Coaches: Why Get Certified?

Yesterday, Athletics Canada shared some tips for coaches/members, in regard to the Coaching Certification program. Here’s what they shared:

With more and more events and bodies requiring certification of coaches, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from coaches about the process. Here’s a little Q&A with a hypothetical coach that will hopefully clarify and encourage you to certify!

Coach: I’ve been coaching for 30 years! Why do I need to certify? Why are you making me jump through hoops?

AC: 30 years! That’s a long time. It probably means you have a lot of experience and you know what you are doing. Certification isn’t about making you jump through hoops, it’s about showcasing the experience you have. You wouldn’t accept your kid’s teacher saying “I don’t have a teaching certificate, but I’ve been doing this a long time, so don’t worry about it.” Certification shows the parents and athletes in your club that you’re not working in a silo, that you’re part of the system and your peers (evaluator), provincial branch and national sport organization (Athletics Canada), not to mention the Coaching Association of Canada, all recognize that you know what you’re doing.

Coach: Yeah, but the parents all know me. It’s fine. Besides, I’m not going to do anything wrong!

AC:  Of course you’re not! Look, we all have to work together to ensure a safe sport environment for athletes. Parents of the current athletes in your club know you, but what about new parents? We know most coaches are great people! That’s why it’s important for the good ones to certify and be part of the system. It will help us weed out the coaches who are not in sport for the right reasons, and create a safer sport environment for everyone.

Coach: Ok, that makes sense, but I don’t have time to do all that. I work full-time, coach part-time and I have a family, too!

AC: You’re not alone. Most coaches in our sport are just like you. The good thing is that the certification process probably doesn’t require you to do much you aren’t already doing. Here are some of the simple things you’ll need:

You need to create an emergency action plan. If you’re working in a school, the school likely has one. If you are working out of a community centre, the same is probably true. If you don’t have one, it’s worth getting it done, and the training is available in all athletics coaching clinics, and soon to be available for free online.

The other main parts of your portfolio are just planning documents. You likely have your practice, seasonal and yearly training plans already made. All you have to do is upload them to the evaluation site!

There are also some club planning documents that if you don’t have written down, you probably  have in your head. Those can be useful to put down on paper.

Coach: Don’t I have to use a specific excel format or something for the plans?

AC: Nope! There are planning templates available to help you, but as long as you include all the elements, you can use whatever format you want. The evaluator just needs to be able to understand what you are planning.

Coach: Ok but this evaluator, I’ve been coaching longer than she has, how come she gets to say if I pass or fail?

AC: Two things here, first, it’s not a pass or fail situation. It’s about getting feedback. As you mentioned, we coaches are super busy. It’s rare that we are able to get out of our bubbles and share information. This is an opportunity to do that. Second, while our Coach Evaluators are chosen for their experience and their training, the main quality they have is being an outside pair of eyes that can see your planning and practices objectively. If there is something they think absolutely needs changing, then they will bring it up, but usually, the process involves asking for clarification or explanation of why you are doing something, NOT telling you how you should be coaching.

Coach: Ok but what if I don’t have time to get certified right away? How long do I have from when I get trained (do the clinic) before I am required to certify?

AC: There’s no time limit. You can get certified when you are ready. When you do become certified, though, you have to maintain your certification. For that, there is a 5-year window in which you have to accumulate professional development points (depending on your context) to STAY certified.

Coach: Wait, I can lose my certification?

AC: You don’t actually lose it, it is just “not renewed” until you manage to complete the points. It’s actually pretty easy to maintain. Here are some things you can get points for: coaching (you can give yourself a point per year for active coaching!), attending national championships as a registered coach, attending NCCP Multi-Sport modules (these are worth a lot!), doing online Multi-Sport evaluations, attending a conference (if it’s put on by AC or your provincial branch, you probably just have to give your NCCP number to get points; if you go to a conference on your own, make sure you send us the info so we can add your points). There are lots of ways!

Coach: This is starting to sound reasonable. Ok, so I want to do the Performance Coach clinic coming up because I’m coaching a couple of junior athletes who are in the running to make a national team (Or I am in a sport-étude program, or I want to coach at Canada Games or my provincial branch is requiring it). I’m only Club Coach Trained, because I did a clinic a few years ago but never certified. Now I’m being told I need to do a club coach evaluation before I can do Performance Coach. Can’t I just skip it? I’m going to do a Performance Coach evaluation soon anyway.

AC: Ok, here’s why you shouldn’t skip it. First, as we mentioned, you’ve probably already got all the parts to your portfolio in place. It’s just a matter of organizing them and uploading them. Once you do that for Club Coach, and have a practice observation, you’re ready to go. It won’t take long. Club coach evaluation doesn’t require an observation at a competition anymore, so it’s much quicker and easier for you to schedule. You can even film your practice and send it to the evaluator.

Coach: But I’ll still have to do it all over again after taking the Performance Coach clinic!

AC: Yes. But hopefully, with what you’ll learn in the Performance Coach clinic, you’ll be able to improve your coaching and do a few things differently. Having an observation where you can demonstrate these changes and get feedback on them will be very helpful to your development as a coach. Also, the Performance Coach portfolio has a few more elements than the Club Coach one, so there will be things you can add or change, after working through them in the clinic.

Coach: I just want to get my Performance Coach and be done with it! It’s too much work!

AC: Coach education isn’t about just getting the titles. The certification is important for ensuring a safe sport environment, and the process can help make you a better coach. You wouldn’t expect your athletes to do just one big workout and be ready for a competition, right? A coach has to train and progress consistently as well. Once you are certified, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning. There are opportunities at national championships and at other times of the year to learn from other experts and grow.

Are you convinced?

Coach: Yeah! 

We hope you are convinced, too. If not, please feel free to contact AC or your provincial coaching rep. [email protected]

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