The complicated life of sports’ coaches is well documented in biographies and the media. Additionally, it plays out every day across America, on college campuses, in high school athletics, and in the club sport system. Coaches who dedicate themselves to leading a team and developing student-athletes are repeatedly forced to walk a fine line between family and work commitments. To balance this dynamic, coaches frequently integrate family life into team functions. Children will attend practice sessions, teams come to the coach’s house for pre-game meals, and family members are recruited to assist with fundraising events such as off-season sport camps or tournaments.
(photo courtesy of Dan Pambianco)
Done successfully, student-athletes and coaching staffs become extended families, creating a support system for all those involved. Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s daughter described her family’s involvement in the Blue Devil basketball program as follows:
Watch Free Livestream Keynote Video Now! This year we were fortunate to hear five talented individuals share how they view physical education as a part of the whole. Each keynoter shared different ways of thinking that were uplifting, transformational, funny, and inspirational. I have provided a few of my thoughts below on each keynoter with a link to their talks.
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.
This article is a third installment on successful principles of coaching young athletes. The previous two articles focused on effective coaching of fitness and conditioning and skills and strategies (click on hyperlink to view these articles).
Throughout my coaching and teaching career, I’ve seen many very knowledgeable and experienced coaches not succeed as expected. Their shortfall was not a lack of knowledge or even their passion for their chosen sport. It was in their failure to create an environment for their athletes that was worthy of their time and effort.
Recent news of a cover-up at Baylor University where campus leadership failed to act legally and ethically to sexual assault allegations recently dominated media headlines. The situation at Baylor is an unfortunate reminder of misguided leadership at Penn State where institutional leaders (i.e. coaches, athletic directors, and administrators) failed to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual misconduct by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
What happened at Penn State was beyond shocking, but the Baylor saga suggests a similarly troubling dark reality of an environment often shaped by athletics within educational institutions: An environment built on intense loyalty to protect the interests of athletic programs. Penn State is just one example where institutional leaders struggled to make ethical decisions amidst the lure of achieving athletic success on the field. Educational leaders at Florida State University, the University of Montana, and the University of Oregon have in recent years chosen to remain loyal to their athletic programs in the pursuit of victory.
This challenge is not unique to the NCAA Division I level of competition. Institutions competing at lower levels of athletics are also greatly influenced by what occurs in the athletic department. For example, at Belmont Abby College, administrators added college football to increase student enrollment. The commonality at all levels is the pursuit of financial gain, where winning brings more money either through television contracts, donations, ticket sales, merchandise sales, or increased enrollment (i.e. tuition dollars).