police, fire, or military organization. Better still, maybe one of these tactical opportunities will have a project in mind that you can help them with. You might be able to compile research on their testing program or help them design a training area.
For paid positions, you’ll want to search USAjobs.gov, state government websites, and local civic and county sites as well. There are many contracting companies who recruit for tactical agencies. Some of these jobs may require a security clearance, which can take several months in some situations. In some cases, having prior military or law enforcement experience may help you, but that is not always the case. If you understand the energy systems, movement patterns, and common injuries a tactical operator is exposed to, you should be able to transfer your experience and education into the tactical world.
Marketing yourself to the tactical community
When marketing yourself, look at the skills that transfer across the tactical community. Create a resume that highlights specific tactical operator positions, tests, and programming you worked with. Making a business card and flyer that highlights your background will help with any potential consulting you might be able to pursue. Also, utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter to expose others to your background and experience will help you gain attention. You also might want to create a profile on the strength performance network or YouTube, where you can post tactical training videos or general strength training how-to’s.
The opportunity to present at conferences or clinics is another way to market your skills and talent. The NSCA has an established tactical clinic that takes place annually in the spring. The NSCA Clinic is a great opportunity to gain additional tactical strength and conditioning knowledge, and network within the tactical community.
Upward mobility as a tactical strength coach
As with any strength and conditioning coaching position, the attainment of additional skills and certifications will help establish yourself as a competitive candidate when applying for positions. Functional Movement Screen (FMS), USA Weightlifting (USAW), Dragondoor Kettlebells, TRX and other companies and organizations offer educational opportunities that may assist you in moving on to that next position. Additionally, if you have had experience working with one tactical group, you may want to volunteer or work part time for another group to make yourself more diverse as a candidate. The NSCA also has a tactical strength and conditioning specialist certification exam that coaches can sit for.
If you are a current sport strength coach, transitioning into the tactical realm might be intimidating. If you are a new strength coach, you might be just as nervous. Either way, know that there are peers and organizations who are eager to help you by providing support and advice as you move into the tactical community. Continue learning and following up with contacts. Seek out new opportunities that will challenge and develop your skills as a coach.
“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.”—Chris Grosser
(featured image courtesy of itstactical.com)