Coaching is… What the Heck is Coaching?
I’m not here to debate whether or not teaching is difficult. Nor am I here to argue about whether or not teachers get paid fairly. Is teaching a rewarding job? Although I’ve taught in both the public school system and at the college level, I’m not here to add my two cents to that question either. Although, I think we all have our opinions about that topic and those questions.
I lead with teaching because I’m trying to figure something out. I mean, we all know what a teacher is and does. We all probably played teacher at some point growing up. And we all have had the experience of being instructed by teachers. In a similar vein, many of us have had the experience of being instructed by coaches. And we know what a coach is and what a coach does.
Or do we know what a coach is? Well, I should say: or do I?
I thought I knew what a coach was. When I first started coaching over thirty years ago, I was a volunteer. I coached without making any money. Then I had the good fortune of being a professional coach. That is, I got paid full-time to do it as my job. And now I’m…well…I’m paid but after the government takes their pound of flesh, I’m pretty much a volunteer getting a very modest honorarium for my efforts.
Do we assume that coaching youth organised sports here on the Island is just a volunteer activity? Maybe some do. In some sports here on the Island, there is no such thing as a volunteer coach. Part of paying for the program is paying for the coach. I would have to say that we undervalue coaches and coaching here on PEI.
Yes, for me coaching was, and sort of still is, a profession. But when I say we undervalue coaching I don’t mean that we all should see it as a profession. When I took my teaching degree, I actually did a separate bachelor’s degree and then a 2-year teaching degree, with lots of practice teaching too. And I would say that’s a reasonable amount of education and training for a full-time job.
Canada Soccer, our national governing body, expects coaches to have the following certifications:
- Soccer-specific training (3.5 and 7 hrs total depending on the age level coached)
- Ethics training (4 hrs)
- Training in the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (4 hrs)
- Concussion recognition, prevention and recovery training (2 hrs)
- Training to respond efficiently and effectively to a situation that requires 911 be called (30 min)
Is 14 to 17.5 hours of training too much for a coach that spends between 1 and 6 hours a week with kids? Obviously Canada Soccer doesn’t think so.
So then what is coaching? A hobby? Nope. A hobby is something you do for fun in your spare time. Like a profession, volunteering to coach is a commitment — people are depending on you to do what you said you would do.
Here at Eliot River, we’ve been enforcing the certification requirements for all of our coaches for two seasons now. Starting in 2023, all Island soccer clubs will be required to enforce this level of training of all their coaches as well.
I’d like to say that raising the certification standards has been a fun and rewarding experience that will put us way ahead of all those other clubs. But I can’t. It was always hard to recruit coaches when the Club wasn’t pushing the required certifications. Now, and with the effects of the Pandemic on everyone’s persona and psyche, it has become excruciatingly difficult.
If coaching isn’t a hobby, is it an interest?
It has to be at the least an interest because of the amount of certifications now required. You have to want to learn about soccer and how kids develop and how to provide a safe environment for them to thrive. It used to be that just about any warm body could come forward and agree to coach. Those days are now long gone.
Is coaching a passion?
A passion is something that you can’t do without. I know that for coaching, that’s true for me. I also know that over the years, I’ve seen many folks who volunteered to coach because there was no one else to do it, learn to enjoy it so much that they continued to coach even after their own child was no longer involved. So, yes coaching can become a passion but it doesn’t have to be a passion in order to do it.
Well then, what is coaching? At this point, I seem to be saying that it is a commitment you make and honour to something you enjoy doing and that you are interested in learning more about.
I guess in trying to figure out what I think coaching is, I hope I’ll be able to figure out how to fix our shortage of volunteers willing to coach. I don’t know if I will ever solve it. What I do know is that providing the quality programming we are striving for now for the number of players that want to play is not going to be sustainable without more quality coaches.
And next season, when all the other soccer clubs are expected to certify their coaches, will be a very interesting season where we see what coaching soccer on PEI really means to Islanders. I fear my colleagues may be in for the same rude awakening that I have received.