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Establishing a Coach Education and Certification Initiative

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on March 17, 2015 hst Print

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Mike Williams

Editor’s Note: The following is an interview with Mike Williams, CMAA, who is in his second year as the director of athletics for the Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) Area School District after serving for many years as the coordinator of athletics for the Howard County Public Schools in Maryland. He is a long-time proponent of the NFHS Coach Education and Certification Program, and has implemented the program in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Question: How do you go about getting district approval for funding coach education and the NFHS Coach Certification Program?

Williams: First, boards of education and superintendents must be educated as to the value of an education-based interscholastic athletic program. They must be convinced that a properly administered interscholastic athletic program gives the school two primary outcomes at the end of the day – the promotion of learning and better citizenship. Our young people are going to grow and develop through this experience.

Next, these individuals need to clearly understand that coaches should be thought of as professionals and this will have legal implications. Also, one out of every two coaches is not a professional educator who has been trained and has experience teaching young people. These non-teacher coaches might have coaching experience that may have occurred at the youth recreational and/or club level where the philosophical focus can be significantly different. However, the non-teacher coach probably does not have the requisite background to totally fit into or embrace education-based athletics. This is one reason why the NFHS Coach Education and certification initiatives can be absolutely essential – to help bridge this gap.

Question: What did you include in your proposal to the board and superintendent and what proved to be successful?

Williams: The coaching education credentials and certification of our coaches will provide a safer environment for our students. Also, this step will protect the school system or district from negligence and litigation. These two factors were critical pieces for the decision-makers.

Question: Do you have any suggestions for athletic administrators who cannot get school board funding for coach education and certification?

Williams: First, try to make sure that coaching education is mandated in district policy and/or procedures. Inclusion in board policy should ensure funding. Secondly, equate coach education with professional funding of teachers and educators for graduate level professional development. After all, coaches are expected to also be teachers and to provide lifelong lessons within their sport.

Question: What can athletic administrators do to fund this vital initiative if no financial support is available from the board?

Williams: Athletic administrators can always organize and run a fund-raiser for the specific purpose of covering the cost of coach education and certification. Also, schools can seek donations from booster clubs and look for corporate sponsors and business partners. It may take more work, but there are usually alternative funding sources if you think creatively.

Question: Do you have to do any promotional or motivational work with your coaches before they actually start their effort to become nationally certified?

Williams: Absolutely! Just as you have to win over your board or superintendent, it is equally important that coaches “buy in” to their own professional development.

Question: How do you communicate to coaches that their participation and the results are important to not only them, but also to your program?

Williams: Speak the truth. Educate coaches as to the value of becoming an Accredited Interscholastic Coach and/or a Certified Interscholastic Coach. It protects coaches from liability and litigation, and from parents who may question their coaching ability and/or qualifications. It also allows them to compete with other coaching licensing programs, justifies the funding and existence of interscholastic athletic sports, and may give them an edge when applying for a coaching position and/or coaching promotion.

Question: What results – if any – have you seen from the coaches who have been AIC certified (or now also CIC)?

Williams: There is better sportsmanship and definitely a safer environment. You can see that teams and individuals are winning the right way – with class, dignity and respect for their opponent and the game. They treat their students with dignity and respect. They operate with integrity, refusing the antithesis of sportsmanship – namely gamesmanship.

Question: Specifically, do they have a better understanding and appreciation of education-based athletics?

Williams: Yes, they understand that winning is a measure of success, but not the only measure of success, and not the most important measure of success.

Question: How do your principal and superintendent feel about your coaching staff becoming nationally certified?

Williams: They are fully supportive and see the value. Many states now require a minimal level of coaching education and/or certification – from CPR/AED, Heat Illness and Acclimatization Training, Concussion Education, Cardiac Arrest Education, to Sport First Aid, sport-specific training and Fundamentals of Coaching. We’ve taken the next step and are very glad that we did – the results are extremely evident.

Question: What advice would you offer to other athletic administrators around the country with respect to NFHS Coach Education and Certification?

Williams: This is an extremely valuable program, designed to support a student-centered, education-based interscholastic athletic program. These efforts provide a safer environment for students, coaches, officials and spectators, and it is cost-effective. NFHS Coach Education and Certification promotes the value of coaching and interscholastic sport, and protects the athletic department, school administration and school district from negligence and litigation. It is an extremely positive and proactive step that benefits our student-athletes. 

Information on the NFHS Coach Education Program is available on the NFHS Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn.com.