The Coach Credentialing Program

The 2022-23 Cohort of the Coach Credentialing Program has been announced. Congratulations to the 60 participants chosen. 

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This Program’s Purpose

Created with the goal to help coaches gain the self-awareness and practical skills necessary to develop mastery as a professional collegiate team leader and manager, the goal of the Coach Credentialing Program is to elevate the role of a coach to a higher standard of professionalism by providing training, development, and support while educating coaches to work within the ethical standards set by United Soccer Coaches and NCAA as a whole.

At a Glance

Number of Participants: 60
Program Time Frame: Begins November 2022 and ends in July of 2023.
Total Hours Required for Credential: 60 (15 hours per pillar)
Approximate Hours/Weeks Required for Participants:
2-3 hours per week – 32 weeks
Program Content Delivery: Part in-person, part virtual and part self-paced.
Program Research: Participants will be surveyed before the program begins, after the program and again in December of 2023 following their season.
2023 Season Support and Continuing Education: TBD

“Coaching, like any profession, is constantly evolving. It is no longer solely about tactics and on-field sessions. Now, everything we do on the field must be held up by a foundation of trust, compassion, and thoughtful communication. This program addresses the heart of coaching and leadership; it will surely prepare coaches for success and longevity in the game we all care about so deeply.”

Margueritte Aozasa

UCLA Head Coach

The Program’s Structure

The 2022-23 cohort will be made up of 60 coaches from all three NCAA divisions. Our goal is to select a diverse group of coaches dedicated to being their best self in a high performance environment

Coaches in the cohort are seeking a “credential” and this requires a higher level of commitment and engagement from the participants. Through their completion of this credentialing program, the participants will have a unique depth of training to be successful leaders, managers and coaches at the collegiate level. 

Application, Selection, and Program Timeline

September 26, 2022: Applications open

11:59 PM EST October 21, 2022: Applications close

October 24, 2022 – November 4, 2022: Committee reviews and selects candidates

November 7: Candidates contacted and announced

Mid-November 2022: First introductory meeting online

Mid-December 2022: Online cohort planning session

Early January 2023: Online calls leading up to 2023 Convention

January 2023: Cohort in-person programming at 2023 Convention

February 2023 – June 2023: Self-paced and live virtual coursework

July 2023: Final in-person programming, closing circle, and graduation at United Soccer Coaches summer site.

“The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics is pleased to invest in United Soccer Coaches’ efforts to launch a comprehensive collegiate coach credentialing program. We have long championed the need for a credential that recognizes the important role of coaches as educators. We are pleased to fund scholarships for racial minorities and women to participate in this groundbreaking opportunity.”

“It’s amazing that it’s 2022 and we are talking about a program like this for the very first time. Xs and Os matter, but program and people management is everything. Relationships, communication, self-awareness, and team culture – among other things – will determine our effectiveness and eventually our fate as coaches. There are endless moving parts in this profession. And we all need to be prepared to manage all of those as best as possible. So for any young coach, I highly recommend diving into a program like this….with openness and humility.”

Brian Pensky

Florida State University Head Coach

Candidate Requirements

Coaches must be:

  • Coaching at a NCAA Division I, II, or III institution.
  • Listed on their team roster as head coach, associate head coach, or assistant coach .
  • Willing to commit to and be fully engaged in the curriculum and in interacting with their classmates.
  • Willing to attend the in-person and virtual classes and complete all self-paced coursework assignments.
  • Committed to completing all coursework assigned by speakers. 
  • Committed to developing their mastery in the art of coaching.
  • Interested in being a member of a coaching community to share ideas as well as give and receive support.
  • Willing to dedicate, on average, 4 hours a week to complete credentialing coursework and assignments.

Program Benefits

Expectations and outcomes candidates can expect:

  • Special United Soccer Coaches Diploma
  • 50% off Convention registration fee
  • Hotel room and meals for January 10-11 credentialing sessions at Convention. 
  • Tools, skills, practices and ideas you can implement into your program immediately.
  • Letter of commendation to Athletic Directors, Presidents, and Conference Commissioners
  • Curriculum designed to provide participants with people, management, leadership, and professionalism skills necessary to be successful at the collegiate level.
  • Resume and career growth – part of a database of credentialed coaches.
  • United Soccer Coaches will create a repository of credentialed coaches.
  • Access to industry leaders and speaker engagements.
  • Credentialed coaches retain membership in an elite coaching community.

