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Coach (sport)

Coach (sport)

In sports, a coach is a person involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sportspeople. A coach may also be a teacher.


The original sense of the word coach is that of a horse-drawn carriage, deriving ultimately from the Hungarian city of Kocs where such vehicles were first made. Students at the University of Oxford in the early nineteenth century used the slang word to refer to a private tutor who would drive a less able student through his examinations just like horse driving.

Britain took the lead in upgrading the status of sports in the 19th century. For sports to become professionalized, "coacher" had to become established. It gradually professionalized in the Victorian era and the role was well established by 1914. In the First World War, military units sought out the coaches to supervise physical conditioning and develop morale-building teams.[1]

Support staff

A coach, particularly in a professional league, is usually supported by one or more assistant coaches and specialist support staff. The staff may include coordinators, strength and fitness specialists, and trainers. In elite sport, the role of nutritionists, biomechanists and physiotherapists will all become critical to the overall long-term success of a coach and athlete. They work on the over all responsibility of their athletes.

Association football

In association football, the duties of a coach can vary depending on the level they are coaching at and the country they are coaching in, amongst others. In youth football, the primary objective of a coach is to aid players in the development of their technical skills, with emphasis on the enjoyment and fair play of the game rather than physical or tactical development.[2] In recent decades, efforts have been made by governing bodies in various countries to overhaul their coaching structures at youth level with the aim of encouraging coaches to put player development and enjoyment ahead of winning matches.

In professional football, the role of the coach or trainer is limited to the training and development of a club's "first team" in most countries. The coach is aided by a number of assistant coaches, one of which carries the responsibility for the training and preparation of the goalkeepers. The coach is also assisted by medical staff and athletic trainers. The medium to long term strategy of a football club, with regard to transfer policies, youth development and other sporting matters, is not the business of a coach in most football countries. The presence of a sporting director is designed to give the medium term development of a club the full attention of one professional, allowing the coach to focus on improving and producing performances from the players under their charge.[3] The system also provides a certain level of protection against overspending on players in search of instant success. In football, the director of a professional football team is more commonly awarded the position of manager, a role that combines the duties of coach and sporting director.

The responsibilities of a European football manager tend to be divided up in North American professional sports, where the teams usually have a separate general manager and head coach, although occasionally a person may fill both roles of general manager and head coach. While the first team coach in football is usually an assistant to the manager who actually holds the real power, the American style general manager and head coach have clearly distinct areas of responsibilities. For example, a typical European football manager would have the final say on player lineups and contract negotiations, while in American sports these duties would be handled separately by the head coach and general manager, respectively.


In baseball, at least at the professional level in North America, the individual who heads the coaching staff does not use the title of "head coach", but is instead called the field manager. Baseball "coaches" at that level are members of the coaching staff under the overall supervision of the manager, with each coach having a specialized role. The baseball field manager is essentially equivalent a head coach in other American professional sports leagues; player transactions are handled by the general manager. The term manager used without qualification almost always refers to the field manager, while the general manager is often called the GM.

At amateur levels, the terminology is more similar to that of other sports. The person known as the "manager" in professional leagues is generally called the "head coach" in amateur leagues; this terminology is standard in U.S. college baseball.

American football

In American football, like many other sports, there are many coaches and assistant coaches. American football includes a head coach, an assistant head coach, an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, a special teams coordinator, offensive and defensive line coaches, coaches for every position, and a strength and conditioning coach, among other positions.[4]

United Kingdom

Sports coaching in the UK follows a highly structured pattern in principle, but is delivered by a workforce which is largely volunteer-based. Recognising the pivotal role played by coaches in increasing participation and performance in sport, each of the UK's Home Country Sports Councils has a coaching strategy aligned to their overall strategy.

In June 2008, the Sports Councils together with the national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) formally adopted the UK Coaching Framework at the UK Coaching Summit in Coventry.

More than thirty sports have their coach education programmes endorsed as meeting the standards of the UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) as an indication of quality assurance. Typically, such programmes classify coaches within Levels 1–4, with Level 2 being the minimum standard for someone to coach unaccompanied. Coach education programmes are usually organised centrally by the NGBs but delivered locally to meet the needs of volunteer coaches. For anyone wanting to become a coach in a particular sport, the NGB website provides the first point of contact for further information.

