Do youth coaches need coaching, too? According to an independent study released by American Council on Exercise (ACE), youth coach participants averaged a "C" grade on a survey evaluating their preparation and qualifications. ACE commissioned this study because the demand for youth coaches and volunteers has quadrupled to accommodate the more than 40 million children participating in youth organized sports, a steady growth over the past 20 years.
"Volunteer coaches form the backbone of non-school organized youth sports and are very well intentioned and dedicated.," said ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric Bryant, Ph.D. "However, the results of this study suggest that many would benefit by receiving educational information and training regarding safety and injury prevention as it pertains to young athletes."
For the study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse had 70 youth coaches complete a 40-question survey focusing on seven important topics related to exercise physiology including practice design, hydration, nutrition, basic first aid and acute injury management, concussion care and strength-training knowledge.
Researchers compiled responses and found the average score was 28.7 out of 40 questions, which equates to 72 percent, a "C" average.
Overall, results show a lack of knowledge in each survey category. Additionally, it did not matter if the respondent was male or female, what education level they had, what level they coached, or if they were paid or volunteer. However, those who were health science majors did better than any other college major that completed the survey.
Out of all 40 questions in the survey, there were nine that a majority (50% or greater) of coaches answered incorrectly. Four related to hydration, while the others touched on strength training, nutrition and concussions.
"It is particularly concerning to see so many youth coaches with deficient knowledge related to hydration, a fundamental element of safe sports participation," Bryant said. "Also, as our understanding of sports concussions has expanded rapidly over the past few years, it is essential for coaches to pursue and receive ongoing training in this critical area to protect our young athletes."
Researchers did observe that even though coaches may have scored low in some areas, they were better prepared in others - 74 percent (52 out of 70) of coaches reported being first-aid certified, 73 percent (51 out of 70) were also CPR certified. Similarly, 54 percent (38 out of 70) had AED training. It's important to note that ideally all youth coaches would hold current certificates in First-Aid, CPR, and AED.
"A key tactic in helping reverse the youth obesity epidemic is regular participation sports and physical activities," Bryant said. "That is why ACE created the Youth Fitness Specialty Certification, which provides individuals working with youth (e.g., physical education teachers, youth coaches, and other community-based fitness advocates) the knowledge and skills they need to create safe and effective fitness programs for children and teens. We want them to have the tools they need to teach our children about proper hydration, safe exercise, and sound nutrition, so they can be healthy adults tomorrow."
To download a full copy of the survey results and to learn more about the Youth Fitness Specialty Certification, visit ACEfitness.org.