Without question the most controversial subject in sports today is concussion risk and awareness. This is particularly true for youth sports. Lots of information is already in the mainstream regarding the effects of concussions, its direct sports related causes, and the preventive measures that are already in use and in development. For readers who are physical educators or coaches I imagine that you are already very familiar with this topic and knowledgeable about the effects and causes of sports related concussions. My commentary here will focus on my experiences and current opinions regarding the measures we are now seeing in sports.
Over my fifty plus years in sports, from my playing days and throughout my coaching and administrative years, I’ve witnessed concussions in several sports. As a high school basketball player I saw one of my teammates get undercut while rebounding and hitting the back of his head on the floor with a such huge boom that the packed crowd went deathly silent. When I was young basketball coach, one of my players collided with another player while going for a loose ball. Our player was immediately knocked out and suffered a short burst of convulsions while on the floor. As a soccer coach I witnessed the worst concussion incident in my entire career. One of our players, while going up into the air to head a ball backwards, collided heads with an opposing player trying to head the ball forward. Our player immediately went to the ground and began convulsing. It was a most horrible site indeed, but happily the player recovered nicely.
I coached football for more than twenty years and we likely had players receive concussions, but I really can’t recall one of our players experiencing a serious concussion. I strongly believe that the reason for this is that we taught both tackling and blocking with the shoulder and strongly urged players to keep their head up when tackling or making any kind of contact with opponents.
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.