Developing an Effective Coaching Certification Curriculum on a College Campus

Written by: Janna LaFountaine

The world of coaching is complex and filled so with many variances that it is almost impossible to accurately describe the breadth and depth of the job. Many of the tasks assigned to coaches are too numerous to list, yet many schools expect young college graduates to step into a head coach position. They need to be prepared to handle the complexities of game strategy, unruly parents, demanding athletes, coordination of home and away contests as well as manage budgets (just to mention a few). Most coaches need to accomplish these tasks while maintaining a separate career all for a small pittance. These young coaches need a thorough and varied approach to their preparation.

Revamping a college coaching curriculum program can be eventful. The revisions were designed to provide students with a comprehensive program, but also a coaching program which they can complete within their four years on campus. The College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University has had a coaching certification program for years, but it had become outdated and in need of updates and revisions. A very important factor in establishing a coaching program for college students is to adapt the program to fit with current academic credit load as well as create a program that will best prepare them to handle the intricacies of the coaching world. Including enough material without overwhelming the student is a key consideration. Using the National Standards for Athletic Coaches developed by NASPE is an essential starting point and then finding a program that will embrace those standards is another key. The ACEP program is compatible with the National Standards, very concise and yet comprehensive as well. ACEP has also produced 2 texts, Successful Coaching by Ranier Martens and Coaching First Aid by which can be adapted for all the essential coaching courses needed to prepare beginning coaches. Prior to the adoption of these two texts, the coaching classes used a variety of smaller texts. By using two texts for all the courses, it allows the physical education department an opportunity for various instructors to teach the same course while still maintaining stated objectives, clearer assessment of learning and gives students a curriculum that flows together and builds upon previous learning.

The number of credits assigned to a coaching curriculum needs to be manageable to students and the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University decided to reduce the credit load from 12 credits with a 0 credit practicum to 10 credits plus the 0 credit practicum. This is necessary particularly for students with an education degree so that they can complete their major as well as the coaching courses prior to student teaching. After careful review CSB/SJU chose to offer the following courses for a coaching certification, these courses would help students achieve Level II preparation as described in the National Standards for Athletic Coaching.

Introduction to Coaching

  1. The student will create a coaching philosophy based on current positive coaching practices.
  2. The student will describe coaching objectives that align with their coaching philosophy.
  3. The student will describe the characteristics of various coaching styles and what style reflects his or her coaching philosophy.
  4. The student will describe how coaches can develop good character and sportsmanship in their athletes.
  5. The student will describe special considerations in coaching diverse athletes including age, gender, cultural background, and ability.

Sport Psychology

  1. The student will describe techniques for managing athlete behavior.
  2. The student will describe characteristics of effective communication.
  3. The student will describe concepts related to effectively motivating athletes.
  4. The student will describe characteristics of effective discipline of athletes.
  5. The student will describe concepts related to effective goal setting
  6. The student will describe effective stress reducing techniques used in athletics.

Sport Skills

  1. The student will describe the similarities and differences between traditional and games approach to organizing practice.
  2. The student will apply concepts related to the effective teaching of technical skills.
  3. The student will describe concepts related to the effective teaching of tactical skills.
  4. The student will create a teaching plan for a practice session using concepts of effective teaching.

Sports, Drugs and Nutrition

  1. The student will identify key nutritional concepts needed to fuel athletes.
  2. The student will identify characteristics of disordered eating in athletes.
  3. The student will describe effective alcohol and other drug use prevention and detection techniques with athletics
  4. The student will identify the benefits and dangers of supplements and drugs commonly used by athletes.

Sport Administration

  1. The student will describe coaching responsibilities related to risk management
  2. The student will describe coaching responsibilities related to team management including financial management, contest management, and personnel management.
  3. The student will describe characteristics of effective relationship management in coaching.

Sport Physiology

  1. The student will describe basic principles use in designing physical training programs for athletes.
  2. The student will apply concepts of periodization to the development of a year-round training program.
  3. The student will describe age and gender related consideration in developing training programs for athletes.

Sport 1st Aid

  1. The student will describe the role of the coach in planning for and preventing sports injuries.
  2. The student will describe the coach’s role as a sports first aid provider in the evaluation and treatment of sports injuries

1 Theory of Coaching Course

  1. The student will apply theories and strategies of (enter sport here) to game situations.
  2. The student will apply the rules governing (enter sport here) to game situations.
  3. The student will describe components of practice plans and game event plans.

Coaching Practicum

Prerequisite: completion of at least 7 credits in the Coaching Certification curriculum, including Sport First Aid (or by approval of the Coaching Certification Program Supervisor).

  1. The student will apply information from the Coaching Certification Curriculum to the experience of coaching a high school or junior high school level sport team for an entire season.

An essential ingredient in all of these courses is the ability to design assignments that are practical and pertinent to coaching. Weaving a common thread throughout the courses will also help young coaches to understand how interrelated many of the issues faced by coaches are today. Creating a coaching handbook can be that thread. Each course should build upon and add to the knowledge base and the handbook can be a practical and usable tool for young coaches. Students will create documents as if they were already hired to coach and work through many of the decisions that need to be made throughout an athletic season. These documents can then be adjusted to fit any school district or coaching job. It will be comforting to new coaches to have already gone through a “dress rehearsal” in regards to policy making, coaching techniques and decision-making based on their personal coaching philosophy. Many new coaches flounder for a few years as they develop their own philosophy, hopefully the development of these values prior to working as a coach will lesson the trepidation many coaches have when making tough decisions. Described in the Table 1 are the components of such a handbook as they relate to each course in the curriculum.

Introduction to Coaching

Philosophy, cutting policies, parental contact polices, lettering requirements, hazing and sportsmanship policies, travel policies and team culture/traditions.

Sport Psychology

Mental toughness strategies, visualization, motivation techniques, relaxation techniques, goal setting, competitive focus and positive self-talk strategies

Sport Skills

Lesson plans using key words, diagram drills, essential skills checklist, games and warm-ups, team evaluation techniques

Drugs, Nutrition

General overview regarding healthy eating for athletes, pre- and post competition meal suggestions, healthy food choices in season, on the road meals, supplement awareness, hydration, fast food suggestion for athletes

Sport Administration

Team policies, team meeting agenda, parent policies, fund raising ideas, program evaluation tools, budget preparation, tournament preparation, sport rules, eligibility guidelines, inherent risks, coaching resume

Sport Physiology

Year round strength and conditioning plans ( sport specific), In and out of season energy system training

Sport 1st Aid

Injury prevention strategies (sport specific)


Rules, strategy


Practice plans, line-ups, discipline issues, warm-up plans, drills and practice games, practice and contest schedules.


With this completed program, a young coach can feel better prepared to serve the athletes in a more professional and respectful manner as well as be able to handle the organizational aspects needed to run an effective athletic team.