As I write this, my thoughts are centered on Track & Field, but coaching education is important in every sport. I was fortunate to be the first graduate of the UCSB Coaching Minor program in 1969. The professors who developed that program put together a curriculum that has been my model for the ensuing 41 years. They recognized and taught us that the coach was the foundation of the sport system. We learned that you need to have a good foundation in applied sport science, pedagogical principles and methods and above all practical field experience of hands on coaching under experienced mentor coaches. That experience certainly molded my thinking.
Over the years as I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries and work with various sports it is very easy to see who have developed coaching education programs. The coaches speak a common language, they have a foundation in good methodology and they know how to learn. Coaching education is only the beginning; it must inspire the coach to keep learning and improving. In this country swimming has a good program, soccer both through US Soccer Licensing program and a separate program provided by the National Soccer Coaches Association do a good job. They could be better but they get the job done. There are other programs in our country that are developing coaches.
It just seems that in our culture the coach does not have the same value as in other countries. I am not sure why that is, but I do know that without coaching education it would impossible to compete on the international and produce consistent results. Look at Great Britain in the late 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s in Track & Filed. Their chief national coach at the time, Frank Dick, made coaching education the basis of the whole system. During that period Britain rose to be one of the powers in the world in events they had been never been strong in before. It was because of coaching!
Look at it a slightly different way. The career of an athlete at the international level is very short, on average three to four years with a few notable exceptions. Someone had to guide them to that level. That someone was the coach. The coach’s career is long, chances are that coach will continue to produce athletes at a high level for years to come. In other words for every dollar invested in coaching and coaching education the return on investment accrues over the years. Some countries will not fund athletes unless they are in a formal coaching program; they understand that without coaching the athlete has less chance of success. Coaching is the key, it is not very sexy and glamorous, but it is the foundation for athletic excellence.
All coaches should be concerned about the recent events in the USA T&F Coaching Education program. I view the recent events as a devaluation of coaching, essentially an attack on the integrity and importance of coaching. If you are coach you are special. You lead, you teach, you inspire. Coaching education keeps challenging us and making us better teachers and leaders.