Coaching Roles and Skills

Coaching Roles

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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 - Advising athletes on the training to be conducted and suitable kit and equipment.
  • Assessor - Assessing athletes performance in training and competition
  • Counsellor - Resolving emotional problems on the basis that 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 as well as 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 then 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 role in that you will often be asked questions on any sporting event, events that were 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, to their parents and family, for ensuring that they are safe and secure. You have to monitor their health and safety whilst 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 training plans for each athlete and organise 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 whilst 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 principals (autonomous stage) then the athlete will determine the training requirements. The coach's role becomes one of 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 providing 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 the 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, show interest in and respect for the athletes.

    Instruction and explanation

    In providing Instruction and Explanation you should think about and plan what you are going to 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 demonstration make sure you are in a position where the athletes can clearly 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, provide specific and simple advice, limit the advice to 1 or 2 points, check they understand what they will do next and make the whole process a positive experience for the athlete.