While professional development and mentoring of coaches are very much related and perhaps thought to be interchangeable by some, a distinction can be made. Professional development might include larger, general topics which typically would be presented to groups of coaches on designated, planned occasions such as during in-service programs, workshops and courses.
On the other hand, mentoring could deal with more specific aspects and may be done in a one-on-one or small group settings as often as needed. However, both are essential to the continued growth and development of coaching staffs.
Most athletic directors have hundreds of responsibilities, and mentoring represents one more in an unrelenting schedule. It may be one of the most important, however, since coaches come in daily, direct contact with student-athletes and are instrumental in the effort to provide an education-based athletic experience. It is vital that coaches understand, embrace and employ this philosophy.
Often, mentoring is viewed as an effort to guide a relatively new coach. It may be helpful with these individuals to cover topics such as how to plan practice sessions, the necessity of completing timely paperwork associated with the position, how to effectively communicate with parents and many others. While these items should be covered, administrators also should introduce and reinforce the essential aspects involved with education-based athletics. Why?
It should not be assumed that all new coaches are aware and appreciate what is involved with their coaching position. It is imperative that they understand the basic tenets, the values and importance of this concept in order to provide the best possible environment for their student-athletes. This guidance has to come from the athletic administrator; it doesn’t happen by chance, but rather from a planned, concerted effort such as mentoring.
While athletic directors certainly should work with the younger coaches, experienced individuals who have been part of the program should not be neglected. Even though they may have been involved for several years, some may need an occasional reminder. Schools should ensure that all coaches – not just those who are beginning their careers – understand and continually buy into the concept. This is important for the operation of a total program.
The following are some specific examples and techniques that athletic administrators may find useful in their efforts to mentor coaches involving the basic tenents of education-based athletics.
Whether with a little nudge, a suggestion, an occasional reminder, things to ponder or an outright counseling session, mentoring coaches is a vital and essential responsibility of an athletic administrator. Considering the importance of providing an education-based environment and concept for student-athletes, your efforts take on even more significance.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 630 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. He is the author of a book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.