The Top 9 Things to Know Before the First Day for the Strength & Conditioning Intern

By: Daniel Sharvit

           Whether you want to be a collegiate/professional coach, small group trainer, or run your own business, you will at some point need to complete an internship or two in the field. Most opportunities are unpaid and have long hours so when it comes to choosing one, you should know what you are getting into. Throughout my career thus far I have completed 5 internships, including an exercise science lab, chiropractic office, and strength and conditioning settings, each very unique in their ways. During these experiences, some lessons carried over and still stand true to this day. These lessons are not just for fun or the first day but will have carryover in all professional settings. This field is tough, and a lot of people won’t give a crap about you. On the other hand, helping someone reach a goal that they never thought attainable is incredible. 

1. “What you put in is what you get out of it” – This is something you will hear with any learning experience presented to you. If you want to be a professional in the field, then you should begin developing the habits of a successful professional. Do not be a cog in the system who follows the job description. It’s very easy to complete an S&C internship just by showing up and doing the minimum. But it’s a whole different animal, which is 110% worth it, if you really invest yourself and try to squeeze as much information and learning as you can. Someone who uses the clock to dictate right when the work starts and begins is not a hirable intern. Go outside your job description and seek to develop yourself with the resources available during this time. 

2. Be on time – As an intern, your employer will assign you a schedule that will reflect minimum work hours for you. What you need to know is that in this field, working on a strict schedule can be tough and you should prepare for more than that. More work goes into training than just the hour of training. There is programming (typically handled by the coach) & setup and breakdown before the session. Having a well-organized session before the athlete/client arrives can help the session flow and increase the amount of work that may be done. Along with that, if you are late, then your client will think you don’t care. 

3. Dress Appropriately – When it comes to the interview, be sure you are in professional attire. During work hours you will most likely be given some gear to wear dependent upon where you are completing your internship. In addition to this, you should familiarize yourself with the school or company’s preferred brand. Athletic attire [Sneakers, Athletic Shorts, Sweats, T-Shirt] is usually okay and you can probably get away with a dri-fit polo as well. Bring an extra change of clothes.

4. Clean – You will have to clean A LOT. A weight room can get very cluttered very quickly so be on top of things. Familiarize yourself with the layout of your facility and where everything goes. Mopping and sanitizing equipment is extremely important for the health and safety of the patrons and should be taken seriously. Intra session you may need to ask the coach if they have finished with that piece of equipment and post-session everything should be put away before you take a break or leave for the day. It’s your name on the work and it should be great

5. Ask Questions – This goes hand in hand with what you put in is what you get out. As an intern, some coaches will want you to observe and some want help with setup. Others want to throw you right in and have you lead a warmup. You won’t know everything so be sure to ask. There is a reason the coach is doing what they are so either remember or wait until an appropriate time to ask. (Hint: During the session is usually not an appropriate time). You will more than likely have a curriculum to follow during the internship. Try relating and getting a better understanding of how the coach is applying your newly learned tactics. 

6. Be aware of body language – Don’t mope. The moment you walk into the room there may be eyes on you. If you want people to give you 100% then you must do the same. Crossing arms and hiding in a corner won’t do you any good. Be open and inviting. 

7. Be around/Develop relationships – You can’t learn if you aren’t there. Coaches take a huge amount of notice to those who are there all the time, and those who aren’t. Make relationships with the coaches and athletes you are working with. When it is your time to take charge, the coach will trust you because you’ve developed a relationship with the client/athlete over time. Also, you never know who will help, or hurt you, down the road when you’re going for your first or next job. In the beginning, be a shadow until given responsibility. 

8. Continue educating yourself – You can learn a whole lot by just talking to the coaches you work with and by working the floor. The biggest game-changer is when you read/learn on your own, outside of the internship because then you start connecting the dots. You get context on the applications of what you’re reading and it in turn amplifies your experience tenfold. 

9. Freaking Lift!! – During your time as an intern you are going to be exposed to coaches who train. Whatever training you are going through, I recommend dropping it and jumping in with the coaches. Not on day 1. Get to know them and ask if you can join. Not for one session but a whole phase. This is the time when coaches are creative and practice their craft. Trying out new exercises and pairings. Testing different methodologies on themselves. This is the time where you will learn the most about the applicability of exercises, programming, and training techniques. The best way to know how your athletes will feel during training is to put yourself through the same.

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