2016 National Coaching Conference: Pursuing Mastery in Coaching – Insight from (5) Perspectives

Expertise in coaching can be achieved by acquiring specific knowledge related to a particular sport (Côté & Gilbert, 2009). To be an effective coach, one must match his or her expertise within the context of the learning environment, focusing on learner outcomes (Boardley, Kavussanu, & Ring, 2008). Coaches that have achieved this level of effectiveness are often referred to as master teachers. Key characteristics have been demonstrated by master teachers in the context of sport coaching, such as the ability to teach the learner, to provide tactical instruction, and a desire to pursue personal mastery (Gallimore, Gilbert, & Nater, 2014).

During the 2016 National Coaching Conference in Seattle, WA, a panel of five experts in their respected fields shared insight on pursuing mastery as a coach. Based on their role on the panel (educator, ethicist, athletic administrator, researcher, and coach), each panel member shared 1) strategies for coaches to grow personally and professionally, 2) self-assessment methods to evaluate their progress in pursuing mastery, and 3) insight on what coaches can do to maintain a level of expertise?

The panel members included Dr. Steve Jefferies (Educator), Dr. Sharon Stoll (Ethicist), Erin O’Connell (Athletic Administrator), Dr. Wade Gilbert (Researcher), and Swen Nater (Coach). Dr. Pete Van Mullem (Lewis-Clark State College) and Sean Dahlin (Ohio State University) facilitated the panel session.

The panel session was captured via audio recording and, with the permission of the panel members, is being shared by PHE America. A biographical background on each panel member is accompanied by a link to an audio recording of his or her insight on pursuing mastery as a coach.


Steve Jefferies, Ph.D. – SHAPE America, Past President

If you want to be a coach you have to know why you are doing it.” – Steve Jefferies

Steve Jefferies is currently serving as Past President of SHAPE America and his primary professional focus is on issues influencing the future of American public school physical education.  Jefferies is nationally known as the creator and publisher of www.pelinks4u.org (now pheamerica.org), the online magazine for physical and health education professionals and school sport coaches. Originally from Great Britain, Jefferies taught public school physical education before completing his MS and PhD degrees at the University of Oregon.


Sharon Stoll, Ph.D. –Director and Professor, Center for ETHICS* at the University of Idaho

As a coach all of your major decisions have to do with ethics.” – Sharon Stoll

Sharon Kay Stoll is the director of the Center for ETHICS*, University of Idaho, the first center to be focused on measuring moral reasoning and moral development of athlete populations.  Dr. Stoll is a former athlete and coach at high school and collegiate level.  She is a consultant for numerous institutions and agencies, which have ethics as a mission statement.


Erin O’Connell – US Rowing Board of Directors, President

Three similarities of those that know their trade…lifetime learners, ability to be self aware, and commitment to core values.” – Erin O’Connell

Erin O’Connell has twenty plus years experience as a student-athlete, coach and intercollegiate athletics administrator.  She currently serves as the President of US Rowing, the national governing body for all rowing in the United States. She has a passion for creating and sustaining an atmosphere in which athletes and coaches can thrive.


Wade Gilbert, Ph.D. – Professor, Fresno State University

“Master coaches focus on creating an environment that allows mastery to flourish.” – Wade Gilbert

Dr. Wade Gilbert is an award-winning professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Fresno. Gilbert has more than 20 years of experience conducting applied research and consulting with coaches and sport organizations around the world. He is widely published and is frequently invited to serve as a featured speaker at national and international events. Gilbert is also editor-in-chief of the International Sport Coaching Journal and serves as Coach Doc for the Coach Education Center at Human Kinetics.


Swen Nater, – Author, Retired Professional Basketball Player

I believe no one has ever mastered coaching…you shoot for perfection and  realize you will never reach it…but the journey is so much fun.” – Swen Nater

Swen Nater is a two-time UCLA basketball champion, a twelve-year NBA/ABA and All-Star player, a rebounding champion and record holder, a college championship coach, and a nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His tenure at UCLA under the direction of John Wooden, led him to co-write You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned, a comprehensive study of Wooden’s teaching, relationship, and continuous improvement methods, which he believes is the three-component package responsible for UCLA’s sustained success at the championship level.


Boardley, I. D., Kavussanu, M., & Ring, C. M. (2008). Athletes’ perceptions of coaching effectiveness and athlete-related outcomes in rugby union: An investigation based on the coaching efficacy model. Sport Psychologist 22(3), 269-287

Côté J. and Gilbert, W.D. (2009). An integrative definition of coaching effectiveness and expertise. International Journal of Sports Sciences and coaching, 3; 307-323.

Gallimore, R., Gilbert, W., & Nater, S. (2014). Reflective practice and ongoing learning: A coach’s 10-year journey. Reflective Practice, 15(2), 268-288.


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