“Coach as Youth Worker:” understanding intern coaches' experiences in a professional development training for a TPSR-based youth development program
Ettl, Frederick Isaiah
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Many youth sport coaches operate in a hybrid position that alternates between athletics-based learning and social-emotional learning that is common toyouth work. Negotiating this dual role can be especially challenging when coaches serve youth in high needs' environments. In order to be effective, youth coaches require a unique skill-set that is neither inherent, nor a result of personal athletic accomplishment. However, these skills can and should be developed through coach education, training, and professional development (DuBois, Holloway, Valentine, & Cooper, 2002; Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010). As such, this dual role coaches occupy should be termed, "Coach as Youth Worker" in order to provide clarity about what the job entails. Therefore, this study introduces a "Coach as Youth Worker" training framework that addresses competencies related to the hybrid nature of youth sport coaching. This study examined the lived experiences of a group of graduate students (n = 6) who participated in an original "Coach as Youth Worker" professional development training designed specifically for their internship practicum where they worked as strength and conditioning coaches. In doing so, the researcher sought to understand whether they perceive to have acquired "Coach as Youth Worker" competencies, and if so, how those competencies were learned. Additionally, it was important to learn participant's perceptions of the pedagogical approaches used throughout the training. As an exploratory study, it could serve as a model for developing coaches working in other similar contexts. The research in this investigation consists of three major stages; first, the design and delivery of a professional development training curriculum. Second, the delivery of those trainings, and a third subsequent investigation of coaches' experiences who participated in the training. The study details the conception of the professional development curriculum, starting with how the researcher developed nine " Coach as Youth Worker" competencies. This is followed by a description of the lessons and facilitation procedures used to deliver seven professional development modules that taught "Coach as Youth Worker" skills and competencies. Finally, the researcher collected and analyzed qualitative data that described each participant's experiences with the training. Data collected about participant's experiences included observations, written reflections, focus group, and individual interviews. Data from individual narratives constructed through a phenomenological perspective suggest that participants experienced change personally and professionally. Thematic analysis of data was also performed and yielded 480 codes that were organized into seven higher order themes: overall impressions of the training experience, skills−development and application, impressions of the professional development, beyond professional development−a combination of learning mechanisms, Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility, suggestions for future professional development, and original strategies. Based on the data from this study, 15 recommendations are presented for the Get Ready program that hosted the study participants, that may also be relevant for other sports based youth development programs, and for youth coach education and training programs. Some of the key recommendations include: promoting the importance of explicitly identifying coach development aims, development of competencies for coaches-in-training, incorporate pedagogy with practical applications and opportunities to practice skills, establish opportunities for structured reflection and feedback through formal and informal evaluation, opportunities for community outreach and development of cultural competence.