“A conference like this can raise the standard of coaching,” said Vern Gambetta, conference keynote speaker and athletic trainer who has worked for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Mets and Chicago White Sox.
“That’s why I’m here. Coaching is so much more than physical training. It’s how you organize, manage and communicate. To see character-building being revived in a program like the one here at Concordia is gratifying.”
More than 50 sports professionals from diverse backgrounds taught intensive classes to 350 conference attendees over the course of a week. Mornings were spent in the classrooms and afternoons on the fields and courts applying the knowledge.
Harold Strauss, a student in the MCAA program, attended the conference and earned graduate units toward his degree. Strauss coached football at the high school level for 32 years and is the athletics director at Colton High School near San Bernardino. He was recently inducted into the Southern California Interscholastic Football Coaches Association hall of fame, and three of his former players were drafted into the NFL this year, the most of any high school in the U.S.
Strauss says that from his first class at CUI he “fell in love with the program, the instructors and the whole process.”
“Some of the programs I had seen fellow coaches go through were like paper factories,” Strauss says. “But at Concordia they are serious about what they’re doing. The biggest impact on me has been their emphasis on character and leadership. I’m excited about that because I’m doing a lot of mentoring of younger coaches. The skills and emphasis Concordia places on character and leadership is so strong, it’s applicable to someone like me who has been in education for 32 years. I get so fired up I go for the max in every class.”
Strauss says the line-up of speakers was as good as at any conference he has attended, including the many at which he has spoken.
“It was worth every second,” he says. “This conference and program are a gold mine for coaches. Concordia is at the forefront of what’s needed in the athletic realm. I think every coach should be involved. Even if they have their master’s degree they should go through this program. The principles they teach in Concordia’s MCAA are the ones I’ve lived by for 32 years, so to be solidified in those is an awesome feeling.”
Tom White, creator and director of the MCAA degree program and conference, worked for 37 years in public schools and community colleges as a coach and athletic administrator before coming to CUI to pioneer a program which offers graduate-level professional development for coaches and athletics administrators. Concordia was one of the first universities in the nation to offer a master’s degree in coaching, and it remains the only one to offer strong practical training with a foundation in ethics and character-building.
In less than six years the program has gone from 12 students to hundreds earning degrees on campus and online. The commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation and other sports leaders are among the program’s instructors.
“Athletics is a perfect environment to teach character,” says White. “That’s embedded in every course and every teacher here. We believe ethics, role modeling and sportsmanship are the heart of any athletics program. All of life’s virtues can be taught through athletics. Coaches have a tremendous opportunity to have a positive influence in people’s lives.”
Keynote speakers throughout the week-long conference reflected this emphasis, encouraging athletics leaders to use their influence to shape student-athletes’ performance and character. In addition to Gambetta, speakers included the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association Grant Taeff, Olympic gold medal-winning softball coach Sue Enquist, leading mental skills training consultant Dr. Ken Ravizza of CSU Fullerton, and Norm Chow, offensive coordinator for the University of Utah football team and tutor to three Heisman trophy winners and numerous NFL first-round draft picks including Hall of Famer Steve Young.
The conference was unique in that it offered tracks for athletics leaders in a wide range of sports including football, volleyball, water polo, wrestling and more.
“People are saying the conference brought them together in a very special way,” says White. “The keynote speakers and individual class presenters did an amazing job of creating an environment for professional growth, development and networking.”
More information about the Master of Arts in Coaching and Athletics Administration
More information about the California Coaches Conference