The Do's and Don'ts of Being an Intern

Internships are the bridges that lead into a career in strength and conditioning whether it’s at the collegiate level or the private sector.  If you want to pursue a career in this industry at some point you need to do an internship.  If you don’t then you won’t gain hands on knowledge and you won’t be able to learn from people more experienced and smarter than you.  Internships are almost a rite of passage.  They mean you paid your dues.  If you successfully completed an internship it means you worked hard every day, you cleaned equipment, you organized storage closets, you woke up at 4:00AM to be in the weight room for a 5:00AM team and then worked till 4:00PM, you read endlessly, you watched some of the most knowledgeable people you’ll ever meet coach, you got to ask those coaches questions, you got to listen to those coaches answer your questions, and if you were lucky those coaches threw you to the wolves and told you one morning “hey, I’m going to let you run women’s soccer today to see how you do” then they watched you fail miserably which gave you the opportunity to find out what your made of, then they showed you how to learn from your mistakes and how to do it better the next time!  And you did it all for no money, just for the experience, the knowledge, the pride and to see if you had what it takes.  It was all for the opportunity to gain the ability to help people and athletes become better versions of themselves.  Or at least this is what it should be about; sadly a lot of people just want to get by. You’d be amazed by the amount of people who want to say they put in the work rather than just putting in the work.  People who do the internship because they need the credit to graduate so they try to put in as little effort as possible instead of taking advantage of a great situation in which they can learn.

With all that said here are some do’s and don’ts to follow in order to get the best possible experience out of your internship…

1) Be Quiet

You are there to learn, not socialize.  The coaches don’t care about how “crazy” your weekend was.  Unless your asking questions there is no need for you to talk, until the coach states otherwise.

2) Understand That You Know Nothing/Be Open Minded

It’s important to grasp the concept that unless you have coaching experience your opinion doesn't hold much value. There’s nothing worse than someone who spouts off exercise science trivia but can’t goblet squat to save their life or teach it for that matter.  It doesn’t matter what your training methodology is because it’s over for the time being.  Take this time to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new.  Is your internship somewhere that is Olympic based? Well if it is guess what?  You are going to train the Olympic lifts for the next semester or year.  If you go into the whole thing thinking you know it all then then you’ve demonstrated that you truly know nothing.

3) Do as Your Asked and Do it with a Smile on Your Face

Your job is whatever the strength coach you’re working under deems it to be.  If they want you to go reorganize the whole storage closet then do it and whistle while you work, trust me it helps.  If they want you to observe a training session then you need watch intently and have questions ready to ask them when the session is done.  It’s a privilege that these coaches have taken you under their wing so show gratitude by performing each task no matter how minute it is to the best of your ability

4) Show Initiative

Sadly, this was my biggest problem during my internships.  If someone told me to do something I definitely did it to the best of my ability.  That was the problem though, most of the time I had to be told when to do something.  If you see plates unorganized then go organize them before someone tells you.  Is everything organized in the storage closet by the end of the day?  If not, take it upon yourself to organize it.  If the strength coach is running behind schedule and has a collegiate baseball team getting out of line then put your big boy/girl pants on and go lay down the law.  One of your jobs is to assist the strength coach so they can focus on their job.  If they have to stop what they’re doing in order to tell you what to do all the time then you’re just making things worse.  Taking initiative shows leadership qualities and that you can handle yourself in all different situations.

5) Have Fun

I know that sounds a little hard after all the things I just mentioned BUT I promise you that if you observe the other rules listed number 5 will come naturally.  If you can successfully observe the previous rules then the strength coach you work under will probably make your job a lot more enjoyable.  If you don’t heed the other rules you’re going to have a really angry strength coach as a boss.  Working under Sarah I learned this quick, that’s not a person you want angry at you; I have nightmares to this day…. joking…. But seriously.  In all seriousness though, depending on where you end up for your internship you have been given a great opportunity to change yourself for the better.  It’s important to do everything in your power to seize the opportunity.