What’s Happening in Coaching?

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Where are the coaches? There is a crisis in coaching. Who and where are prospective coaches being taught how to coach and how to teach? Sport and Exercise science has replaced physical education in college and university programs with a curriculum heavy on the sciences and no emphasis on pedagogy, how to teach. Over the past two months I have seen numerous examples of this. As an Australian colleague of mine observed, most young “coaches” today could not organize a drinking contest in a brewery. Being able to explain all the substrates involved in muscle contraction or knowing what genetic signals are being turned off or on may be important in the laboratory but on the track, the field, the pool or the court it comes down to the ability to coach, to teach, organize and motivate. That is fundamental pedagogy, who is being taught that anymore? We need to wake up. The exercise science/wellness oriented college curriculums are turning out personal trainers, personal training is NOT coaching. Coaching is teaching, organizing, and leading. Coaching is knowledge of fundamental skills and how to teach them, it is understanding progressions and age appropriate training. Coaching requires dedication, commitment & working until the job is done. It is not a two-hour a day proposition where you show up “coach” & leave. 90% of coaching is grunt work & it is the grunt work that often determines success or failure. Coaching is something you are, not something you do. It is not for the faint of heart or dilettantes.

Just because you are certified does not mean you are prepared to coach. Most of the certification programs with the notable exceptions of US soccer and Skiing require no proficiency in teaching. Most programs involve sitting in a classroom for days and looking at slides and video in a mind numbing exercise in futility. To be certified as a coach you need to show you can coach not just take a paper and pencil test. We must wake up and do something to rectify this. Coaching is the lifeblood of sport. Just look at the alarming rate of injury in sport at all levels, look at the poor fundamental sport skills at the highest level of sport, those trends did not happen by chance. The injuries and poor skills are closely tied to the decline of trained coaches. All of you who care must take action. Pressure your sport governing body to upgrade and add rigor to their coaching certification programs. Go to your school boards and ask hard questions about who is coaching the children in the school system. We can and must improve coaching because coaching matters. And coaching makes a difference.

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