The NFHS Fundamentals of Coaching Program – Review

Seldom do training programs impress me. Less often do “required” training programs impress me. I tend to be very critical of content and delivery having been in the training business (not athletic, but professional training and development field) for so many years. Combine that with the years of coaching, health related work and my standards only are raised when it comes to athletic coaches training.

With that I’m going to offer a short review of a program put together by the National Federation of High School associations (NFHS). The title is “Fundamentals of Coaching.” It is intended for coaches of all sports not only track and cross-country. Since it was being required by our state for all coaches, I had some reservations about it. Most “required” training I’ve had has been sub-par by my standards.

This could have been so superficially done that it would not be worth completing. Or, it could merely be an academic exercise in “checking boxes” in order to fulfill some requirement. And since the program tackled a topic so basic it could easily be assumed that it would be a slam dunk  to do it well. It was none of the above. It was not superficial. It was not a check box exercise. And is was not that basic!

The online self-paced course ( required approximately 10 hours to complete. I took it over four different sittings.

The course was divided into five major units with subtopics under each. The units included an introduction to coaching, coach as manager, interpersonal skills, physical conditioning and the coach as teacher.

It was refreshing that the right from the start the message was set that this is about the athlete. It is not about just winning. I like the following quote: The word “competition” is derived from the Latin word competere, “to seek together, to coincide, to agree.” Opponents are viewed as co-creators of an experience, and competition as a process of striving with, not against, others.

It goes on to state the top five educational outcomes of interscholastic athletics: citizenship, sportsmanship, life skills, healthy lifestyle, promotion of learning. Can’t go far wrong there! I only wish other coaches would buy into that.

The unit on interpersonal skills was of keen interest to me since my professional life in training and development and educational background with psychology and counseling courses gives me a pretty decent foundation in the area. The topics of optimal coaching environments, communication and feedback as well as mental skills were addressed.

The examples, approaches and techniques were sound. They were well presented and clear without getting too techie about the science behind communication. They adequately addressed verbal and non-verbal communication using well established data.

Being a certified mental games coach I went in with a real critical eye on the mental skills section. It passed the muster. Goal setting, confidence building, concentration and the ideal performance state are addressed in simple straight forward language with practical examples once again.

The unit on physical conditioning is scientifically sound. They address rest & recovery, training schedules, nutrition & hydration at a high level, growth and development, injury prevention and drugs. All well done without getting to “lectury.”

The unit on the coach as a teacher addresses learning from sports, technical skill development, tactical awareness, practice planning, evaluating and coaching during competition. A neat point made is that coaches should not punish athletes with some form of physical activity. [For instance: giving drills or push-ups for someone who is late to practice.] It send the wrong message. Physical activity should never be seen as punishment by athletes. It leads to aversion to sports and healthy lifestyles due to these youth experiences in sports. Makes sense. Now, go convince half the football coaches out there.

Along the course there are quick Q&As. Each unit also had a 10 question assessment at the end. If an answer is wrong you are referred to the section to review and get the right answer. Beyond testing the whole presentation of the online program was superb. They used multi-sensory learning. There was a change in pace from reading, to listening to a dialog or watching a short video scenes called “teachable moments.” These teachable moments were very well done demonstrating some of the points discussed. It was spiced up with good quotes and a written transcript to follow along with spoken dialog. They also provide resources including ready to use forms and lists in downloadable PDF files.

If you are new to coaching (any sport) I highly recommend this program. And if you are not new to coaching, I highly recommend this program.

Now, if only I saw the behaviors advocated in this program in more of the coaches out there.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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4 Responses to The NFHS Fundamentals of Coaching Program – Review

  1. jim says:

    do you know if other states have this type of program also? or is this unusual to be this thorough?

  2. Coach Dean says:

    The NFHS is the national organization for ALL high school sports across the nation. They are physically located in Indianapolis. I don’t know how many STATES required this kind of training. Most states do require training on CPR and basic first aid for coaches but that is about it. Some schools may require it?

    I think this was a big step forward for AZ. There of course is grumbling from some coaches who “know it all” and think it’s a waste of time. The school district I’m coaching in actually even picked up the tab for the course.

    If this is a sample of the programming from NFHS I would recommend their programs to anyone.

  3. Justine says:

    Hey there, I have been wanting to give you my speedwork update and figured the time is now.

    As you suggested, I have been getting my slow self to the track once a week. I’ve been using the workouts in Run Less, Run Faster, which has a different track workout every week, all with fairly optimistic pacing. A month into it I’m finding I don’t dread going to the track nearly as much as I used to and the workouts seem easier. Is it physically or psychologically easier? That’s the interesting question to me. Before this I viewed one lap around that track as nearly endless. Forget how far I can run on the road, the track just look impossibly long. I do not have one positive childhood memory involving a track to dredge up (perhaps it was used as apunishment too often, and then there are those images of me constantly struggling in last in the timed mile). But, after 4 weeks my mental image is changing. The track now looks like a reasonable distance. I’ve successfully completed 800s and 1600s and survived to tell the tale. I can actually envision myself running the track at a hard effort. I’ve also found that while fairly short, track workouts take me two days to recover from. Is this usual?

    I’m going to keep it up and let you know how my 10k time improves in March. Thanks for your advice and encouragement!

  4. Coach Dean says:

    Good to hear that things are going well. Let’s see – yes it is both physiological and psychological adaptation that takes place. Yes, I do believe that our childhood experiences greatly color our view of something like speed work. Just too much punishment attached to it way back when. And Yes, two days recovery is not unusual. That allows for 2 quality workouts per week which during race season is perfect for most runners.
    Keep it up… can’t wait to see how your racing goes!

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