The coach's training course


It’s February and I am preparing to travel to Indiana, along with fellow National Coach Development staff members Jim Eyster and Tim Young, where we will be presenting an NRA/USAS/CMP coach’s training course at the St. Joe Valley Conservation Club. The course is organized and sponsored by Sally Telfer, the Indiana SCTP state director, and is designed primarily for SCTP coaches. It will be a large class, with 60 or more students, most of them new or existing SCTP coaches.

It will be a fun course, and I am looking forward to it. I always enjoy being with Jim and Tim, who are excellent coaches and trainers and run a very successful SCTP and Junior Olympic program in Centerburg, Ohio. And I always enjoy working with new shooters and new coaches and talking about the Olympic clay target sports.

But for the student coaches, it’s more than just an enjoyable weekend. For them, certification as an SCTP coach has become mandatory. The SCTP’s general guidelines for volunteer coaches, which appear at the website, require that coaches be competent and certified— registered or licensed by a recognized firearm entity. Coaches without certification must contact SCTP national headquarters to discuss the possibility of being granted a waiver and must agree to obtain certification by any of the recognized firearms entities within one year. This year (2007) will be the last SCTP season in which a waiver will be granted for coaches without current certification.

As per the SCTP handbook, provided you are in compliance with your state laws and requirements, acceptable certification includes NRA/USAS/CMP shotgun coach certification, shooting sports coach, shooting sports instructor, range safety officer, firearms safety instructor, and hunter education instructor.

Recognized firearms entities or programs include a national governing body for a shooting sport (NRA, NSSA, NSCA, etc.), a governmental entity (such as law enforcement, military—active/current status) or a youth organization (such as 4‑H).

Certification courses must contain a component requiring range time or hands-on demonstration of ability in order to be acceptable for the SCTP.

I believe the coach training is very important. I came into instructing young shooters and coaches through the NRA and 4‑H. When you ask parents or schools to release children into your care for the shooting sports, you owe it to them to be properly trained and competent and to have been required to demonstrate that training and competence to a certain standard. Believe me, the schools, at least, are going to ask what training and certification coaches have. It would be unrealistic of you to expect them to approve a scholastic shooting program without trained, certified coaches. It’s not just about liabilities and lawsuits (some of you may know that I am an insurance defense attorney by trade). It’s about the duty you owe to your athletes and your obligation to them to have the skills, knowledge and attitude to properly train them and oversee their activities in a safe, competent and professional fashion.

There are about 8,000 SCTP shooters in the country and maybe a thousand coaches, of which fewer than 200 have coach certification. So SCTP coach training is going to be a big issue for 2007. There’s no more point in debating whether or not to take the training, but only about which training to take.

I am a training counselor and a 4-H state training team member, and I continue to train NRA and 4‑H instructors. I took the NSSA and the NSCA instructor’s courses as well as the ATA program. I can tell you that the NRA/USAS/CMP coach course is different, and it’s more. It is a coach course rather than an instructor’s course. The two jobs are not the same. The instructor gives one-time or short-term instruction on the firing line and on safety, while the coach provides the athlete with long-term leadership, friendship, instruction and mentorship, both on and off the firing line.

The coach’s job is to create an environment for athletes to reach their maximum potential. He creates this environment by providing instruction in safety, mechanics (including the fundamentals of shooting and building both physical and mental skills), and philosophy involving a positive atmosphere with high self-esteem—what we call creating the unshakable positive attitude.

A significant amount of time is spent on gun safety, risk management and explaining the coach’s duty to his athletes, which is “to exercise the skill and knowledge normally possessed by fellow coaches in working with your shooters and others to whom you have a responsibility.” What this means is, if the other coaches have a certain level of training and you do not, you may not be able to meet that standard of skill and knowledge.

We know that SCTP coaches who have graduated the coach’s course and the accompanying American Sport Education Program coach’s course to receive full certification are producing athletes superior to those from the programs that have not had the benefit of the course. We know that certified coaches who have been invited to train for National Coach Development Team appointment are the best coaches of junior shotgunners in the country. Why should any young athlete expect anything but the best training for their potential coach(es)?

Our own Trap & Field editor Terry Heeg took the course in Nashville, Tenn., two years ago. She says, “I think the coach’s training class combines the best of the best standardized training. I’ve been able to utilize what I learned when I work with newer shooters at the Tennessee Clay Target Complex. It teaches not only safety and training shooters, but also how to encourage shooters and keep them motivated, which keeps them in the sport.”

Zach Snow, shooting promotions coordinator at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who oversees the SCTP program nationally, expresses the NSSF preference for coach certification over one of the instructor courses. “Whether you’re new to the coaching world or you’ve been doing it for years, the NRA/USAS/CMP coach’s course touches on a lot of topics that will ensure success when working with your students. Now with over 20 SCTP coaches on the NCDS staff, classes are becoming more readily available throughout the country for SCTP coaches. If the class is being offered in your state, I recommend that you take it. From personal experience, I can say that not only did this class help me with my own shooting, but it also helped me when working with others at the gun club I belong to. You will not be disappointed!”

See the list accompanying this article of the 20+ NCDS staff members listed by state with e-mail and phone contact information. This list can also be found at the SCTP website mentioned above. They are all invited volunteers and experienced, successful coaches. If there is one in your area and you’re looking to hold or attend a course, give him or her a call. If there is none in your area, call one nearby. They may very well travel to you. If not, call me. We’ll find a way to get you to a course.

I believe that working with young shooters is one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done in my life. And it’s not just about winning medals. Seeing the kids mature and be happy and successful in other aspects of their lives is even more important. If you can understand that, I think you’ll find the NRA/USAS/CMP coach course very valuable. 

Please feel free to e-mail me at with your comments.

Copyright 2007 to Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.