Big Strides in Coach Development

Friday, May. 24, 2013

The USSA's culture is built across many factors, including four "cornerstones" of athletic success - elite athlete programs, sport science and medicine, national development systems, and education.  As a Best in the World organization, oftentimes elite athlete programs take center stage, leading to the impression that USSA is strictly focused on the elite end of the sport.  However,the USSA embraces the idea that Best in the World is a manifestation of excellence at all levels of the sport.  The USSA is educationally based and athletically focused, and for good reason!  Through its education programs, USSA is able to establish strong leadership across its clubs, providing expertise, structure, and a positive athletic environment throughout the sport.  This in turn aids in recruiting, enables personal and skill development, and provides healthy lifestyles and long-term athletic development to thousands of kids.

2012/13 marked a year of big achievement for USSA in the area of sport education and coach development.

The Fast Start coaching education program was established this year, requiring all non-certified coaches to take an online course covering the elements of SafeSport, fundamental coaching principlesand athlete management.  Over 2,000 coaches enrolled in and completed the course, meaning that for the first time in the history of the organization, all USSA coaches received some level of formal training!

Participation in this course was also designed to encourage non-certified coaches to become active in the coach development pipeline, andto continue their formal training.  This encouragement resulted in a 40% growth in Level 100 course participation.

The USSA also trained its Level 300 club coaches to deliver Level 100 courses within their clubs, encouraging senior coaches in USSA clubs to use the USSA coach development process and curriculum to train and improve their own staffs.  Through this localized program, nearly 200 club coaches received their Level 100 certification, effectively de-centralizing the USSA's coach development program out to the clubs in the field, and providing benefit to the clubs in the form of efficient staff development.

The USSA also expanded the number of courses, certifications, and continuing education courses (many served online) to capitalize on the momentum in the program, resulting in an over 50% jump in Level 200 clinic participation.  And USSA's National Coaches Academy continued on its renewed path, giving the USSA's top club coaches an opportunity to learn side-by-side with the USSA's elite team staff.

Many USSA coaches who had not participated for the past several years in USSA's certification program or continuing education opportunities found their certifications to be expired.  But through the USSA' continuing education program, with expanded online courses, many of them renewed their certifications by being active in continuing education.

The USSA also launched its SkillsQuest program to completment its longstanding National Training Systems.  Initially launched in alpine, the USSA used alumni U.S. Ski Team athletes and PSIA demonstration team instructors trained in the SkillsQuest system to visit USSA clubs, teaching the local coaches in fundamental skill development, and training local USSA athletes (primarily U14) in fundamental skill drills and assessments.  Through this program, over 1,000 young athletes and their club coaches were trained in fundamental skills.  This progam will be expanded into additional USSA sports after the 2014 Olympic Games.

And USSA' Center of Excellence TV continued to expand, with over 700 videos and 500,000 views.  Center of Excellence TV offers USSA coaches and athletes vignettes produced by the elite team staff, with commentary and text instruction often accompanying the instructional videos.

With this focus on coach development, the USSA achieved an important milestone this year.  The USSA's coaching system is now able to provide one certified coach for every ten athletes in the association.  That is a great ratio!

Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done.  Only roughly half of all USSA coaches are certified, with snowboarding leading the way (80% certified), followed by alpine and freestyle (50%), and trailed by cross country with only about one third of its coaches having attained certification.  The certification program for Freeskiing is in the development process, but still no certification program exists for ski jumping and nordic combined.  Clearly there is an appetite for coach development programs, and while we have achieved a lot in terms of providing quality coaching to the USSA's athletes and clubs, continued expansion will remain a focus.

New for this year is an emphasis on Club development.  The USSA is in the development phase of a club education, certification and recognition program, which will launch later this year.  The USSA is a club-based organization, and therefore delivering quality in coaching, programming and safety is paramount.  The Club Development Program will emphasize an education-based launch in 2013-14, with mandatory minimum standards coming into place shortly thereafter.  These mandatory minimums will ensure that parents enrolling their kids in a USSA club can be ensured of a consistent and high-quality experience.  And beyond the minumum, the USSA will establish a recognition system, which will idetify and acknowledge higher and higher levels of excellence in USSA's clubs.

These programs are the building blocks of Best in the World achievement on a sustainable basis, far into the future.

Luke Bodensteiner, Executive VP, Athletics

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