David Ellis remembers his first day as a baseball coach.
"When you're out there and all these kids are looking at you for guidance, itcan be a little scary," said Ellis, who started out coaching 5-year-olds in clinic baseball at the Emmorton Recreation Council.
Ellis, of course, isn't the only one who's had those feelings as a rookie coach.
Since most volunteers in recreation sports have little or no background in coaching, they often aren't sure just what to do.
To give them a boost -- in confidence as well as coaching technique -- the Harford County Parks and Recreation department offers a helping hand. The American Coaching Effectiveness Program (ACEP), anine-hour seminar, is presented three times a year to help volunteercoaches learn the basics.
The seminar, which just finished a three-night run to rave reviews, will be offered again in the spring. Ellis, who attended the most recent seminar, highly recommends ACEP.
"When you're brand new to something like trying to coach for the first time, you need something to hang onto, to give you structure and guidance," said Ellis. "If you go out there cold, organizationally speaking, it's so hard. You can have doubts about yourself, and the kids sense that."
Bill Kress started coaching two years ago when his son, Justin, 8, began playing soccer in the Forest Hill Rec Council.
"As a dad coming in and getting involved, sometimes you think, 'Well, I'm just going to go up there for an hour for the kids to have a good time.' But there's more to it than that. Anybody who gets involvedhas to put a little more effort into it," said Kress.
The ACEP seminar is not geared to a single sport. What you learn is applicable to coaching any sport.
"The philosophy of ACEP is athletes first, winning second," said Rob Bailey, supervisor for the Northern Districtoffice. "We stress that you, as a coach, make all of your decisions based on the welfare of your team member first and the outcome of thegame second."
Bailey teaches the seminars along with Paul Yanney,chief of the recreation department, and Jeff Berthney, supervisor for the Eastern District.
Among the points covered through the nine hours:
Keeping winning in perspective, communicating more effectively with athletes, teaching sports skills effectively, developing physical training programs, preventing sports injuries and managing risks inherent in sports.
After the course, coaches can complete a take-home test to receive national certification as a leader level coach. Bailey said approximately 60 percent of the volunteers who compete the course get their certification.
Although the course is not required for volunteer coaches, Bailey said about 300 have gone through the program during the five years it has been offered here.
Ellis and Kress both picked up pointers on relating to young children, whose attention spans are very short. Practice sessions have to be kept lively, so the youngsters can have fun while they learn.
Dennis Allgeier coaches his son Kevyn in under-10 soccer at St. Stephen's. But he said ACEP has also taught him how to be a better spectator at games featuring sons Bryan, 13, and Daryn, 5.
"One of the most important points was that parents are 90 percent of the problem. They don't know the game, and they don't know the rules. And they interject whenthey shouldn't. I used to be very loud. Now I'm trying to calm down."
All three said they learned that they were doing some things wrong as coaches; but they were also doing a lot of things right.
"You don't have to know it all," said Ellis. "I think the key to is is to be organized and try to show some enthusiasm, and that will take you a long way."
Anyone interested signing up for the next ACEP program should call Bailey, 838-5444, weekdays between 8:30 and 4:30.