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Mentoring Coaches for Education-based Athletics – Important Task for Athletic Directors

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on November 14, 2018 hst Print

While professional development and mentoring of coaches are very much related and perhaps thought to be interchangeable by some, a distinction can be made. Professional development might include larger, general topics which typically would be presented to groups of coaches on designated, planned occasions such as during in-service programs, workshops and courses.

On the other hand, mentoring could deal with more specific aspects and may be done in a one-on-one or small group settings as often as needed. However, both are essential to the continued growth and development of coaching staffs.

Most athletic directors have hundreds of responsibilities, and mentoring represents one more in an unrelenting schedule. It may be one of the most important, however, since coaches come in daily, direct contact with student-athletes and are instrumental in the effort to provide an education-based athletic experience. It is vital that coaches understand, embrace and employ this philosophy.

Often, mentoring is viewed as an effort to guide a relatively new coach. It may be helpful with these individuals to cover topics such as how to plan practice sessions, the necessity of completing timely paperwork associated with the position, how to effectively communicate with parents and many others. While these items should be covered, administrators also should introduce and reinforce the essential aspects involved with education-based athletics. Why?

It should not be assumed that all new coaches are aware and appreciate what is involved with their coaching position. It is imperative that they understand the basic tenets, the values and importance of this concept in order to provide the best possible environment for their student-athletes. This guidance has to come from the athletic administrator; it doesn’t happen by chance, but rather from a planned, concerted effort such as mentoring.

While athletic directors certainly should work with the younger coaches, experienced individuals who have been part of the program should not be neglected. Even though they may have been involved for several years, some may need an occasional reminder. Schools should ensure that all coaches – not just those who are beginning their careers – understand and continually buy into the concept. This is important for the operation of a total program.

The following are some specific examples and techniques that athletic administrators may find useful in their efforts to mentor coaches involving the basic tenents of education-based athletics.

    • Use email to reach groups of your coaches per season or by sport. This can be an indispensable tool to provide links to articles and also as a quick reminder of an impending responsibility or simply to provide encouragement or inspiration for the day. Email is quick and an easy method for communicating with your staff, and this is especially helpful with non-teacher coaches. You can pose a question for your coaches to consider, or you can describe a situation and ask them how they would handle it. Teachable moments have been integral and successful approaches used with student-athletes in education-based athletics, and they can and should also be used with your coaching staff.
    • Pair new or inexperienced coaches with an experienced individual to learn how to incorporate teachable moments with his or her team. This step might involve watching how a coach ends a practice session because successful coaches use this brief team gathering to summarize or emphasize positive sportsmanship and other related issues. A great deal can be taught and learned in these settings, and having an inexperienced coach watch the conclusion or practice can be a helpful technique.
    • Arrange for a coach to meet with another staff member who is selecting and planning a community service project. It is especially helpful to watch how student-athletes are involved in the process and how they might also be able to develop leadership skills. Seeing the actual steps unfold, what work is involved and what the athletes gain from the experience provides a far better experience than simply hearing about it.
    • Ask outstanding, experienced classroom teachers to work individually with selected coaches. These instructors should provide guidelines as to how coaches can and should encourage and promote academic attainment. While many beginning coaches understand how to teach sport-specific skills and strategies, they probably will need help with this aspect. Accommodations and specific supportive techniques are extremely useful to help student-athletes, and some coaches may need a little help to find and understand their role in the goal and promotion of academic success.
    • Encourage and provide ideas to your coaching staff to help them promote sportsmanship and to enhance the leadership skills of their student-athletes. A good place to start is to introduce your coaches to the NFHS Sportsmanship and Captains courses through the NFHS Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn. com. These free offerings are an excellent introduction to both concepts for your students. Share with your coaches notices and dates of state sportsmanship and leadership conferences and other educational opportunities for your young people. Often, coaches have to nominate and encourage students to attend these programs which help individuals and teams to grow and develop.
    • Point out and remind your coaches that they need to develop a proper approach for dealing with their student-athletes. In the effort to prepare and strive to win games, coaches may be demanding, exacting and have expectations that players have to work hard. However, they also have to be encouraging, supportive, nurturing and positive. These are qualities that are absolutely necessary in an education-based program.

Whether with a little nudge, a suggestion, an occasional reminder, things to ponder or an outright counseling session, mentoring coaches is a vital and essential responsibility of an athletic administrator. Considering the importance of providing an education-based environment and concept for student-athletes, your efforts take on even more significance.