Coach and Trainer.  I have seen these two terms used very loosely lately and having chosen a career path that entails both these titles, I wanted to clarify the difference between the two.  Yes you can be both a trainer and a coach but they are not mutually exclusive.  Just because you are a certified trainer does not automatically mean you are a qualified coach. 

The reason I have become very involved in climbing is due to my background in Training.  I am a member of the NSCA (national strength and conditioning association), the organization in which I studied for and passed my exam (and have kept current) to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  Once I passed that exam I began working with individuals in the gym and earned the right to call my self a trainer.  As a trainer I work with individuals on maximizing their time spent in the gym.  We work on movements that will improve their performance and prevent injury while on the playing field.  I design training plans that include physical movement, recovery, and nutrition all which will help my clients better perform come game time.  As a trainer, my job is to understand the physical demands of a sport but not necessarily the strategy on the field or game time management.  A trainers time is best spend studying the bio mechanics of movement and applying that knowledge to using the tools available in the gym with a athlete.  Just because I passed my exam to become a trainer did not give me the right to start calling myself a coach.  However after a couple years experience of training under my belt, I decided it was time to broaden my horizons and start developing a skill set to become a coach (I am now a USA climbing certified coach and am a registered high school coach in the state of Wisconsin).

The job of a coach is to understand how to manage game time situations, design strategy, develop fundamentals, develop team comradery, develop decision skills, instill discipline, take blame for a loss, take credit for a win, etc.   Basically the job of a Coach is to coordinate all the moving parts of the machine and to make sure everyone involved in the “team” is on the same page.  Even in a personal sport like climbing there is a team whether or not you are on a gyms “climbing team”.  Your team may consist of a the athlete, Dr, nutritionist, physical therapist, psychologist, massage therapist, route setter, gym manager, Trainer, etc.  Your coach is in charge of making sure all the right people are doing all the right things at the right time in order to have a successful outcome on the field.  A coach in a way is the President of the operation.  For instance as the coach of the climbing team I need to let the route setter know what we need set for the kids on what days.

When I am in the gym working with football players I am not their coach, I am their trainer.  I do understand the physical demands of the sport (more specifically their position) and I apply that knowledge to how I have them lift in the gym.  Their coach may send me information in regards to their schedule and their on field strengths and weaknesses.  With that knowledge I can better develop a training plan based on the request of their coach.  Also if a individual that climbs on a climbing team comes to me to train, I do just that.  I am not automatically their coach because they may already have coach that has been developing their skills so I would not want to interrupt that process.  A trainer for any sports team is independent when it comes to working with athletes in the gym (that is their expertise) but at the end of the day the Coach is still their boss.

I am only a “Coach” when it comes to golf and snowboarding because I have earned the designation.  I was hired specifically to Coach not to train.  I have grown up competing in golf and snowboarding and understand these sports inside and out.  I have developed a skill set and passion to take charge and overlook a group of likeminded individuals (in golf and snowboarding) in order to direct them down a path of success in their sport.  That skill set has nothing to do with my training qualifications, being a trainer and a coach in these sports is just a bonus for the individuals I Coach.


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