6.16.15 Box Brief

Where Students Become Coaches

Exercise-science students and professors say learning how to become a coach happens in the gym—not in a lecture hall.

A dentist, an orthopedic surgeon and a personal trainer—you would expect formal education to teach them how to fill a molar, repair a ruptured tendon and teach a squat. But when it comes to personal trainers and coaches, college graduates with degrees in exercise science say the opposite is true.

Jack Langley is one of these graduates. During Langley’s kinesiology education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, many of the tools needed to become a good coach and personal trainer weren’t acquired in the classroom.

“We never learned how to actually teach the squat,” he said.

Because students aren’t being taught how to teach, graduates enter the workforce ill-prepared to become trainers and coaches, Langley said.

Even graduates from highly acclaimed institutions such as Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania, aren’t churning out job-ready coaches, Bryan St. Andrews explained. Since 2011, close to 20 Penn State kinesiology students have completed their internships under the guidance of St. Andrews, owner of CrossFit Nittany, also in State College.

Still, most graduates of Penn State’s kinesiology program don’t meet St. Andrews’ standard for a coaching job at his affiliate. Their knowledge of anatomy and physiology might be sound, but they don’t yet know how to coach when they show up to intern, he said.

When asked if he’d hire any of them upon graduation, he answered with two words.

“No way.”

By Emily Beers

June 11, 2015