There can be little debate that athletic administrators have a lengthy list of tasks and obligations, and none is more important than guiding and helping their coaches to grow and develop. As a matter of fact, providing training for coaches is one of the 14 legal requirements, and this is clearly outlined in the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Leadership Training Course 504.
To help with the goal of professional development, which is another way of saying training, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) offers coaching education courses through the NFHS Learning Center (www.NFHSLearn.com). Coaches can earn national certification through the completion of prescribed courses, and this an excellent starting point for the professional development of your coaching staff.
Beyond encouraging or requiring your coaches to take online education courses through the NFHS Learning Center and to complete their certification, however, it is incumbent that each school or district also has its own planned, specific professional development program for its coaches. To create a suitable and effective initiative, athletic administrators will have to overcome the four following challenges.
Time to Schedule Professional Development Sessions
With three sports seasons in a school year, there is no one good, ideal time for professional development sessions. And when you add in the possibility of playoffs for some teams, seasons may overlap and there may not be a break between them. As a result, some of your coaches will not have much free time due to their responsibilities. This means that you may have to be creative to find a suitable time for professional development sessions.
As a possibility, you might try Monday afternoon immediately at the end of the school day. Why Monday? For many, there are fewer games scheduled on this day than the rest of the week, other than perhaps in the spring with rescheduled, rained-out games. Give parents advanced warning to plan transportation and start all practice sessions one hour later than normal. This gives you a block of time to be used one or two times a month in which most of your coaches can attend.
You also should think about getting approval and using an hour or two in the four or five scheduled teacher orientation days before students report back to start the school year. It should be easy to prepare a logical proposal to use this time, since there are already meetings for subject area teachers and for all other responsibilities such as lunch and hall duty monitors. Why shouldn’t coaches also be included, since they also teach and provide educational opportunities for student-athletes?
Since all settings are slightly different and unique, you just have to explore and tap into creative time slots. There is a solution – you just have to find it.
Topics to Be Covered
With all of the responsibilities associated with coaching, what do you cover in your professional development program? The eight domains of the National Standards for Sport Coaches and their accompanying 42 standards or benchmarks are a good place to start. The elements described in this document will be helpful to create a basic list for your efforts. Also, don’t overlook situations or concerns that are specific to your school and community. And some of the topics should simply cover basic, practical areas such as completing paperwork on time and how to deal with the latest developments or issues in the profession.
Presentation or Delivery of Your Content
When you consider in-service education for teachers, for example, principals, department chairmen and outside speakers are often employed. It really wouldn’t be any different with regard to professional development programs for coaches.
It would be easy and natural for an athletic administrator to plan and deliver a session on any number of topics. However, you might also want to consider using other individuals as well. Why? Even though you may have a good grasp of the material, coaches hear you all of the time and, as a result, another voice may occasionally be more effective.
Consider asking a colleague from a neighboring school to come in and address your staff on a pre-determined topic. In exchange, you could present at his or her school at some point and return the favor. Also, use experts from your school or community to present on areas of their expertise such as your athletic trainer, time management proponents and communication professionals. There should be a wealth of possibilities in your community.
Paying for Associated Costs
Depending on when you hold your professional sessions, you may want to consider providing refreshments. Having something for coaches to eat will be appreciated if your time slot is early in the morning or as a snack in the middle of the afternoon.
In addition, you may want or need to photocopy documents and handouts as part of the presentations. You may also have to rent a projector or other equipment depending upon where you hold your sessions. And even if you have a colleague, friend or professional in the community come in to present to your staff, all of this may cost a few dollars.
To cover the expenses – even if they are minimal – you might consider using a portion of your gate receipts or perhaps making a request from your booster club to help. Of course, you also don’t want to forget to check with your principal. Often high school administrators have a professional development fund and a well-written proposal might provide the needed funds.
While it will take time and effort to plan and organize a good, practical professional development program for your coaches, it is vitally important. Your coaching staff has direct, daily contact with student-athletes and coaches are ultimately responsible for providing the best educational environment for your participants and program. It’s up to athletic administrators to provide the best possible opportunities for growth and development for their coaches.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 630 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. He is the author of a book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.