Coach education improves coach retention

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


I took my first paid coaching job in 1981 at a small rural high school in central Illinois. The opportunity to be a football coach at my alma mater was a dream come true, and to get paid $250 for the season was icing on the cake! It launched a winding, 30-year coaching career that included stops at three other high schools and three universities. I hung up my whistle in 2011 when I retired from coaching at Eastern Illinois University. Not once in my coaching career did I make a move based on a pay raise. To be honest, money was never my driving force for coaching. I was more than satisfied being fully immersed in and committed to what I believe to be the greatest profession in the world.

Along the way, I saw several coaches come and go. Many barely got their feet wet before they quit for greener pastures. At one point, I took a four-year sabbatical from coaching to become a high school athletic director. In that four-year time span I witnessed the same coaching exodus, mainly young coaches who had little or no experience in the profession. I don’t have any hard data as to why coaches quit, but thirty years’ experience points me to three prime suspects:

• Dealing with parents in today’s culture
• Dealing with athletes in today’s culture, and
• Time management

It baffles me when I hear athletic directors say that they are not going to invest in training young coaches until they are convinced the coaches are going to stick with it. Many state athletic associations inadvertently encourage ADs to adopt that philosophy by allowing a window—some up to three years—for coaches to meet the certification requirements from the time they begin coaching. To me that’s like telling your kid, “Go drive your car, and if you don’t have a wreck in three years, come back, and I’ll teach you how to drive!”

There’s no doubt coach retention is an issue in high schools across the country. One of the biggest challenges for an AD is keeping staff on board. A coach's life expectancy is probably no more than three years in many schools. It doesn’t take long for a young coach who isn’t on fire to coach to conclude that there are a lot better ways to spend their free time or to supplement their income.

As an AD-instructor, it’s your job to prepare coaches to meet the demands of coaching and to motivate them to stay with it. A significant way to meet that goal is through coaching education. But it takes more than a window dressing course that simply provides a coach a piece of paper and a pat on the back.

It takes substantive curriculum steeped in experiential-based learning to engage, equip, and encourage coaches. I believe strongly in the curriculum that Human Kinetics Coach Education has developed. If implemented effectively, our courses will not only teach and instill in your coaches fundamental coaching principles, but also address the issue of coach retention. No course that I have reviewed addresses dealing with parents and coaching today’s athletes more effectively than Coaching Principles. In addition, an entire section is dedicated to time management, teaching coaches how to reduce or eliminate the stress that coaching can produce if time is poorly used.

I can’t guarantee that every coach who completes Coaching Principles will stick around for 30 years like I did. But I can guarantee you this: If you do end up having coaches who quit, it won’t be because you didn’t do everything in your power to prepare them for the task.

I invite you to experience our Coaching Principles course for yourself. Give me a call or shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a complimentary copy. I think you will agree, it is worth every penny you invest in your coaches, in preparing them for the task and motivating them to stick with it.

Yours in coaching,

Coach Reeder