Saturated, Stagnant or both?
Author: Andrew Hyde Co-Founder, BSc (Hons), MSc, Sports Scientist, S&C Coach.*
Editor: Daunté Crawford Co-Founder, BSc (Hons) student
It is without a doubt that there is a problem with not only the number of jobs available but the salary that clubs and organisations are offering for the scarce roles right now in the Strength & Conditioning (S&C) industry within the UK. There has been an uproar on social media, with most demanding change from clubs and organisations offering low salaries. The S&C community is an interesting one, we certainly have a loudmouth, especially on Twitter.
But, how much is the noise we make and preaching we do on social media, actually doing for positive change in our industry?
Although there are some useful ideas, very useful ideas at that being shared on Twitter, it’s hard to sell them and affect change in 280 characters. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to:
- Identify the problems for graduate S&C Coaches in the UK.
- Propose solutions for these problems, where possible.
- Spread some positivity and happiness.
I myself started applying for S&C roles in June 2019 as I was finishing up my master’s Thesis for September 2019. Reality hit, quickly. I’m a happy-go-lucky optimist, and if I’m honest, when the end of my masters was looming, I wasn’t worried one bit about securing an S&C role. I always ensure I get myself into positions where I don’t have to worry about stuff like that. In a way, I’m happy-go-lucky with only a sprinkle of luck, as I always have a plan. Well, this time round that always turned to a usually.
I am 3-months into my search for an S&C job, and so far, I have received one interview where I was an internal recommendation but did not get the job.
I have applied for all roles within my reach or a feasible commute in the UK and where relocation for internships is possible in other countries, with no luck. On the upside, I do have 2 S&C side hustles, one being the Aesthetic Athletes, where you’re currently reading this article. However, both my side hustles collectively take up 10-hours of my time per week. This leaves me in a current situation where I have A LOT of ‘free time’ and no salaried income.
So, I would say I can fully understand and am currently experiencing the hardships and struggles we face when we are thrown into the real world after university. One day you put on a nice suit, feel expensive and celebrate graduation, only to open up Twitter the next day and see the salary you’ll be paid as an S&C Coach, considering you get a job. Very quickly, you stop feeling so expensive.
After studying for 4-years (if you manage to do an undergraduate and postgraduate degree full-time), hundreds of hours interning for free and money spent on accreditation’s, you’re only brought up to a level playing field. On paper, you’re no different than the other 120 hopefuls applying for that minimum wage S&C gig.
This is something everyone within our industry can understand, and clearly, there are some problems, so let’s see what they are and what we can do about them, that’s if we can do something…
If we drop worst-case scenario work: rest ratios for a minute and look at worst-case scenario job: the number of applicant ratios, I’ve seen some that are ~1:200. Now, competitiveness is not a bad thing, but it’s clear that there’s a supply & demand problem. The number of graduating sports scientists and S&C coaches annually from universities that are supplied to the industry is a figure I cannot find, but there’s no doubt it way exceeds the demand of jobs available.
As such, we are all desperate to get jobs and many of us will ultimately take close to anything in regard to pay, to get a foot in the door. If that’s the case, why would a profitable organisation who intends on making money pay you any more than they need to? If the demand is low and the supply is high, they’ll take advantage of that.
Business is business, and business doesn’t care how many hours of free interning you’ve done or the fact that you have a masters, unfortunately. Look at the sneaker industry.
If a rare pair of sneakers are released (supplied) and everyone wants a pair (the demand is high), they can go for upwards of 1k. Unfortunately, again, S&C Coaches aren’t rare pairs of sneakers.
Rob Pacey (@strengthofsci), host of the Pacey Performance Podcast ran a great Twitter poll with 733 voters, where 41% believed an advertised job role and the accompanying salary was just over 5-10k below what it should’ve been. 38% thought it was over 10k lower than what it should’ve been. It’s pretty clear where most in the industry sit about the matter of wages and I agree. I also believe the industry is saturated. But also, I believe there are solutions to this problem that are 100% in our control. So, how do we tackle this? If the clubs and organisations aren’t budging, or only budging somewhat, is there anything we can do? Here’s a couple of options…
The Possible Solutions in Our Control
Set-up a side hustle
Going back to Rob Pacey, a following poll of his identified that 45% of 216 voters already have a side hustle generating income and 44% don’t but would like one. For that 44%, this is completely in your hands and has nothing to do with the low salaries currently being offered in the UK.
Rob himself, has his Pacey Performance Podcast. I and Daunte have Aesthetic Athletes where we have 1:1 clients and are currently in partnership with Manchester Player Development, providing Sports Science and S&C support. Even in the wake of the upset at Bury FC, Jack Inman and Matt Wood turned a negative into a positive and set up their new business Full-Time Performance. You don’t have to set-up a high-performance S&C business. Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and more recently TikTok are all free platforms, with cheap advertising and a potentially unlimited global reach, especially TikTok. This is by far the fastest growing social media app in the world right now. They all deliver very different end products (e.g. words, picture’s, videos) and you could create anything sports science or S&C related on any, or all of them. No matter what happens, it is within your power to turn it into your advantage. Be creative, be innovative and be a self-starter… and let it show when you do finally get that job interview to go with your side hustle, it may just show something different in your character through all the master’s degrees and accreditation’s. And who knows, maybe one day your side hustle will become your main hustle.
