By Ted D’Alessio
Providing our youth with a rewarding and enjoyable athletic experience should be Job No. 1 for any school district. It can never be assumed that students – by merely participating – will automatically attain the virtues that we believe are so prevalent within our athletic program.
High school athletics must promote education-based programs that reinforce the values that are taught in the classroom – commitment, dedication, hard work, cooperation, to name a few. If teachers are the central figures in the classroom, it would only seem logical to identify the coach as the key figure in our athletic arenas. Coaches are the lifeblood of our athletic programs. They create the climate that determines if a student’s athletic experience is joyous or miserable.
Quality coaches are the decisive element in the organized sports world. A quality coach knows how to plan dynamic practice sessions; teach sound fundamentals with proper learning progressions; incorporate age-appropriate, sport-specific drills; instill the virtues of integrity, discipline and fair play; and create a healthy and productive athletic environment. A quality coach will communicate more effectively by using judicious amounts of positive/negative feedback, technical instruction and general encouragement that will motivate his or her players to not only participate, but to excel.
Today, more than ever before, athletic directors must produce a quality athletic program within an ever-tightening budget. In these days of downsizing, accountability and increased parental involvement, a quality coach has become our program’s most valuable commodity. And with the growing emphasis of athletics at the high school level, the need for knowledgeable and effective coaches is greater than ever before.
Our students’ development and enjoyment is predicated on the quality of coaching they receive. Research shows that if a student enjoys an activity, the desire to remain in that activity and a willingness to try harder while he or she is involved also increases. It would seem logical, therefore, that athletic directors provide their coaches with the opportunity to maintain appropriate, relevant and ongoing sports training. This initiative should transcend all levels of experience, from the first-year coach to the veteran.
In support of this professional need, the NFHS has developed a Coach Certification Program. It is designed to deliver the highest-quality professional development online at an affordable cost. The objective of the program is to:
- Help coaches minimize the inherent risks faced by participating students.
- Improve the sport experience of participating students.
- Recognize coaches nationally.
- Introduce coaches to current methodologies of teaching sport-specific skills and team/individual strategies.
- Develop a sense of personal and professional accomplishment.
- Enable coaches to increase liability insurance coverage through membership in the NFHS Coaches Association.
To attain the Accredited Interscholastic Coach (AIC) Certification, a coach must complete the following:
- NFHS Fundamentals of Coaching Course.
- NFHS First Aid for Coaches (American Red Cross) or its equivalent.
- Fundamentals of Coaching (Sport Specific) or Teaching Sport Skills Course.
All information and registration procedures can be attained through www.nfhslearn.com.
Athletic directors need to take a leadership role by encouraging their coaches to enroll in the NFHS program. Students ultimately will be the beneficiaries if they are coached by properly trained individuals. By developing a quality coaching staff, we are taking an important step to ensure that our students will have a rewarding, enjoyable and enriching athletic experience.
About the Author: Ted D’Alessio is athletic director at Millburn (New Jersey) High School and a member of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Coach Education Ad Hoc Committee.