Your Kids’ Coach Is Probably Doing It Wrong

The New York Times ran an article with exactly the title you see above (dated March 11, 2020). The subtitle might be even worse “Woefully underprepared instructors are contributing to a shockingly high dropout rate among young athletes.”

Here are some excerpts:

“I have played for, coached with and watched great coaches. At every level, there are capable sports instructors providing positive experiences for our children. The problem is, such coaches are greatly outnumbered by those who don’t seem to know what they are doing. This is true of programs both inside and outside of schools.”

“The youth sports industry is heavily dependent on the services of volunteers, typically parents or teachers. While these coaches may have wonderful intentions and enthusiasm for the game, that doesn’t mean they have the skills to provide useful instruction. The National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education reports that in the United States, approximately 4 million out of 7.5 million youth and school coaches are volunteers. Fewer than 5 percent of youth sport coaches have relevant training; among middle-school and high school coaches, only 25 percent to 30 percent do.”

“Please, coaches: Take a moment to consider how your behavior affects the athletes. Don’t make my children hate the sports they once loved. Don’t make them switch disciplines every season in a desperate search for a coach who knows how to be a coach.”

“If you are fortunate enough to be called “Coach,” carry that moniker with pride. Seek out education and mentoring and do everything in your power to make sure that my child, and every child, has fun playing the sport with you because they feel valued and accomplished while learning to be competitive.”

Jennifer L. Etnier is a distinguished professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and the author of “Coaching for the Love of the Game: A Practical Guide for Working With Young Athletes.”

Arrogance on display aside (“Please, coaches: Take a moment to consider how your behavior affects the athletes.” So, she assumes coaches haven’t done this because if they had . . . ?) could this be a valid criticism of archery coaches? Possibly. But most academic researchers and writers on this topic focus almost exclusively on team sports. I have stopped buying and reading “how to coach youths” books and articles because of this focus, e.g. Chapter 1 How to Build Teamwork, etc.

Okay, I have a radical idea that is absolutely part of a solution for this “problem.”

Pay the damned coaches!

Archery organizations (primarily USA Archery) are notorious for adding additional requirements to acquire or keep a coach certification (and usually charging for the process, but not always). I resigned my Level 4 coaching certificate and USAA membership basically because they were charging me to provide them services. (Even though I have run JOAD programs in the past, I can no longer coach in them because I do not have a current (L2) certificate . . . not even as a guest coach.)

At a bare minimum, how about if you, coach, make it through an entire JOAD season as Head Coach, that they waive your membership fees for the next year? Or that they establish a fee structure for JOAD classes and how much of that income goes to pay the coaches. (We did this while in a community not exactly “rich” . . . we had waivers for student-archers who didn’t have the means to pony up for lessons. Otherwise you come across as saying “I am not going to pay you for your work but I am going to tell you how to do it,” and that doesn’t sit well with Americans, or really anyone.

When someone is being paid for their service the payer is in a better place to make demands upon those people regarding their service, training, and preparation.

7 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

7 responses to “Your Kids’ Coach Is Probably Doing It Wrong

  1. I appreciate that idea of coaches and instructors being paid. I am a volunteer instructor who is temporarily inactive due to health concerns. I also see where there are mandated costs to keeping the USA Archery certification active in addition to the first expenses – a somewhat moderate fee for the (needed) background check. So, big expense for the Level 1 and 2 and 3 course then membership to the organization and then twice during the normal certification period, a fee for the background check. Adds up to more than $300.00 for a volunteer each period of certification.

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    • The flip side is that that provide nothing more for their trained coaches. I offered to do a coaching newsletter for them (for free) and I didn’t even get a reply. They do not have a specialize website for their coaches, nor do they even market to them. They could be trying to sell us books, DVDS, training programs, whistles and lanyards, coaching bags, windbreakers, wind gauges, and on and on. And they don’t. You can’t buy a pencil over the Internet without getting a follow-up offer (Hey, if you liked that pencil, how about this pencil or maybe a ballpoint pen?)

      The UK has undertaken the creation of a massive support website for their coaches including training, interactions with other coaches, news, etc. Us … .

      On Thu, Mar 12, 2020 at 11:29 AM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

      >

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  2. Clarification, that should be $300+ for first certification each level and maybe $110 every period after. Just an estimation as some people pay much less and get subsidized by the trainer or their archery firm/club.

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    • When I took my L3 and L4 there was the training fee ($350 and $450) plus round trip airfare to Southern California, plus 4-6 days away from work (aka vacation days, put a price on those). They have gotten better, allowing L3 trainings to take palace at “away” sites (I facilitated one of those here near Chicago.). And, still, no follow-up from their side.

