In an article on his blog, Jim Stone brings up the issue of continued coaching education and development. I interviewed Jim for the Volleyball Coaching Wizards as he someone with considerable experience at different levels of the sport.

In the article, Jim bemoans the lack of continued professional development (CPD) in volleyball coaching. Actually, it starts with the fact that for a great many coaching jobs in the US (and probably elsewhere) little formal education or certification is required.

Consider this. At the college level in the US it is standard education (Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees) listed in the job requirements. I’ve never seen a CAP certification listed even once for a college coaching job.

My start in coaching was at the high school level. The state did require coaches to have a coaching certification. Want to know what it took to get that? Completing a standard Red Cross first aid course. That was it. Nothing at all about actual coaching.

To coach juniors volleyball in the USA Volleyball system one need only complete the IMPACT certification course. Well, there is also SafeSport certification every other year, but that’s not about coaching.

Yes, if you earn a CAP certification you have to re-certify every 4 years. Since no one actually requires CAP for coaching, though, doing it really comes down to personal motivation (I am CAP III). That’s exactly Jim’s problem with the system.

What about outside the US?

England

Well, in England coaches working in the National League are supposed to have a Level 2 certification. Or at least that was the case when I was there. They made some adjustments to the program since, so it might have changed.

For what it’s worth, I’m a Level 3 coach in England. 🙂

In any case, the problem was it wasn’t enforced. Basically, it was about insurance coverage. A club could get in big trouble if their coach wasn’t at the right level and something happened. Of course nothing every really happened, so no one ever tested it.

But while England might be marginally better than the US in terms of requirements, that’s it. They don’t have a continuing education requirement.

Germany

Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany seems to do things the right way. They require certification for coaching – at least at certain levels. I know they require an A license to coach in the Bundesliga. That’s equivalent to the CAP III certification.

Further, coaches have to take courses to keep their license. I have a contact who teaches some of them.

I know he and/or other readers of this blog can fill in the specific details for license needs below the Bundesliga.

Elsewhere in the world

Honestly, I don’t know much about requirements in other countries and/or regions. If you know anything about that, please educate me and your fellow readers by leaving a comment below.

Oh, I should mention, though, that FIVB does its own certification as well. Mainly it’s targeted at parts of the world where there isn’t a strong educational effort by the local federation. I don’t know of anyone who actually mandates an FIVB certification for any position, nor does it have a re-certification requirement.

This disparate set of educational offerings and requirements is part of the motivation for the global coaches association idea.

Courses aren’t everything

Of course, just taking a few courses isn’t enough. This is something Portuguese coach Paulo Cunha spoke of in the Wizards interview I did with him. His specific point was that some people think taking a course makes them automatically a coach. Alas, it doesn’t work like that.

Jim talks about a few things we can do to go beyond the formal stuff and keep growing. Part of that is finding a mentor. I think for more experienced coaches being a mentor is also a learning tool. It’s like how players can learn to play better by coaching.

By the way, Jim’s point about “strong opinions that are loosely held” is central to my own philosophy. Basically, it means have firm convictions about what you’re doing, but be ready to change them if presented with good evidence that there’s a better way.

Get out of your bubble

There’s one last point from Jim’s article I want to highlight. He talks about how coaching the USA U18s team impacted him after a long career in the college game. Because he had to work in a different system, in a different environment, he had to adapt. He firmly believes it made him a better coach.

This is something I fully support!

I constantly explore coaching in different contexts. My 2019 Euro Trip is one of the more dramatic examples of this.

The Volleyball Coaching Wizards project is an extension of that as well. It’s an opportunity to learn from an array of coaches with very different perspectives.

I hate it when I see a coach who doesn’t think they have anything to learn from what’s happening at a different level. Hopefully, you aren’t like that. You’re not, right?

What can we do?

So the question at the end of this is what we can do to create a valuable coaching certification process that is enforced?

Thoughts? Ideas?

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Volleyball Director for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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