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Coach education - some ideas for improvment

By: Wayne Goldsmith

Provided by: CoachesInfo.com

The world needs more coaches. Good coaches. Passionate coaches. Committed coaches. Innovative coaches. Coaches are the driving force of change in sport and every sport needs more great coaches.
Many nations - including the UK, Canada, South Africa, France and Australia are investing in coach education, coach development, coach mentoring, coach accreditation and ‘coaching the coaches’ programs.
To ensure that these programmes are effective, several common mistakes and pitfalls must be avoided. Here are some tips for those who are involved in coach education:

  • Don’t over complicate sports science. Sports science is an important part of athlete development and effective coaching but unless coaches understand it they will not use it – or they will use it badly. Sports science needs to be included in quality coach education programs but with a focus on keeping it simple, practical, applied, relevant and most importantly effective.
  • Align the coach development pathway to the athlete development pathways. The whole point to coaching is to create an environment which provides appropriate coaching to athletes at the appropriate time in their development. Effective coach development pathways must run parallel to and complimentary with the athlete development pathways.
  • Look beyond competency based training. Competency based training promises a lot but can fail unless the framework and resources are established adequately to train the coaches, train the assessors, ensure consistency across the national system and ensure it all maintains currency and relevance over time. Thus, a successful competency based programme is administratively laborious and involves checklists, and rigorous assessment procedures. It can be too complex and unwieldy to be workable outside the vocational training industry and academic sector. More importantly, there is a lack of evidence that competency based coach education programs produce better coaches and athletes. Unless competency based programmes can be thoroughly resourced and expertly managed alternatives to competency based programmes should be considered.
  • Consider the human side. While sport and pedagogical sciences are important, particularly at the higher levels of competition, the most urgent considerations for most of the world’s coaches are aspects such as dealing with parents, dealing with the inconsistencies of teenagers, finding time to balance coaching, family and work and the more simple, practical side of coaching.
  • Mentoring can be effective if adequately resourced. Mentoring is like politics. Everyone talks about it but few understand it. Every nation with a Coach education network talks about mentoring but programmes are often less effective than they could be due to lack of time or money to adequately fund and drive them.
  • Keep abreast of the latest findings regarding periodisation. Traditional models of periodisation are like black and white TV, the Betamax video and the dinosaurs - outdated and out of place in this century. Yet the old favourites - one week microcycles, one month macrocycles and three month phases are still being taught.
  • Focus on “how” and “why” rather than just ‘what’. The "what" of coaching changes all the time. The future belongs to coaches who challenge what’s happening now and think about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ to find new ways of forging the frontiers of sport.
  • Create courses which reflect where the sport is going -i.e. present. There is a natural tendency to stay with what worked in the distant past. As sport changes and develops methods of the past are no longer as effective. The past is the past - coaching is about helping athletes achieve in the future and must be future focused. Coaches need to be kept up to date with the latest findings in sport science and coaching methods.
  • Ensure that teachers are up to date with regular re-accreditation and education. Retired coaches and players can make good teachers. However, this is only the case if they are flexible enough to continue evolving and to continue learning as the sport evolves and as knew knowledge from the sport, pedagogical and social sciences emerges. Continuing professional development is essential if teachers are to remain the best of the best.
  • Embrace different delivery modes. Traditionally, coach education occurs in a classroom. There are opportunities to enhance coach education using various modes of delivery including practical sessions on the playing pitch as well as taking advantage of modern technologies enabling interactive discussion and e-learning via the world wide web.

There are ten really great ways of educating coaches - ways that can prepare them to lead their sport into a better, brighter future.

  • Teach coaches to listen to and understand the needs of each individual athlete they are working with. Much has been written about Gen X and Gen Y and the one common theme that everyone has identified is the need to treat them as unique individuals. There are no more one size fits all golden rules about coaching, sports science, developing athletes……….we have to teach coaches to work with people!
  • Don’t assume all coaches want to be elite coaches. A common tendency is to design courses to prepare coaches for the next levels of the coach education pathway. This can mean an emphasis on content that is not relevant to the coaches’ current needs. This is like teaching advanced aerodynamics to people who just want to learn how to make a good model airplane. The majority of coaches are not career coaches. They are usually some poor parent who got thrown in the deep end and got forced to coach the local team because no one else had the time or knowledge to do it.
  • Teach the things that matter. Coaching is about passion. About communication. About leadership. About listening. About caring. About creating the quality of confidence in young people.
  • Sustainable success in sport as an athlete is about character, values and human qualities - we must base coach education on how to inspire and teach these qualities in athletes. Talk to experienced coaches about what matters in the long term and they talk about attitude, passion, drive, integrity, honesty, self belief and desire. We need to design coach education courses to help coaches produce it?
  • Use resources and presenters which are appropriate and relevant. Seems obvious but often presenters aren’t matched to the stage or level of the coach. If having sport scientists or academic choose the ones who have an applied background in sport and are able to deliver in a ‘coach friendly’ manner. Make sure that they can identify what’s important for coaches and how the material can be applied by coaches to improve their coaching.
  • Keep courses relevant and up to date. With the Internet being so widely accessible, there are no excuses for allowing courses, information, presenters or resources to become out of date.
  • Keep the assessment simple. Avoid burdensome assessment of competencies. Keep it simple. Assess coaches when they are coaching. We are not splitting the atom. We are just teaching kids to throw better, run faster, swim quicker and jump higher.
  • Spend as much time training your course presenters to be the best in the business as you do designing the courses they present! Think of the best teachers you ever had. Was it the content that made you love coming to their class? No - it was them and their unique, special way of delivering information. You can’t even remember what they taught you but they inspired something in you - they lit a fire which got you excited about learning. So the question is - do your coach educators excite coaches to learn and to be the best they can be?
  • And now the most challenging concept…don’t teach ‘WHAT ‘- ‘TEACH HOW’. The content of coaching courses is usually promoted to course participants a “law” - i.e. what you learn in the course is the only way to coach athletes. There are no “laws”, no “golden rules”, no “must do”, no “always”, no “never”, no “have to” in coaching. Avoid being too definitive and indoctrinating. Rather encourage coaches to be creative, innovative and to do it their own way. Avoid pulling out the old coaching manual and teaching the “law of hockey according to …….” or the “law of swimming according ….” . That approach stifles creativity, limits learning and restricts the potential of the coach - and ultimately limits the performance potential of their athletes and the progress of the sport itself.

There you go - some ideas to ensure coach education is creative and effective.

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