Are you sure you know what you’re paying for?

Are you sure you know what you’re paying for?

by Nick Serio MS, CSCS, USAW-LV2, TPI, CPT, PES, CES
and Cassie Reilly-Boccia MA, CSCS, USAW-LV1, TPI, FMS

Athletes Warehouse officially opened its doors for business in June of 2014. However, the planning process for this company started back in 2013. When completing the hiring process, we constantly referenced one of our most important missions of the company: To provide the most comprehensive and highly educated training experience for our youth athletes. In order to do this, we needed to hire the right people. We sought after professionals in the field that had the following criteria: 1. Were authentic people who were hungry to learn and grow, 2. Took time out of their life to pursue a masters degree in this field 3. Possessed an NSCA CSCS certification (arguably the highest level certification one can obtain in the field of strength and conditioning.)

Although we were extremely proud of the coaching staff that we ended up assembling, we did not require these letters after our name to gloat about how educated we were. We required these in order to build a team of coaches that would always have an athletes best interest in mind. We sought after coaching our athletes as a collective group of educated specialists opposed to certified individuals. This helps to mitigate internal competition and promote internal accountability. In our opinion, this was the most effective way of ensuring an athlete was truly getting the best experience possible when they walked into our facility.

A little insight to the strength and conditioning world…
The strength and conditioning industry has some excellent associations and certifications that are offered. To name a few, NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) and NASM (National Association for Sports Medicine) are both well respected associations that offer certifications for Strength and Conditioning Specialists, Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Personal Trainers, and Movement Specialists. This affords those seeking education to continue paying for reading material, signing up for a test, and obtaining more letters after your name. Although it may be great to see a long line of acronyms, this train of capital letters sheds light on the biggest issue in our industry – no governing body. Let that settle in for a second. There is no licensure or standard of protocol that exists to hold those in our industry accountable for their effort, knowledge, or values. Here are some other professions that require a license: Acupuncturist, barber, cosmetologist, funeral director, massage therapist, and the list can go on and on. But not a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer. Someone who is responsible for determining how much weight you should lift on your back is not required to obtain a license in order to do so. This is a major gap in our industry and this issue is definitely something that we at Athletes Warehouse aspire to rectify in the future. For the time being, all we have are these associations and certifications with mediocre continuing education standards and more importantly, a lack of support for their members.

Now, this is not to say that positives to these certifications don’t exist. These certifications can supply a wealth of knowledge, insurance protection, and in some cases, open up the doors for job opportunities. Unfortunately, due to the loose restriction and the lacking unified approach, it has made the waters mucky when determining a ‘qualified’ strength and conditioning professional!

Unfortunately, the accreditation process for many of these certifications has become incredibly weak. This has led to many under qualified individuals having the potential to become certified personal trainers (CPT) or strength coach (CSCS) without having any real pre-requisites, knowledge, or value in their profession. Essentially, we have opened the door for a field of good test takers opposed to qualified coaches capable of appropriate hands on application to the vast curriculum of the field.

The lack of restrictions and education requirements has been readily abused by mainstream membership gyms for years, capitalizing on the simplicity of contracting under qualified coaches in order to handle high volumes of personal training clients. This tactic is driving the price of their training down so low that people feel they can not pass up the opportunity.  Since this model is highly effective for creating large volumes of people training, many of these conglomerate companies are the direct lobbyist against an overarching governing body for the fitness industry. Having a governing body that required a licensure for those practicing in the strength and conditioning field would undoubtedly fracture this model and cause exponentially stricter regulations on not only the company but each individual coach.

To prove a point…
So, in order to further this point, we got Nick’s son certified. That’s right, when Luke Serio was just 5 months old he became the proud owner of a piece of paper stating he was a ‘Certified Personal Trainer.’ Scary, isn’t it? If you saw this certification hanging up on the wall at a gym it looks legit, right? However, all that was needed to acquire this piece of paper was a name, email address, and payment. Not once did in our acquisition process of this piece of paper did the website ask for the age of the ‘nationally accredited coach’ to be. Anyone could’ve taken that test (clearly Luke was not the one answering those questions correctly), yet again showing that this industry needs more accountability. I hope that point gets across crystal clear. This article is not intended to bash gyms or other certification processes. It is instead a cry for help for this industry. It is a plea for accountability amongst coaches. It should not be on the responsibility of the athlete and parent to decipher which certification requirements mean more than another. Just like when you go to get your hair cut, you should trust that this individual has at least went through the minimum requirement in order to be trusted.

So how do we know what is what?
What certification should I look for and how do I know if my coach is actually qualified or even values what they do?

A certification does not guarantee that an individual actually has the ability to teach or coach! There are plenty of highly intelligent individuals who are not positive or productive coaches.

A great way to make sure an individual values what they are doing is to find out if they have any higher education in the field they are working in (i.e. an undergraduate, masters or even doctorate).  More than just representing knowledge learned, it forecasts the idea that this individual views self-educating efforts and education as an intricate part to their profession, enough to take more years out of their life and dedicate them to furthering their knowledge.

Additionally, take a look at the individual’s online resume. What’s an online resume? Google their name and see what comes up. What does their social media say about them? Are they representing a positive brand in everything that they do? Have they written for other online resources or have they published any content themselves? When someone is truly passionate about what they do, it is hard to contain it. Most people in this industry want to share their story and not sell their product. As a parent/athlete/consumer – you will feel the difference between the two! You’ll feel the passion pouring out of the individual.

As for certifications here is a list of some with their pre-requisites and standards next to them.
The bolded certification listed are the ones we required as a staff at Athletes Warehouse.

Closing Thoughts:

Make sure you know what you’re paying for. Investigate the coaches that are going to be working with you or your athlete. Know that certifications and accreditations do not mean this individual will have the potential to relate to the athlete. Know that not every great personal training is also a great athletic performance coach and vice versa. Know that not all coaches and facilities are created equal and as a professional in this field, it is about time we begin to hold each other accountable for our own education and pursuit of growth in this field. Finally, know that there are amazing coaches out there with incredible drive, talent, and integrity. This article is not meant to single out the ‘coach’ but to apply accountability to the industry leaders in the accreditation process. We love our industry, our cohorts, and our clients and ultimately wan the best for all!

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