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Athletic Performance: The Relationship between Athletic Trainers and Strength and Conditioning Coaches

Posted June 26, 2017

By Beth Druvenga, M.S. Ed, LAT, ATC

When you are part of an athletic department, you are used to a team atmosphere. A team can only operate well when all participants on the team are communicating with each other and are on the same page. Athletic Trainers (ATs) are part of the athletic department, but there can be a branch of this department known as sports performance. This sports performance department can consist of a combination of ATs, strength and conditioning coaches, sports nutritionists and sport psychologists. Most commonly, this branch is ATs and strength and conditioning coaches.

The integral and sometimes tumultuous relationship between ATs and strength and conditioning coaches is important in creating an athletic environment where athletes can safely and effectively increase their athletic ability. Inability to foster this relationship can culminate in athletes feeling the need to choose whom they trust more or which opinion is better.5 The most common causes of conflict between sports performance personnel are: budgeting restrictions, disagreements in philosophy and the feeling of stepping on the other discipline’s toes.

Teamwork

How do ATs go about enhancing the relationship with strength and conditioning coaches?

It seems so simple. ATs and strength and conditioning coaches have a very similar goal which is to keep athletes performing at their highest level. Sure, we focus on different aspects, but our realms are the same. I think our biggest common goal is injury prevention. What can we do to help create an environment of cooperation and collaboration?

The research on group conflict and cohesion is clear. Communication is essential to ward off conflict and create cohesion.5 I decided to reach out to other ATs via social media to see what has and has not worked for them. I also asked what their relationships are like with their strength coaches, and what can be done to help improve the relationship.

1. Figure out the best method of communication and when to communicate.

“Our strength coach never checks his email then doesn’t know what kids aren’t allowed to do” (A.H. personal communication Feb. 7th, 2017).

2. If you find out that meetings work the best, don’t make them boring. Come with a purpose and with things to discuss.

“We sit down each week with the other CSCS certified strength coaches, head coaches, and all athletic trainers to discuss injured athletes. During this meeting, we discuss the limitations of injured athletes, practice plans, and our plan in the athletic training room. Every third week, the strength coaches and athletic trainers meet to discuss lifting form, lifting programs, and develop pre-habilitation training programs to implement into their regular workout routine…This gives the athletic training staff a first-hand opportunity towards prevention of injuries.” (H.B. personal communication Feb, 9th, 2017).

3. You are equals. There is no hierarchy in sports performance. If one area is lacking, then we are not working in the athletes’ best interest, and that’s what we are all here for. Be colleagues.

“We see each other as equals working together to better our student-athlete experiences…develop that relations…work to be colleagues.” (M.V.B, personal communication, Mar. 1st, 2017).

Another suggestion would be to spend time in an informal setting. This can be helpful when working on collaboration. Go for coffees, lunch or conduct CEUs or in-services that may benefit both professions. On-going professional development can lead to a more successful working environment.

According to literature on interprofessional education (IPE) participation in IPE can prepare future healthcare professionals to work effectively in an environment to increase patient centered care.2 Though IPE normally focuses on professions such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, ATs, physical therapists, etc.; but one could make the argument for strength coaches to be included in this list. IPE encourages mutual respect for other professions and their roles in executing patient-centered care, which can foster working relationships improving communication and appreciation for each other’s healthcare roles.2 The more we understand and accept each other’s roles, the better we can be of service to those in our care.

Resources

1. A.H. (2017, February 7). Personal communication.

2. Breitbach, A., & Richardson, R. (2015). Interprofessional Education and Practice in Athletic Training. Athletic Training Education Journal, 170-182.

3. H.B. (2017, February 9). Email.

4. M.V.B. (2017, March 1). Personal communication.

5. Reid, C., Stewart, E., & Thorne, G. (2004). Multidisciplinary Sport Science Teams in Elite Sport: Comprehensive Servicing or Conflict and Confusion? The Sport Psychologist, 204-217.

About the Author

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Beth Druvenga is an Athletic Trainer currently living in northern Virginia. She has experience working in both a collegiate and high school setting. Druvenga is originally from Iowa where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Athletic Training from Central College in 2012. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2014 with a Master of Science in Education. Her professional interests include patient-reported outcomes, psychology of injury and rehabilitation as well as using yoga to increase flexibility.