The value of internships cannot be overstated. Over my current undergraduate career, I have done three internships on top of three years of employed coaching. Those three internships have all occurred within the past year.
I decided last fall that in order for myself to really grow as a coach, I had to get uncomfortable. What I mean by that is, I had to put myself in an environment I had zero familiarity with. I had been flirting with the idea of becoming a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, and one of my mentors, Jack McCormick, assisted me in setting up an interview with Northeastern University. I was able to land that internship, and become a stranger in a strange land.
During those months I got bombarded with tasks, duties, and coaching that I had never done before. This daily uncomfort was what developed me as a coach, and lit the fire to constantly get better. I learned more about coaching and exercise science, in one semester at Northeastern S&C Department, than two and half years at school. I did this at the expense of my income, availability to study (full time student), as well as my social life. I began to learn how to be uncomfortable. This raw lesson has helped me tremendously not only in coaching, but in my own training and personal life. If we stay comfortable we will never make any great gains or strides forward. An object at rest will stay at rest. I apply that law everyday in the form of my educational development, as well as coaching.
My current view of myself as a coach is an apprentice. I know for some that may kick their ego in the balls, but for me I embrace it. In the medieval era, apprentices generally kept that title for 7-10 YEARS. The often touted 10,000 hours to mastery, equates to that similar 7-10 year number. For me, this is my career, one that I aspire to become a master in. I whole-heartedly accept, that to get to the point of mastery, I will need to be uncomfortable, struggle, fail, dust myself off, and learn to pull myself up.
This is why internships are absolutely paramount in the success of young coaches. This does not mean any position titled “internship” will revolutionize our abilities. When searching for an internship, focus on the programs intern education practice. Does the facility have a dedicated curriculum for their interns? Are there weekly in services for interns to attend given by staff, or outside coaches/practitioners? Do they allow interns practical experience on the floor with clients and athletes? These are the essential questions, and criteria to follow in searching for an internship that will challenge us, and make us feel uncomfortable.
At the end of everyday, if we do not feel that we have been challenged or put in an uncomfortable environment, the amount of growth possible will be greatly limited. If our goal as coaches is to reach mastery, than we must strive for this feeling. By owning these environments and situations, we will exponentially increase our growth potential, leading us closer and closer to mastery of our given field. Arriving upon mastery does not mean we are done, in essence we are just beginning, however, we now have the ability to inflict change within the field due to our greater understanding of its entire DNA and Hard Wiring.
For more information on the concept of mastery, I highly recommend Robert Greene’s Mastery. This book has dramatically changed how I view my quest towards this coveted title.