Coaching Philosophy: Building Relationships While Building Athletes at the University of Georgia
About the Author: Mike Austin is a contributing editor of AFCA Magazine. The American Football Coaches Association is the only national organization dedicated to improving football coaches through ongoing education, interaction, and networking. The AFCA and Hammer Strength have teamed up to provide insights into the coaching profession, elite athletic programs, and more. Photo credit: University of Georgia athletics.
University of Georgia director of strength and conditioning Scott Sinclair knows that to get the most from his student-athletes, he can’t just be a leader in the weight room. He must utilize his platform in the weight room to reach his players in different ways and build greater relationships with them.
Kirby Smart, head football coach at the University of Georgia, made sure to praise his director of strength and conditioning during his preseason camp media session by calling Scott Sinclair “far and away” the best strength coach in the country.
It’s high praise for Sinclair, and he doesn’t take his head coach’s words lightly. Considering the two had no working relationship prior to Sinclair joining the Bulldogs’ staff three years ago, those words are a testament to the trust built.
“It was my job to show him through my work and dedication to our team that he made the correct choice in hiring me,” Sinclair says about how strength coaches go about earning the respect of the head coach. “Trust is the No. 1 component here. I made sure each day to perform my job to the best of my ability and also in line with what Coach Smart wants from his football team.
“I feel that I am an extension of him. The culture I am helping to create is a direct reflection of what he wants. A tough, physical and disciplined team is our foundation. A strength coach must do his or her best to help create the players a coach wants on his team.”
Sinclair does this through all the sweat, time and effort he expects of players in the weight room, but he also focuses on leadership qualities to ensure athletes are more than robots — they are productive citizens in this team environment. It’s why the summer is his favorite time of year to work with players.
“It’s a time when we have some time to not only train them physically, but mentally as well,” Sinclair says of the summer, which he adds is the most time the strength staff has with athletes. “During the summer, we not only lift weights and condition, but we also have team meetings where we are able to talk to our players about leadership, choices and time management (among other things). This is the best, because we can watch players grow in so many ways.”
Being a part of that personal and physical growth for his players is what has kept Sinclair in the game for so long, and continues to push him. Sinclair has been working in strength and conditioning since 1999 after graduating from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
Before joining Georgia in 2016, Sinclair had stops at Georgia Tech, the University of Central Florida (where he also earned his master’s degree in 2006) and Marshall University. Having two decades of experience under his belt, Sinclair says today’s athletes are the same as the ones he coached in 1999 … he’s the one who has changed.
“I have taken more time just to get to know the player on a personal level. We have the players over for cookouts, as well as meeting with them just to talk,” Sinclair says about how he’s grown and matured as a coach. “We always try speak to them, high-five them and shake their hands before each workout. We also may do a day where we give the players a hug before the workout. Many times, I will text or call just to check in, and just to let them know – as a strength staff – we want to make sure they are doing OK. Little things like this helps us to further build relationships with our players.”