If needs be, pick up a role that’s as closely related as possible
There are many skills that are universal and transferable. Pick up a role that’s as similar as possible to S&C and requires similar transferable skills whilst you find an S&C role. This role may turn out well.. so another option could be stick at it.
If it’s something that pays you more to do less 9-5 and allows you to work on your side hustle in the evening, it’s a win-win. Ultimately, who cares that you’re new in this industry at such a difficult time and can’t get a job? Who cares that you live north and most of the S&C jobs posted right now are down south? Stop being a creature of circumstance and be the creator of your own circumstances.
In regard to both the previous two points raised, I believe we can be a little bit stagnant by complaining, not taking control of our own lives and simply looking in any direction but the barriers that face us.
Turn it into your advantage as an S&C Coach
To continue on roles that are related to S&C, let’s take Personal Trainers (PT) for example. The main difference between an S&C Coach and PT is that the former works with athletes and prioritises athletic performance and the latter works with the general public and prioritises aesthetics. But both involve improving health and physical fitness through the means of exercise prescription and coaching. And, you can earn a killing as a PT. Or, an S&C Coach for the general public… and people in places of work. I genuinely believe that the principles and practices we employ as S&C Coaches make us the ultimate choice to come to, even if you simply want to improve your body composition. And although all your credentials, experience and quadriceps may not impress employers, it can certainly sell to the general public, know your audience.
New sub-sectors in S&C
To continue from the previous point, take a look at the likes of Dave Hembrough (@dwhembro). Dave is pushing the movement #sncforsocialchange. He runs Hallam Barbell and MindfullySTRONG. He believes that the principles and practices we apply as S&C Coaches can help people in the general public (don’t have to be athletes) in becoming fitter, happier, healthier and stronger. This opens up new opportunities away from professional sport and high-performance where S&C Coaches can have another great purpose and career in supporting people outside of being an athlete.
We have already seen this expand to Tactical Strength & Conditioning for the military. Why not policemen? Why not firefighters? They’re athletes and their jobs are catching bad guys and saving lives. Why not the NHS? This would open up a huge avenue for S&C Coaches and Physio/Sports Therapists to work together from early to end-stage rehab and reduce the occurrence of failure to fully recover or reinjury where possible. The UKSCA have already partnered up CIMPSA which hopefully begins to steer the industry in these directions too. We’re also seeing S&C Coaches start to move into high schools with improving facilities and curriculum’s, expect to see more jobs here too.
These will no doubt increase demand, and hopefully these points are taken on board to decrease stagnation, but many graduates, if not more will still continue to be pumped into the industry every year, so don’t bank on the supply staying the same or decreasing. The industry will still be competitive, but there will also be more opportunities, especially if you create your own…
Use your time wisely
Applying for jobs, waiting to hear if you have an interview, having that interview and then hearing back can take a while, without even considering if you’re successful. In the past 3 months, I have had a lot of spare time, and I’ve spent it well. Firstly, I’ve spent more time getting myself right in the gym again, practice what you preach. I worked on Aesthetic Athletes. I also spent time educating myself, not necessarily always on S&C specific concepts either. I watched and listened to the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Gary Vee through YouTube.
I learnt a lot about leadership and the art of dealing with people. Or, you could reach out to some S&C Coaches.
Ask if you can shadow them, learn from them and watch what they do rather than having your head stuck in papers or listening to endless podcasts. Papers and Podcasts are great, but get outside too. Get into the real world and balance things out. How do you know that you won’t get on with that coach you shadow, go from being an outside observer to eventually being part of the team?
Always show a willingness to develop
When I was unsuccessful following the recent interview I mentioned, I asked for feedback.
I asked how I could improve and develop in hope that I’m successful in working with them one day in the future. Shortly after, the job position was re-advertised. I reapplied, improving upon my application based on feedback.
How did I know this wasn’t a trick, and they were seeing which candidates had the will and perseverance to show keenness to develop despite being knocked back or by reapplying?
Although I was unsuccessful again, I may not be in the next opportunity I seek, and I’m never leaving it down to chance or having an unanswered what if, so always show a willingness to develop. It may just pay off.
Spread some positivity
In the midst of all the preaching, critiquing and complaining that can happen on social media in the S&C industry, spread some support, spread some love and have a good time! There is more to life than arguments on if an athlete is in triple extension on a coaches’ video or if S&C Coach is the right name for your role. You never know what someone else is going through and after all, it’s a tough industry! Drop the ego or trying to impress people. Drop the seriousness 24/7. If you do have an opinion or advice for someone, deliver feedback & suggestions in a kind, positive and suggestive manner. Share peoples side hustles, support each other and wish people well!
Ultimately, thousands of young college students are still going to enrol in university Sport & Exercise Science and S&C degrees every year, although some may hold off if they do some research into the current salaries being offered. Regardless, the industry is saturated and we can be a little stagnant. But that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way on our accord, or that we can’t do something about it ourselves. It doesn’t mean we can’t improve our own situations using some of the solutions above. They’re some great things happening in the S&C industry. We, at Aesthetic Athletes, would love to see more of them and would love to see more positivity. Have a wonderful day and thank you for reading!