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Characteristics of a Top Conditioning Coach

Do You Have what the Top Fitness Trainers Have?Every coach will have and should have his or her own personal philosophy, but all great coaches have several common traits and points of focus.  However, each athlete is different and needs a unique training plan.  It is the job of the Conditioning Coach to carefully create each individual plan.

To become a great coach:

Get to know your athlete’s:

Abilities and limitations (age, novice vs professional, movement efficiency, endurance strength, etc.)

Professional career (obligations, duties, and time commitments)

Personal life (family obligations, vacations, hobbies, etc.)

Medical history (illnesses, injuries, medications, etc.)

Athletic or fitness history (workout frequency, intensity, and duration); current fitness level and metrics

Goals (short and long term, recreational or professional, etc.)


Getting to know your athletes will help you understand that each of your athletes is unique and needs a specific, individualized program.  This will then allow you to find a starting place from which the athletes can work from and to determine training and competitive priorities.  As a Conditioning Coach, you can then plan a schedule that makes accommodations for your athletes to lead a balanced lifestyle.  Whether your athletes are professionals or novices you must dedicate your efforts to meet the needs of each athlete.  You will likely face beginners who have unrealistic expectations.  It will be your job to be realistic and fair in taking the goals and desires of your athletes and athletes and coming up with a plan that takes their health and competitive goals into account.

Be knowledgeable in your expertise

Be able to apply both your knowledge as well as anecdotal (personal) experience through practice

Continually seek to learn from other elite athletes, experts, former champions, and other coaches (not to mention your own athletes)

Keep up-to-date with current research in physiology and sports science AND current trends through popular newsstand publications and books (so you can better comprehend your athletes’ points of view and understand the information made available to them)

 Always create a written plan

Include several drills/activities for each area of focus

Create a schedule that focuses upon the main problem area event or goal

Set short term AND long term goals and deadlines

Implement proper nutrition into the fitness/training plan (training and competition fuelling)

Assign meaningful activities (experienced coaches do not use time fillers without a specific purpose to the training plan)

Develop mental strategies and focus points

Go over Disaster Strategies (think up ways to solve bad scenarios during the match so your athlete can relax when such scenarios come up)

Know when and how to push (during an event, beyond comfort zones) by reading your athletes’ moods and evaluating energy levels (this requires a great deal of attentiveness and time)

Know when to stop whether the athlete wants to or not (progress in moderation to avoid overtraining, illness, and injury)

Be supportive

Provide a cooperative learning environment  (you’re the coach, but the athlete has the greatest stake in the relationship)

Keep training and competition enjoyable (winning is great, but not everyone wins)

Provide criticism when necessary, but be constructive and time sensitive

Be enthusiastic and dedicated to helping others, not merely furthering your coaching career

Teach by example and be consistent in teaching to maintain credibility and establish strong bonds with your athletes

Be empathetic (put yourself in your athlete’s place to understand what they are thinking, feeling, and perceiving) to allow open and effective communication


Becoming comfortable with your athletes will enable them to become comfortable with you.  This will allow them to be honest with you and not be afraid to make mistakes. Constructive criticism rather than ego-driven criticism will obtain the greatest improvement in your athletes.  Regardless of the event goal, the training will be demanding and respect should be given, not earned.


Become a pro:
NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer Certification
Wexford Universty Personal Training Certification (Sports Emphasis)
MMA Conditioning Association