Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Quality Coaching Counts

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Quality Coaching Counts

Article excerpt

Sports participation can help students develop in many important ways --but that's not automatic. Ensuring that student-athletes reap the many benefits of sports begins with choosing and supporting the right coaches.

When the subject of high school sports comes up, many people think of teams that perennially win championships that bring considerable notoriety to their schools and galvanize student and community support for the district. Striving for competitive excellence is an important aspect of scholastic sports, but educational athletics must serve a broader function. Most high school student-athletes will never be on a championship team. In fact, educational athletics was never designed to produce champions. It was designed to promote the student's physical well-being and academic achievement and to develop good citizens.

Sports became associated with the educational system in America in the early 1900s. There was a need for educators to rein in and control injuries and other abuses occurring in sports then run as unregulated student organized activities. Educators believed sports could teach lessons that could not be taught in the classroom (Pruter, 2013). The justification for high school sports, then, has been and remains tied to the holistic development of the student-athlete.

Research also shows that, when done right, educational athletics teaches lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom. Student-athletes report learning important life skills such as self-control, the ability to communicate, and stress-coping strategies (Camire, Trudel, & Forneris, 2009; Kendellen & Camire, 2015). Sports participation also has been associated with academic success; greater interest, connection and aspirations relative to education; enhanced competence and confidence; initiative; teamwork, and social skills (see Gould, Cowburn, & Shields, 2014 for a review). However, when not carried out correctly, scholastic sport can lead to negative outcomes such as stress, burnout, lost motivation, increased alcohol use, negative peer interactions, and lower morality (Eccles & Barber, 1999; Gould, Cowburn, & Shields, 2014). Scholastic sport, then, is a double-edged sword that can have positive or negative effects (Martens, 1978). Whether those effects are positive or negative depends on those who wield that sword --chiefly the school's sports coaches.

The importance of coaches

The scholastic sport coach plays an important role in determining the outcomes of participation for a number of reasons:

* Coaches spend a great deal of time with the student-athletes--two hours a day at practices and attending numerous competitions;

* Participants are highly motivated to participate in sport;

* Sport is an activity where student actions have real meaning because it is so highly valued in the community; and

* Research shows coaches have important influences on young athletes' motivation, emotional development, moral development, and educational and career aspirations.

What good coaching looks like

So what does good coaching involve? Research indicates that effective coaching has several clear and discernible attributes (Becker, 2010; Gilbert & Cote, 2010; Gould & Wright, 2012).

#1. Effective coaches have well-thought-out coaching philosophies that align with educational, athletic, and school goals.

They may place some importance on winning and competitive success, but that does not come at the expense of physical, educational, personal, and social-emotional development of their athletes. Having students adhere to educational and behavioral standards always supersedes athletic success, and coaches work hard to help student-athletes learn important life lessons from their sport experiences.

#2. Effective coaches share decision making with their student-athletes and provide rationales for their coaching actions. …

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