Institute for Athletic Coach Education

The Institute for Athletic Coach Education (IACE) at BU Wheelock focuses attention on the need for education and training for youth sport coaches. At IACE, youth sports are considered a vehicle for helping young people develop into productive members of society, with the guidance of a significant adult mentor who is most often a coach. We aim to provide present and future youth sport coaches with learning opportunities and resources to help them better understand their role and fulfill their responsibilities as leaders and educators in the community.


  • To serve as a resource for coaches, coach educators and trainers, sport organizations, and other community organizations as they seek to fulfill their responsibilities in the coaching of children and youth in sports and physical activity
  • To collaborate with youth development organizations to assist them in the design and delivery of sustainable professional development processes appropriate for the coaches of young people in the communities that they serve
  • To educate and train these coaches to assume service leadership roles in their organization by ensuring learning opportunities for young people to grow and develop as athletes, students, and leaders in their community, through their participation in sports and physical activity
  • To foster organizational growth by supporting coaches and physical activity leaders to improve their ability to:
    • Structure and lead transformational experiences for young people
    • Develop leadership qualities in the young people they coach
    • Enhance their own self-image as leaders in their communities
    • Conduct their work within an ethical framework of behavior appropriate for the young participants that they coach/lead/serve
    • Integrate the core values of their organization into their work as coaches of young people

To demonstrate leadership in the larger Boston community by engaging in outreach initiatives that:

    • Lead to systemic change in the support and delivery of youth development programs through sport and physical activity
    • Offer other educational and leadership development opportunities through the vehicle of sport and physical activity leading to an increase in the quantity and quality of volunteers available to the greater Boston community

Core Beliefs

  • Youth sports and physical activity provide a place for young people to grow and mature and should be focused more on meeting youths’ learning and developmental needs than on achieving success in competition alone.
  • Young people must be encouraged to have the freedom and autonomy to explore what the sport or activity has to offer them and be encouraged to view sport holistically.
  • Youth sports provide a vehicle for creating invaluable life experiences that help young people develop into more productive members of society.
  • Youth sports provide opportunities for interaction between young people and significant adult mentors—most often coaches—who help guide youths’ lives and care for them regardless of their mistakes or lack of experience or ability.
  • Together with parents, teachers, and others, coaches play a significant role in youth development and character education. They should be selected, educated, trained, and encouraged with this mission in mind.
  • Through the medium of the coach’s words and actions, there is an opportunity to help youth develop strength of purpose and confidence to undertake “right action” in the challenging situations that arise in sport, and to apply these dispositions to all other aspects of their lives.
  • Given the important leadership role and responsibilities of the coach, there is an urgent need to design and deliver effective and sustainable methods of educating and training volunteer and otherwise untrained coaches to fulfill these service leadership responsibilities.


To provide leadership in the design and implementation of educational initiatives focusing on best practice, based on sound theoretical principle (praxis), including key features such as:

  • Providing leadership training opportunities through youth volunteerism
  • Mentoring youth in leadership roles
  • Development of women in youth sport coaching settings
  • Moving away from a coach-centered model toward an athlete-centered approach based on “engaged learning” through experience.
  • Adopting a competency-based approach to adult teaching and learning of leadership, in which the best measures of effectiveness are observable behaviors and actions


  • Meet with representatives of interested youth sport organizations committed to youth development through sport and physical activity in order to define their core values
  • Develop understanding of how these organizations currently function:
    • Characteristics of current athlete population
    • Characteristics of current coach population
    • Characteristics of current coach training and education, if any
    • Openness to observation of current coaches at work
    • Openness to giving and receiving feedback on current coaching practices
  • Identify key leaders in the organization who are interested in learning about and implementing intentional training and education for coaches working in the organization
  • Work to establish a commitment to design and deliver sustainable coach development processes integrating the key values of the organization
  • Collaborate with key leaders in the organization to design and deliver appropriate coach education and training, aimed at developing long-term improvement in coaching performance
  • Adopt an athlete-centered model of coaching, aimed at helping all participants improve their performance over time
  • Establish the coach development cycle based on observation of performance, followed by giving and receiving feedback and support to all participants
  • Focus coaches’ attention on the development of heightened self-awareness, the ability to self-correct, and the acceptance of personal responsibility for learning
  • Assist coaches to understand an appropriate athlete development model for their particular sport or activity
  • Assist coaches to plan and deliver effective practices, based on establishing suitable performance objectives for their participants, ensuring a sound organization, and practicing appropriate methods of communication

Learn More

For more information about IACE, contact Director John McCarthy by email at