By Bobby Guthrie
On March 25, 2007, I took the NFHS “Fundamentals of Coaching” course at the North Carolina Athletic Directors’ Annual Conference. Tim Flannery was our instructor. At the time, I certainly did not know where this course was going to lead me, but I did know that I had just experienced an awakening of sorts. I knew the potential was there for this course to change interscholastic athletics, not only in our school system, not only in the state of North Carolina, but all over the country.
I immediately returned to Raleigh and our Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) to determine how this course could be best utilized with all of our interscholastic coaches. My timeline was to finish the online portion of the class in April, to become certified to teach the course in May, and then to teach the first class in North Carolina at Apex High School in June 2007. We would barely have enough time to order the participant guides and get them delivered for the June class.
While finishing up that school year, I was developing a plan to present to the WCPSS Board of Education. Here is what I wrote to the Associate Superintendent for Instructional Services in July 2007:
“WCPSS Athletics 2007-2008 – A New Direction”
A very exciting Coaching Education Program has been developed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). This new program is informative and cost effective. I feel like this program may be a big key for a changing atmosphere in interscholastic athletics. I think it can have some major effects on athletics for WCPSS.
First let me provide some general thoughts on interscholastic athletics in WCPSS. We are blessed in this area of the state. We not only have great interscholastic teams, but we also have great youth and other athletic development programs in our area.
That being said, we also have some problems. Parent expectations in many areas (of their own kids, of coaches, toward winning, etc.) are out of control. Coaching turnover at the middle and high school level is great each year. Quality coaching is getting harder to find. Non-faculty (coach-only) personnel is becoming more prevalent. Winning is not put in its proper perspective. Sportsmanship is good, but certainly there are questionable activities that occur much of the time. Student and coach’s Codes of Conduct are items of discussion at almost every athletic director meeting.
Keeping the above in mind, what can be done? First, we must have a mission for athletics. We must have a mission for athletics that ties into the WCPSS mission, and also ties into the new coaching education program. By using the new coaching education philosophy, purpose, and educational outcomes, we will be ready to address the problems mentioned in the concerns cited above, and other issues that will inevitably arise. We will sell the coaching education program to Board of Education members, administrators, coaches, students, and parents. We will address parent expectations, coaches’ expectations, coaches’ education, and sportsmanship. We will let everyone know the place of winning in interscholastic athletics. We can develop a Coach’s Code of Conduct, and a Student’s Code of Conduct. We can look at what is acceptable based upon our Athletic Mission and this new coaching education program. I really believe this course may revolutionize interscholastic athletics all over the country.
I was sold on the potential of this Fundamentals of Coaching course and the future of the Coaching Education program. Since July 2007, I have taught classes, promoted coaching education, been on committees, and developed an athletic mission and vision. I have watched this one course blossom into a full-fledged Coaching Education Program with a certification process.
Am I as sold now as I was in 2007? Yes, and even more so. That is why I became an Accredited Interscholastic Coach (AIC) just as soon as the certification process went live.
In my initial vision of how Coach Education could serve as a tremendous growth opportunity, I shared with my administration several concerns about the future of interscholastic athletics. At that time I did not mention the “club” influence, the media influence, and the professional influence on interscholastic athletics. I did not mention the fact that interscholastic athletics may not exist 20-25 years from now if our current administrators and coaches don’t do something to shift the interscholastic athletic landscape.
Since 2007, the national economic downturn we are experiencing has brought out more issues/concerns for interscholastic athletics. The challenges and reasons for others to question the purpose and direction of sports in our schools has never been tested more than what we face in today’s environment.
With these types of “land mines” out there, we developed a blueprint to help our school administrators and coaches stay focused upon what our district aspires to with our interscholastic athletic program. This blueprint became our Athletic Mission and Vision statements.
WCPSS Athletic Mission
The Wake County Public School System’s athletic program is an integral part of education that will provide meaningful activities that promote learning and strive for students to excel in the development of life skills, a healthy lifestyle, sportsmanship, and citizenship.
WCPSS Athletic Vision
The playing field, the court and the locker room are all classrooms as we work with our students. We must teach good lessons with our behavior and require a reflection of that behavior from the athlete. The athletic coach is frequently the most influential adult with whom the student athlete comes in contact during the school experience. It is our intent to maximize the positive outcomes of this relationship, both in athletic competition and preparation for competition in later life.
Those of us who coach and oversee interscholastic athletics fully grasp the potential educational value in what we do and what we provide for our students. We know that students participating in interscholastic athletics have higher grade point averages, have higher attendance rates, and they graduate. We know as coaches that if we are doing and teaching the “right things,” these students are benefitting by being a part of interscholastic athletics. Whether one is a first-year coach or a veteran coach, the NFHS Coaching Education and Certification Program provides information that will help a coach do those right things.
About the Author: Bobby Guthrie, CMAA, is the senior administrator for athletics/driver education for the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has been a leader in coaches education in North Carolina and, last year, was named the NFHS Coach Educator of the Year. In addition, Guthrie was the first Accredited Interscholastic Coach to be certified in the United States through the NFHS Coach Education Program.