Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Rules of the Game: Developing a Set of Coaching Standards in Your Community Spells Victory for Volunteer Youth Coaches

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Rules of the Game: Developing a Set of Coaching Standards in Your Community Spells Victory for Volunteer Youth Coaches

Article excerpt

At a youth recreation basketball practice, one parent strikes up a conversation with another. "Look at those coaches. They are obviously untrained and unqualified. They can't even get the kids ready to play a simple game." The other parent responds, "Well, they volunteered and I think they are doing the best that they can. But maybe they could be better trained." Perhaps the second parent is actually a community recreation sport program manager. He knows that it is no easy task to prepare volunteer coaches to be effective, but he faces the challenge of developing a plan to create better future coaches.

Across the United States, thousands of community-minded volunteers serve as coaches for youth sport programs. Many youth sport coaches are providing a valuable service to their community, but are not prepared to be effective coaches. Some of these volunteers may have little or no experience while others are seasoned veterans, yet few have any organized training. They all share the desire to enhance the sport experience for children.

"A lot of coaches remember back to when they played sports, at what was acceptable and what we've found not to be the best way to teach kids," says Mike Milani, a sports supervisor with the Howard County (Md.) Recreation and Parks Department. He explains that giving coaches the knowledge of appropriate practices is important.

"By having standards, it teaches people how to act and how to coach. Teaching is a skill. It's something you can learn, but not everyone is gifted to coach."

Terry Cunconan is a youth sports coach in Warrensburg, Mo. He says that coaches need standards to give kids the best experience possible. "A key to effective coaching rests in how you structure practice time. Being taught the standards could give coaches organization, structure and purpose to their practices," he says.

It is clear that there is a need to prepare volunteers for their roles as youth sport coaches. Often, the responsibility of preparing coaches falls upon the shoulders of the community recreation program supervisor.

Program supervisors are challenged to maintain a cadre of coaches and to bring new ones up through the ranks. These new coaches need specific guidance, says Quincy Bejster, the recreation supervisor for Warrensburg Parks and Recreation Department. "It is important to provide new coaches with all the tools needed to do a successful job."

Recreation sport managers have a duty to provide children with qualified coaches. By using national coaching standards, recreation professionals can train coaches and enhance their programs.

The Standards

Recently, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) published the second edition of the National Standards for Sport Coaches. These standards provide coaching educators, sport managers and coaches with direction regarding the skills and knowledge coaches should possess.

The national standards provide guidance for fundamental coaching skills, knowledge and behaviors. Sport managers can use the standards as guidelines for preparing in-service training for coaches. The standards can also be used to demonstrate the qualifications of those who coach. NRPA supports these standards with many other organizations, including the National Council on Youth Sports, the Catholic Youth Organization and the American Youth Soccer Organization.


According to NASPE literature, "Many people have suggested that coaching is as much an art as it is a science. And while we should not attempt to reduce the practice of coaching to a 'technoscience,' we can and should be clear on what effective coaches should know, value, and be able to do."

The revised standards can be used by sport managers to prepare coaches for their youth sport coaching role. Those in charge of administering community recreation sport programs can also use the standards to assess the effectiveness of their current programs. …

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