The Worldwide Standard – With CSCCa CSO Sandy Abney

For nearly two decades, Sandy Abney coached at the University of Texas as the Assistant Head Coach of Athletic Performance and the Director of the University of Texas Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning Internship program. Two years ago, she decided to leave the familiarity of college athletics to pursue an exciting new opportunity as Deputy Director of High Performance for Team China under the direction of the Chinese Olympic Committee.

During her time outside the U.S., Abney gained an entirely new perspective on the profession — one she won’t soon forget as the CSCCa’s new Chief Science Officer (CSO).

“I was completely honored that Chuck and Becky and the board of directors would bestow an historic opportunity like this on me,” Abney says. “I stepped out of coaching in 2019 and went to the international side of sport. To be able to live abroad and work abroad is an amazing experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For me, it helped to bring an appreciation, not only for our country, but for our organization.

“To have an opportunity to step back into the collegiate ranks and be in a position of influence and in a position to give back to a profession that has given so much to me is a complete honor and I’m humbled by it.”

Abney describes her time in China as a complete immersion in a different way of operating. Living among the other coaches and athletes, she quickly realized that not everyone in the world has been blessed with the knowledge, resources and framework that collegiate strength and conditioning coaches have grown to expect.

This international experience was eye opening for Abney, to say the least. As she helped Team China establish a new high performance athletic center, which essentially mirrors the modern U.S. college athletics department, she not only found a new level of respect for the resources and professionalism of U.S. collegiate athletics, but a renewed passion for continuing to hold high the standards within the strength and conditioning profession.

“We are so lucky to work in the collegiate strength and conditioning setting. We have an amazing opportunity. The process that we put our candidates through to get certified, there really is no other certification like it anywhere else,” Abney says. “When [Dr.] Chuck [Stiggins] says we are the gold standard. We truly are.”

One of Abney’s primary roles as the CSO will be overseeing the accreditation of the CSCCa’s SCCC certification process. In lockstep with those efforts will be the constant improvement and evolution of the SCCC certification itself — a certification that sets the worldwide standard for what it means to be a certified strength and conditioning professional. More than a simple roster of coaches who’ve managed to find full-time employment in the industry, SCCC certification demands continuing effort, not only to strive for excellence, but to constantly learn and integrate the depth of knowledge required to be both safe and effective.

“Accreditation’s the integrity. That’s the validity of not only our organization, but also our certification,” Abney explains. “Think of it in terms of a license. A doctor has to have a license to practice medicine. We have to obtain accreditation so that we can stand behind the validity of our certification.

“It also speaks to the importance of us staying on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest of what is out there, keeping up with the latest research and science, and making sure we are advancing just as science is advancing. I don’t know if our membership realizes it, but that is a constant effort.”

It’s a constant effort that will now benefit from the renewed focus of Abney’s brand new role.

“We have such a unique profession. We face challenges that other members of the athletic department won’t necessarily have to face,” Abney says. “It takes reaching out to your brothers and sisters within the CSCCa to lean on for advice, for reference and for recommendations on how to handle these unique challenges.”

Putting words to action, reaching out is exactly what she plans to do. As the CSCCa Executive Leadership Team begins to set a new course for the future, Abney plans to spearhead a wave of CSCCa member coaches sharing their knowledge and experience like never before.

“Get ready coaches, I’m going to come knocking on your door,” Abney says with a knowing smile. “For those who like to present, write or research, we want to hear from you. We need to build our own resources in-house, for each other.

“We can’t lower our standards now. We are the bar.”


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