The Way Coaches Learn

  • December 03, 2018


Professional Development: The Ways Coaches Learn

Coach Education is about much more than which NCCP courses you’ve taken. There are many ways to brush up on your skills, enhance your knowledge and improve your coaching abilities. Formal learning in a classroom is just part of the equation. Below are some of the different ways learning occurs, and how you can track your independent, self-directed ongoing learning in The Locker and get PD points on your coach transcript.

  • Formal learning takes place within a structured education system that has standardized curricula and requires a coach to demonstrate a predetermined level of competency before achieving certification.
  • Non-formal learning is any organized educational activity outside of the NCCP that provides learning opportunities for coaches. Examples include coaching conferences, seminars, apprenticeship programs, workshops, and clinics.
  • Informal learning is the lifelong process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, and insights through daily experiences and exposure to coaching and sport. Informal learning happens in a wide variety of settings including, previous experience as an athlete, informal mentoring, day-today coaching experiences, and interaction with peer coaches and athletes.
  • Self-directed learning occurs when the coach reflects upon their technical, practical, and critical coaching issues and determines how to overcome practical coaching dilemmas. Self-directed learning makes use of a wide variety of materials, including coaching and sports science manuals, books, journal articles, videos, and Internet sources, etc., that were created for the purpose of enabling learning.
  • Season of coaching is the normal coaching period for a context in a sport. It could be a partial year or a full year.

CAO Executive Director Jeremy Cross has made a short video to demonstrate how you can self-report the PD you’ve already completed for up to 8 PD points. Check it out here:

If you are a Certified Coach and require PD points for your Maintenance of Certification, self-reporting your PD is even more valuable. But any coach can get credit for the development they pursue alongside their pathway requirements.

If you have questions or concerns about Maintenance of Certification or PD points tracking in the locker, please visit the CAC’s Maintenance of Certification web page where you’ll find loads of PD opportunities, information about how to read your PD requirements in the Locker, and a handy Frequently Asked Questions section.

Or contact us at the CAO (416) 426-7086 or

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Coach Responses

How do you get your Professional Development?

What are some things you’re already doing that you consider valuable. continuous learning or informal learning?

Share your tips and best practices!

Walter Martindale – Rowing – Cambridge, ON – 35 years

“…Attending Rowing Canada’s National Coaching Conference as often as possible. When in Ontario I tried to attend RowOntario’s conference and CAO conference as well.  I also read research papers on training, coaching, technique development, sports psych, and subscribe to the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter published monthly for the last 18 years by Valery Kleshnev.”

Glenn Gabriel – Curling – Toronto – 13 years

“…There are several ways that I get my Professional Development as a coach.

There are traditional sources, like taking NCCP courses (online and in-person) and attending conferences, both multisport (CAO) and sport-specific.

I read a lot of coaching and teaching-related books, visit several Web sites (e.g., Positive Coaching Alliance) and listen to several podcasts (e.g., Winning Youth Coaching ).

Two “out-of-the-box” ideas:

  1. I set a Google Alert with the term “Curling”, so I get a daily digest of news stories that have “Curling” in the story. Some of them will mention the experiences of athletes and/or curling coaches, which is helpful for professional development.
  2. I set up an informal e-mail mailing list of coaches who work with the U12 (Little Rocks) age group. (This is the group I personally work with.) This list is a place where we can exchange ideas about training, practices, event planning, volunteer recruitment, etc.”

Al Samsa – Basketball – Mississauga – 30+ years

“Facebook groups. Great places to discuss topics and share experiences in your sport.”

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