Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Marvin Berkowitz, PhD


Marvin W. Berkowitz, PhD (Chair)

Melinda C. Bier, PhD

Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD

David L. Shields, PhD

James V. Shuls, PhD


This six-week pilot study was conducted using grounded theory from “What Works in Character Education” (Berkowitz & Bier, 2014) and specifically the “PRIMED for Character Education” framework (Berkowitz, 2021) applied to 11 high school sport coaches. The three key ideas of focus were on whether the PRIMED framework could increase the coach-participants’ commitment to character education, self-efficacy as character educators, and self-identification as Servant Leaders in an effort to “nurture the flourishing of human goodness” (Berkowitz, 2021) of our youth and, in this case, specifically, high school student-athletes.

With millions of youth involved in sport in North America and across the world, the potential positive impact for good that sport coaches can play in the development of character is significant. The relevant literature in coaching for character training programs points to two major gaps in the literature: the need to establish grounded theory around what constitutes effective character education training programs for sport coaches, and a means to combat the “fade-out” effect prevalent in coaching for character training programs. It is integral that coaches are provided effective, evidence-based, training programs from which to influence their coaching behaviors and practices for character development.

This mixed methods (six-week) pilot study with high school sport coaches was the first of its kind to utilize the grounded, evidence-based theory of the PRIMED for Character Education framework while applying it to sport coaching. Qualitative research was the prioritized method of data collection in this study, though the quantitative research data (though not statistically tested due to small sample size) also contributed important findings.

The primary findings of this short six-week pilot study with 11 high school sport coaches provide strong evidence to suggest that the PRIMED for Coaching for Character framework was applicable and relevant to their coaching and a way to increase their commitment to and self-efficacy for character education, as well as their self-identification as Servant Leaders with their sports teams. The two secondary findings of relevance to the field revealed that short interventions (brief orientation and length of time of study) could be effective; and the innovation of “weekly text prompts” could provide a possible solution to combat the “fade-out” effect. The findings from this pilot study can be built upon in future studies to enhance coaching for character training programs to benefit the millions of youth participating in sport each year.