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Take Advantage of Professional Development for Coaches Now Available at nfhslearn.com

By Bill Utsey 

Professional development courses created by the NFHS Coach Education Program for coaches at all levels in all sports are now available at www.nfhslearn.com. These courses can be accessed by individual coaches or schools and even districts can arrange for groups of coaches to take elective and sport specific courses.  


Although required coaching education courses vary by state, the South Carolina High School League has two mandatory requirements:

  1. All coaches at all levels, paid and volunteer, must take the NFHS Learning Center’s courses Concussion in Sports—What You Need to Know and A Guide to Heat Acclimatization and Heat Illness Prevention. These courses are free of charge and can be accessed at www.nfhslearn.com.
  2. All adjunct head coaches (coaches that are not regular employees in the school district) of any sport at any level in high school or middle school are required to take the Fundamentals of Coaching course through the High School League. These adjunct head coaches must attend the course at the League office prior to working with student-athletes, and then complete the course online within one year.


All other NFHS Coach Education Courses are elective. Although there are some free courses designed for both coaches and parents, the bulk of these professional development courses require a nominal fee. Visit www.nfhslearn.com to view the wide variety of professional development courses offered by the NFHS. The NFHS now offers a Coaches Certification Program (three required courses and one sport-specific course with a $10 fee), which any coach would be proud to have on his or her resume.


Why should coaches take any of these courses or seek NFHS certification? What can coaches possibly get from engaging in a regular professional development program over a period of time through the NFHS Coach Education Program?


The basic concept is that interscholastic sports are first and foremost, an educational endeavor. Historically, all state high school interscholastic athletic associations were started by their respective state-supported university—by the academia, not athletic departments! The South Carolina High School League was started by the University of South Carolina and up until 1993, the office was located on its campus. The reason interscholastic athletic programs were initiated by the academia at these universities is that they saw how their collegiate athletic programs enhanced the learning environment and the real life lessons their own students were learning through their team experiences on fields and courts.


Today, however, we are experiencing a paradigm shift like no other in the history of youth sports. School athletic directors are now leading programs that are in conflict with club sports throughout the nation. The conflict is one of core values, beliefs and the philosophies of their coaches. Because of this growing change in the youth athletic landscape, it has become more important than ever for school administrators to be made aware of the main differences in our education-based athletic programs and those of club sports. The differences: interscholastic sports began as an educational endeavor and still has as its main core mission the teaching of life sustaining skills and enlightening values—teamwork, discipline, personal leadership, work ethic, the value of preparation, etc. Unlike many club sports, those in interscholastic sports see athletic programs as an extension of school classrooms and an integral part of the mission and purposes of schools.


As the leader of a schools’ total educational program athletic directors and coaches have a obligation to promote and take part in professional development opportunities. Enabling coaches to become quintessential professionals demands their constant participation in learning the “Why’s” and “How’s” of their coaching duties. The NFHS has developed a first-class professional development program that has been endorsed by the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the National Middle School Association and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. With a relatively low cost (from $20 to $75, per course), the NFHS Coach Education Program offers a wide variety of instructional courses and seminars that a cutting-edge school administrator can access for his or her coaches’ professional development opportunities.


Other reasons for initiating a structured professional development program for coaches include, but are not limited to:


  • Keeping the main focus of coaching on ALL of student-athletes. Only three percent of student-athletes go on to play sports at the collegiate level. Coaches must focus on the other 97 percent with life-building skills and experiences. The NFHS courses do this and more. The Fundamentals of Coaching course will provide coaches with the basics of educational athletics. Not only are the “How’s” and “Why’s” discussed, the core values we all believe in are promoted throughout.
  • Meeting the need to change the public perception of a coach. In South Carolina, a hairdresser has to go through more education and certification procedures than coaches who work daily with young people. Through these courses, coaches not only build their resumes, they can also attain coaching certification. Make a lasting impact in a school’s learning environment and enhance the school’s standing in the eyes of the community’s educational participants—parents and school board members—by getting involved in the NFHS Coach Education Program.  
  • The courses help raise the expectations of coaches, especially in view of liability issues. Although no one can avoid every instance of inappropriate actions of coaches that may lead to litigation, continued education and learning opportunities can certainly make coaches more informed and more attuned to proper professional standards in all areas of coaching.
  • The courses help add value to an athletic program and, ultimately, benefit students. Whether it is the latest technology or a change in policies, always ask these two questions: Is it good for kids? Will it add value to our programs? As much as the NFHS believes these coach education courses are good for coaches, ultimately they will benefit student-athletes and will add value overall to extracurricular programs. This quote is true: “Kids won’t care unless they know you care.” Coach education courses from nfhslearn.com enhance this time-honored teaching principle with coaches. When student-athletes know coaches care about them, they will be knocking the doors down to be in athletic programs and, most of all, parents will support administrators and coaches wholeheartedly.  


One might think that these courses are great for new and beginning coaches and this is true. However, read this excerpt from an article on the nfhslearn.com Web site:


“Let me relate one quick story about a coach education participant. I am fortunate to have one of the best high school head football coaches in the state here at Lake High School (Ohio). Jeff Durbin was hesitant about WHY he had to take a class like this after 20+ years of high school coaching and five years of college coaching. Jeff took the course anyway. About two months after taking the course, he stopped me one day and offered this, totally unsolicited, comment: ‘I didn't think I'd gain much from this course. But, I gotta tell you, after completing the course, I found myself reenergized by reminding myself as to WHY I got into this business to begin with. The class really got me to refocus upon WHY we do what we do, and HOW we should be teaching our kids.’” (The WHY and HOW of Coach Education,” Bruce Brown, CMAA, Athletic Director, Lake High School, Uniontown, Ohio) 


Please consider starting a professional development program at your school with the NFHS Coach Education Program. Visit www.NFHSLearn.com to learn more about this online professional development program. Remember, we are… “Educational Athletics!”


Note: NFHS and American Red Cross have worked together to re-do the First Aid Course. Red Cross Certification is now earned when this course is taken.



Bill Utsey is the Director of Athletics for Greenville (South Carolina) County Schools and the South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association director of coach education.

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