Lessons Learned with MCE Graduate Christopher Hess

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Coach Christopher Hess, in hat, with members of the Ennis (MT) High School football team.

The drill was very familiar to Ennis High School football coach Christopher Hess. Hess was in his first year of coaching at the school, and he was eager for one of the team’s top players to complete the drill successfully. He knew that if the player could just grasp the concept, he could elevate his game immensely. And yet, despite Hess’ one-on-one approach to teaching it, the player grew increasingly frustrated with each attempt.

“He said, ‘This doesn’t replicate a game. I’d never use this,’” recalls Hess. “And I was getting mad. It was a drill I’d used forever and I’m like, ‘Ben, this is the best drill in the world, you just got to do it.’”

Four years later, Hess looks back on the moment and can identify how he might have handled the situation better. He credits Ohio University’s Master of Coaching Education (MCE) program for providing him with that insight.

The MCE program at OHIO teaches coaches to build their abilities through curriculum focused on advanced technical proficiency, tactical knowledge, and leadership skills. Coaches learn how to excel at all levels of competition and are taught to use a more athlete-centered approach to allow student-athletes a voice in their instruction.

Hess says that had he known then what he knows now, he might have asked the player, “All right, so what do we do to make it replicate what you want better?” And then he would have allowed the player to adjust the exercise rather than insisting on doing it the old-school, coach-knows-best way.

“The player was screaming for it just to be a little bit more of a competitive modeling situation and I didn’t give it to him,” Hess says. “It was so easy. He was feeding it to me, but I couldn’t see it at the time.’”

This strategy is just one example of the lessons Hess learned while earning an MCE degree from Ohio University. A former quarterback at Montana State University-Northern, Hess got into coaching because of the positive influence coaches had on him during his time as a student-athlete. “It pushed me in that direction where I, in turn, kind of wanted to do the same thing for other people and help them develop and hopefully find success,” Hess says.

The decision to enroll in the online MCE program allowed Hess to continue coaching high school football in Montana while working on a degree that fit his busy life. Hess began the program two years ago and graduated in August, just in time for the start of the 2018-19 high school football season, as well as about two months after he and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed their first child, Larkin.

Hess says the program provided him with the foundation to adapt when things are going wrong in a coaching situation. “I just have a much deeper foundation and much more confidence to deal with players and situations,” Hess says.

Regarding his participation in the program, Hess says, “I think a lot of good coaches might be on the right path, but it’s instantaneous that I had so many more resources, so many more people I could talk to if I had questions.”

“It just really covers every aspect you can think of in the coaching area to help you in things that are going to come up,” says Hess. “You might not see it all the time, it might not be easily interpreted at the time, but it’s in there. And a situation will come up and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I learned about.’ And so, here’s some tactics I could use, or I need to go research this a little bit more and see what I can figure out.”

Making the Connections at Ohio University’s Symposium

As part of the curriculum offered under OHIO’s MCE program, students are required to attend the on-campus Coaching Symposium. This four-day event offers workshops focused on game sense, with students required to view a podcast beforehand to become familiar with the event’s topics.

Hess says the event was extremely valuable. “They had various instructors from all over the world, which is cool because we dealt with different sports and different attitudes,” Hess says. “Then they helped us apply it, so we did mini-lessons and taught each other about applying game sense to our particular sport and [received] lots of feedback.”

The symposium also gave Hess the opportunity to build some better connections between peers and professors. “I ended up getting a lot from it,” he says.

About Ohio University’s Master of Coaching Education (MCE) Online Program

Ohio University’s online Master of Coaching Education program offers coaches the skills and abilities to help advance their careers. Coursework that includes psychology, management, and leadership prepares students to focus on the future of coaching and develop new competencies.

The program’s online format means that students can avoid the career disruptions that often come with a traditional classroom setting. For more information, visit Ohio University’s MCE page.

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