Making adjustments is certainly nothing new for a coach – they’re always looking for ways to improve performance and put more ticks in the win column, but the on-set of COVID-19 has certainly brought along a number of new and unique challenges unlike any other many have faced in their careers.
Coach development has become a big priority in recent years and is led by Cindy Tye, who was hired in October of 2018 to design and implement a coaching mentorship, education and development program to support varsity coaches while building a high-performance model with strategic planning support for varsity teams. In addition to her coaching duties with the women’s soccer team, she is also focused on nurturing relationships with provincial and national sport organizations along with Dalhousie’s academic units.
“The collective leadership and commitment our coaches have demonstrated with respect to their professional development has been outstanding,” says Tim Maloney, executive director, athletics and recreation. “Our focus on continuous improvement combined with providing an environment for our student-athletes to develop as students, athletes and people is something we take very seriously.”
Knowing that the realities of COVD-19 were going to have a huge impact on sport for the foreseeable future, both Tye and Maloney saw an opportunity to really focus on coach development.
“We had already been working on a number of projects,” says Tye. “But since we weren’t able to play or train with our athletes during the spring and summer, we knew we could commit a substantial amount of time to really working through our plan.”
Tye’s process began with an audit of coaching and training certifications in consultation with Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic. The next step was looking at best practices to see what changes needed to be made and look for new training opportunities.
Much of that plan has been under the umbrella of Safe Sport and the Responsible Coaches Movement. They’re also in the process of recertification in the National Coaching Certification Program’s (NCCP) Competition Development Program and all athletics and recreation staff have completed Respect in the Work Place certification.
“Dalhousie’s department of athletics and recreation were early adopters,” says Elana Liberman, the Safe Sport lead for Nova Scotia. “They really led the conversation with us to see what they needed to do to be compliant and be leaders in the field.”
Developed by the Coach Association of Canada with support from Sport Canada, the Safe Sport Training module provides training on the elimination of abuse, discrimination and harassment in sport.
“We’re committed to achieving a gold standard in the adoption of Safe Sport Training principles and the Responsible Coaches Movement by 2022,” says Tye. “And we’re well under way.”
All current Tigers varsity coaches completed the Safe Sport Training modules this past spring.
The Responsible Coaching Movement (RCM) is a call to action for sport organizations, parents, and coaches to enact responsible coaching across Canada – on and off the field. It stems from extensive and ongoing consultation with the sport community in Canada around systemic issues in sport. The goal is to improve upon/eliminate those issues to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all participants.
Within the RCM, there are three steps to responsible coaching – the Rule of Two, Background Screening and Respect and Ethics Training.
The goal of the Rule of Two is to ensure all interactions and communications are open, observable, and justifiable. Its purpose is to protect participants and coaches in potentially vulnerable situations by ensuring more than one adult is present.
“We started abiding by the Rule of Two in the spring of 2019,” says women’s basketball head coach Anna Stammberger. “It was challenging at first, because you want to respect everyone’s privacy, but in the end, I think it’s made for more comfortable ‘uncomfortable’ conversations for both the athlete and the coach. It’s an important piece of our communications and benefits everyone involved.”
The Background Screening is a matrix for three different levels of coaches and includes reference letters, criminal record checks and vulnerable sector verification.
“All of our head coaches have been fully screened,” says Tye. “Criminal record checks and the vulnerable sector verifications have been a part of our camp preparations for years. We’re also working to have all of our assistant coaches done as well.”
The last step within the RCM is Respect and Ethics Training. Coaches completed the Making Ethical Decisions certification in December 2019.
“Coaching development was more or less left to us as individuals to do on our own before Cindy was hired as the high performance manager,” says cross country and track and field head coach Rich Lehman who is entering his ninth season with the Tigers. “Since then she has done a really good job of identifying multi-sport modules both within and beyond the NCCP that make sense for our group. It has allowed us to spend some much-needed time refining what we do on a day to day basis and has facilitated some great discussions that would not have happened otherwise.”
Most recently, the coach group took part in the first of a series of equity, diversity and inclusion sessions and a couple of coaches will be involved in the Black Coach Mentorship Program led by Mark Smith, Sport Nova Scotia’s director of sport.
Tye also organizes a monthly ‘Coaches Corner’ for additional professional development opportunities, engaging resources both on and off campus.
“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot as a group,” says Tye. “Everyone has been really engaged and has found some value in what we’re doing. We still have goals and objectives to meet, but like I said before, we’re well on our way.”
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