      I even tried to get USA Archery to survey their own coaches to determine their motivation for taking the trainings and some further needs, knowing full well they might task me with the doing just that and .In their minds, apparently, they know why we take those trainings and don’t really need to ask.

      On Thu, Mar 12, 2020 at 11:30 AM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

      >

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  3. Coach Rama

    Hello Mr. Ruiz.
    Thank you for Raising this issue.
    Volunteer coaching for the love of sharing, is laudable, whereas something like the JOAD is a completely different area.
    As a full time ‘Coach’, my workplace is totally different. I am forced to share my passion as an after school activity provider, simply to make money. All equipment is provided (from butts, to bows, to arrows).
    I would rather be using my certified expertise, to train the youngsters that have parents with long term goals and coach real archers with achievable goals.
    I believe that those at the top, are responsible for the change but that they are comfortable in a non progressive version that the new generation is demanding. As an independent, I am more capable of adapting to that very demand.
    Like you, I have had this very conversation with my sports federation but, the response is generally that I need to produce results, to be taken seriously. OK, I get it but when one of my juniors has won 5 consecutive gold medals at national level and my senior wins gold with the highest recorded score, I do wonder when (if ever) they will get back to me. I’m not holding my breath.
    I don’t think that they have the know how to set up a proper system that incorporates me (I do).
    Six years of continuous coaching whilst spending my own money to take courses and attend seminars every year, has resulted in two Olympic national certifications and one IOC certification. Being certified and recognised by the State as a specialist in physical preparation and also becoming the only certified Para-Archery Coach, are all feathers in my cap but how much more do they need, before they realise the asset that they have ?
    Any way, my next course, will be about the medicinal benefits of archery and I will travel to France for that course again self funded.
    Yes, I have put a value on myself because I understand that there is a difference between volunteers and professionals.
    This may give the impression of a ‘rant’ but is actually a reality and I am living it.

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    • Coach Rama,

      Your experience is unfortunately not rare. At one point I was shown that the people representing our sport were neither archers not coaches, but, well sports bureaucrats. (I am not in favor of only allowing archers and coaches to serve, but one might expect there to be some, no?)

      Korea has shown the way to a successful national program and it is coordination. The coaches get paid, the system requires communication and coordination and, in such, coaches receive support from the Korean Archery Coaches Association (I don’t know it that is the correct name of it.)

      In the US we do not even have an archery coaches association and there certainly is no support network for archery coaches, and we are a rich nation. In most global affairs, the rich countries spend money and the poor countries spend people (the US is doing both) and it seems as if the archery hierarchy in your country are spending you. This is why so many coaches get burned out before they get to the higher levels of competition.

      Oh, the “I need to produce results, to be taken seriously” is bogus. You have produced results but they actually mean that you have to produce results for them and they control access to the national teams and so on for you to do that, so you can’t do that without their favor. (The same game was played here for a very long time.)

      This is a serious problem for our community, especially in that so few are taking it seriously.

      I would like to see training academies. The entry-level program should be free because they are mostly for coaches volunteering in their neighborhoods and schools. But then coaches get invited to more extensive academies and if they do well in their training, they need to be given the chance to perform on teams and whatnot, then maybe another level for the elite archers, I do not know the exact structure of such a system, but it would require the “administrators” to become familiar with the coaches and their performances in order to find who to invite, then if the coaches do not produce, the administrators are somewhat at fault for not finding the best coaches to encourage.

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  4. Coach Rama

    Sir,
    since my last post, I took a moment to think about what I was trained to do, in relation to children, the areas to take into account and what I do on a daily basis.
    To begin with, let me inform you that I coach children between the ages of 6 years of age to 15 years of age (Monday through to Friday).
    My daily classes are completely full (no exaggeration), because I know what needs doing and the parents know this.
    The ‘sign up paperwork’, is inclusive of questions about medical issues. As a proper coach, you should be aware of issues that children have and how to deal with them. Confidence is often lacking, as they are still (at a young age), connected to mummy. This is real and a volunteer, will not have the skill to deal with it.
    Fun is what kids want and we as educated coaches, know how to bring this to our sessions. In fact, we work hard at making sure that this is a priority.
    Would a volunteer be able to deal with medical or mental issues in the same way as a seasoned coach ?
    Now, when it comes to matters of coaches asking their governing bodies for support, yes they do not reply. In fact, they ignore more often than not.
    I am currently in a situation of advising two clubs on a neighbouring island about this very area.
    They are not being answered at all by their archery governing body and it is becoming embarrassing.
    After looking at the national sports act, the archery federation rules and Lex Sportiva, I have advised them to ignore all three and request that the archery federation meet them face to face with their legal advisor present.
    If you are unaware of Lex Sportiva, I highly recommend that you study it.
    I have and it has helped me to understand the attitude of sporting organisations in general.

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