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Supporting the Professional Development Needs of High School Athletic Coaches: an Action Research Project to Create a Coaching Resource Guide


Nearly eight million high school students participate in sports in the United States annually. High school athletic coaches have a unique position to impact students athletically and personally. While coaches play a critical role in the lives of student-athletes, there is no mandated professional development or certification required by most states and school districts (Collins, Barber, Moore, & Laws, 2011; Winchester, Culver, & Camiré, 2012a, 2012b). The problem is that there is a major disconnect from the coaches on school campuses and the available resources. There is little in place to encourage, reinforce, or connect coaches to resources and professional development opportunities.

The purpose of this study was to explore and support the professional development needs of high school athletic coaches in Large Unified School District in Southern California. This action research project sought to gather coaches' perceptions on what they reported to need to succeed in their roles. The objective was to utilize the experiential knowledge of veteran coaches and the professional needs of novice coaches to find a general consensus as to what coaches perceive are the essential knowledge, skills, and resources needed to successfully coach high school sports.

The findings from this study have confirmed the necessity for supporting all coaches in their daily jobs in order to improve retention rates and success of athletic coaches. The responsibilities of coaches have been exponentially increasing while the compensation and support has been gradually been cut. Coaches are feeling this pressure and desire for help, a veteran coach shared, "Since they are now cracking down and enforcing policies, they also have to spend the same amount of energy to teach it".

Key findings included the need for coaches to have teaching skills, knowledge of academic preparation of student-athletes for college, knowledge of rules, protocols, and procedures. Coaches asked that there be an online resource guide that includes links to useful resources and references. The action research process successfully gathered perceptions from a variety of coaches which helped produce a resource guide that will be provided and presented at the annual coaches meeting.

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