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WHY IS HIGH PERFORMANCE SPORT COACHING EDUCATION IMPORTANT?

Updated: Mar 2

Coach education often flies under the radar when we think about professional development in sport. Mr Sundaresh Satyanaryana - Head Coach – Swimming, Khelo India State Center of Excellence Bangalore and an and an an alumnus of the 1st Edition of the High Performance Coach Development Program, draws on his experience to highlight the importance of coach education to keep coaches informed, updated and ready to support their athletes. 


 


If we believe in the importance of coaching, we should believe in the importance of coach-education.

As coaches, we use our greater experience and knowledge to guide athletes on an effective path of development. Coach-educators do the same for coaches.

What would you say to an athlete on your team who says that they can coach themselves just as effectively as you can coach them? If we dismiss this as arrogance, close-mindedness, or “poor coachability” on the part of the athlete, why would we allow ourselves the same rationale for not pursuing formal coach-education?

Yet, this is often what coaches suggest: I can self-educate more effectively than a professional coach-educator could educate me.

If you’re reading this article, it's likely because you are at least open to the idea of coach-education, so I will keep this section brief and move on to some greater takeaways on the importance of sport coaching education.

HOW MUCH DO YOU VALUE YOUR TIME, MONEY, AND ENERGY?

Pursuing formal sports coaching education demonstrates to yourself and others that you value professional development enough to significantly invest in this area. As a graduate student, I took my time more seriously, paid greater attention to the course materials, and poured more of my energy into my coursework than I ever did as a coach with some free time to read a blog, watch a YouTube video, or attend a weekend clinic.

There is a cost to self-education that often goes unaccounted for (in contrast to the more obvious cost of a formal education program). That cost includes both time and money. It’s hard enough for busy coaches to make time for reading, reflecting, and applying new materials without the added burden of acquiring and evaluating which resources are credible and accurate. As a result, we usually turn to easy-to-consume materials like blogs, videos, and perhaps a few inexpensive books. These resources are acceptable in the bigger picture of sports coaching education but should be accompanied by more academic resources like research articles and textbooks.

I gained such greater value from the time and energy spent during my graduate program at the University of Mysore. This was thanks to the trust I had in experienced, educated, and qualified coach-educators to individually select, organize, and present rigorous and challenging materials.

A COMMUNITY WITH ONGOING SUPPORT AND MENTORSHIP

When immersed in a quality graduate program, you are surrounded by professors and fellow students who also believe passionately in the value of coach-education. Your peers will be eager to better develop themselves as coaches, which in turn further motivates you to do the same.

The quality of relationships and discussions found in the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos, as well as in weekend clinics and certification programs, was nowhere near that of the meaningful relationships I formed with my classmates and professors.

Being with like-minded people is undeniably motivating and brings the practical benefit of learning from other driven, experienced individuals.


What athletes need from coaches depends on the sport, athlete, and context. We can learn this the hard way through individual trial-and-error, or through exposure to resources and experienced coaches to help guide us along the way.

WHAT DO ATHLETES NEED FROM COACHES?


What athletes need from coaches depends on the sport, athlete, and context. We can learn this the hard way through individual trial-and-error, or through exposure to resources and experienced coaches to help guide us along the way. If you only have your own experience to draw from, you’re likely to replicate the kind of coaching you received or the kind of coaching you’d like to receive. This may not be appropriate or effective across multiple contexts.


Despite the contextual differences within sport (from youth sports to competitive high school and college programs, to high-performance or professional sport, to masters sports), all athletes have some level of fundamental psychosocial needs, including autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These needs may be even more important now than in prior decades, with athletes having greater ability to self-select their coaching and sport environment. When coaches don’t meet these basic needs, we shouldn’t wonder why athletes travel further from home, hire private coaches, seek online coaching, or transfer programs or schools to find an environment that does.


Enhancing sport performance remains an important element of coaching. Athletes need a coach who can effectively guide their technical, tactical, and physical development to help them improve at their sport. Coaches can use a variety of educational methods to improve their knowledge in this area. Formal education that is part of a structured curriculum on physiology, motor learning, cognition and psychology, the influence of aging on training, and more, is all crucial for our ability to help athletes improve their sport performance.


