How Are We Different?

Coaching Diploma

A First of Its Kind

The Coaching Diploma stands as a hallmark of innovative excellence for both the SPSC department and Douglas College. Established in 1994, it was one of the first coaching-specific diplomas to be created in Canada. Its creation set an unprecedented approach to post-secondary coaching education, and its methods gained the intrigue of other international institutions, such as Shanghai Normal University.

Aspiring Beginnings

The initial idea of the Coaching Diploma was prompted by SPSC faculty Chris Johnson (retired). At the time, the SPSC department wanted to bring coaching education out of provincial and national sport organizations and introduce it into academic institutions.

The structure of the Coaching Diploma arranged for its students to spend half their time learning theory – the anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, sport psychology, and so on – like other students in the larger SPSC program (who were not Coaching Diploma-specific). However, the Coaching students would spend the other half going out to practically apply what they learned in the academic setting – the techniques, tactics – in their specific sport, and train in the field in preparation for coaching future athletes. This latter portion was called preceptorship; it is similar to BPEC’s Fieldwork today.

Preceptorship: the Prelude to Fieldwork

As mentioned above, the Diploma required students to complete a period of preceptorship as part of its curriculum. This component was essentially the equivalent of Fieldwork in the current BPEC degree, except it was double the time, credits, and was coaching-only; students would be paired with a coach at their specific NCCP level (I, II, or III), and would work with the coach to gain practical experience and know-how.

SPSC faculty Alison Gill (retired), who was the Coaching Diploma’s coordinator, networked extensively to find sites and coaches that would take on the program’s students for preceptorship. In earlier days, convincing organizations to give the Diploma a chance was also a significant effort, as the Diploma was only starting to build its name within the community.

“It could’ve been curling, hockey, rhythmic gymnastics, downhill skiing…boy oh boy, I had to network a lot in order to get students placed [laughs].”

alison, on the earlier days of the coaching diploma

Merging with the SPSC Diploma

Eventually, the Coaching Diploma was dissolved as an independent program. With its twenty-person limit deemed unsustainable in the face of increasing enrollment demand, it merged into the SPSC Diploma in 2004.

Although components of the Coaching Diploma still exist within the SPSC Diploma, Alison fondly remembers the days of the Coaching Diploma as its own, where the faculty members and the students were very closely knit because of the small cohort the program admitted each year.

“The [Coaching Diploma] program was just…one of the highlights of my teaching [career] at Douglas College.”

Alison, recollecting the days of the Coaching Diploma

A brochure advertising the Coaching Diploma, 1997

The NCCP Accreditation

The Coaching Diploma was unique in that it had the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) integrated into its curriculum. Essentially, the Diploma was designed to take students through their NCCP certifications in levels I, II, and III; students would complete the levels by the end of the Diploma’s two-year duration, and they would graduate with the NCCP accreditation included within their Diploma.

“So that’s how the Coaching [Diploma] started…we got involved in the NCCP[.] …I trained over ten thousand coaches over the years; I was teaching most weekends and travelling all across the province. …So that coaching part [the NCCP component], which was non-credit, slowly evolved in[to] the Coaching Diploma.”

Chris, on the nccp component of the coaching diploma

Inspiring Advancement

The Coaching Diploma helped advance other areas for the SPSC department, including the consideration of emotional intelligence and being a means for international outreach. Observing the process of relationship building, cooperation, and conflict resolution skills that developed within the smaller cohort of Coaching Diploma students, the faculty recognized the benefits of building such a skill set into the larger SPSC program. As a result, they began introducing emotional intelligence into the curriculum wherever possible. The Diploma also became a way through which the SPSC department made international connections, such as when its methods were introduced to Shanghai Normal University.

“Coach education is a very high-level, high-intellectual skill to have – and athletes that have played sports can’t necessarily coach at a high level. So that’s what this Diploma did: it filled in the gaps. They [the athletes] may have known [how to play] sports, but it allowed them to be better masters of their craft.”

alison, on the purpose of the coaching diploma