Internships Part 2: SAPT

*** This is a revised version of a post that I wrote while working as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist for SAPT Strength, in Fairfax, VA. I believe it holds a strong message about why it's so important to pursue educational opportunities as you begin your career. Both Strength & Conditioning and Physical Therapy are fields where you are required to be a "life-long learner" or your risk the chance of falling behind.***

In last Thursday's blog post, I talked about my experience as an Olympic sports intern with Virginia Tech's strength and conditioning program.

Our big takeaway: Ask questions and be engaged.

As an intern, I realized that my job was, first and foremost, to learn. Asking questions was the way I accomplished this. It showed I genuinely wanted to learn more about training, and that I valued what these coaches had to teach me. During my internship with Virginia Tech, I started looking for more opportunities to get involved in the field of sports performance. I was referred to SAPT by a local high school football coach who spoke very highly of their internship program, so I decided to check them out. After filling out an online interest form and sitting for an interview, I suddenly found myself with a summer internship following my college graduation. I also picked up a job as an aide in a Physical Therapy clinic to help pay the bills.

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Obviously the internship went well or I wouldn't be writing this blog post. I couldn't believe how lucky I had gotten to have found SAPT. I moved from my unpaid internship to a paid one, and subsequently received an offer to come aboard as a full-time coach. I've now had the opportunity to coach through 2 semesters of interns and understand what it takes to succeed in the position.

Below is a short "How-to" list that will help you with your next internship. I hope they help you succeed during your next learning experience, whatever that may be.

  • ASK QUESTIONS! If a coach is busy when a question comes to mind, write it down and save it for later.

  • Watch the clients lift. Take note of the individuals proportions and observe what adjustments they have to make to accommodate their genetics. Perfect technique is not one-size-fits-all. Optimal form will vary greatly based on individual proportions.

  • Spend at least 2-3 hours a week on continuing education. Whether you're reading blog posts, strength and conditioning books, or established strength programs and the philosophies that they're based around, make sure you're putting time in outside of the internship to learn.

Practical Programming  Mark Rippetoe

Practical Programming
Mark Rippetoe

Science and Practice of Strength Training  Vladimir Zatsiorsky

Science and Practice of Strength Training
Vladimir Zatsiorsky

Ultimate MMA Conditioning  Joel Jamison

Ultimate MMA Conditioning
Joel Jamison

  • Introduce yourself to every client who walks in the door. Not only is this common courtesy, but it will be way less awkward if you know Alice's name when you're watching her perform glutebridges.

  • Get to know the clients. Get to know what they like doing outside of the gym. Ask them about their day, their kids, their dog. Showing you care about the clients as people will go a long way towards getting them to enjoy their experience at your gym.

  • Be aware of your surroundings, and take the initiative to help the coaches organize the floor. Put away misplaced equipment, keep the training floor neat and organized, and take the initiative to ensure a safe workout environment.

  • Help the clients with their session. Help them set up their next exercise, put equipment back where it belongs, make sure they're comfortable and enjoying their session.

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  • Show up to work in a good mood. Even if you're having a crappy day, come in with a smile and greet everyone who talks in the door in a warm, friendly manner. Be infectiously upbeat.

  • Train at your internship facility. Most internships will allow you to lift during your working hours. We put interns through our assessment process, write them programs, and have them lift during client hours. This allows us to coach them, get their technique up to speed, and familiarize them with the exercises.

  • Use common sense. Don't put yourself or your clients in danger. The weight room can be a dangerous place if used improperly, so have respect for the iron.