The “Good Old Way”

Author: Jerry Reeder, Assistant Director, Human Kinetics Coach Education


I have been at this coaching education thing for a long time…perhaps too long. I began my coaching career in 1979 as a volunteer coach for a local high school here in central Illinois. As a non-teacher coach, I was required to attend a one-day class held at the IHSA office called “American Coaching Effectiveness Program” taught by Rainer Martens (Human Kinetics’ founder). This was my introduction to coaching, which became my primary profession for the next 35 years. I jumped from high school to college, back to high school, and then finished my career serving as the team chaplain for the football program at the University of Illinois.

To say I grew in the profession during those 35 years would be an understatement. I cannot imagine coaching the defensive backs at Eastern Illinois University in 2008 the same way I coached high school football in 1979. Sure, the techniques and tactics had changed over that time, but those changes paled in comparison to the way I needed to interact with the student-athletes in my position room for them and me to be successful. Those changes and the sport culture we worked in during the latter stages of my coaching career were night-and-day different from the sport culture I coached in during the 70’s. EIU’s Coach Spoo would have fired me on Day One if he saw that I was still coaching my “good old ways” from decades past.

In my position at Human Kinetics Coach Education, I have the pleasure of working with state high school and athletic directors associations and individual school districts in implementing our coaching education courses. I also serve as an instructor of Coaching Principles and Sport First Aid, training other instructors as well as coaches. Some of the biggest complaints I receive are from veteran coaches who have been “forced” to complete our Coaching Principles course to comply with a mandate. The comments vary, but the gist is, “This course is a waste of my time, I have been coaching since God created sliced bread, and I don’t need to attend a class to learn how to coach. The good old way still works for me.”

I cringe when I hear those comments, and I wonder what the culture is like in his program. When I receive comments like these, I am often compelled to have a conversation with the coach’s athletic director. Often the AD is younger than the coach and recognizes that the profession has passed the veteran coach by. The AD dreads the inevitable day when the coach’s behavior—his good old ways—leads to his demise. I appreciate the concern of the AD. We would expect a veteran coach to achieve success when engaging in a professional development activity. The reality is that for some, our training has little effect on changing behavior. These “old school” coaches place little credence on the course and often expend little to no effort in completing its activities and test. When they receive a failing grade, they claim the test is rigged, filled with trick questions and ambiguities, and designed to get them to fail so they have to buy a retest.

As an instructor, you may have had similar comments directed at you. Here’s some help for when your veteran coach starts bending your ear. Each question on the Coaching Principles and Sport First Aid exams comes directly from the course texts Successful Coaching and Sport First Aid. As you know, coaches are directed to complete reading assignments from the texts as they prepare for the course exams, which are actually open-book. Not coincidentally, coaches who disregard the reading assignments are most often the ones who fail the tests and are the first ones in line to complain about the validity of the test questions and the relevance of the course. We are not out to trick anybody. We want coaches to succeed, not only on the course but also in their roles as coaches and mentors.

In the event a coach fails a test, the coach is directed to purchase a retest. If the initial test was taken online, the coach receives an e-mail listing questions missed, where in the text to find the correct answers, and instructions on how to purchase and complete a retest. If the initial test was taken paper-pencil using the scan form, the coach receives a letter in the mail identifying the questions missed, where in the text to find the correct answers, and instructions on how to submit a paper retest.

We have had a good number of coaches recently who failed their initial test, but have not submitted a retest. Technically these coaches are not certified. Even though they took the course and test, they are not certified until they pass the test. If you have a coach who deleted the retest e-mail or discarded the retest letter from us, please have them call our support line at 800-747-5698 for a replacement. It is imperative these coaches pass the tests prior to coaching in school year 2018-19.

Lastly, if you have a coach who is struggling with a course test, please have the coach call me directly at 217-564-2370. I want to help your coaches succeed, not punish them. I want them to grow in a profession that I have called mine for the past 35 years. I also want them to experience the many positive experiences that await them by shedding the good old way and embracing a willingness to learn, grow, and change for the betterment of their student-athletes.

Yours in Coaching,