Coaching Cybersecurity Competitions: The Rewards
While sport coaches are often visible and vocal during competitions, CyberPatriot coaches like Bill Blatchley can only watch silently on the sidelines as his team executes on months of preparation. The experience of coaching in CyberPatriot – a national cybersecurity competition for middle to high school students – has been incredibly rewarding for Blatchley. He feels a sense of pride during these tense final moments as he sees his students take ownership over cyber topics throughout the competition.
Blatchley became a coach to support his Civil Air Patrol unit. When asked to describe what his coaching experience has taught him, he explains, “part of it is patience, part of it is learning to read the students so I know what their needs are and how to best help them.”
He later added, “It’s rewarding seeing the students’ success, and seeing the long-term potential that [cybersecurity] has for them.”
Blatchley has coached the Wolfpack, a Civil Air Patrol unit based out of Colorado, in the CyberPatriot competition for seven years. This year, the Wolfpack’s Varsity team–one of three Wolfpack teams Blatchley coaches–secured first place in the All Services Division during the National Finals. It’s not the first trip to Nationals for the Wolfpack, or even their first win, and Blatchley expects it won’t be their last. The Wolfpack Varsity team is comprised of four high school juniors who plan to return next year.
Like all coaches, Blatchley wants to see his team take first place every year, but encourages others to join the competition. He helps mentor other teams in the Colorado area on an ad hoc basis, and doesn’t want any potential new coach to feel intimidated by cybersecurity competitions.
“It’s collaborative but also competitive with coaches,” he explains. “My goal is to help other teams, but also help my team win.”
Blatchley also shared that volunteers shouldn’t feel put off by the term ‘Coach’ either. “A sports coach is the one that knows everything; in CyberPatriot, the coach is the facilitator. They can be an expert, but the coach does not need to be an expert.”
In fact, Blatchley joined these competitions without any direct cybersecurity experience. He applies general software knowledge, but noted that the materials provided by the competition – modules to assist you as you start coaching – are incredibly helpful for new coaches. Then, as students gain an understanding of the foundations, they can take on more self-directed learning efforts.
“In the last few years, I haven’t had to find [the cadets] resources. They basically taught themselves with my guidance,” Blatchley said.
Find a Competition to Coach
Blatchley’s experience with CyberPatriot is just one example of how rewarding it is to participate in the numerous cybersecurity competitions taking place each year. To find the cybersecurity competition that’s right for you, check out CyberCompEx.
CyberCompEx is a website on which competition organizers list competitions and identify the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework category and specialty areas associated with the competition subject matter. It is a great resource to find and join open competitions, review past competitions, and connect with cybersecurity professionals. Learn more about the features of CyberCompEx in our blog post, here.
Experience the fulfillment of helping students discover their interest in cybersecurity, while networking with like-minded teachers and professionals: visit CyberCompEx.org and sign up to coach a competition team today.