7 Core Responsibilities of Sport Coaches: The Revision of the National Standards

What are the core responsibilities of sport coaches? What do coaches need to know and do to create quality sport experiences for athletes?

These questions were considered recently by the SHAPE America Task Force when revising the National Standards for Sport Coaches (NSSC). The NSSC were first introduced in 1995 with the intent of identifying the knowledge and skills that coaches need to work effectively with athletes.

In this third revision of the standards, the task force identified the core responsibilities, underlying knowledge, and professional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills coaches need to create quality sport experiences for athletes. Here are the core responsibilities:

  1. Set Vision, Goals and Standards for Sport Program
  2. Coaches develop a clearly defined philosophy and vision.

  3. Engage in and Support Ethical Practices
  4. Coaches model and teach ethical behavior.

  5. Build Relationships
  6. Coaches build skills to communicate, collaborate, educate and support all stakeholders in a program.

  7. Develop a Safe Sport Environment
  8. Coaches create an emotionally and physically safe sport environment.

  9. Create a Positive and Inclusive Sport Environment
  10. Coaches promote physical, psychological and social benefits for athletes and encourage sport participation.

  11. Conduct Practices and Prepare for Competition
  12. Coaches plan, teach, assess and adapt in order to conduct quality sport practices and prepare for competition.

  13. Strive for Continuous Improvement
  14. Coaches continually improve through self-reflection, mentorship, professional development, evaluation, and self-care.

How do coaches meet these core responsibilities?

This is where the national standards come into play. Under each of the core responsibilities, there are a set of standards which identify knowledge and skills (or competencies) that would help coaches meet the core responsibilities. All 42 standards can be found on the SHAPE America website.

These core responsibilities and associated standards were supported by the latest research and practical work in coaching science and the varied fields of exercise science that inform coaching. The seven core responsibilities of coaching and associated standards also closely align with the International Sport Coaching Framework and the Quality Coaching Framework.

Do the National Standards for Sport Coaches apply to all contexts and expertise levels?

While the standards reflect the fundamental actions that administrators, athletes, and the public can expect of sport coaches within a sport context, differences in depth and breadth of knowledge and skills can be expected based on the level of coach expertise (e.g., volunteer beginning coach versus high school coach) and the sport coaching context (e.g., youth sport versus intercollegiate sport). Thus, the standards provide a broadly focused framework that sport organizations can adapt to work within their context. However, sport organizations are encouraged to consider how all of the standards work within the context rather than whether or not they apply to the context.

How can coaches, administrators and coach educators/developers use the National Standards for Sport Coaches?

The core coaching responsibilities and their associated standards can be used to improve the preparation, training and evaluation of sport coaching. Further, informing the public about the core responsibilities of sport coaches can drive expectations for quality coaching (see Figure 1).

In the end, the NSSC should assist in improving the sport experiences for all athletes and elevate the profession of coaching.

Specifically, here are some examples of how the NSSC can be used:

  • Sport coaches can use the NSSC to better understand their coaching role and identify areas to gain further competence.
  • Athletes and their family members can use the NSSC to identify quality coaches with which to work.
  • Coach educators and developers can use the NSSC to construct curriculum for the training of sport coaches or evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.
  • Sport administrators and coach developers can use NSSC to direct professional development opportunities for coaches.
  • Sport administrators can use the NSSC to determine expectations or construct assessment of coaches (e.g., competency checklists or evaluative tools).
  • Sport administrators can use the NSSC to further clarify the role of support staff in assisting coaches.
  • Researchers can investigate the applicability of the NSSC for sport coaches, the effectiveness of the NSSC in providing quality sport experiences, and/or effectively training sport coaches on the responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and competencies embedded within the NSSC.

National Standards for Sport Coaches and find additional resources for coaches, check out the SHAPE America website.

About the NSSC Revision Task Force

NSSC Revision Task Force members include Lori Gano-Overway (chair), Bob Benham, Christine Bolger, Andy Driska, Melissa Long, Anthony Moreno, Dan Schuster, Melissa Thompson, Pete Van Mullem, Michelle Carter (SHAPE America liaison), and Wendy Fagan (advisory).


Lori Gano-Overway
Lori Gano-Overway

Lori Gano-Overway is an associate professor and coaching program coordinator at Bridgewater College. She has been involved in coaching education for more than 20 years and chaired SHAPE America’s National Standards for Sport Coaches Revision Task Force which revised the National Standards for Sport Coaches.