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Standards of Practice

NCSF Practice Standards and Disciplinary Process


The Standards of Practice and Disciplinary Process of the NCSF Board for Certification (NCSFBC) is intended to assist and inform the public, certificants, and candidates for certification, of the NCSFBC Standards of Professional Practice and the Disciplinary Process relative to professional conduct and disciplinary procedures.

The NCSFBC conducts a certification program for exercise professionals and has established a recertification requirement for NCSF certified professionals. The NCSFBC affirms that, after a candidate has successfully passed the certification examination, the Standards of Professional Practice for entry into the profession have been satisfied. It is expected that a certificant or candidate for certification agrees to comply at all times to the following Standards of Professional Practice.

Standards of Professional Practice

A. Standards of Professional Practice for NCSF Exercise Professionals

The following are minimal standards. Each one is essential for professional practice.

Standard 1: Role
Exercise professionals render service to individuals, groups or teams as independent agents or under the direction of a services coordinator, employer, or as an agent of a school. They are guided by the job role for which they work and must comply with the defined scope of practice.

Standard 2: On-Going Service Responsibility
AAll services and activities required of a professional, including evaluations, instruction and exercise prescriptions should be performed or updated at appropriate intervals, documented in writing, and shall become record of fact.

Standard 3: Documentation
Exercise professionals shall accept responsibility for recording the required details of their work. This may include health status, physical performance metrics and/or any activities associated with the delivery of professional services. This documentation should be protected and maintained for the specified duration of time in accordance with the law.

Documentation shall include:

  1. Client's name, emergency contact information and any other identifying information
  2. Informed Consent, screening activities and participation determinations
  3. Medical referrals and restrictions or limitations, if applicable
  4. Evaluation data including date, assessments used, results and relevant findings
  5. Program goals and estimated training cycle length
  6. Program activities including methods, results and revisions
  7. Date(s) of assessment and training
  8. Re-evaluation criteria
  9. Incident reports including psychological or physiological events
  10. Emergency plans

Standard 4: Confidentiality
Exercise professional shall maintain individual information as confident in accordance with law and shall accept responsibility for appropriately communicating assessment results, program plans, and progress with individuals and other stakeholders involved in the program.

Standard 5: Health Screening
Prior to any program participation, individuals shall be appropriately assess for function as it pertains to health and physical fitness participation. An individual’s input shall be considered an integral part of the initial assessment. All findings should be documented.

Standard 6: Program Planning
Exercise programs shall be based on participation readiness. Long and short-term goals should be based on evaluative criteria, which should be documented in a needs analysis. Goals shall be achievable and used to guide the program. Assessment measures to determine effectiveness of the program shall be incorporated into the plan and should be individual, group or team appropriate. Additionally, a contingency or emergency plan should be included as applicable.

Standard 7: Rationale for Recertification

Certification boards have an obligation to continuously improve their programs in response to feedback from stakeholders, changes in the ways professionals practice, as well as growth in the fields through research and the use of new technologies. Keeping pace with these changes in a responsible and evidence-based manner is important and relevant to achieving safe and effective practices within the exercise professions. 5,9,10,11 Due to the constant evolvement and expansion in training practices and the technical nature of the associated professional competencies, it is very important that certified professionals continuously update their knowledge and related skills. In exercise professions, consistent with aligned professions such as athletic training, this need is broadened due to multiple role obligations. 1,2,7 The diversity and complexity in roles of the exercise professional exist across a continuum, from the supervision of exercise for individuals to coaching large collegiate and professional teams. 2,4,6,10 For this reason professionals need to stay abreast of changes within the profession and engage in life-long learning consistent with the demands of the field. New technologies and scientific discoveries consistently drive changes in the development of human performance and make the commitment to lifelong learning even more critical.

The amount of continued education necessary for re-certification, as well as breadth and scope of the knowledge, skills and abilities of professionals across a reporting cycle have been evaluated using evidence from similar and associated professions including athletic training and physical therapy.12,13 A key element identified in the literature is that both education and certifications have demonstrated impact on practice patterns as well as stakeholder outcomes. 3,7,8,9,10 For this reason, the NCSF Board for Certification has placed a requirement that continued education/professional development align with both the domains of the job task analysis (JTA) used for the certification program as well as ethic and practice standards required in highly professional environments. To recertify using continued education, certified professionals are required to complete 10 credits from approved categories of continued professional development. Credit allocation is applied based on the contact time, subject matter relevance, and manner of student engagement with documented assessment of learning outcomes being the most significantly weighted criteria. The minimum contact time required in a 24 month reporting cycle is 20 hours. All certified exercise professionals are required to submit recertification documents and proof of participation as well as demonstrate compliance with the required credits in Ethics and Professional Practices and current CPR Certification.

It is a certified professionals obligation to actively participate in the ongoing processes of continue development because it is beneficial to the individuals they serve, the profession, and the public interest. For this reason every certified professional is required to complete a recertification application and provide documentation of compliance with the requirements set by the NCSF Board for Certification for the certificants current reporting cycle. Any changes to re-certification requirements determined by the Board do not apply to certificants in an active recertification cycle until the following term.

B. Standards of Professional Practice for Exercise Professionals – Service and Programs

Standard 1: Objectives
Basic to the development of any program is its intended purposes. Objectives and protocols specific to goal attainment should be premeditated and clearly outlined for each goal, including: rationale, exercise prescriptions, timeline, re-evaluations and supportive services.

Standard 2: Programming
Each objective should be supported by detailed plans for its implementation including specific protocols, the implementation of exercise program principles and a plan for revisions as necessary.

Standard 3: Evaluation
Objective methods of data collection and analysis should be used in relation to each component of the program to determine the effectiveness of the service. The evaluation instrument or method should reflect the relative capabilities and best interests of the individual, group or team. If the evaluation indicates a need for change, appropriate revisions or modifications should be made.

Standard 4: Types of Services Offered
Services and programs must be appropriate for the identified need and practiced within the scope of the profession. In general, the service should aim at an overall enhancement of health, fitness or performance status and the prevention of any potential health consequences. Program priority should be directed at reducing known risk for injury, disease or health issue, while addressing the desired and overall needs of the individual, group or team.

Standard 5: Personnel
The service or program should be directed by a National Council on Strength and Fitness board certified exercise professional who has met the qualification standards established by the NCSFBC. Education, qualifications and experience of all other personnel should meet existing standards and should be appropriate to their duties.

Standard 6: Facilities and Budget
Appropriate resources should be secured and used to facilitate the safest and most effective implementation of the service or program.

Standard 7: Records
Objective, permanent records of each aspect of the service program should (1) indicate screening, evaluation and assessment protocols and findings; (2) client goals, exercises prescription(s) and lifestyle modification recommendations (3) dates and findings of subsequent follow-up evaluations when applicable.

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  2. Duehring MD1, Ebben WP Profile of high school strength and conditioning coaches. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):538-47.
  3. Gallo GJ1, De Marco GM Jr. Self-assessment and modification of a division I strength and conditioning coach's instructional behavior. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1228-35.
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  6. Massey CD1, Schwind JJ, Andrews DC, Maneval MW.An analysis of the job of strength and conditioning coach for football at the Division II level. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2493-9.
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