NFHS Learning Center Courses Help Individuals Achieve True Success

Many years ago, the NFHS published an article by Bernie Saggau, former executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, in which he shared an experience at a coaching college led by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

In the morning session, Coach Wooden’s presentation revolved around his famous success pyramid. He spoke about the building blocks of loyalty, self-control, self-confidence, alertness, friendship, skill, initiative, collaboration, and competitive strength, among other traits and behaviors.

During the lunch break, two young trainers discussed the first half of the seminar and one of the trainers heard himself say: “I’m happy when he tells us how to be successful!”

Obviously these young coaches had missed the message. They had expected Coach Wooden to outline some plays that would help them become winners – wins, championships and glory. Little did they realize he shared the very tools that could have put them on the path to true success – transforming the lives of young student-athletes.

This example of the over-emphasis on winning over helping students to be successful in life through sport and other activities illustrates the impetus for the NFHS to launch its Coach Education program in 2007. Beginning with two courses – Coaching Fundamentals and First Aid for Trainers – it was the first and only training program designed exclusively for interscholastic trainers.

Announcing the program, Tim Flannery, the former associate director of the NFHS who was responsible for launching the program, said: “ . . . Winning must play a lesser role than learning. If winning is the primary goal, it makes it impossible to achieve our goal. Therefore, the program was created to allow coaches to find the happy balance between winning and teaching.”

And the response from individuals who want to keep winning from the right perspective has been encouraging. Fifteen years later, the NFHS continues to help coaches and others involved in high school sports, performing arts and other activity programs through the online platform now known as the NFHS Learning Center.

The Learning Center ( now offers approximately 90 courses, including more than 60 free, for students, coaches, athletic directors, school administrators, parents, officials, performing arts educators, music judges and others involved in high school activity programs. Amazingly, more than 15 million courses have been taken since the program began.

Three years ago, the NFHS Honor Roll program was introduced as an incentive for schools to encourage their coaches to get involved in professional development. Coaches can take important courses that support them in their role as teacher coaches. Since the program’s inception, 120 schools in 17 states have taken advantage of this opportunity for the professional development of their coaches, including 96 Level 1 schools, 16 Level 2 schools, and eight Level 3 schools.

Launched last month, the three-level NFHS National Coach Credential is designed to keep high school coaches in professional development year-round and includes the same required online courses as the School Honor Roll program.

Coaches can become an NFHS Level 1 Coach by completing Coaching Essentials along with three free courses: Concussion in Sports, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and Protecting Students from Abuse. If 90 percent of a school’s coaches complete these courses, the school can achieve Level 1 status through the School Honor Roll program. Additional courses are required to progress to levels 2 and 3.

While the Learning Center’s courses are primarily aimed at those engaged in interscholastic sports and activities, we continue our work at the youth level. Recently, American Youth Football, Inc. (AYF) announced that all coaches in its regional/national career (approximately 50,000) must complete the new free Football Tackling course at the Learning Center.

Our ongoing commitment to the learning and professional development of individuals in high school activities has not gone unnoticed. Recently, NFHS and its learning center received accreditation from Cognia, which recognizes schools and other education providers nationally that meet rigorous standards focused on productive learning environments, equitable resource allocation that meets learner needs, and effective leadership.

This accreditation demonstrates our commitment to excellence and our desire to be the best we can be on behalf of the students we serve. We want to continue to provide appropriate leadership and resources to assist everyone involved in high school education-based activity programs.

Remembering the seminar Coach Wooden led, we believe that the future of sport and other activities in our nation’s schools depends more on the development of players than games.


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