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Coaching Roles and Skills

The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy describes the role of the sports coach as one that "enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to the degree that may not have been possible if left to their endeavours".

Dyson speaking to the 19th session of the International Olympic Academy, Greece 1979, widened the horizon when he said that "the wise coach develops not only the fullest physical potential in his charges but also those capacities and habits of mind and body which will enrich and ennoble their later years".

I also believe the role of the sports coach is to create the right conditions for learning to happen and to find ways of motivating the athletes. Most athletes are highly motivated, and therefore the task is to maintain that motivation and generate excitement and enthusiasm.

The coach's role could be quite daunting since the above implies what could be construed as a pretty important responsibility, especially for the part-time non-professional.

Coaching Roles

The roles that you will find you undertake as a coach will be many and varied, and you will find at some stage in your coaching career that you will be, but not limited to:

  • Advisor - Advise athletes on the training and suitable kit and equipment.
  • Assessor - Assessing athlete's performance in training and competition.
  • Counsellor - Resolving emotional problems because sharing anxieties can be both relieving and reassuring.
  • Demonstrator - Demonstrate to the athletes the skill you require them to perform.
  • Friend - Over the years of working with an athlete, a personal relationship is built up where and providing coaching advice, you also become someone, a friend, who they can discuss their problems or share their success with. It is important to keep personal information confidential because if you do not, all respect the athlete had for you as a friend and coach will be lost.
  • Facilitator - Identify suitable competitions for them to compete in to help them achieve their overall objectives for the year.
  • Factfinder - Gathering data of national and international results and to keep abreast of current training techniques.
  • Fountain of knowledge - This may be part of the advisor's role. You will often be asked questions on any sporting event, events on the television, diet, sports injuries and topics unrelated to their sport.
  • Instructor - Instructing athletes in the skills of their sport.
  • Mentor - When athletes attend training sessions, you are responsible for ensuring that they are safe and secure with their parents and family. You have to monitor their health and safety while training and support them should they have any problems or sustain any injuries.
  • Motivator - Maintain the motivation of all the athletes the whole year-round.
  • Organiser and planner - Preparation of each athlete's training plans and organising attendance at meetings and coaching clinics.
  • Role Model - A person who serves as a model in a particular behavioural or social role for another person to emulate. The way you conduct yourself while in the presence of your athletes provides an example of how they should behave - what sort of example should we be providing to someone else's children? Perhaps one of the most important roles of a coach.
  • Supporter - Competition can be a very nerve-racking experience for some athletes, and often they like you to be around to help support them through the pressures. Role of a 'Friend' and perhaps 'Counsellor' come in here too.

Coach/Athlete Training Roles

The roles of the coach and athlete in determining training requirements will change over the time an athlete is with a coach.

  • When an athlete first starts in a sport/event (cognitive stage), the coach's role is to direct the athlete in all aspects of training (telling or showing coaching style).
  • As the athlete develops and demonstrates a sound technical understanding (associative stage) of the sport/event then gradually the coach's role changes to one where the coach and athlete discuss and agree on appropriate training requirements (involving coaching style).
  • As the athlete matures and demonstrates a sound understanding of training principles (autonomous stage), tthe athlete will determine the training requirements. The coach's role is to become a mentor, providing advice and support as and when required.

Coaching skills

As a coach, you will initially need to develop the skills of organising, safety, building rapport, providing instruction and explanation, demonstrating, observing, analysing, questioning and giving feedback.


In organising the training session, you need to plan how you will manage the athletes, equipment and area - group athletes accordingly to numbers, ability and activity - continually check the plan is safe during the session.


In providing a safe environment for the athletes, you must assess the risk of the area, equipment and athletes - continue to assess risk throughout the session - keep athletes on the set task and follow correct practice and progressions.

Building Rapport

In building rapport with the athletes, learn and use their names, smile and make eye contact, coach the athlete rather than the sport, and show interest in and respect for the athletes.

Instruction and explanation

In providing Instruction and Explanation, you should think about and plan what you will say, gain the athlete's attention, ensure they can all hear you, keep it simple and to the point and check they understand by asking open questions.


In providing a demonstration, make sure you are in a position where the athletes can see and hear you, identify 1 or 2 key points for the athletes to focus on, repeat the demonstration in silence 2 or 3 times (side, back and front view), ask if they have any questions and check they understand by asking open questions. There are times when it might be more appropriate to use someone else to provide the demonstration.

Observation and Analysis

In observing and analysing, break the action down into phases, focus on one phase at a time, observe the action several times from various angles & distances, compare the action with your technical model and if appropriate determine what corrective action is required. Remember your ears can also be used to observe - e.g. listen to the rhythm of the feet of the hurdler.


In providing feedback, encourage the athlete to self-analyse by asking appropriate open questions, providing specific and straightforward advice, limiting the information to 1 or 2 points, checking they understand what they will do next, and making the whole process a positive experience for the athlete.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2005) Coaching Roles and Skills [WWW] Available from: [Accessed