Strength & Conditioning Coach Certification: The First Step In Protecting The Student-Athlete

By Dr. Chuck Stiggins, Executive Director, Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa)

In 2000, a group of collegiate strength and conditioning coaches formed a new professional organization strictly for collegiate strength and conditioning coaches. We felt we needed and deserved our own organization—one that was specifically dedicated to meeting the unique needs of professionals in the strength and conditioning field in colleges and universities nationwide. This new organization would help ensure safe and appropriate strength and conditioning exercise prescription to improve student-athlete performance. The newly formed organization was called the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa), and has now been in existence for almost 17 years.

The original CSCCa Board of Directors understood the importance of creating a certification credential that reflected the unique needs, challenges, and responsibilities of college strength and conditioning coaches. The Board wanted to develop a certification that could not be obtained merely by reading a textbook and receiving a passing score on a written exam. As a result, the Board determined that the certification process should require completion of an exhaustive CSCCa-approved practicum/internship by a candidate before being permitted to sit for the exam in order to gain valuable work experience in the field.  It was also determined that the certification examination itself must include not only a written exam, but also a practical, hands-on portion during which applied knowledge and skills could be demonstrated and evaluated.  As a result of these early meetings and discussions, the Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) certification was developed.

In light of recent media attention on the certifications available to college strength and conditioning coaches, it is important to understand the great lengths coaches must go to receive the SCCC credential from the CSCCa.

SCCC Certification Process

Important Note: The Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) Certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE).

Step 1:  Completion of a 640-hour practicum/internship requirement or the equivalent. Students preparing for the SCCC certification are required to complete a 640-hour practicum/internship under a CSCCa-approved mentor to gain experience in coaching all aspects of a strength and conditioning program for a wide variety of sports.  For individuals who are already full-time collegiate or professional-level strength and conditioning coaches with a minimum of 3 years of full-time experience, this requirement can be fulfilled by completing an extensive, detailed review of the CSCCa’s Mentoring Manual and curriculum with a CSCCa-approved mentor. This ensures that the candidate is familiar with the information on which he/she will be evaluated during the exam.  This step is extremely important to establish that the candidate possesses the necessary knowledge, skills, techniques, and expertise to design and implement safe and effective strength and conditioning programs for both small and large groups of athletes, as required by the specific sport.

Step 2: Passing the written portion of the SCCC certification examination, which is administered by PSI, a highly respected national testing agency. Test content includes questions of both a scientific and practical nature, which evaluates the candidate’s mastery of foundational knowledge in the following areas:

  • Muscle Physiology
  • Bio-Energetics and Metabolism
  • Neuro-Muscular Concepts
  • Cardio-Respiratory System (Structure and Function)
  • Bio-Mechanical Concepts
  • Responses and Adaptations to Training
  • Aerobic (Endurance) and Anaerobic (Sprint and Interval) Exercise Prescription
  • Program Design/Periodization
  • Free Weight/Machines/High Intensity Training and Techniques
  • Speed Development/Plyometric Training
  • Flexibility/Stretching
  • Nutrition/Supplementation
  • Body Composition/Weight Management
  • Testing, Evaluation, and Goal Setting
  • Facilities/Supervision
  • Protecting the Health and Safety of the Athlete

Step 3: Passing both stations of the practical SCCC certification examination, which are administered by a panel of Master Strength and Conditioning Coaches who are SCCC certified individuals with a minimum of 12 years full-time coaching experience in the field—many for 20 years or more.  With all the coaching changes that take place each year across the country, only the best and most dedicated strength and conditioning coaches are able to earn this title of distinction.  These veteran coaches have a wealth of knowledge and experience and, having “mastered” their craft, are the most qualified individuals to evaluate these candidates. The exam includes two stations: proper strength training technique and proper exercise prescription—including training of the proper energy system; appropriate recovery; program design; plyometrics; speed endurance; speed and power development; agility; and a variety of other areas with direct relevance to safe and effective exercise prescription.

The practical portion of the exam was designed to evaluate the ability of the candidate to safely and effectively apply the knowledge that he/she has gained in the classroom setting in a practical working environment. This portion of the certification exam involves designing a comprehensive strength and conditioning program based upon solid periodization concepts for a specified sport (the designated sport changes with each exam administration to ensure SCCC certified coaches are properly trained in sport-specific program design) and being able to provide the rationale for the design of the program to the panel of MSCCs. The practical exam also includes the demonstration and teaching of selected strength and conditioning exercises.

Pre-requisites for the SCCC certification examination

  • Proof of current CPR/AED/First Aid certification valid on date of exam
  • Verification of attainment of a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree or senior status in an undergraduate program (Note: all candidates must have obtained their Bachelor’s degree and submitted verification to the CSCCa National Office before they will receive their SCCC certification and credential). We strongly recommend a Bachelor’s degree and/or a Master’s degree in Exercise Science or a related field.  Many of our member coaches have Master’s degrees, and a growing number are pursuing Doctorate degrees.
  • Verification of completion of the practicum/internship requirement sent from the candidate’s mentor to the CSCCa National Office.

Continuing Education Units (CEU) Program

Education is the central focus of the CSCCa.  The organization has implemented a variety of programs and activities designed to keep strength and conditioning coaches current on the latest scientific research, developments, and innovations in the field and to help these coaches implement these concepts within their own program.  The primary concern of the CSCCa and its member coaches continues to be the protection of the health and safety of the student-athlete and to provide appropriate exercise prescription that will maximize athletic performance safely and effectively, while decreasing the risk of injury. In order to safeguard the validity and credibility of the SCCC certification, it is necessary that individuals holding this credential continue to be updated and informed about recent developments and advances made in the field of strength and conditioning.  To facilitate this, the CSCCa Certification Commission has implemented a Continuing Education Units (CEU) program.

There are many ways CEU credits can be earned, including the following: strength-and-conditioning-specific conferences and clinics, video courses, article courses, university courses, podcasts, webinars, etc. Attending the annual CSCCa National Conference is an excellent way to obtain CEUs.  Conference presentations focus on various aspects of strength and conditioning applicable to all strength and conditioning coaches—no matter what sport or gender they coach. In addition, the CSCCa National Conference provides a great opportunity to share ideas and philosophies with other strength and conditioning coaches.

The Importance of Properly Accredited Certification

The Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) Certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). NCCA accreditation was granted only once it had been determined that the CSCCa and the SCCC certification had demonstrated compliance with the rigorous NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. These standards were created in 1977 and updated in 2003 to ensure certification programs adhere to current standards of practice for the certification industry.  NCCA standards were recently updated once again to provide even greater rigor in the evaluation of certification programs.  The CSCCa joined an elite group of certification programs that have received and currently maintain NCCA accreditation. Interested parties are encouraged to visit their website at http://www.credentialingexcellence.org.

The extensive and multi-faceted SCCC certification and continuing education program, coupled with the coveted NCCA accreditation, demonstrates the SCCC certification is the “Gold Standard” in the collegiate strength and conditioning industry.  For more information about the CSCCa or the SCCC certification program, please visit www.cscca.org or call our national office at 801-375-9400.

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