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Code of Ethics & Conduct
for Sports Coaches


The National Coaching Foundation has developed the following from the Code of Ethics (1989) published by the British Institute of Sports Coaches (BISC). It also adopts the principles of ithe Council of Europe's Code of Sports Ethics. The BISC Code formed the value statement underpinning the National Vocational Qualification Standards (1992) for Coaching, Teaching and Instructing. This code has replaced the original BISC code, as stated in the revised standards (1998). The code is a framework within which to work and is a series of guidelines rather than instructions.


Sports coaches are expected to conform to ethical standards in several areas: humanity, relationships, commitment, cooperation, integrity, advertising, confidentiality, abuse of privilege, safety and competence.


Coaches must respect every human being's rights, dignity, and worth and their ultimate right to self-determination. Specifically, coaches must treat everyone equitably and sensitively, within the context of their activity and ability, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, cultural background, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation.


The right coach will be concerned primarily with the well-being, safety, protection and future of the individual performer. There must be a balance between the development of performance and the individual's social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs.

A key element in a coaching relationship is the development of independence. Performers must be encouraged and guided to accept responsibility for their behaviour and performance in training, competition, domestic, academic, or business life.

Coaches are responsible for setting and monitoring the boundaries between a working relationship and friendship with their performers. This is particularly important when a performer is a young person. The coach must realise that certain situations or friendly words and actions could be misinterpreted, not only by the performer but also by outsiders (or other members of a squad or group of performers) motivated by jealousy, dislike or mistrust, and could lead to allegations of misconduct or impropriety.

Where physical contact between coach and performer is a necessary part of the coaching process, coaches must ensure that no action on their part could be misconstrued and that any National Governing Body (NGB) guidelines on this matter are followed.

The relationship between coach and performer relies heavily on mutual trust and respect. This means that the performer should be aware of the coach's qualifications and experience and must be allowed to consent to or decline proposals for training, performance or competition.


Coaches should clarify with performers (and employers) the number of sessions, fees (if any), and payment method. They should explore with performers (and employers) the expectation of coaching. Written contracts may be appropriate in some circumstances.

Coaches are responsible for declaring to their performers and employers any other current coaching commitments. They should also determine if prospective clients receive instruction from another teacher/coach. If so, the teacher/coach should be contacted to discuss the situation.

Coaches who become aware of a conflict between their obligation to their performers and their commitment to their NGB (or other organisations employing them) must make eplicit to all parties concerned the nature of the conflict and the loyalties and responsibilities involved.

Coaches should expect a similar level of reciprocal commitment from their performers. In particular, the performer (parent/guardian in the case of a minor) should inform the coach of any change in circumstances that might affect the coach/performer relationship.

Coaches should receive appropriate acknowledgement for their contribution to the performer's progress and achievement. Where money is earned from performances, it is reasonable to expect the coach should obtain an appropriate share of the rewards. Such apportionment with any attendant conditions should be agreed upon in advance (in writing) to avoid misunderstanding.


Coaches should communicate and co-operate with other sports and allied professions in the best interests of their performers. An example of such contact could be the seeking of:

  • educational and career counselling for young performers whose involvement in sport impinges upon their studies
  • sports science advice through the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES)

Coaches must communicate and co-operate with registered medical and ancillary practitioners in diagnosing, treating, and managing their performers' medical and psychological problems.


Coaches must not encourage performers to violate the rules of their sport. They should actively seek to discourage and condemn such action and encourage performers to obey the spirit of the rules.

Coaches must not compromise their performers by advocating measures that could constitute an unfair advantage. They must not adopt practices to accelerate performance improvement that might jeopardise the performer's safety, total well-being, and future participation. Coaches must never advocate or condone the use of prohibited drugs or other banned performance-enhancing substances.

Coaches must ensure that the activities, training and competition programs they advocate and direct are appropriate for the individual performer's age, maturity, experience and ability.

Coaches must treat opponents with due respect, both in victory and defeat, and should encourage their performers to act similarly. A coach's key role is to prepare performers to respond to success and failure in a dignified manner.

Coaches must accept responsibility for their performers' conduct and discourage inappropriate behaviour in training, competition, and away from the sporting arena.


Advertising by sports coaches regarding qualifications, training and services must be accurate and professionally restrained. Coaches must be able to present evidence of current qualifications upon request. Evidence should also be available to support any claim promoting their services.

Coaches must not display any affiliation with an organisation that falsely implies sponsorship or accreditation by that organisation.


Sports coaches inevitably gather a great deal of personal information about performers during a working relationship. Coach and performer must agree on what is to be regarded as confidential information (i.e. not divulged to a third party without the express approval of the performer).

Confidentiality does not preclude disclosing information about a performer to persons with the right to know. For example:

  • Evaluation for competitive selection purposes
  • Recommendations for employment
  • In pursuit of disciplinary action involving performers within the sport
  • In pursuit of disciplinary action by a sports organisation against one of its members
  • Legal and medical requirements for disclosure
  • Recommendations to parents/family where the health and safety of performers might be at stake
  • In pursuit of action to protect children from abuse

Abuse of Privilege

The sports coach is privileged to have regular contact with performers, occasionally travel, and reside with performers in coaching and competitive practice. A coach must not attempt to exert undue influence over the performer to obtain personal benefit or reward.

Coaches must consistently display high personal standards and project a favourable image of their sport and coaching to performers, their parents/families, other coaches, officials, spectators, the media and the public.

Personal appearance is a matter of individual taste, but the sports coach must project an image of health, cleanliness and functional efficiency.

Sports coaches should never smoke while coaching.

Coaches should not drink alcohol so soon before coaching that it would affect their competence to coach, compromise the performers' safety, or indicate they had been drinking (e.g. the smell of alcohol on their breath).


Within the limits of their control, coaches are responsible for ensuring the performers' safety with whom they work.

All reasonable steps should be taken to establish a safe working environment.

The work and how it is done should be in keeping with the regular and approved practice with their sport as determined by the NGB.

The activity undertaken should be suitable for the performers' age, physical and emotional maturity, experience and ability.

Coaches must protect children from harm and abuse.

The performers should have been systematically prepared for the activity and made aware of their safety responsibilities.

Coaches should arrange adequate insurance to cover all aspects of their coaching practice.


Coaches shall confine themselves to practice in those sports elements for which the appropriate NGB recognises their training and competence. Training includes accumulating knowledge and skills through formal coach education courses, independent research and collecting relevant, verifiable experience.

Competence to coach should be verified through evidence of qualifications. Competence cannot be inferred solely from the evidence of prior experience. The National Occupational Standards for Coaching, Teaching and Instructing (and the approved NGB coaching awards) provide the framework for assessing competence at the different coaching practice levels.

Coaches must recognise when to refer performers to other coaches or agencies. As for as possible, it is their responsibility to verify the competence and integrity of any other person to whom they refer a performer.

Coaches should regularly seek ways of increasing their personal and professional development.

Coaches should welcome evaluation of their work by colleagues and account to performers, employers, National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and colleagues for what they do and why.

Coaches are responsible for themselves and their performers to maintain their effectiveness, resilience and abilities. They should recognise when their resources are so depleted that help is needed. This may necessitate the withdrawal from coaching temporarily or permanently.

Page Reference

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

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Code of Ethics and Conduct for Sports Coaches [WWW] Available from: [Accessed