How to Choose The Right Strength and Conditioning Coach

As a committed athlete, there is a lot of time and effort dedicated to growing, learning and improving within your chosen sport.

From ongoing practices and off-season training to studying film and applying strategic adjustments – it’s not uncommon for athletes to strive for continuous growth after each and every season.

No matter the sport, age or skill level, it has been proven that athletes who work with strength and conditioning coaches have not only benefited from stronger, faster, more explosive in-season performance, but they also greatly reduce the risk of physical injury during gameplay.

With a number of athlete training options to choose from (such as personal trainers, team coaches and performance coaches), it’s important to understand the stark differences between your training options to make the best decision for your athletic goals and expectations.

Strength and Conditioning Coach

What is the Difference between a Personal Trainer and a Strength & Conditioning Coach?

With several categories of athletic training and coaching available, the two most common variations typically fall under Personal Trainers and Strength & Conditioning Coaches.

While the term “personal trainer” refers to a trained professional who works within a public or privately-owned gym, health club or fitness center; their main areas of attention often revolve around general fitness, weight loss, injury prevention and rehabilitation in a small group or one-to-one setting.

As their services typically offer exercise instructions, motivational support and general nutritional education, personal trainers are also trained to work with individuals living with health, weight and/or mobility concerns that require special attention.

Strength and conditioning coaches, on the other hand, are trained professionals who focus on the specialized needs of athletes and their athletic development.

Commonly referred to as S&C coaches, performance coaches and even athletic enhancement coaches, these trained professionals are dedicated to creating safe and effective training programs for strength, speed and athletic endurance.

Typically offered as one-on-one, group or team training sessions, S&C coaches offer sport-specific testing resources along with extensive training techniques, nutritional support and injury prevention education to help athletes conquer their short and long-term goals.

As choosing the right training approach can be crucial to your athletic performance, here is a list of the top 10 things to look for when hiring a strength and conditioning coach:

1. Knowledge & Credentials

Like any trusted professional, it’s important that your strength & conditioning coach has acquired the skills, education and credentials required to effectively support you towards achieving your athletic goals.

While conditioning coaches should have at least a BA degree (ideally in kinesiology), a master’s degree is typically required for college and professional-level S&C jobs with extensive experience in injury prevention, nutrition, exercise psychology, performance coaching and more.

2. Progressive Training Program

As S&C coaches are responsible for planning and executing strategic training programs for athletes, it’s important that their programs are simple, logical and progressive for the most effective results.

As a planned and progressive program can be more important than the equipment and coaching techniques themselves, a phased program targeted at sports performance will have a much stronger impact than randomized training sessions.

3. Goal-Oriented Approach

When it comes to choosing a strength & conditioning coach, be sure to work with someone who is interested and aware of your short and long-term goals.

From strengths and limitations to position-specific skill sets, your coach should actively discuss your needs with you on a regular basis to ensure that your assessments, training and testing are all oriented towards progress.

4. Trackable Progress

One of the most important qualities of an effective training program is ensuring that it delivers on its promises.

With weekly progress measurements and organized tracking, your S&C coach should be able to assess and modify your training program to help you best achieve your athletic goals.

5. Motivational & Inspiring

Working with a strength coach who can instill confidence in their athletes can make a huge difference in your training success.

As working closely with someone who can motivate, inspire and support you during your athletic journey can make for more enjoyable workouts, the positive energy will help keep you focused and committed to achieving your desired results.

6. Personalized & Flexible

Each and every athlete is unique in their personal needs, and a great strength coach should be able to tailor their training programs to best support them.

With a personalized and flexible approach, your coach can help to identify your personal strengths, limitations and areas for improvement in an effective, efficient and confident manner.

7. Collaborative & Resourceful  

When searching for the right conditioning coach, it’s helpful to work with professionals who are well-connected to the teams and resources you’ll need to support your athletic success.

At ETS for example, our S&C coaches work collaboratively with our sports coaches, physiotherapists and nutritionists to help guide, support and train athletes for their respective sport(s), position and goals.

8. Athlete Referrals

A great way to find a reputable S&C coach is to ask for the opinions of athletes you trust.

From teammates and coaches to parents and gym staff, talking to your network can often uncover local gems with the reputation, skill set and firepower required to help you achieve your goals.

9. Testimonials

With online resources available at our fingertips, it’s always helpful to search for prospective strength and conditioning coaches online to learn more about their experience, coaching style and any past testimonials.

From case studies and testimonials to notable teams or pro athletes, it is not uncommon for coaches to share their notable wins to help attract new athletes into their training programs and services.

10. Online Reviews

Finally, be sure to spend some time online reading Google reviews, Facebook reviews and even athlete forum reviews if you can find them.

With a simple search engine query, you can often find online reviews that extend beyond their website’s curated content so you can gain a better idea of what it might be like to work with them.

Interested in learning more about our Strength & Conditioning Coaches?
Feel free to contact Kelly Gallant at to book a complimentary athletic consultation.