The Roles of the Coach - Part One

What Are the Roles of the Coach?
Athletics hold an important place in our society. The coach is at the center of this important place in athletics. The coach’s position carries a great deal of responsibility and has a powerful influence on the athletes with whom they deal. The roles of the coach are diverse in that the coach must wear many hats in performing his/her duties. This article will briefly share some of the roles the coach must play in athletics. These roles will differ with the various levels in which one coaches, whether it is at the youth, high school, or college age group.


The Coach as Leader
Society has placed the coach in the role of a leader by virtue of his/her position. Merely because one is placed in a leadership position or is given the title of coach, which implies that he or she is a leader, does not automatically make him/her a leader. The coach must have the ability of bringing people into the leader’s way of thinking and behaving, and having them agree that this way is the correct path to follow. Coaching is the arrangement of people (staff and players) to achieve a common goal,. The coach must earn their respect if he or she wants the staff and team to follow, When all begin to work on a task, the true leader emerges. In order to accomplish this, the leader must have a clear picture of the task, understands the make up of the group, and has a plan for accomplishing the task that is within the ability of the group, The coach will have to decide which leader behaviors are central to the concept of his or her leadership style. Different coaches leadership styles will be discussed in a future Coaching Corner article.

The Role of the Coach in His/Her Personal Time Commitment
The coach must be cognizant of his/her role as a family member. Coaches spend long hours in their jobs. Coaches must become aware of all the time and energies they spend on the job, with other people’s children: and save time, energy, and devotion for their own children and spouses. A single coach that has no children or household obligations are free to devote all his/her time and energy to the job, but a married coach or a coach with a significant other has to find time for his or her family life too.

The Role of the Coach as a Disciplinarian
Discipline may be defined as the condition of athlete behavior the coach maintains for the team. Much has been written about tough disciplined coaches like Vince Lombardi, Paul “Bear” Bryant, and the present day Bill Parcells. Most coaches want to be liked by their athletes. There is a difference between being popular and respected, but a coach can be both respected and popular. Most youth and high school athletes are immature. They need guidance and a set of standards (rules) that will spell out behaviors on the team. Most discipline problems occur when there is a lack of agreement in meaningful and significant goals between the coach and the athlete. When this occurs, a coach may be required to impose a regime of discipline or standards of appropriate behavior for the team. The coach’s job is to set clear, meaningful observable rules and consequences for the team. The coach must be fair, be firm, and consistent dealing with the team.

The coach who is not able to set clear defined boundaries of acceptable team behaviors will not be effective in dealing with the team. Your personal approach will create the team climate. The most appropriate form of discipline for the athlete is self-discipline. The coach and the athlete must strive for this goal.

The Role of the Assistant Coach
The main role of the assistant coach is to work effectively with the head coach in order to attain the common team goal. This common goal can be accomplished through cooperation and teamwork with the head coach. The quality of the interaction between the head coach and the team sets the stage for effective action. In order to avoid conflicts, the head coach must clearly spell out the assistant coach’s responsibilities with the team. If the head coach does not do this, it will lead to conflicts within the team.

The Coach as a Teacher
Coaches must be familiar with the principles involved in the process of learning. The coach must be able to break down a skill so the athlete can understand how and when to perform the skill. The coach must understand how to teach a skill to different age groups and show the athlete how to apply this skill in a game situation The coach must have the ability to explain and demonstrate the technique step-by-step and provide reasons for each of the steps.

In order to keep abreast of new tactics and strategies, the coach should build a personal library in the sport which he or she coaches. Other ways to stay up-to-date in your sport are to take coaching classes; talk to other coaches; attend conferences and coaching clinics; and join the national and state coaching associations in the sport.

The Coach and the Public
The coach is always in the limelight of the community. How a coach conducts himself or herself in public is how the community will view him/her and his/her team. The coach must cultivate a positive working relationship with all representatives of the media and the public. The coach must become well versed in the use of the written word, the spoken word, and the visual media in dealing with the public. One will be asked to write for the paper, speak at various events, speak on the radio, as well as, appear on television.

Presently, many coaches are asked to help as a fundraiser. In order to do this, you will be asked to cooperate with parent groups, booster clubs, and other athletic support groups. Your ability to communicate clearly and precisely with your athletes, as well as the public, is paramount to your success as a coach. In the second part of this article we will explore more roles of the coach in the context of today’s society.


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Martens R. (1990) Successful coaching (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Lombardo, B. L. Mancini, V. H., & Wuest, D. A. (1995) The humanistic sport experience: Visions and realities. Dubuque, IA: Brown & Benchmark.

Lombardo, B. L., Caravella-Nadean, T., Castagno, K., & Mancini, V. H., (2002). Sport in the 21st century: Alternatives for the new millennium. Needham Heights, MA: Pearson Pub.

Sabock, R. J.,(1985). “Recruiting,” Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 56(6), 26.

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