Lighting the Fire – Passion for Youth Coaching

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By Toby Brooks, PhD, ATC, CSCS, YFS-3
IYCA Director of Research and Education

As an educator, there are few things better than seeing a student transform from being physically present (and perhaps little else) in my classroom early in the semester to fully engaged and hungry for more by its end. An eager young professional in my midst who might lack experience but makes up for it with brimming enthusiasm is invigorating. Such a student not only provides a very palpable and infectious energy to the classroom dynamic, he or she often pushes me to go beyond my own limits of knowledge and expend my intellectual territory. And that’s a good thing.

Throughout the span of my career, I have transformed the way I conceptualize learning and my role in the process. I think it is safe to say that no synopsis more accurately sums up my current stance than the words of Greek philosopher Plutarch who once said “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be lighted.” Indeed.

As the IYCA went from small upstart with a grandiose vision to a viable and growing professional organization, we steadily added educational offerings. It all started with what has now become our Level Two Youth Fitness Specialist credential. From that first offering, we have grown to include certifications such as the highly popular High School Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the Youth Athletic Assessment Specialist programs and practical instructor courses such as the Olympic Lifting and Kettlebell courses. However, despite our growth, we sensed a very real need for some background on the basics.

I have long ascribed to the notion that the decision to pursue a career in coaching is usually one part vocational and 99 parts emotional. The passion for youth coaching is often an unquenchable thirst in your soul that cannot be slaked through other (even related) jobs. Most coaches would tell you that they were born to coach. We at the IYCA don’t disagree.

However, a calling to coach is but a first step. Where organizations like the IYCA come in is to provide the necessary tools to take that burning desire to coach and equip the aspiring coach with the tools, tips, and tricks to be maximally effective. Oftentimes, we found that individuals who pursue training young athletes might not have a thorough background in exercise science. They might lack formal training in university classrooms regarding the terminology used throughout all IYCA and most other industry standard publications, but they still genuinely wanted to be effective.

Going to (or back to) college didn’t seem reasonable—or cost effective—in most cases. So with these eager but inexperienced professionals hungry for more asking for it, I developed the first IYCA Crash Course in Kinesiology.

I have taught musculoskeletal anatomy and included concepts such as planes, axes, and standard nomenclature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels for more than a decade. Based on the regular questions I field for the IYCA, it became apparent to me that I was expecting IYCA coaches to be familiar and comfortable with terminology that many had never formally learned before. I took the basics from my college courses and boiled that down into a concise leveling course that has been crafted to help the aspiring coach get quickly up to speed and not feel lost when digging in to our more extensive educational offerings.

The idea was to provide a one-stop offering that provides the student with a self-paced course in musculoskeletal anatomy, including muscle origin, insertion, action, and innervation for more than 70 muscles in the human body. Additionally, a look at word roots and origins and basics of directional terminology commonly used throughout the literature has been included along with a complete description of planes and axes and how they can be used to describe normal, inefficient, or pathological movements.

So if you have a passion for youth coaching and are just getting started in the field and feel as though you have to look up every other term in the texts you are trying to read, then this course was built for you. On the other hand, if you are a seasoned professional who is mentoring a less experienced colleague, consider the Kinesiology Crash Course as an inexpensive way to encourage your friend.

Just don’t consider it knowledge used to fill a mental bucket.

We prefer to think of it as kindling to feed a growing cognitive fire of coaching theory and practice.


Toby Brooks is an Associate Professor in the Master of Athletic Training Program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and has served as the IYCA Director of Research and Education since 2007. He has worked as an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist at all levels of professional and amateur sports, including NFL, NCAA Division I, minor league baseball, and more than a dozen high schools across four states. He is past owner of Born Athletic, an athletic development center in Southern Illinois and now finds the most joy in coaching the youth teams of his children, who collectively play or have played basketball, baseball/softball, football, and volleyball. He and his wife Christi reside in Lubbock along with daughter Brynnan (age 11) and son Taye (age 8).

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