There are several organizations out there, such as USA Football, that offer sports coach training and certification programs. Organizations like USA Football and the Babe Ruth League Coaching Education Center are looking to create better coaches by giving them more education, more guidance, and the tools they need to ultimately make youth sports better for the athletes. But does a certificate really make the difference between a good and bad coach? And would youth sports leagues run low on parent-volunteers if they required certain certifications in order to coach?
Obviously we want as many youth sports coaches as possible to be trained in the basics of First Aid. Do they know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke? Can they tell when a player might be suffering from a concussion? Do they know how to use an AED properly (providing there is one available). The first few moments after a player is seriously hurt are often the most critical and the coach has to be able to keep control of the situation until professional medical help arrives.
But should we require our youth sports coaches to be certified by some outside party like the National Youth Sports Coaches Association or the National Council of Youth Sports before they can take over a team? Do we want our youth sports coaches to pass sport-specific competency tests, like what we go through to get our driver’s license, in order to volunteer? Well just like there are plenty of people who pass the driver’s license test that really shouldn’t be driving, chances are that even with certification policies in place people who really shouldn’t be coaching anyone will pass. And worse, since your league has these certification policies in place, great would-be coaches that don’t have the time/money/feel the need to be certified are kept out of the coaching position. Could you end up with a bunch of coaches that have the paperwork they need but don’t actually know how to manage a dozen 8-year-olds during practice? Or have any idea how to handle angry sports parents in the real world?
On the flip side, requiring your youth sports coaches to be certified could help ensure all your teams are getting coaches that at least know the fundamentals of the sport and have some tricks up their sleeves when it comes to running a practice. Reggie Medinger coached Cary Junior Trojans seventh and eighth graders in The Chicagoland Youth Football League for 27 years until retiring to become senior vice president of TCYFL (he helped found the league in 1998). He said coaches who think they know everything soon find themselves being passed by. “Everything I do, I try to get at least one thing out of it and make sure I’m still doing things right,” Medinger said. “You can never know too much about the game, especially when it comes to young players. You may have a team one year where everyone is new to the sport, so the more information you have, the better you can teach them.”
While a coach training program can definitely help make for better coaches, would mandating that ALL your coaches be certified by some governing organization actually make for a better league?