“ASEP is committed to improving amateur sport by encouraging coaches, officials, administrators, parents, and athletes to embrace the 'athletes first, winning second' philosophy and by providing the education to put the philosophy to work.”
–Rainer Martens, PhD, ASEP founder
In the early 1970s, Rainer Martens, sport psychologist and physical education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was studying the psychological aspects of youth sport. Through his research and the pioneering work of the Coaching Association of Canada, Martens thought that a major way to improve amateur sport in the United States was to improve the education of coaches. So in 1976 he founded the American Coaching Effectiveness Program (ACEP), which later expanded into the American Sport Education Program (ASEP). Although coaching education is a priority with ASEP, today education programs for officials, sport administrators, parents, and athletes are all part of the ASEP educational agenda.
ASEP is a program offered through Human Kinetics, also founded by Martens in 1974. The company is an international publisher of sport, physical activity, and health resources with more than 250 employees and subsidiaries in Canada, Europe, and Australia.
In 1981, Martens produced and released the first ASEP course, which focused on coaching philosophy and the basics of sport science, sports medicine, and sport management. By 1986, ASEP had 1,400 certified instructors who had trained more than 50,000 coaches. In 1994, ASEP added educational programs and resources for volunteer coaches, officials, parents, and sport administrators of community youth sport programs, national youth sport organizations, and military and faith-based sport organizations.
In 1990, the National Federation of State High School Associations partnered with ASEP to offer high school versions of ASEP’s popular Coaching Principles and Sport First Aid courses. Over the next 15 years, the NFHS and ASEP worked closely with state high school activities associations to implement these courses as required education, or if not required, at least highly recommended for all school coaches.
In 2006, the ASEP/NFHS partnership ended, and now ASEP works directly with state high school associations, state departments of education, individual school districts, and national governing bodies of Olympic sport in delivering the ASEP Professional Coaches Education Program to more than 20,000 coaches a year.
Beginning in 2001, ASEP began revising its high school curriculum, calling it the Bronze Level, which consists of Coaching Principles, Sport First Aid, and advanced sport-specific courses. In addition to updating and expanding the curriculum, in 2004 ASEP began offering the courses as online courses that coaches could take anywhere they could access the Internet.
Although much of ASEP's efforts have been directed toward educating high school and advanced club coaches, educating volunteer coaches has been and remains a major objective. ASEP's Coaching Young Athletes course for volunteer coaches was launched in 1981, but it was more comprehensive than youth sport administrators were willing to offer to their coaches. Thus, in the early 1990s ASEP launched a series of Rookie Coaches Guide to [Sport], which later became the Coaching Youth [Sport] series. These texts, along with an instructor guide and instructional video, made it easier for youth sport administrators to educate coaches. In the later 1990s ASEP developed a series of companion videos to these texts that demonstrated the teaching of technical and tactical skills of the sport.
Over the years, many youth sport agencies have adopted ASEP's Volunteer Coaches Education Program courses, but three obstacles have limited their widespread adoption: money to purchase the courses, lack of administrators' time to teach the courses, and the logistical challenge of bringing volunteers together for face-to-face instruction. In 2003, ASEP began releasing the Coaching Youth Sport series of courses online. Now coaches can take the courses at their convenience and without travel expenses. Busy youth sport administrators do not need to organize educational sessions and prepare to teach the courses.
During the 1990s, ASEP produced a series of five texts for scholastic sport administrators, developed an officiating kit for youth sport administrators to provide basic instruction to volunteer officials, and produced an innovative SportParent Kit, now offered as the ASEP Youth Sport Training Kit DVD. ASEP released the Officiating Principles online course online in 2003, aimed at officials at the high school level, followed by Directing Youth Sports Programs in 2004, an online course geared toward youth sport administrators in park districts and local youth sport clubs.
ASEP has been in the sport education business for nearly 30 years, and although more than 1 million coaches have participated in ASEP courses during that time, ASEP's work is largely incomplete. More than 3.5 million coaches, nearly 1 million officials, 300,000 sport administrators, 80 million parents, and 30 million young athletes in the United States can benefit from ASEP's educational courses and resources. So, while ASEP is proud of its achievements, its focus is on providing the highest-quality education to all who are involved in sport.