Faculty Members Score With Education For Volunteer Coaches
By Beth Potier, Media Relations
December 19, 2007
Every Saturday morning, legions of volunteer coaches – some two million
of them nationwide – take to America’s gyms, fields, rinks and
courts to share sportsmanship, skills, and even a little fun with local youth.
Many of them will succeed, and their young charges – 52 million in
the United States – may pick up a few strategic skills or life lessons
among the lost uniforms, upside-down shin pads, and goals scored for the
Some, unfortunately, will fail spectacularly, with headline-grabbing stories
of abuse, injuries and good coaches gone bad.
Two faculty members at UNH aim to enhance effectiveness – and mitigate
risks – for volunteer coaches with an education program called CoachSmartNH.
The three-year-old program is now being used in 30 communities in the state,
and associate professor of recreation management and policy Bob Barcelona
and assistant professor of kinesiology Karen Collins are partnering with
New Hampshire communities to enhance coaching effectiveness.
“Our outcome goal is to promote positive experiences for the young
athlete,” says Collins. She notes that traumatic stories of coach-athlete
violence notwithstanding, a more common side effect of poor coaching is that
young athletes drop out or disengage from sport.
“The vast majority of volunteer youth sports coaches have never gone
through a coaching education program,” adds Barcelona.
That’s changing, however, and CoachSmartNH puts a local spin on a
national trend toward empowering volunteer coaches with education, support,
and tools and resources. The program provides extensive training to leaders
of recreation departments and other youth sports organizations; those leaders
in turn deliver three-hour workshops to volunteer coaches.
While many states have adopted national education programs for their volunteer
coaches, CoachSmartNH is tailored to meet the needs and challenges of Granite
State coaches. “When we teach the curriculum, we use examples specific
to New Hampshire. We know that baseball coaches can’t get outside until
April,” says Collins.
Recognized by the New Hampshire Recreation and Park Association as well
as the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, CoachSmartNH has
at its core the development of a coaching philosophy. “Most volunteer
coaches don’t come in with a coaching philosophy,” says Barcelona. “We
try to get them to think about it: What are my goals? Why do I coach? What
do I want my athletes to get out of this experience?”
Other components of the training – planning, teaching sport skills,
and communication and motivation techniques – build on the coaches’ articulated
philosophies. Collins, whose expertise is in curriculum development, says
that planning can give coaches sought-after credibility. “If you know
what you’re going to do in week two, or week four, you can be that
much more confident,” she says.
CoachSmartNH takes a “games approach” to practices, teaching
via games rather than via drills. “It gets more people involved, it
allows them to think and learn while they’re playing the game,” says
And as they train coaches throughout the region, Collins and Barcelona are
collecting data for research that will continue to inform the program’s
design. Barcelona is looking at the role of communities in providing positive
youth sport experiences, and Collins is examining how confidence in coaching
changes with the CoachSmartNH program. “The results of both these studies
will inform better management around recreational activities,” says
Collins notes that the movement toward better coaching education reflects
the changing status of sport – and coaches -- in our society. “Kids
are more scheduled and are participating in sport year-round,” she
says. “Subsequently, coaches are playing a more crucial role in youth
For more information on CoachSmartNH, go to www.coachsmart.org.