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Roles of a Head Coach

If coaching were merely a matter of teaching youngsters the fundamentals of a particular sport, the job would be relatively simple, and 2/3 of all former athletes would want to do it. In truth, a head coach is called on to fulfill many roles. The degree of involvement in the numerous roles varies with coaches, the sport, the number of athletes involved, circumstances, and the basic philosophy of the coach.


Many youth coaches may only have to concern themselves with running practices, coaching in games, and informing the parents of each. Coaches at higher levels concern themselves with finances, fundraising, boosters relationships, administrative team functions, and many other things.

A coach is a teacher

The late Bart Giamatti, former Yale president and Commissioner of Baseball, emphasized the point that coaches are just teachers with a different sort of classroom.


As a teacher of athletics, the coach must be knowledgeable of the sport, more so as the age increases.  You can develop this understanding of the sport by attending clinics, researching on your own (google, YouTube, podcasts, books, etc) as well as online courses and netrowking with other coaches.

A coach is a psychologist

One of the greatest, and most overlooked, responsibilities of a coach is to understand the people he or she coaches. The more research the coach conducts into psychology and personality theory, the better the coach will become. Understanding the personality of your players will help you understand how to motivate them, how to push them, who will perform under pressure, who needs encouragement, who should pair up with whom, and so many other things.

The best personality test out there is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test outlines your 4-character personality type and displays information as to who you'll get along with, how well you'll work with other personality types, what frustrates or angers you, what calms you, how often you need alone time, what type of goals work for you, how anxiety will effect you, and many, many other things. Understanding your type will also help you select assistant coaches. If your personality doesn't match well with another coach, or a players, it's important to understand how to overcome this. Learning more about the MBTI will help you achieve this understanding.

A coach is an organizer

The ability to organize well is critical for any coach in any sport at any age or developmental level. This may take the form of practice plans and snack schedules, or it could mean offseason workouts and training camps. Keeping the schedule, and the team, organized is primarily the responsibility of the head coach, but with good management skills, it's prudent for the head coach to disseminate certain aspects to assistant coaches and administrative assistants, if possible.

A coach is a trainer

Many teams don't have a medically trained member of the staff. At the high school level, there is often a part-time trainer available for games, but not always practices.


It is absolutely essential the coaches are prepared to handle medical emergencies. To do this, the coach must learn CPR, basic first aid, and remain certified in both, as well as learn common techniques such as how to tape an ankle, deal with blisters, etc. If you don't know how to identify the signs of commotio cordis, you don't know enough.  












Important to note - ensure you're aware of the legal responsibilities and limitations to what type of care you can provide. Each state has different regulations on this topic and it's your responsibility as a coach to adhere to those guidelines.

A coach is a leader

A manager is appointed and forces subordinates to follow. A leader is selected and has a following.

A leader is such in words, deeds, and image. The leader must be the example and the one to provide direction and support. The leader is concerned with the team and what he or she can best do to support them. A leader is selfless and confident. A leader takes criticism and deflects compliments to his or her players. A leader is always physically and mentally present and always cares for his players. A leader is strong and bold, but caring and approachable. A leader is a member of the team, not above the team. A leader is hungry for knowledge and eager to pass it along. A leader motivates and inspires. A leader has vision and manages the delivery of that vision.

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." - Ronald Reagan

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

"While a good leader sustains momentum, a great leader increases it." - John C. Maxwell

A coach is a guidance counselor

It is very common for youngsters to look to their coach for advice and guidance with a problem or concern. Athletes are often faced with a problem they feel they cannot discuss with their parents or the school guidance counselor, and because of the special bond between player and coach, it's the coach they turn to.

One of the concepts of guidance is to let the student do most of the talking. You should attempt to make the player see all sides of the conversation and to recognize all of the possibilities. With guidance, the coach should provide help and advice but should not tell the athlete what action to take.

Another consideration is that of the privileged conversations. As the coach, you may very well find yourself on the receiving end of information given to you in the strictest confidence because the athlete has trust and faith in you. Be careful, however, not to get yourself boxed into a dangerous situation. For more on this, click here.

Sometimes advice is not what the student needs; he or she may just need someone to listen. Despite your busy schedule, no child should be  turned away in this situation. In the entire career of the athlete, this could be one of the most important moments and you, as the coach, should never underestimate your role. Remember this, student athletes never interrupt a teacher or a coach's work - the student is the reason your job exists.

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