For some, working with athletes is a dream come true. Students like Lucas Metcalfe look to follow this dream by becoming a strength and conditioning coach for collegiate level athletes. Luckily, Ohio Northern now offers a Strength and Conditioning major in the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences. In this program, students will dive into a challenging curriculum centered around the basic sciences, nutrition, anatomy, physiology, and exercise biomechanics to apply their knowledge toward increasing human performance. As a sophomore Strength and Conditioning major, Lucas says he is excited for this opportunity because it “gives [him] the best possible chance to be successful”. Not only does the program guide his future success, but will give him a chance to learn about something he has “always been passionate about.”
Professor Kurt Wilson, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), has boldly led the initiative to bring the strength and conditioning curriculum to ONU. Kurt initially tackled this undertaking “to assist with education of the athletic training students.” Up until last year, athletic training was his profession and where he taught but he has “always had a desire for performance enhancement in athletics.” Kurt has also worked with several athletic teams from ONU and surrounding area high schools to improve their strength and conditioning programs. He says his passion “lies in the education of young people and it makes no difference if that is a student in the classroom or an athlete in the weight room.”
Most interestingly, ONU is an approved Education Recognition Program (ERP) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Ohio Northern is 1 of 52 ERPs in this region of the US (Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, & Kentucky) and is one of only two undergraduate programs to offer a Strength and Conditioning major in the region. For Kurt, this is exciting because “ONU can be on the leading edge of the education of strength and conditioning professionals that are entering a relatively new profession. In 2030 NSCA will start mandating that you have to graduate from an accredited education program to be eligible for the CSCS exam.” This is important because having a NSCA certification like the CSCS will push future strength and conditioning professionals from ONU ahead of their competition in the field.
As of now the program is only formatted as a major, but there is hope for a minor in upcoming years. Kurt mentioned that the plan as of now is “to bring forward a proposal for a minor to the committee on curriculum this spring (2021). I believe that it is a viable option and something that I could see working well with education majors who may want to coach, physical therapy majors who are interested in late stage rehab, entrepreneurs, or criminal justice majors who may want to pursue the strength training tactical certification option.” There seems to be an interest in the major from other majors on campus as well. Already Kurt has been approached by mechanical engineering students that hope to develop a piece of strength and conditioning equipment for their senior capstone project. “I believe there are a number of opportunities for education collaboration and want to make sure that the changes going forward are well thought out and calculated.”
Not only is Kurt planning to work with students from other majors, but he hopes to work with the athletic teams as well. Originally, the plan was to hire a full time strength and conditioning coach on the athletics side, which was supported by both the ONU administration and coaches. However, COVID affected the implementation of this position last spring. Kurt plans to continue pursuing this because it “would be an outstanding addition to our athletic teams and would provide a professional that could assist with the practical application of the strength and conditioning education program.” Currently, students in the strength and conditioning program will take a practicum course their junior year. Ideally, the full time strength and conditioning coach would guide the practicum and work side by side with the student as they assisted ONU athletic teams. “When speaking to coaches across the country about curriculum development, one of the issues that was continually highlighted was the need for ‘practical/hands on’ experience. This practicum would be completed prior to their internship experience, further helping prepare the student for entering the field of strength and conditioning.”
To learn more about the strength and conditioning program, click here.