Encouraging Professional Development in Your Athletic Department

It’s pretty funny, really, the qualifications that most schools have for their coaching staff. Usually, the most important qualification is availability, closely followed by whether or not the coach has played the sport that he or she is coaching. Imagine if we applied those standards to the people who get up in front of our kids in the classroom everyday. “Hey, are you willing and available to teach? You are? Awesome! Oh wait, I should also probably ask you, have you been to school before? You have? Great! Get in there tomorrow and teach some geometry!” That would be irresponsible and ridiculous, yet it’s the exact same way that many of our athletic departments approach coaching personnel decisions.

Just like teachers, coaches can have tremendous influence on our students. Why would we want to place people in this leadership position who are fully prepared to take on that role? Whether your coaching staff is made up of fresh volunteers or seasoned older coaches, they can benefit from continuing their education in coaching.

Your coaches may be resistant to additional training. This post will help you and your coaches understand the value of coaching education by answering four major questions your coaches may have:

  • Why should I?
  • How much will it cost?
  • When will I have the time?
  • What should I focus on?

Why should our coaches seek additional training?

Quite simply, no one knows everything. You would be surprised what can be gleaned from a course or a clinic: tips on planning practice, teaching strategies, and new drills, just to name a few. Older coaches may seem like they have seen it all, but a lot of things have changed over time, especially athletes. Additional training can help bridge that generation gap.

Continued training also boosts credibility, both for the coach and the athletic program as a whole. Experience is great, and ultimately the most important factor in coaching. However, if parents and outsiders to your program see a coach that is certified through a recognized organization or is continuing his education in that field, they will respect your program a bit more.

Additional training also leads to a more confident coach. Confidence is contagious. As the coach studies and learns more about his field, his athletes will sense that knowledge and authority and be more confident in his decisions and strategies.

Ultimately, having your coaches continue their coaching education will improve your program and your school, and it will help you put your kids in positions to be successful. Isn’t that why we all are serving where we are in the first place?


How much will this training cost?

The cost will depend on the level of training. For some new ideas and input from other coaches, a clinic is the best and most cost-efficient option. Clinics can range anywhere from $50 to $500+ depending on size and content.

For something a little deeper, a class at a local college can cost upwards of $1000 but will offer more insight, demand more meaningful participation, and perhaps provide experience outside of your small program. Of course, many colleges offer undergraduate or graduate degrees in many areas that would be beneficial to a coach. However, this will require a huge amount of work.

Some sports offer certification from a governing body. US Youth Soccer, USATF, and US Swimming all offer simple ways to achieve different certification levels at very affordable prices.

A quick Google search can lead to all kinds of webinars and free series that offer great content and are worth a look. Just remember, you get what you pay for. Whether you’re looking to save money or get high dollar education, there are options out there that will fit your budget.

However, don’t expect your coaches to foot the bill. If you’re requiring them to broaden their education, then your athletic department should cover the cost.


How much time will this take?

Time management is one of the biggest obstacles faced by most coaches and athletic directors at small schools. Chances are your coaches are married with kids. They are probably juggling church, family, teaching, coaching, and all those extra responsibilities that come from working in a Christian school. With all this going on, the idea of continuing their education is just too much.

That’s understandable. However, time management is a big part of the coach’s job. He can carve out a few hours to attend a clinic or watch a webinar. While it may seem impossible, things will be able to function without him for a few hours here and there. Plus, when your coach returns from a clinic or finishes a course or certification, he will be better equipped to serve.


What should our coaches focus on?

Selecting a focus for additional training can be tricky and open ended. Have your coaches ask themselves,

“In what area does my team, school, or ministry need me to be more knowledgeable?”

As athletic director, you should also be able to give them some direction. Whether it’s athletic training, sport science, injury prevention and treatment, coaching philosophy, or just simple X’s and O’s, consider what’s best for your program.

Coaching education is essential to the growth of any athletic department. Too many times, Christian schools roll out unqualified coaches. Coaches who are unprofessional and exhibit poor leadership can damage your program’s reputation.

There is nothing wrong with being unqualified, but there is something wrong with staying that way.

Encourage your coaches to  improve themselves, their teams, and your program. Model that behavior by seeking your own opportunities to learn more about your field.


How have coaches in your athletic department benefited from continuing their education?

Jeff is the athletic director at Victory Baptist Academy. He is also the founder and administrator of TheAthleticDirectors.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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5 thoughts on “Encouraging Professional Development in Your Athletic Department

  1. I think you make a valid comparison between having someone coach because they are available and asking someone to teach based on that same criteria: there should be more pre-qualification than availability. However, at a small school, sometimes finding the right person can be such a huge challenge. The last quote you shared is just the answer: you may start off unqualified, but don’t stay that way! Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree, Matt, it’s very hard to find people who are actually qualified coaches. However, bringing them up to speed is not as difficult as one might think. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Work shops, seminars, even books and videos from my public library have all been of great value in enabling to begin coaching and is without doubt the only reason I am still able to have success today. Information is king.

    • Thanks, Daryl, for sharing! There are so many resources available at little-to-no cost. There really is no excuse for not developing one’s coaching ability. Although, knowing you personally I would say that your success comes from more than just the library 🙂 Glad to have great coaches and former ADs such as yourself giving feedback on this article!