This article addresses the state of coach education in the United States and discusses the impact existing coach education programs have on youth and interscholastic sport programs. Coach education and preparation is also discussed as part of physical education teacher preparation programs (PETE) in higher education. A discussion of the existing coach education programs addresses the issues of inconsistency, lack of standardization, course formats, and methods of coach assessment. Current recommendations for the improvement and further development of coach education programs are outlined based on empirical research, including competency-based education programs, opportunities for students to put their theoretical and pedagogical knowledge into practice, role modeling, and reflection. Included is also a brief discussion of the field of sport officiating. The development and improvement of coach education programs in the United States is pertinent in order for youth and interscholastic sport organizations to provide safe, effective, successful, and fun sport programs.
Keywords Coaching Education Curriculum Framework (CECF); Competency-Based Coach Education Programs; Learning Style; Officiating; National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE); National Standards for Sport Coaches; Officiating; Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE); School Sports; Sport Pedagogy; Referee
Physical Education: Interscholastic Coaching
Coaching / Coach Education
Participation in youth and interscholastic sport in the United States is popular and increasing as approximately 41 million children participate in youth sport and over 11 million adolescents participated in interscholastic athletics in 2005-2006 (McCullick, Belcher, & Schempp, 2005; NFHS, 2006). These numbers are growing, causing an increased demand for coaches to lead these youth and interscholastic sport programs; however, in order to meet the prevailing objectives of youth and interscholastic sport (i.e., skill development, character development, continued participation), qualified coaches are needed (McCullick, Belcher, & Schempp, 2005). Too often coaches are only exposed to the informal education of coach experience and observation, which serves to socialize the coach into the existing culture and power structure that exists within that sport organization or team (Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003). There is a need for educating coaches in developing and maintaining effective and successful youth and interscholastic sport programs (McCullick, Belcher, & Schempp, 2005), as coaches have an impact on their athletes' enjoyment and continued participation in their sport programs based on their behavior and interaction with their athletes (Smith & Smoll, 1997). Coach education programs are important to help make current and future coaches aware of this influence and the impact they will have on their players and to help them shape their coaching philosophies, styles, and techniques in a manner that seeks to meet the overriding objectives of youth and interscholastic sport.
The United States government and the United States' National Governing Bodies of sport do not have a singular, mandatory and standardized national coaching education curriculum (Clark, 2000). Despite the strong presence of several American sports on the international sport scene, the United States does not adhere to a national coaching curriculum as many other international sport powerhouses do, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The administration and inclusion of a standardized coaching curriculum in these countries has professionalized coaching as these programs are designed to provide various levels of preparation, certification, and licensure to individuals wishing to serve as coaches (Clark, 2000). In the U. S., coach education is not mandated across the board by the government, national governing bodies of sport, or state athletic associations and those organizations that do require coaching education vary in their requirements (e.g., from first aid and CPR training to a short series of collegiate level coursework). Overall, this lack of standardization poses a challenge to American sport organizations in terms of the control the organizations have over the type, amount, and quality of information that the coaches are obtaining through the various coach education programs.
Coach education programs have been developed and marketed to the American sport arena/coaching profession by a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. Some examples of these coach education programs are the American Sport Education Program (ASEP), several National Governing Bodies (e.g., USA Hockey), Coach Effectiveness Training (Smith & Smoll, 1997), and the National Federation of High Schools Coach Education Program (NFHS). The programs also vary in their delivery as some are delivered in a one-two day classroom/workshop format, some courses are online, and others are semester long collegiate level courses, yet most are large in scale. These large scale programs follow no government mandated curriculum and aim to train thousands of coaches in various sports throughout the country (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). This large scale approach to coach preparation leads to these programs using many different course instructors who may deliver a program that is inconsistent and possibly ineffective in preparing coaches to work effectively and appropriately with youth and adolescents in sport programs (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999).
In interscholastic sport, where coaches are often teachers and, in some cases, non-teaching community members, the level of professional preparation of the coaches may vary greatly. Physical education teacher preparation (PETE) programs often require students to complete a certain number of credits in coaching or provide coaching as a minor (Strand, 1992). Research has indicated that approximately 40% of undergraduate physical education teacher preparation programs require coach education coursework for physical education majors and approximately 50% of these programs require or recommend a coaching field experience (Strand, 1992). While teacher-coaches who are physical education teachers may have been required to complete coaching courses as part of their professional preparation, non-physical education teachers or coaching community members may not have taken these types of courses in their academic preparation and/or have no academic background in the areas of sport and exercise science that are typically incorporated into coach education programs.
These examples illustrate the basic challenges sport organizations face in educating their coaches or in finding coaches who are already knowledgeable in effective and safe coaching practices. There is no single model of coaching effectiveness because the dynamic sport context is constantly influencing the process of coaching (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). Limited research has been done in coach education program effectiveness due to the challenge in conducting valid and reliable research to evaluate the courses (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999; McCullick, Belcher, & Schempp, 2005).
Even without standardization or extensive research, scholars have identified several issues with the existing coach education programs that may impact the effectiveness of the programs which educate coaches on how to conduct safe and effective sport programs (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). First, the lack of consistency in the way that the courses are conducted (e.g., length of course, different instructors) can affect the program (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). Second, many education programs assess students' understanding and knowledge of the information taught in the course with pen and paper tests. This method of assessment is not effective in that the information is being tested in manner that is completely de-contextualized from a real-life coaching scenario (Gilbert & Trudel, 1999). Third, without standardized coach education programs, the sponsoring organization or company that is conducting the education program may choose what to include and what not to include in the course content, thus affecting the type of information provided and possibly weakening the credibility of the program (Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003).
Most programs do not include a component that focuses on developing coaching competency in actual coaching situations; therefore it is challenging to identify specific behavioral objectives that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the coaching course. Unfortunately, the reality is that coaches come into an educational situation with their own set of beliefs, values, coaching philosophy, level of experience, and pre-conceived notions about how to coach; as a result coach education programs cannot meet all the needs of every coach (Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003).
Sport Officiating / Refereeing
The purpose of the sport official, referee, or umpire is to provide and maintain a game situation that is fair and safe for all competitors. Officiating or refereeing in interscholastic and youth sport is a challenging job as it requires the official to understand the rules, the penalties, and the context in which the game is...
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