How Can We Educate More Coaches?

Author: Jim Schmutz, ASEP Executive Director


My first exposure to mainstream coaching education came in 1987 when, as Director of Sports Training at Special Olympics Virginia, I attended an American Coaching Effectiveness Program (ACEP) Leadership Training Seminar. That training session prepared me to teach the Level 1 ACEP course in which an instructor would guide a group of coaches through a series of classroom learning experiences with the aid of a series of video tapes and moderated discussions. In addition to the classroom-based portion of the course, coaches also read the book Coaching Young Athletes and took a short test to evaluate their comprehension.

What I remember most about instructing those courses was the desire the coaches had to expand their knowledge base and become better in all facets of their role. And I still see that same quest for information and improvement today.

But you probably already knew that since, among the 25,000 people who receive ASEP Insider, 90 percent are certified coaches and the other 10 percent are sports administrators of organizations committed to educating coaches. So, instead of trying to convince you of the need for coaching education opportunities, I'm posing this question: How can we educate more coaches?

Admittedly, the challenges facing coaches have never been greater. Expectations of parents, time demands, discipline problems, a results-oriented emphasis by others that shortchanges skill development are just a few of the challenges that confront all those who coach youth today, ranging from the youngest athletes all the way through to high school. For scholastic coaches, the often meager compensation except at the very highest levels, along with those other challenges make the coach role less appealing which can lead to turnover as well as difficulty in recruiting coaches.

The vast majority of today's coaches are motivated to do well, serve their athletes as best as possible, and do so in a manner that is consistent with the prevailing rules and principles of their organization. And those coaches are ready - even eager - to learn more so that they can do just that.

Yet few sport organizations require coach education/certification. And where it is required, the requirement is rarely all-inclusive. For example, many high school associations while mandating coach certification, only require non-faculty coaches to be certified. Many youth sport organizations offer some form of coach education and recommend that coaches take advantage of the resource but stop short of mandating certification. I begin my role as Executive Director for the American Sport Education Program eager to work with key youth sport and high school administrators to educate more coaches in order to improve the sport experience for youth across the United States.

I intend to focus on enhancing existing partnerships and creating new partnerships that result in broader and deeper penetration of quality sport education for coaches, parents, administrators, and officials. The coach has the greatest influence on the athlete experience, so the initial focus will be on efforts that result in educating more coaches. We will enhance and expand our efforts to deliver resources combining the best in principles of coaching with current sport science and the most up-to-date, superior, age-appropriate, sport-specific coaching techniques available.

Education alone will not guarantee that every coach will be fully successful in the role. But if we can educate more coaches, it will set expectations and establish a level of accountability that can only have a positive impact on the athlete experience. Equally important, coaches will feel and actually be more capable of fulfilling their duties, have a much more rewarding experience, and therefore choose to keep on coaching.

The resources exist, the technology exists, and most importantly the desire among the majority of coaches to be better coaches exists. I look forward to working with our current and future partners to educate more coaches with eye on providing meaningful and intrinsically rewarding sport experiences for more young athletes.

So, "How can we educate more coaches?" My short answer would be "Together, and with a sense of purpose that prevails over obstacles we might encounter." The need is that important.

You can help get things started by contacting me at and sharing your thoughts and plans as to how we should proceed. I can't wait to hear from you.

Jim Schmutz
ASEP Executive Director