Who is in charge of Coaching?

The local ringette association executive is bustling around the rink pontificating to the local spectators that “it is all about coaching.”

Meanwhile, the not to be outdone provincial executive bombastically declares to a room full of exhausted volunteers that “I am here to fix coaching.”

Prospective coaching candidates often say “ I don’t have time to make the commitment to be the head coach.” Moreover, “two parents harassed me last year, and so I decided that it was two parents too many – I retire.”

Recently, two parents of players on a ringette team prevented a former AA player from coaching because they wanted to be in charge of the team. This took place in spite of the best efforts of the local ringette association to select this talented, young female role model to train the next generation of aspiring ringette stars. Her side of the story: “I am tired of fighting these other coaches – it is not worth it to me. They can have the team.” The final score: alpha male hockey dads: 2, female role model: 0.

Recently, a ringette team with three NCCP certified coaches experienced conflict among the coaching ranks. The result: two certified coaches gone, one left.

What is it about coaching that everyone thinks they know better?

There must be a better way to recruit, develop and keep great ringette coaches?

In order to coach a competitive ringette team in Ontario, coaches must attend the Competition Introduction course offered through the Ontario Ringette Association in concert with the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). The curriculum was put in place after much study and hard work. The manual is certainly impressive.

Is it worthwhile?

In a clever study from the University of Ottawa, published in The Sport Psychologist, 2007, 21, 191-209, Human Kinetics, Inc. on “How Youth-Sport Coaches Learn to Coach,” Lemyre, Trudel and Durand-Bush concluded that formal training is only one component of developing coaches.

Here is a quote from a coach who participated in the research study:

“When I took the certification course, I was very disappointed. There were two sessions during the weekend. For the first session, I was expecting to learn about the rules of the game because I did not know anything about that; I did not have any experience. But the content was not that at all. We were all coaches coming from different sports. So we all talked about our experiences but I did not need that. I needed to learn about the game. I did not want to be there all day; I most certainly did not feel like talking. The next day, we talked about aerobic and anaerobic systems, VO2max and other stuff I did not understand. I was so disappointed that I left before the end of the class.”

The study examined how coaches learn, get information, and seek advice. The results may shock you.

One of the principal sources of information was from family and friends who had played sports in the past. Another common source was from their experiences earlier in life, as an athlete. In other words, coaches repeat what they were taught as athletes.

But, coaches also spoke of their interactions with, and observations of, other coaches in their sport.

The authors concluded that  youth-sport coaches are often left to work on their own in isolation… the learning situations available to youth sport coaches to develop their knowledge have been limited and counterproductive in certain aspects.”

So, if formal classroom-based training is only one component, what more can and should be done?

The authors concluded that coaches would do well to learn through a sport specific community of practice which would include apprenticeship programs, the sharing of best practices, and the thoughtful use of a coaching facilitator.

While national sport organizations have the funds and expertise to produce outstanding world class resources, local ringette associations would be wise to foster ringette communities of practice where coaches are expected to share their knowledge experiences with new coaches.

Coaches who win medals are sweet, but coaches who share are gold.

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