Submitted by Brooke E. Forester, Ph.D.1*; Shelley L. Holden, Ed.D.2*; Christopher M. Keshock, Ph.D.3*
1* Assistant Professor of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Studies, University of South Alabama
2* Associate Professor of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Studies, University of South Alabama
3* Associate Professor of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Studies, University of South Alabama
Dr. Forester’s current position is with the University of South Alabama as a professor of Sport and Recreation Management. Her research interests are focused on coach education, corporate social responsibility in the sport industry, and sport politics. Previously, Dr. Forester taught as a visiting faculty member at The Florida State University.
According to the National Federation of High State High School Associations (NFHS), there are approximately 7.6 million high school athletes across the country (14). These athletes are led by coaches who often seek continuing education opportunities to further their professional development. The purpose of the study was to examine the preferences of continuing education delivery methods among high school coaches. Data were collected through online surveys. Both male (n = 74) and female (n = 29) head and assistant coaches participated in the study. The participating coaches (N = 103) were presented with six options of content delivery methods. Data were analyzed using a 5×2 mixed model analysis of variance (ANOVA). The within subjects factor was delivery method (1. live, 2. books, 3.on-line, 4. hybrid, and 5. DVD/video) and the between subjects factor, gender. Results showed a significant main effect for delivery method F(4,404)=13.198, p<.001 but not gender (males M=3.343±1.08; females M=3.345±1.12; p>.05). Post Hoc comparisons found the highest rated delivery method (live course M=3.991±1.378) to be significantly different (p≤.05) from books (M=2.709±1.218), on-line, on-demand (M=3.325±1.182), and live courses on-line (M=3.250±1.283) methods but not DVD/video (M=3.530±1.136). To date, there has been little research conducted with American high school coaches’ continuing education. Continuing education research including other subjects however provides contrasting results. Nurse practitioners prefer in-person conferences most (3) while Canadian sport coaches seem to prefer to learn from a variety of sources (5). Results of the current study would be useful for the development of continuing education content for coaches and to assist academicians in better understanding the intricacies of coaching education.
Keywords: Coaching, continuing education, coaching education
According to the National Federation of High State High School Associations (NFHS), there are approximately 7.6 million high school athletes across the country (14). These young athletes are led by coaches who often seek professional development opportunities in hopes of enhancing their coaching methods and to meet standards set forth by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). When selecting continuing education/professional development content sources, high school coaches have many options. Coaches may elect to physically attend coaching seminars, workshops, and/or conferences, purchase materials such as books or instructional DVD’s, or perhaps engage in some type of online training courses. Considering the vast number and type of content delivery options, the purpose of the study was to examine the preferences of continuing education delivery methods among high school coaches and to also determine if gender had any impact regarding preferred delivery method. With a better understanding of what high school coaches prefer regarding content delivery, content providers will be better able to provide material and training in a format most receptive to coaches.
In recent years, the nature of the litigious United States’ (US) society has necessitated coaches at all levels are held to a higher standard. High school coaches have been sued in recent months from allegations ranging from violations of civil and constitutional rights and discrimination to athlete injuries sustained from improper training. For example, in June, 2015 a Michigan high school tennis coach (in addition to other school officials) was sued when a tennis player brought accusations that she was bullied by teammates (13). This apparent bullying led to what she considered to be unreasonable searches of her belonging for drugs. In Connecticut, a 13-year-old student sued his cross country coach and school district when he ran into a bench which was in one of the lanes on the school track (19). These are only two of the thousands court cases involving athletes and coaches. In 2002 alone, over 200 non-injury related lawsuits were filed in the US against coaches, leagues, and school officials (1).
As a result, school districts nation-wide have begun to implement continuing education requirements for all high school coaches. Trudel and Gilbert (17) emphasize one of the main reasons why extensive programs are endorsed is to increase coaching competency and contend with society’s moral and legal issues. Such enhanced training and credentials allows more of the legal responsibility of coaching to be placed directly on the coaches instead of local school districts. Again, given the potential of quality coach education, it is imperative practitioners and academicians alike better understand the delivery format coaches most prefer as a means of encouraging coaches to engage in continuing education activities.
To date, there has been little research focusing on American high school coaches’ continuing education, with even fewer studies focused on content delivery methods. Continuing education research including other participants however provides varied results. In the field of nursing, a substantial amount of research has been conducted which focuses on nurses’ continuing education preferences (4, 8-10). Charles and Mamary (4) surveyed the entire population of licensed Advanced Practitioners of Nursing (APNs) in Nevada. Researchers sought to assess various practices, preferences, and barriers-to-use of several continuing education delivery methods. They found APNs most prefer in-person conferences. The least preferred methods included Internet sources and CD-ROM. Similarly, Cobb (5) conducted a review of research studies focusing on practices, preferences, and evaluations of on-line (Internet based) continuing education used by health care professionals. She also found in-person continuing education to be the most preferred format but Internet-based continuing education was gaining in popularity.
Armstrong and Weidner (2) sought to determine the types of continuing education activities preferred by athletic trainers. Using a cross-sectional study design, 427 athletic trainers completed the Survey of Formal and Informal Athletic Training Continuing Education Activities (FIATCEA). Results of the survey analysis showed athletic trainers most preferred formal hands-on clinical workshops (in-person continuing education) and professional networking. These results are in alignment with the aforementioned studies indicating professionals often prefer in-person continuing education delivery methods.
Although coach specific research – particularly high school coach continuing education research – is limited, there are a few studies with a focus on athletic coaches and continuing education. Erickson et al. (6) found Canadian sport coaches seem to prefer to learn from a variety of sources. The focus of their study was not on content delivery methods but was more concerned with their actual and preferred sources of continuing education content. Interestingly, coaches in the study preferred more guided learning (use of mentors for example) and less self-directed learning by doing (learning from previous coaching experience). Survey results also illustrated learning by doing, interaction with coaching peers, and formal coach continuing education were the chief sources of actual coaching knowledge. Fehr (7) found similar results indicating intercollegiate tennis coaches preferred on-court (live) trainings, mentoring, and question/answer sessions as the most preferred content delivery method.
Vargus-Tonsing (18) explored youth sport coaches’ preferences for continuing education. Study participants included 366 youth sport coaches at introductory coaching education clinics. Participants were given a survey and were asked which of the provided course topics they felt were most important, to identify potential barriers to coaching education, and were also asked to assess their personal opinions regarding coaching education. Approximately 97% of the participants reported continuing education was important, with 87% indicating continuing education should be mandatory. Important to the discussion on content delivery, Vargus-Tonsing found 67% of the participants would be more likely to pursue continuing education if it were offered online.
Just as students often have preferred teaching methods and followers have preferred leadership styles, it could also be assumed coaches have preferred continuing education delivery formats. While the extant literature specifically related to continuing education is substantial, as evidenced in the brief literature review provided, more research is warranted with focus on athletic coaches’ continuing education preferences. The current study seeks to fill the gap in the literature by offering more insight into high school coaches’ more preferred methods of continuing education. As another layer of analysis, the researchers also explored whether gender had any impact on the type of continuing delivery method preferred. Gender is one of the most widely used study variables in the context of learning styles, preferences, and methods.
Data were collected through online surveys using SurveyMonkey online survey software. The researchers gained Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and then contacted high school principals. The principals were provided an overview of the study and were asked to forward the survey link to their coaches, or ask their athletic director to do so. Current high school coaches in the Southeast US were included. The participating coaches (N = 103) were presented with six options of content delivery methods. Participant coaches were asked to indicate their level of preference (Likert scale 1-5) for the following delivery formats: live conferences/seminars (in person instruction), instructional books, online courses (on-demand), live courses online, and DVDs/CDs. Both male (n = 74) and female (n = 29) head and assistant coaches participated in the study. The average participant age was 38, with a variety of high school sports represented in the study including men’s and women’s basketball, football, baseball, and men’s and women’s track and field/cross country. There were 24 participants who had over 15 years high school coaching experience. On average however, most of the coaches had 10-15 years high school coaching experience. Data were analyzed using a 5×2 mixed model ANOVA. The within subjects factor was delivery method (1. live, 2. books, 3.on-line, on-demand, 4. live courses online, and 5. DVD/video) and the between subjects factor was gender.
Results showed a significant main effect for delivery method F(4,404)=13.198, p<.001 but not gender (males M=3.343±1.08; females M=3.345±1.12; p>.05). Post Hoc comparisons found the highest rated delivery method (live course M=3.991±1.378) to be significantly different (p≤.05) from books (M=2.709±1.218), on-line, on-demand (M=3.325±1.182), and live on-online (M=3.250±1.283) methods but not DVDs/CDs (M=3.530±1.136). Frequency analyses indicated 73 participants somewhat preferred or most preferred in-person live courses/seminars while only 37 participants least preferred or had little preference for books as a content delivery method.
Discussion and Conclusions
High school coaches participating in this project preferred live courses/seminars as the top choice for continuing education content delivery. It was not surprising to discover high school coaches preferred live courses and seminars above other continuing education methods. Often live courses and seminars are very interactive while offering both professional development and networking opportunities. Case and point, the “Nike Coach of the Year Clinic” consists of 17 clinics spread across the US with almost13,000 high school coaches in attendance in 2014 (15). Most major universities in the US also host coaching clinics covering a variety of sports.
Considering the dynamic, interactive nature of live continuing education formats, it is no surprise the least preferred format is a stark comparison – continuing education via books. Often the books are accompanied with a pen/paper exam of sorts or require participants to log onto a website after reading text material to complete an exam for continuing education credits. In the current age of rapid technology innovation and growth, there seems to be less interest in “simple” continuing education formats such as books or other printed materials. It is important to mention however, one of the limitations of the current study was sample sized, making it somewhat more difficult to confidently assume the findings represent preferences of all high school coaches in the US. Even though a variety of ages, experience levels, and sports were represented in the current study, future research should expand the reach of the study by eliciting survey responses from both a larger sample and a more diverse sample. More insight may be gleaned as well with a qualitative component incorporated in future investigations.
Applications in Sport
There are numerous product offerings for continuing education specifically geared toward coaches. Organizations such as the NFHS, The American Sport Education Program (ASEP), and USA Track and Field all offer a variety of courses differing in price, content, and delivery method. The current study provides content developers with additional insight to effectively market their products to coaches. Coaches would appreciate and seek continuing education opportunities delivered in a format they prefer most. In turn, content providers could potentially benefit as they may notice an increase in sales. Additionally, results of the current study show there are no significant gender differences in preferred content delivery methods so regardless if certain sports may have a higher number of female coaches, the same content delivery format could be effectively used.
Most states in the US require high school coaches to retain current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, pass the NFHS concussion course yearly, and pass both a coaching fundamentals course and sport specific rules course. Again, states and coaching governing bodies may experience greater compliance with content offered in a format coaches prefer. Of course it is more feasible to offer yearly required courses, such as the NFHS concussion course, in an online format for accessibility and convenience. However, other courses focusing on enhanced training practices or improved coaching techniques may be better suited for the live, in-person format most preferred by high school coaches. Clearly more research is warranted to better understand if coaches’ preferences for content delivery formats vary with the actual content of courses.
Lastly, the study results also provide fodder for future research linked to coaching efficacy and coaching education. Campbell and Sullivan (3) showed the level of coaching education plays a dominant role in coaching efficacy. Other researchers (11-12) have also determined those coaches who completed a formal coach education course have significantly higher levels of coaching efficacy than those coaches who had no formal education courses. “Self-efficacy refers to the situation-specific belief that one can act to successfully produce a given outcome” (16, p. 1). Appropriate continuing education content delivered in a preferred format may impact coaching efficacy as well. Future researchers would do well to investigate the interplay of the above factors to offer a deeper understanding of coach education as a whole.
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