Each of the counties in England has a County Sports Partnership (CSP) funded by Sport England which supports local coaching networks to bring coaches from different sports together to share best practice and gain further continuing professional development (CPD). Similar arrangements exist across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The safeguarding and protection of children in sport has been a major focus for sports coach UK and the NSPCC for many years. Short workshops on safeguarding are the most popular of all CPD sessions organised by sports coach UK and delivered across the CSP network.

The UK government, through DCMS, highlighted the need for detailed research into sports coaching patterns. As a result, major tracking studies have been completed. These confirm that three in every four coaches are volunteers, typically giving up three hours a week to coach their sport. Fewer than 5% of coaches in the UK are full-time professionals, in stark contrast to the USA.

United States

All major U.S. collegiate sports have associations for their coaches to engage in professional development activities, but some sports' professional coaches have less formal associations, without developing into a group resembling a union in the way that athletic players in many leagues have.

U.S. collegiate coaching contracts require termination without the payment of a settlement if the coach is found to be in serious violation of named rules, usually with regard to the recruiting or retention of players in violation of amateur status.

The NFL head coaches have an association, called NFL Coaches Association (NFLCA), which includes all the coaches in the NFL, except New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Many coaching contracts allow the termination of the coach with little notice and without specific cause, usually in the case of high-profile coaches with the payment of a financial settlement. Coaching is a very fickle profession, and a reversal of the team's fortune often finds last year's "Coach of the Year" to be seeking employment in the next. Many coaches are former players of the sport themselves, and coaches of professional sports teams are sometimes retired players.

On some teams, the principal coach (usually referred to as the head coach) has little to do with the development of details such as techniques of play or placement of players on the playing surface, leaving this to assistants while concentrating on larger issues such as recruitment and organizational development.

Successful coaches often become as well or even better-known than the athletes they coach, and in recent years have come to command high salaries and have agents of their own to negotiate their contracts with the teams. Often the head coach of a well-known team has his or her own radio and television programs and becomes the primary "face" associated with the team.

Both the collegiate and professional-level coaches may have contracts for millions of dollars a year. The head coach at the professional level has more time to devote to tactics and playbooks, which are combed over by staff that are usually paid more than at the college level. The pro level head coaching, due to the extensive time on the road and long hours, is a very stressful job. Since the money is good at high levels, many coaches retire in their early fifties. Also, professional staffs are not limited in the number of assistants which can be hired, NCAA Division I FBS teams are limited to nine full-time assistant coaches.

Many factors are part of NFL coaches' contracts. These involve the NFL's $11 billion as the highest-revenue sport in North America, topping Major League Baseball's (MLB) $7 billion, while holding a non-taxpaying exemption that the MLB does not. The unusual distinction of being a tax-exempt multibillion-dollar corporation and a tax-exempt monopoly[5] that can move teams from one city to another, is combined with stadiums sometimes built through tax-free borrowing by the cities, which every American taxpayer pays for in public subsidies.[6] The NFL's coaches are the highest-paid professional coaches[7] with professional football topping the list in Forbes' highest-paid sports coaches. Bill Belichick was in the top spot for the second year in a row[8] with no MLB or National Hockey League coaches making the list.

Another major element of NFL coaches' contracts, negotiated between individual coaches and NFL "teams" and owners, are NFL-demanded provisions in the coaches' employment contracts, that authorize the employing NFL teams to withhold part of a coach's salary when league operations are suspended, such as during lockouts or television contract negotiations.[9]

Emotions in Coaching

“Emotions can be considered complex interactive entities encompassing subjective and objective factors consisting of affective, cognitive, conative, and physiological components” (Communication Research Trends, 2005). Without emotion, communication would be inefficient. Emotions provide context and reason of the way individuals feel after a specific situation related to communication. “Emotions can play an important role in how we think and behave.”[10] Decisions are made from emotions and emotions can directly reflect the communication within experiences.
“Athletes’ expressions of dissent are largely unrecognized, which limits coaches’ abilities to manage their teams and athletes’ abilities to voice themselves effectively” [11]. Coaching a sports team can be a highly emotional experience due to the high pressure of success. Fans rely on the athletes for success; however, the fans highly explain the absence of success on the coaching staff. When a team is unsuccessful, fans blame the coaching staff because they are the management of the team. Coaching is also highly emotional due to emotions of athletes. Coaching is a high demand profession in which focuses directly on communication. Coaching would be impossible without communication. Clear and concise communication is needed to effectively engage with athletes and express actions. Concise communication is needed in coaching sports’ teams to effectively discuss direction of tasks. This can be an emotional process because athletes correspond differently to different communication styles. Coaching is an emotional experience because you must worry about not only your own emotions but also the athletes’ emotions. Emotions can be segregated between positive and negative and those can subsequently have a positive or negative outcome on the coaching environment. Emotions are used every day and provide feelings as well as a form of communication. There are many forms of emotions within communication; however, coaches focus on positive and negative emotions, verbal and nonverbal emotions and communication to interact with athletes to promote success. Coaches express positive emotion to promote motivation among athletes. Many of the positive emotions expressed by athletes and coaches can be expressed but hard to define as a coach have to focus on limiting the negative emotions and showing up for his player positive emotions that will help him compete and not feel any lack of confidence & self esteem. While there are hundreds of positive emotions, positive emotions such as gratitude, interest, hope, pride, and inspiration are all emotions expressed by coaches and athletes.

“Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, towards the giver of such gifts” [12]. Gratitude can be a positive emotion expressed by coaches by the act of generosity towards players. Ohio State University football team uses stickers on the players’ helmets as a form of success. According to ESPN, “Every team member, however, receives a buckeye for each OSU win, plus an additional sticker for Big Ten victories.” [13] Ohio State University football coaches use the emotion, gratitude, by expressing generosity by giving stickers (gifts) and feelings of appreciation toward athletes.

Interest is an emotion that causes attention to focus on a specific object and generates curiosity. The curiosity imposed by interest not only is the state of attention; it is rather a state of attraction. Attention drawn to a something specific can be described as interest. An interest is curiosity or desire in something specific. For example, a coach of a sports team may have interest in his athletes by caring for them on and off the field. Coaches monitor athlete’s performance off the field in areas such as school and personal lives. The balance is important for a coach to maintain because the coaches being too involved would create conflict and interference with the athletes’ personal lives. Coaches express interest in athletes through recruiting as well. Expressing interest in an athlete at a college level involves the coaches reaching out to the athlete and expressing interest for the athlete to join their program.

Hope derives from human emotion and comes from comfort and security. The emotion of hope is when an individual believes in something in which is yet to be determined. For example, a coach may have hope in his athletes in that they perform to their best ability. “I hope he catches this ball to score the touchdown”. An athlete may also experience the emotion hope. An athlete may hope for success in relation to their future. Hope is an emotion in which describes the individual's aspirations for future endeavors. Coaches’ hope for the team can positively affect the direction and mentality of a team.

Pride is an emotion in which an individual may feel accomplished and happy. Pride usually comes after some sort of success. The feeling of pride comes from a sense of achievement. A coach may experience pride within himself or with his athletes after winning an important game. The emotion of pride is often frowned upon, regarding religion; however, pride is important in coaching because the athletes should feel appreciated and wanted from the coach therefore causing a sense of pride. Being prideful in coaching is more about the team being successful opposed to the coach himself. Pride as an emotion can be described as a key component to a successful coaching strategy.

Inspiration is an emotion that describes the feeling of wanting to be better. Inspiration usually comes after great success. For example, after a very successful season, a team may be inspired to be better than the previous season. A coach may be inspired by his athletes because they have challenged him to be better as well. Coaching is the primary responsibility and focus for the success of the team. For a coach to be highly successful, he or she must inspire his athletes to be great. Inspiration is an emotion in which you feel the desire to accomplish set goals.


Coaching courses and training seminars are increasingly available. One important role of coaches, especially youth coaches, is establishing safety for school-age athletes. This requires knowledge of CPR, prevention of dehydration, and following current concussion management guidelines.[14][15]

Game plan

Coaches also often create game plans, or instructions for what their players will do during the game. For every sport, there are different game plans.[16] For example, in association football, the coach may choose to have a goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. However, a coach may also choose to have a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. It is up to the coaches to decide how many players will play a certain position at a time, as long as they do not surpass the maximum number of players allowed on the playing field at one time. It is also up to the coaches to decide where and when a certain player is going to play.

See also

  • Head coach (American football)

  • Fitness professional

  • Manager (association football)

  • Coach (baseball)

  • Manager (baseball)

  • Coach (basketball)

  • Manager (Gaelic games)

  • Coach (ice hockey)

  • Player-coach

  • Player-manager

  • Coaching staff

  • Coaching tree

  • Coach of the Year

  • Personal trainer

  • Sports trainer

  • Strength and conditioning coach


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