USA Track & Field Coaching Education – An Overview (Part Two)

Part Two of the article that appeared in the IAAF Technical Journal it was published under the title “Coaches Education – a perspective,” New Studies In Athletics, Vol. 6 # 4,1991, pp. 7-11

The curriculum is composed of two basic components:  sport science and event specific.  The goal in each area was to teach fundamental principles that the coaches could immediately apply. It was designed so that coach with little or no background in sport science or coaching could understand the material.  Evaluation at level I consisted of a multiple choice, open book, take home exam.

To meet the needs of the athletic community as it has been traditionally structured in the US the program was structured into levels.  The three levels are: 

Level I – Focus on coaches who are working with club, junior high school, and high school age athletes. Provides broad base of knowledge in all events with an emphases on teaching basic skills and fundamental understanding of sport science.  Level II – Focuses on coaches who are working with national caliber athletes – Specialization in an event group. Provides in depth coverage of sport science.  Level III – Focuses on coaches who are working with elite athletes at the national and international level with specialization in an individual event. Provides in depth understanding of the sports science aspects of that particular event.

The levels are intended to be hierarchical in that one would be built upon the other in a continually expanding knowledge base.  There was much discussion as to the distinction between the levels. It has not always been clear where one stops and the other begins.  I am sure this will be a continuing debate which will occur everywhere that there are levels.  They were designed to meet the needs of the coaches at all levels of the sport.

One controversial aspect of the levels was the “Grandfather” issue.  There were those people in the sport who had coached a number of years and by the nature of their knowledge and experience felt that they deserved certification beyond Level I. With our fundamental philosophy of including everyone in the program a policy was developed that was good for the program and those individuals.  They were asked to attend a Level I school to gain an understanding of the terminology and the process.  Then they applied to the level they felt their knowledge and experience dictated.  Very few people have elected to exercise this option once they realized the additional knowledge they could gain by going through the program in it’s entirety. 

At this point, Level I and II are fully operational.  Level III is in the final planning and development stages.  In retrospect there was possibly too much of a hurry to proceed to Level II.  Therefore the committee is taking more time to develop Level III.  Without question the focus should be on Level I where there is the greatest need and the necessity for the greatest number of coaches.

One of the primary issues that has arisen is that of certification versus education. When the program was in its developmental stages the focus was on certification. It quickly became apparent that this had too many negative connotations.  Education shed a more positive light and this became the major thrust of the program. Hopefully the program is just the start of an educational experience for the coach, one that he or she will be motivated to continue for self improvement on their own outside the courses.

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