Coach Ashley Helmkay (far right) and team
A home run for the vip coaching program
30 January, 2024

In the summer of 2023, signups for Canadian Sport Institute Atlantic’s VIP coaching program – an initiative to encourage coaches to excel in ethical leadership – reached a record-high. More than 60 coaches from the Dartmouth District Minor Baseball Association enrolled in the program and 11 of those have achieved VIP coaching status.

It’s not just another certification program; it’s more of a recognition program, according to Allison Saunders, community coaching lead at CSI Atlantic. “We want to celebrate and support coaches across Nova Scotia in various sports and levels,” she says. Through the VIP program, coaches gain access to free education, resources, networking opportunities, and professional development.

Coach Brian Second (far right) and team

“The coolest part is you get this built-in community of like-minded people who might be working in different regions of the province or different sports, but are facing the same challenges,” Saunders says. “VIP members have opportunities throughout the year to connect with other coaches.”

In the past, the VIP program was pitched to individual coaches. But this summer, a collaboration with the Dartmouth District Minor Baseball Association (DDMBA) proved beneficial. The association mandated their coaches to sign up, upload a Criminal Record Check, and proof of Safe Sport Training Certification. Coaches were encouraged to continue working towards the other benchmarks to achieve VIP status, like completing two online courses, Make Ethical Decisions and Commit to Kids.

“It's a win-win for clubs that sign up and their coaches,” Saunders says. Many clubs are volunteer-run, which translates to piles of administrative work for people who are time pressed as it is. But with the VIP program, tracking coach training compliance is simple. The Institute uses Sideline Learning, an online compliance tracking platform that keeps important information, like certifications and background checks, all in one location.

A quick peek at Sideline and Saunders can keep clubs up to date on which coach has completed which training or whose certification is nearing expiry. This saves the clubs the headache of chasing coaches down individually.

Lorri Arnold, president of the Porters Lake Baseball Association, encouraged coaches to sign up. “The program gives coaches an opportunity to continue their ethical leadership all while being supported by leaders in the industry,” Arnold said. “It provides better access to your coaches’ credentials and resources to help coaches with their needs and goals. And it gives clubs a better understanding of each coaches’ goals.” “We want to make it accessible and barrier-free for coaches to become involved,” Saunders says. Courses are free and CSI Atlantic subsidizes the $25 Criminal Record Check. With these incentives, proactive coaches eager to create positive environments and continue their education can go all in on coaching.

The $300 Under Armour swag kit for coaches who reach VIP status doesn’t hurt, either. “This is a great incentive to complete training in a timely manner,” Arnold says. “It can be customized with each club’s logo. It helps identify coaches on the field and helps with the cost of coaching uniforms.” Saunders agrees coaches are excited to get the swag kit, “but the real perks are the resources and opportunities that come from being part of the program.” In the off-season, CSI Atlantic offers virtual webinars, 50 per cent off the Atlantic Coaches Conferences, and social mixers for VIP coaches. Saunders says the partnership between the DDMBA and the Institute was mutually beneficial. As baseball season wraps up, Saunders has her sights set on recruiting other clubs and associations in the goal of coaching excellence. Next on the list? Volleyball and lacrosse.