Coach Career Development

Why coaches and the development of their careers should form an important part of modern sport policy?

by Treiner

Posted 3 years ago

Coach Career Development

The emergence of professional sport has led to the creation of platforms for athletes, coaches and other sport service providers to develop their skills into a means of livelihood. Career development for athletes, coaches and sport professionals is an important aspect of modern sport governance models. Federations and sporting bodies around the world are constantly evolving their agendas and strategies to realize the full potential of the participants in sport.

For example, in Australia, Sport Australia is the main sport legislative body when it comes to determining strategies and budgeting expenses for creating and maintaining a steady flow of both participants and workforce into Australian sport. Furthering a career in sport is a complex process that combines multiple sociological, psychological, economic and educational factors. Additionally, involvement of various stakeholders such as local governments, communities and allied services in sport plays a major role in the entire sport development ideology.

The main criticism of most sport career development strategies is that they are primarily focused on the athletes and providing them with the necessary resources to envisage their career goals. Managerial action of sport policies around the world are tailored to provide definitive pathways for athletes to develop their skills and achieve optimum performance at elite levels of the sport. However, there exists a gap in the policy framework when it comes to the creation of similar pathways for developing the careers of coaches.

The role that coaches play is extremely vital in a sporting network. They are key support services for the development of an athlete’s career. They play the role of a supervisor and a mentor while providing key analytical insights into an athlete’s performance. They are the first point of contact for any athlete when it comes to improving their on-field performance and gaining valuable inputs into their individual abilities. As a result, coaches form an integral cog in the athlete career development framework and hence, coach career development deserves its own due recognition in sport policies.

Looking at the coaching pathways in modern sport, there is a noticeable trend towards including coaches as part of the overall plan for sport development. For instance, Football Federation Australia (FFA) has deemed coach education as a key component of its Football Development Plan. The FFA has placed recognition on the fact that coaches play a two-fold role in the growth of soccer – in terms of making football an enjoyable social and community sport and laying the foundation for development of elite level football (soccer) players in the country. Keeping this dual nature of a coach in mind, the FFA has formulated two separate coaching education pathways – community based and an advance coaching module.

In addition, the FFA has also formulated the ‘XI Principles for the future of Australian football’ as of July 2020. This proposed policy contains a dedicated strategy for creating a world class environment for coach development by recognizing existing barriers for coaches such as access to education, cost of coaching, geographical factors, improving information on coaching modules and licenses, and revamping the coaching structure. The FFA has placed emphasis on the role of coaches as a skilled position vital for player development and encouraged by the statistic that over 1,500 coaches were enrolled in Advanced Coaching modules run by the FFA and member federations across 2018/19.

The idea that high quality coaches are essential for the athlete development process is one that is shared by other sporting bodies. NZ Football has put in place an elaborate coach development plan that contains multiple levels of accreditation and licensing opportunities, in addition to hosting both online and offline education sessions for upskilling coaches. Here again, there is an inherent desire to recognize the value that coaches hold in delivering and organising world class experiences for participants at both the elite and community level of the sport.

Similarly, the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has joined together with its member federations to create the OFC Education Center which primarily aims to provide a range of foundation, certificate and license courses for coaches across various categories such as grassroots football, advanced football, futsal and beach soccer.

Perhaps the most remarkable step taken towards coach career development is the Coach Education Policy implemented by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which is based around principles such as “Coaches First” and “Quality Players by Quality Coaches”. The entire policy is driven by the need to provide the highest standards of professionalism when it comes to coach development. The policy is extremely progressive, offering both a beginner education scheme and a continuing education scheme with periodic renewal of licenses and maintenance of a core system of ethics when it comes to developing coaches. Such a profound strategy would not only encourage more participants into the coaching system but also ensure their growth without any impediments.

The present scenario of coach career development offers encouraging signs for the future of coaching as a sporting profession. Governing bodies and federations around the world have understood the importance of having world class coaches and have taken the burden on themselves to formulate the necessary environment to realize this objective. There is a noticeable shift in modern sport policies compared to the traditional development pathways which were more athlete centric. The gap in knowledge and resources for coaches is slowly but surely being narrowed and there is need to for current policies to be repeatedly examined to ensure that periodic objectives for coach development are continuously being met.

Coaches are a significant contributing factor to the success of any sporting system and having skilled and experienced coaches are vital for the ongoing success of athletes. It is time that due recognition is placed on this aspect and it forms one of the basic components of any sport development policy of the future.

As international travel is restricted over the next few years, organisations such as FFA will have to look inwards in regards to really developing coaches through more means than just running coaching courses and a few workshops/conferences throughout the year. Creating coach career development plans for advanced coaches would be one way that they could maximise the potential of coaches (that have made similar sacrifices to those that young players make in their career), instead of relying on coaches from New Zealand and Europe to migrate to Australia to fill in the gaps. A Coach Career Development plan could look at creating opportunities for coaches undertaking short-term internships, as well as being placed with mentors both within Australia and overseas to fast track their development which has so far been stagnated by only having 10 Australian professionals teams.

We have seen Australian coaches such as Ange Postecogolou, Peter Clamovski, Kevin Muscat, Mehmet Durakovic, Harry Kewell and now Tony Popovic start to gain head coaching positions overseas, but the discussion continues whether their success is similar to that of the Socceroo Golden Generation in that their grit and determination and lack of opportunities has led them to where they, and how much of a role the coach development pathway in Australia had in getting them there. Every coach will have a different story and opinion, but it is important that the success of a few coaches is not used to rest on laurels and suggest that the system in place cannot be improved.

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