“The beautiful game is just that…. a game! Unfortunately, coaching at the NCAA level is much more complex than our love of the game. As the landscape changes, we need to be equipped with a diverse set of skills to manage the business side of the job.

This course will not only provide that foundation, but also how to care for, teach, and grow the people we have the privilege to lead”.

Keidane McApline

University of Georgia Head Coach

The Four Pillars

The following four pillars will be used as the foundation of the course content:

1) Managing Yourself

Managing Yourself is our foundational curriculum for coaches to understand the skills needed to be a professional coach. It is based on the concept that before you can manage and lead others, you first must learn to manage and lead yourself.

Sample Content

  • Know Thyself 1 – Internal and external self-awareness
  • Identifying Your Values and Strengths 
  • Developing Self-Regard
  • Developing or clarifying a Coaching Mission Statement
  • Professionalism
  • Mindfulness and Emotional Control
  • Time Management & Organizational Skills
  • The Well-Integrated Life – Self Care
  • Coaching Philosophy Development
2) Managing Your Program

The Managing Your Program pillar is designed to help coaches create the organizational structure of their program in a way that supports the overall team mission and vision. Managing Your Program provides tools and ideas on how to organize all the tasks that need to be done along with how to manage and lead the people who are completing those tasks.

Sample Content

  • Connecting with and Managing the “Modern Athlete.”
  • Recognizing and Managing Mental Health Issues
  • Developing Team Leadership
  • Emotional Intelligence 101
  • Conflict and Communication Skills 
  • Managing Your Staff and Support Staff
  • Managing Your Team
  • Developing a Recruiting System
3) Managing Your Culture

The Managing Your Culture pillar is designed to help coaches create a team culture that reflects their unique and authentic philosophy, vision, and mission. Managing Your Culture is the HOW organizations will operate day to day to bring your WHY to life.

Sample Content

  • Plug Into Great Culture – The Culture Model
  • Connecting the People in Your Program
  • How to Build Team Connection
  • Connecting Everyone – Developing a Safe and Inclusive Environment
  • Connecting the Team to The Vision
  • Establishing Team Standards – Defining, Managing, and Modeling
  • The Feedback Loop
4) Professionalism

Professionalism is the conduct, behavior, and attitude of someone in a work or business environment. This pillar is designed to educate and elevate the standards of what is expected practices and behaviors of a professional coach.

Sample Content

  • Ethical Decision Making
  • Understanding Mental and Physical Health and Resources Available
  • Legal Issues for Coaches
  • Defining Professional Behavior
  • Investment in continuing education and development
  • United Soccer Coaches Ethical Standards
  • NCAA 101 – How Does it work and what resources are available 
  • Career Advancement Skills (Networking, Interviewing, Transition Skills)
  • Safe Sport Content

“I am thrilled about the Coach Credentialing Program that has been created by United Soccer Coaches. As the skills to be a successful head coach continue to evolve far beyond the Xs and Os, a program like this one will have an immediate impact. As Director of Athletics, I believe a coaching program addressing professional and leadership development will be a gamechanger in our industry. The skills learned in this program will not only enhance a coach’s ability to lead but it will have a positive outcome on culture and the overall student-athlete experience. I am thankful a program like this exists.”

Pennie Parker

Rollins College Associate Vice President of Athletics

The Importance of Coaching Skill Development

We understand how important the X’s and O’s are to becoming a competent coach. We have to know how to teach the skills of our sport, organize a practice and strategize for competition and make adjustments during a competition. 

Head coaches must make difficult decisions that impact their athletes in different ways. They are required to demonstrate that they care about each athlete while challenging them to meet high expectations for success. Very few, if any, coaches get fired because they do not know the processes or X’s and O’s of their sport. Coaches are failing student-athletes and getting fired because they do not handle themselves professionally OR or they are not self aware enough to understand how their actions are impacting their athletes.In other words, it’s the lack of self-knowledge and people skills that typically get coaches in trouble; it’s not their lack of knowledge of their sport. Yet most coaching associations spend the majority of their time teaching the X’s and O’s and coaches spend the majority of their professional development money on learning them. 

