Sports coach

A sports coach


Sports coaches provide instruction in the sport of their specialisation in a recreational context to non-age-specific and age specific participants. They identify already acquired skills and implement suitable training programmes for the groups or individuals they teach in order to develop participants’ physical and psychological fitness. They create the most optimal environment for the growth of participant skills and enable them to maximise their performance, while fostering good sportsmanship and character in all participants. Sports coaches also track the participant progress and provide personalised instruction where needed. They supervise sports facilities and changing rooms and maintain uniforms and equipment.

Includes people performing scouting and recruiting activities.
Includes people performing instruction activities of non-team sports such as martial arts or yoga.
Excludes sports instructor.

Sports coaches typically do the following duties:

  • If they are working with schools and community groups, they:
    • plan fun, engaging coaching activities, sessions and programmes in a safe environment
    • give feedback on performance and help to improve technique
    • work with young people, schools, community groups and sports organisations to promote the sport
  • If they are working with young people involved in competitive sport, they:
    • design basic training programmes
    • work on developing more advanced techniques and tactics
    • support performers at events and competitions
  • If coaching at national or international level they:
    • design challenging and varied training programmes
    • monitor the physical condition and mental attitude of the people you coach
    • work with experts in sport like sports scientists, nutritionists, physiotherapists and programme managers
    • mentor other coaches

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to sports coach:

sports instruction practitioner
sport coach for performance
sports instructor
sports trainer for the elderly
coach of sport
sport coach for participation
children sports trainer
coach in sports
sports trainer
instructor in sport
sport coach
practitioner of sports coaching
sports coach for children

Working conditions

Sports coaches often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. They may work indoors or outdoors, depending on the sport and the location of the training or competition. Coaches may also need to travel extensively to attend competitions or training sessions.

Minimum qualifications

Sports coaches typically have a bachelor’s degree in physical education, sports science, or a related field, although some may have extensive experience in the sport they coach without a formal degree. Coaches may also need to have certification from a professional sports organization or coaching association. Additionally, coaches need to have a deep understanding of the sport they coach, including rules, techniques, and strategies, as well as strong leadership and communication skills.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Sports coach is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Sports coach career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to sports coach.

snowboard instructor
boxing instructor
football coach
sports instructor
ice-skating coach

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of sports coach. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of sports coach with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

physical education vocational teacher
physical education teacher secondary school
adult literacy teacher
further education teacher
digital literacy teacher

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of sports coach.

  • Sport and exercise medicine: Prevention and treatment of injuries or conditions resulted from a physical activity or sport.
  • Sporting equipment usage: Have knowledge of the correct operation and maintenance of sporting equipment.
  • Sports ethics: The ethical considerations in sport activities, policy and management that ensure fair play and sportsmanship in all recreational and competitive sports.
  • Teamwork principles: The cooperation between people characterised by a unified commitment to achieving a given goal, participating equally, maintaining open communication, facilitating effective usage of ideas etc.
  • Sport games rules: The rules and regulations of sport games such as football, soccer, tennis, and others.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of sports coach.

  • Guarantee students’ safety: Ensure all students falling under an instructor or other person’s supervision are safe and accounted for. Follow safety precautions in the learning situation.
  • Develop a coaching style: Develop a style for coaching individuals or groups that ensures all participants are at ease, and are able to acquire the necessary skills and competences provided in the coaching in a positive and productive manner.
  • Prepare lesson content: Prepare content to be taught in class in accordance with curriculum objectives by drafting exercises, researching up-to-date examples etc.
  • Observe student’s progress: Follow up on students’ learning progress and assess their achievements and needs.
  • Manage student relationships: Manage the relations between students and between student and teacher. Act as a just authority and create an environment of trust and stability.
  • Adapt teaching to student’s capabilities: Identify the learning struggles and successes of students. Select teaching and learning strategies that support students’ individual learning needs and goals.
  • Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
  • Plan sports instruction programme: Provide participants with an appropriate programme of activities to support progression to the required level of expertise in the specified time taking into account relevant scientific and sport-specific knowledge.
  • Assist students with equipment: Provide assistance to students when working with (technical) equipment used in practice-based lessons and solve operational problems when necessary.
  • Organise training: Make the necessary preparations to conduct a training session. Provide equipment, supplies and exercise materials. Ensure the training runs smoothly.
  • Promote balance between rest and activity: Provide information about the role of rest and regeneration in the development of sport performance. Foster rest and regeneration by providing appropriate ratios of training, competition and rest.
  • Apply risk management in sports: Manage the environment and athletes or participants to minimise their chances of suffering any harm. This includes checking appropriateness of venue and equipment and gathering relevant sport and health history from athletes or participants. It also includes ensuring appropriate insurance cover is in place at all times
  • Adapt teaching to target group: Instruct students in the most fitting manner in regards to the teaching context or the age group, such as a formal versus an informal teaching context, and teaching peers as opposed to children.
  • Demonstrate when teaching: Present to others examples of your experience, skills, and competences that are appropriate to specific learning content to help students in their learning.
  • Give constructive feedback: Provide founded feedback through both criticism and praise in a respectful, clear, and consistent manner. Highlight achievements as well as mistakes and set up methods of formative assessment to evaluate work.
  • Perform classroom management: Maintain discipline and engage students during instruction.
  • Assist students in their learning: Support and coach students in their work, give learners practical support and encouragement.
  • Instruct in sport: Provide appropriate technical and tactical instruction related to the given sport using varied and sound pedagogical approaches to meet the needs of the participants and achieve the desired objectives. This requires skills such as communication, explanation, demonstration, modelling, feedback, questioning and correction.
  • Apply intercultural teaching strategies: Ensure that the content, methods, materials and the general learning experience is inclusive for all students and takes into account the expectations and experiences of learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. Explore individual and social stereotypes and develop cross-cultural teaching strategies.
  • Motivate in sports: Positively foster athletes and participants’ intrinsic desire to carry out the required tasks to fulfill their goals and to push themselves beyond their current levels of skill and understanding.
  • Encourage students to acknowledge their achievements: Stimulate students to appreciate their own achievements and actions to nurture confidence and educational growth.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sports coach. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Assessment processes: Various evaluation techniques, theories, and tools applicable in the assessment of students, participants in a programme, and employees. Different assessment strategies such as initial, formative, summative and self- assessment are used for varying purposes.
  • Children’s physical development: Recognise and describe the development, observing the following criteria: weight, length, and head size, nutritional requirements, renal function, hormonal influences on development, response to stress, and infection.
  • Sports nutrition: Nutritional information such as vitamins and energy pills related to a specific sporting activity.
  • Adult education: Instruction targeted at adult students, both in a recreational and in an academic context, for self-improvement purposes, or to better equip the students for the labour market.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Sporting events: Possess an understanding of different sporting events and conditions that can affect a result.
  • Features of sporting equipment: Types of sporting, fitness and recreational equipment and sporting supplies and their characteristics.
  • Curriculum objectives: The goals identified in curricula and defined learning outcomes.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of sports coach. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

3422 – Sports coaches, instructors and officials

  1. Sports coach – ESCO
  2. Sports coach | Explore careers – National Careers Service
  3. Coaches and Scouts : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Featured image: Photo by Adrià Crehuet Cano on Unsplash
Last updated on April 24, 2023

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