The United States has one of the most extensive amateur sports programs in the world. Most of these programs are possible only because adults volunteer to become coaches and officials. If communities relied entirely on paid professionals to coach, millions of young people would not get to play because the programs would be too expensive. In our quest to improve the quality of children’s sports programs we should not forget the generosity of these adult volunteers.
As the saying goes, a few bad apples can spoil the barrel. It takes only a few bad coaches, and the attention that they attract, to defile the image of a thousand good coaches. It does not nullify, of course, the good work of those coaches, but it certainly taints their image. This is unfortunate, for bad coaches likely make it harder for youth sport directors to attract capable adults into coaching. How many good coaches quit because they refuse to hassle with the one "bad apple"?
The vast majority of coaches deserve the accolades of the community. We read and hear so much criticism of coaches that we are led to believe that the bad coaches dominate the profession. But this is not so. Most coaches have the well-being of athletes as their primary interest. Certainly coaches make mistakes-just as parents and teachers make mistakes. And sometimes the coach does the right thing, and the kids are at fault. The intent and effort of most coaches are positive. What is needed is a means for culling out the bad apples and helping the coaches with good intentions do the best coaching they possibly can. That is the purpose of this chapter.
In the remainder of this chapter we will refer to the coaching director of your youth sport program. In small programs this may be your responsibility as the youth sport director, but you may want to consider appointing a volunteer as coaching director to help you out. In larger programs you may have the resources to pay a full- or part-time person to serve as the coaching director. The duties of the coaching director will be clarified in the sections to follow.
In addition, consider forming a coaching committee to help you carry out the important responsibilities of managing your coaches. This committee of volunteers is likely to comprise three to six people who are experienced coaches, professionals trained in physical education or sport administration, or highly experienced sports officials. Your committee will help you recruit, select, educate, supervise, evaluate, and recognize your coaches, all of which will make your job more manageable and increase volunteer participation in your program.
Recruiting volunteer coaches is a challenge for many youth sport directors, but current statistics indicate that there are more willing volunteers out there than ever before. The challenge is getting these volunteers to commit to your program. An increasing number of organizations are requesting volunteers, so you need an effective plan to attract and keep good ones.
A survey of youth sport programs revealed that better programs make the recruitment of coaches a systematic, year-long effort. To do this you need a plan that identifies the number of coaches you will need for each sport in your program, the activities you will initiate to recruit coaches, the time of year that you will initiate each recruiting activity, and the cost associated with each.
In this section you’ll learn how to develop such a plan. The first step is to determine what your needs are.
Form 2.1 on page 62 will help you determine your needs for a particular sport for up to five leagues. We have completed form 2.1 in form 2.2 (see page 63) as an example for you to follow.
Complete form 2.1 now to become familiar with it, estimating your coaching needs as best you can. Then, later, complete this form again after carefully consulting your records.
You will complete one form for each sport you supervise and later consolidate this information into a summary form. If you have more than five leagues in one sport, then simply complete two or more forms and add up the totals.
If you administer a one-sport program, then form 2.1 provides you the information needed. If you administer a multiple-sport program, you will need to complete form 2.1 for each sport. After doing so, you’ll want to summarize your coaching needs for all sports on form 2.3 (see page 64).
Now you are ready to determine the qualifications required to coach at each level within each sport. As you examine your coaching needs, consider the following to help you identify the qualifications coaches will need.
• The extent of knowledge required about the sport to coach children safely. For example, the requirements to coach basketball or soccer safely are quite different from those to safely coach swimming or gymnastics.
• The age range of the participants. You may want coaches to have more experience in competitive sports when coaching older participants.
• The gender of the participants. You will need to consider whether the coach’s gender will influence his ability to supervise the participants.
Next, you need to prepare a job description for each type of coach you need. Usually this includes a job description for head coaches and assistant coaches in each sport.
Just as in business or government, it’s essential to have a detailed description of the requisite qualifications and duties for the position of coach. We’ve outlined the elements of a job description and provided a sample job description for a head coach in the next section. Modify these job descriptions to meet your needs.