Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Volunteer Youth Sport Coaches' Perspectives of Coaching Education/certification and Parental Codes of Conduct

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Volunteer Youth Sport Coaches' Perspectives of Coaching Education/certification and Parental Codes of Conduct

Article excerpt

The vast majority of youth sport programs in the United States relies primarily on parent volunteers to serve as coaches. Unfortunately, most of these volunteer coaches have not received formal training to prepare them adequately for the role of youth sport coach. To exacerbate the issue, according to the popular media, parents and other adults can commit belligerent and even violent acts around, and often resulting from, poorly managed youth sport events. Although some efforts have been made to standardize curricula, provide training for coaches, and contain or prevent inappropriate parent behaviors, few efforts have been directed at investigating the self-described needs and concerns of the coaches from their perspectives. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the concerns and issues of youth sport coaches related to coaching and parental education. Five focus group interviews with 25 volunteer youth sport coaches were conducted to investigate these issues. Results were organized around four higher order themes that emerged from inductive content analyses: (a) coaching education content areas of need, (b) barriers and problems of offering coaching education, (c) coaching education format recommendations, and (d) efficacy of parental codes of conduct. Results were discussed in terms of the potential impact administrators, coaches, and parents could have in implementing formal coaching education programs and developing their coaching education practices.

Key words: children's sports, focus groups, qualitative research


Adults, such as parents and coaches, provide the instrumental support crucial for the existence of children's sport programs. These individuals provide the money, time, transportation, and organization without which few programs would exist for millions of children and adolescents. Additionally, the behaviors and attitudes of parents and coaches have a significant impact on children's enjoyment (Babkes & Weiss, 1999; Wiersma, 2001), motivation (Duda & Hom, 1993), enthusiasm (Power & Woolger, 1994), emotional responses (Brustad, 1992; Ommundsen & Vaglum, 1991), self-concept (Brustad, 1996), and socialization (Harter, 1978; Weiss & Hayashi, 1995), all of which are important predictors of continued sport involvement.

While the benefits of sports for children are well documented, youth sport programs have received considerably negative attention in the popular media. Recent articles include topics such as the escalating expenses of participation (Ferguson, 1999), sexual abuse (Nack & Yaeger, 1999), parental misconduct (Wong, 2001), and adult-initiated violence among parents, coaches, and officials (Nack & Munson, 2000; Thesing, 2000) at children's sporting events. Popular media are replete with accounts of a youth sport culture characterized by excessive adult involvement, intense pressure, and, in extreme cases, violence. Such isolated yet high-profile cases have led many youth sport administrators to consider regulating adult behavior at children's sporting events.

The reliance of youth sport programs on the service of parent volunteers compounds the concerns of adult behavior in the youth sport setting. Nonschool-based agencies are the primary provider of sport programs for children (Ewing & Seefeldt, 1996), and include club programs (including national governing bodies, private clubs, or clinics) and community offerings, such as the YMCA, local Boys/Girls Clubs, and city recreation departments. Moreover, the existence of community-based sport programs depends primarily on the leadership of volunteer coaches. Despite good intentions by this population, most of the 2.5-3 million coaches of nonschool-based youth sport teams have no formal training or education in developmentally appropriate coaching practices (Gould, Krane, Giannini, & Hodge, 1990; Weiss & Hayashi, 1996).

Researchers interested in youth sport have examined the effectiveness of coaching education and have consistently found that coaching behaviors influence the quality of youth sport participation for children (e. …

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