College Strength Group Forms

College strength coaches implement a new certification process.

By Staff

Athletic Management, 13.6, October/November 2001,

Collegiate athletic directors face an alphabet soup of acronyms every day. From SID to ATC and NACDA to NCAA, everything has an abbreviation. Last year, that alphabet soup grew even thicker with the formation of the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCC).

The organization was formed in early 2000 by a group of college and university strength coaches with one major goal in mind: to promote collegiate strength and conditioning coaches as valued professionals. This is being accomplished through the institution of a new certification process and by limiting membership to full-time strength and conditioning coaches.

The group's Executive Director is Chuck Stiggins, former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and current Professor in the College of Health and Human Performance at Brigham Young University. Officers include President Mike Clark, Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning at Texas A&M University, and Vice President Rob Oviatt, Director of Physical Development at Washington State University. Current membership is over 300.

One of the reasons the group has limited itself to full-time collegiate strength and conditioning coaches is the increase in people obtaining dual certifications, according to Stiggins. For example, many athletic trainers now hold Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) status from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in addition to their Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) status from the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

"Then, when a strength and conditioning coaching position becomes available,"Stiggins says, "these guys call the athletic directors and say they can more effectively do the job because they have two certifications and can better interface with the training room in the rehabilitation process.

"But anybody who knows anything about strength and conditioning, athletic training, and physical therapy knows that just staying current in applicable research, skills, and techniques in any one area is a full-time job,"he continues. "We're saying, 'If you're going to be a strength and conditioning coach, then be the best strength and conditioning coach you can be. If you're going to be an athletic trainer or physical therapist, spend your time and your resources there to be the best you can be.'"

Strength and conditioning coaches who also serve as a sport coach are not eligible to join the CSCC, either. "We want to send a message to the schools saying, 'If you don't have a full-time strength coach, you need one,'"Stiggins says.

Another part of the effort to raise the level of respect for strength and conditioning coaches involves education. The CSCC has established its own certification process--which is more stringent than the CSCS process--and offers two levels of certification for its members to earn.

The first is Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC). To receive this certification, a new strength and conditioning coach must fulfill an internship or similar program under a head strength and conditioning coach with SCCC status, pass a written examination, pass a practical hands-on examination, and hold a bachelor's degree, although a master's degree is recommended. Strength and conditioning coaches active in the field before Sept. 1, 2000, need only pass the written test to earn the SCCC.

"We felt that there were guys going into the field who were not properly trained,"Stiggins says. "They could pass a written test, but they couldn't go out in the field and perform the practical skills that are necessary in an actual strength and conditioning environment."

The second level of certification, Master Strength and Conditioning Coach (MSCC), is available only to strength and conditioning coaches who hold the SCCC certification and have been full-time strength and conditioning coaches at the collegiate or professional level for at least 12 years.

In addition to its certification and education efforts, the CSCC also plans to lobby for the creation of new strength and conditioning coaching jobs and increased salaries for strength and conditioning professionals. "A lot of schools may say that strength and conditioning coaches are valuable, but they don't show it by salary and benefits and the way they treat people,"Stiggins says. "The vast majority of strength and conditioning coaches are grossly underpaid and not treated as well as other members of the support staff."

Stiggins adds that the CSCC appreciates all the work the NSCA has done in the past, but that it simply grew too large to be able to meet college coaches' needs. "It got to a point,"says Stiggins, "where we had to do something to really promote and protect college and university strength and conditioning coaches."