Code of Ethics & Conduct
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 contained in the 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 a set
Sports coaches are expected to conform to ethical standards in several areas: humanity, relationships, commitment, co-operation, 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, and 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 made 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 in advance 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 have a responsibility to declare to their performers and employers any other current coaching commitments. They should also determine if any prospective client is receiving instruction from another teacher/coach. If so, the teacher/coach should be contacted to discuss the
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 explicit 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 in advance (in writing) to avoid any
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 the diagnosis, treatment and management of 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 ore appropriate for the age, maturity,
experience and ability of the individual performer.
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 associated with
promoting their services.
Coaches must not display any affiliation with an organisation in a
manner that falsely implies sponsorship or accreditation by that
Sports coaches inevitably gather a great deal of personal
information about performers in the course of a working relationship. Coach and
performer must reach an agreement about what is to be regarded as confidential
information (i.e. not divulged to a third party without the express approval of
Confidentiality does not preclude the disclosure of information
about a performer to persons who can be judged to have a right to know. For
- Evaluation for competitive selection purposes
- Recommendations for employment
- In pursuit of disciplinary action involving performers within
- 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 and 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 of coaching to performers, their
parents/families, other coaches, officials, spectators, the media and the
Personal appearance is a matter of individual taste, but the sports
coach must project an image of health, cleanliness and
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 breath).
Within the limits of their control, coaches have a responsibility to ensure the performers' safety with whom they work.
All reasonable steps should be taken to establish a safe working
The work is done 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 age, physical
and emotional maturity, experience and ability of the performers.
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 sport elements for which the appropriate NGB recognises their training and competence. Training includes the accumulation of knowledge and skills through formal
coach education courses, independent research and the collection of relevant,
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. Competence
to coach should be verified through evidence of qualifications.
Competence cannot be inferred solely from the evidence of prior experience.
Coaches must recognise and accept 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 have a responsibility to 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
The following references provide additional information on this topic:
- WIERSMA, L. D. and SHERMAN, C. P. (2005) Volunteer youth sport coaches' perspectives of coaching education/certification and parental codes of conduct. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76 (3), p. 324-338
- MCNAMEE, M. (1998) Celebrating trust: virtues and rules in the ethical conduct of sports coaches. Ethics and sport, p. 148-168
- MALKIN, K. et al. (2000) A critical evaluation of training needs for child protection in UK sport. Managing Leisure, 5 (3), p. 151-160
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: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/ethics.htm [Accessed
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: