Coaching Standards and Certifications

Coaching Standards and Certifications  


One thing that strikes me about a recent conversation on LinkedIn around coaching standards and certifications has been how passionate coaches are as a group.   


Most people do not set out into the coaching world to get rich. 


While this might not be true of the elite professional sports, the large majority of coaches are working long hours at odd times of the day for less than standard pay. Ironically, we don’t hear great numbers of these coaches complaining and I think it’s like this because they simply love what they do.  


I bring a unique perspective to this discussion having been athlete, coach and also spending 20 plus years married to one of the most influential and interesting coaches in track and field.  My aim is to add into the current dialogue, encourage further discussion in a more organized way and attempt to initiate needed change.  


What are the models of other professional organizations already in existence? 


Many careers including medicine and law do not discriminate what type of degrees are needed before entering a specialized profession.  Why would coaching be any different?  Diverse degrees add perspective and depth to professions.   


Common Characteristics of Established Professions  



Having a BA as a minimal standard


This is a common approach for many careers.   Adding requirements with an emphasis of needed skills related to athletics and or coaching can easily be accomplished. Professional organizations require some form of a degree or post secondary education before applying to enter further training.  Nursing, Law, Medicine and Teaching are just a few. It makes a great deal of sense to use existing models that have been in effect for decades to adapt to the industry of coaching.




 A rule could be made to invite excellent candidates to take entry tests and build in exceptions to allow for years of both experience and accomplishment.


Entry Testing


The Coaching School Admission Test (CSAT) would be a collaborative effort set out by the existing top coaches in the world and could be sectioned off in varied sports or not.  The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) states this test is required for admission to most (not all) law schools and is offered at 4 times per year. The top law schools will be looking for scores that are close to perfect. This is one example of what could be done in any industry needing established, universal standards.  


Dictating length of program 


Any length of time could be determined and based on course material set out by the first run of CSAT creators.




Different sports could be a part of this or a decided list of development sports could be included initially.


Final Exam


How well has the material been learned?  It’s understood in many professions that once you get this far it’s difficult to fail.  It’s up to the governing coaches or group of people creating the exam (CSAT) to include all theory or include practical experiences as well. A combination of both theory and practice makes perfect sense for almost all professions. This needs to be a goal when establishing a coaching professional organization.




Cooperative programs that allow people to get their feet wet in areas of their interest and or work alongside established coaches with track records of success is not a bad way to create career interest, regulate readiness for performances and ultimately the success of the industry.  



Final thoughts



Coaching as a career has been excellent for some, lucrative for some and interesting for many people participating in this industry. Formalizing universal standards will not eliminate pitfalls but it will enhance consistency of knowledge and provide greater opportunity for individuals interested in coaching as a career with expected rewards.  The idea behind standardizing and certifications should not illuminate the aspects of the industry that make it unique or worthwhile for those whom have already been contributing and succeeding for years.  Collaboration, re-education and respect among fellow colleagues need to be requirements of this process.  A first step requires someone to lead the way. Conflict will be an initial reality but creating a vision for the future will not only be worthwhile it will operate as a framework for what is possible. 

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