Coaching is a people’s profession. It’s hard and maybe even impossible, to have a long, fulfilling and successful coaching career without working on developing both ourselves as people as well developing the people, management and leadership skill sets needed.

Challenges Facing College Coaches Today

Lack of Training and Development

There is no formal coach’s training program in the United States. Coaches enter the profession in a variety of ways and are responsible for training themselves — regardless of their salary range, level they coach or access to resources. Initial training should be required followed by continuing education as an individual moves through their career. All the support staff around an athlete (nutritionist, strength & conditioning, sport psychologist, mental health providers) has to be certified but the coach does not. 

While this credentialing model will be a shift in mindset and culture for the coaches, in the end, it will help them feel more empowered and prepared for the rigors of managing and leading a team at the collegiate level.

The Ever Changing Collegiate Landscape

Supporting and training coaches as the landscape continues to shift and change has never been more important. Understanding how to connect and lead the “modern athlete”, the rise in mental health issues, adjusting to a new understanding of diversity and inclusion and the correct language to use in this space, NIL, Black Lives Matter, the transfer portal etc. Preparing coaches to lead from a person and relationship-centered approach is at the heart of the credentialing program.

The Coach Feedback Gap

Where does a coach find a safe space to get credible, constructive, non-punitive feedback to improve each year? Many athletics administrators have not coached at the level they are supervising and do not have the time nor the experience to truly observe a coach and give them an evaluation designed to help them improve and grow. So how DO coaches get feedback? Mostly through senior student-athlete exit interviews, their win-loss record, graduation rates and how happy their athletes seem to be in their program.

Quality feedback is a core element for a long and fulfilling coaching career. Our credentialing program will include teaching coaches the value of quality feedback, how and when to seek it and the value it can bring to their relationships and their personal and professional growth.

Lack of Support and Advocacy

In the current modern era of athletics, the athletes have a stronger voice which shines an even brighter light on the need for coaches to have an advocate in their athletic department and within their sport associations.The voice of the coach has been seemingly lost in recent years at both the national level and within their individual athletic departments.

The United Soccer Coaches views this program as a way to create the relationships with their members coaching at the NCAA levels so they can provide support and advocacy when a coach may need it the most. One of the main goals of this credentialing program is to be proactive in our training and support of coaches and less reactive which is not productive for anyone.

Lack of a Coaching Pipeline

How does someone become a coach on the college level? The answer should be an easy one but it is not. People find their way or stumble into coaching in a variety of ways and this can be confusing for the young people we are hoping to attract into the profession. United Soccer Coaches views the credentialing program as a viable path or pipeline for coaches interested in working at the NCAA level. The United Soccer Coaches College Coach Credentialing Program creates a database of coaches who have graduated making United Soccer Coaches a reliable source for athletic administrators who may be looking for quality candidates to recruit to their open soccer positions. It also provides a way for the coaches involved in the program to network for jobs within the United Soccer Coaches credentialed coach community.

Challenges Facing Athletic Administrators Today

No Formal Onboarding

Talented athletics administrators are assigned sport supervision and do not commonly receive a formal onboarding or education on how to adequately supervise a head coach and their program. While this project is dedicated to credentialing coaches it may be worthwhile to also consider how we need to train and develop all levels of leadership within the collegiate model.

During COVID and the financial stress it created, we saw a decrease in operating budgets for head coaches and their assistants to attend professional development programs.

Gaps in Leadership

Gaps in leadership between Athletic Directors and sport reports/SWA in Division I, only engage when issues arise.

Lack of Coaching Experience

Fewer and fewer administrators have been head coaches which can make it harder for them to understand the challenges of being a coach. 

Additionally, once a coach is hired, due to their own heavy workload, athletic administrators have little time to mentor and develop the coaches on their staff.

Hiring Qualified Candidates

Hiring is one of the most important responsibilities of an administrator. The credentialing process provides an important factor for consideration when hiring the best and the brightest coaches.

Inside and Outside Pressures

With the athletes having a stronger voice in the collegiate model, athletic administrators find themselves in the middle of conflicts between the athletes and the coach which may pressure the athletic administrators to fire the coach to keep the peace and avoid the public relations fall out or they launch an investigation into the program which can be extremely hard on the coach and the future of the program.