Informal education that happens outside a structured curriculum is important too. This occurs as coaches naturally pursue interests, talk about ideas with other coaches, receive feedback from athletes, and try things out in practice. Athletes generally do not want a coach who exists as a time capsule of knowledge from when we were athletes ourselves, or from when we had a good season with a certain team. If we want athletes to keep developing and trying to find a competitive edge anywhere they can, then we coaches ought to be doing the same ourselves.


In short, every athlete needs an educated coach who is prepared to support their continued physical, social, and psychological development. We all have gaps in our knowledge, and coach-education is how we can fill those gaps, remain current for each new generation of athletes, and stay motivated to be lifelong learners.


Enhancing sport performance remains an important element of coaching. Athletes need a coach who can effectively guide their technical, tactical, and physical development to help them improve at their sport.


WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH?

High performance coaches are, after all, commodities in their own right. Olympic coach Glen Mills has been hailed as “the man behind Usain Bolt’s record shattering career.” As stated in an article from The Telegraph, Mills strived to develop an innate understanding of things like agility, coordination, anatomy, and talent identification.


Successful high performance coaching is about more than just balancing the win-loss record—it’s about the holistic development of your players.


Former U.S. Olympic and NCAA swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman noted the importance of implementing a positive, athlete-centered coaching style, which included helping his athletes set realistic goals and build confidence.


High performance sports coaching can be a literal game changer for the athletes that are being trained. We highlight why as we go more in-depth about the high performance coaching profession below.


WHAT DO HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHES DO?

High performance coaches can be distinguished from regular coaches by their approach to training. These coaches use an integrated approach that includes a combination of physical, mental, and psychological training. The conception is that these coaches only work with elite athletes, but that isn’t the case. High performance coaches work with different levels of athletes, helping them play at their best, both individually and (when applicable) with a team. Effective coaches also work with athletes to develop a series of short-term goals—for example, shaving time off a run or swim.


High performance coaches combine physiology, kinesiology, and psychology in their training and often serve as role models, mentors, teachers and community leaders. They also work with a team of specialists that include physiotherapists and nutritionists. In addition, high performance coaches make sure their athletes have access to the best resources and equipment available.


Coaches have a diverse list of responsibilities when it comes to taking care of their athletes, including communication, injury prevention, risk management, goal setting, athlete development and nutrition.


HOW TO BECOME A HIGH PERFORMANCE COACH

Coaches usually need a bachelor’s degree, as well as extensive knowledge of the particular sport they are coaching. This knowledge can be gained through experience and programs specifically targeted for coaching high performance athletes, like the Online High Performance Coach Development Program conducted by ELMS Sports Foundation in partnership with Loughborough University (UK) and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation. One thing to look for in a High performance Coaching Program is a well rounded curriculum. 


In addition to it being a sought after career choice, the need for athletic coaches is growing in India. The reports that coach careers are projected to grow much faster than the average between 2018 and 2028. The median salary in India will be Rs. 24,00,000/- per annum.


WHERE DO HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHES WORK?

High performance coaches might have several different titles, including head coach, associate head coach, sports administrator, and strength and conditioning coordinator. They often work in high schools, colleges, professional sports, competitions and travel teams.


Though these coaches may not officially use the high performance coach moniker, anyone who trains their athletes using an integrated approach falls into the category. These individuals work in an array of environments, from high school sports teams to one-on-one with elite athletes.


CREDENTIALS THAT CAN BE EARNED TO FURTHER A HIGH PERFORMANCE COACHING CAREER

Coaches who are interested in managerial or more specialized positions can benefit from additional training in the field. Master’s degrees in sport management or high performance coaching are an excellent way to increase your knowledge and stay competitive. An advanced degree gives you access to the most recent trends and research in the industry, and improves your communication and leadership skills.


SUNDARESH SATYANARAYANA

Head Coach – Swimming

Khelo India State Center of Excellence

Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports

Bengaluru, Karnataka


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