Friday, March 4, 2011

Developing and Managing Coaches

Most sports research and literature focuses solely on developing the technical, tactical, physical or psychological components of the athlete, little attention is paid to the coach. That is problematic at both ends of the sports spectrum. At the highest level, the professional coach or manager is an asset, they represent a cost center for teams (at times, a large one), and when they are terminated, it can result in reputational and even financial damage. Millions of dollars / pounds / euros are spent on players, would teams or clubs be more successful if they invested to the same degree in the education and wellness of their managers?

At the youth level, the role of coach is far more critical. Coaches serve as role models, substitute parents, and guides into the sport for armies of children. Youth sports organizations rightly focus on creating the best environment for player development and enjoyment, but how much more effective would those programs be if a larger investment was made in the education, career development and wellness of their coaches? Would happier, better educated coaches develop better players?

As a Director of Coaching (DoC), Director of Player Personnel, Athletic Director, or General Manager, a growing challenge is managing and developing coaches in addition to managing and developing players. At the youth level, grass roots recreation through high school sport programs, investing in and developing coaches is critical not only to ensure coaches are developing players capable of competing at increasingly higher levels, but also ensures coaches’ unhappiness or lack of education isn’t turning children away from sports at a young age limiting their opportunities to live an active, fit lifestyle. Youth administrators continually struggle with trying to get coaches to improve their sport-specific coaching education but are consistently told “I don’t have time” or “I played, I know everything I need to know about the game”. To be an effective organization, sport leaders need to overcome those objections, even if it means replacing coaches unwilling to remain students of the game.

The modern DoC, GM, or athletic director is forced to transform coaches who believe they ‘know it all’ based on playing experience from 10, 15 or even 20 or more years ago as well as change the mentality of coaches who “coach how they were coached” meaning many of their methods are based on punishment, embarrassment and exclusion. It doesn’t help that ESPN and other sports media outlets glorify ‘coaches behaving badly’ on a nightly basis. By making an investment in the education, training, support systems and wellness of coaches, sports organizations increase their ability to be successful on and off the field, and directly create better environments for players at the same time.

Gerry Montague lives in Bridgewater, NJ and is currently the Director of Coaching for Hillsborough Soccer Club and the Assistant Coach for the NJSA04's U18 Development Academy. Gerry has a masters degree in Sports Leadership and Athletic Administration and holds a National B license from the US Soccer Federation. He can be reached via email at

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