Since the inception of ASEP in 1981, we have set the bar high for coaches to demonstrate an adequate degree of comprehension of their role and responsibilities before issuing a passing grade and a document acknowledging successful completion of each course. And while we are proud that more than 1.5 million coaches have met those standards through the years, so many other coaches have not been formally educated or have received an educational experience that falls short of providing adequate instruction based on a quality curriculum required to optimally prepare the coach.
Since joining ASEP as executive director in March, I have become increasingly aware and concerned about the pressure to develop courses that emphasize expediency over depth and passing a test over learning and retention of quality content.
In a recent conversation, director of coaching for USA Hockey Mark Tabrum distinguished the two approaches in very simple terms: "Do we want to provide a certification program or an education program?” The short answer is that ASEP is committed to continue providing a program that challenges administrators and coaches to seek high educational standards rather than a mere sheet of paper at the cheapest price.
We appreciate the desire of youth sport and scholastic-level administrators to offer courses that coaches will not consider a burden on their schedules, and have streamlined some of our offerings and made courses more flexible to deliver as a result. We have done so, however, without compromising quality.
Donna King is an athletic director who co-chairs the Virginia High School League (VHSL) coaching education committee and is an instructor of ASEP’s Coaching Principles and Sport First Aid courses. Donna most frequently delivers the course in five, three-hour classroom sessions over two weeks. When necessary, she has employed a two-day in-service model to educate coaches. Donna admits, “The greatest challenge in these two models is the time commitment required, but the time is essential to cover the content and take full advantage of the valuable resources.” She adds, “The value of the classroom environment, which is the only way we offer these courses in Virginia, provides opportunities for interaction and information sharing that you just can’t get online. The coaches not only learn from the rich content of the resources, but also from each other.” Donna finds the same is true when she teaches the course to undergraduate students at George Mason University, where she is an adjunct professor.
Under the leadership of executive director Bob Buckanavage and president Gerry Schwille, the Pennsylvania Scholastic Athletic Directors Association has made a commitment to have 100 certified ASEP Instructors by the end of the 2010 so they can blanket the state with classroom education delivery of the Coaching Principles course. They too feel that classroom delivery offers the best environment for coaches to absorb the valuable content that comes from the critically acclaimed course resource, Successful Coaching written by Rainer Martens. Combine this thorough resource with athletic directors who have become certified instructors and you have a recipe for developing exceptional coaches.
Quality education—as opposed to mere certification—prepares coaches to meet the inherent challenges of their role. And, it stands to reason, that competent coaches are more likely to sustain their coach career longer because they are more successful, and their athletes respond positively to their leadership.
Think about it. Coaches are with their athletes 10-20 hours a week, perhaps more. That is more time than they spend with any one teacher in the classroom during a week. In some unfortunate family situations, that’s more than the quality time a youngster spends with his parents. Shouldn’t all of us insist that his or her coach be prepared to handle such responsibility?
Quality coaching education is a need that cannot be compromised. ASEP will never abandon high standards and succumb to the prevailing pressures to make convenience the overriding concern. To stay true to our mission, we will always put the best interests of coaches and their athletes first, and whatever “win” we might achieve as a competing coaching education program second.
I’d like to hear from you on this important matter…