Online Master’s in Coaching Education

Ethics For Coaching Educators

Interscholastic sport began in the late 19th Century and was originally organized and directed by students. From there, it became a program called the Public School Athletic League (PSAL). The PSAL experienced wide success as a program for disenfranchised, disruptive or simply ‘bored’ teenagers. Fed by increased high school enrolments, it advanced to over seventeen national level tournaments covering several sports.

In the 1980′s, USA Today started ranking the Top 25 boys’ and girls’ high school teams each season, creating nationwide interest. At around the same time, the combined effects of community involvement, entertainment value and civic pride made high school sports and athletics fertile ground for commercial input. During the last quarter of the 20th century, commercial interests, led by Nike and Adidas, began to realize the marketing potential of this widespread enthusiasm and started to sponsor teams. This trend drove the recruiting and purchasing of ‘stellar’ athletes. Furthermore, scouting services began making considerable revenue by identifying promising athletes for college recruiters. This increasing commercialization had several negative effects on interscholastic sport, causing the specialization and exploitation of athletes and creating an environment where many young athletes resorted to performance enhancing substances to improve their chances of gaining a college scholarship or a lucrative sporting contract.

It is not surprising then, against this commercialized background of win at all costs, that the first domain of the National Standards of Sports Coaches (NSSC) introduced by NASPE in 1995 concerned the Philosophy and Ethics of coaching.

The NCSS for Domain one are:


1. Develop and implement an athlete-centered coaching philosophy.

Athlete-centered coaching is aimed at creating independent athletes through placing the athletes at the center of the coaching environment. This is achieved through:

  • Questioning athletes, in order to help athletes find their own solutions to problems.
  • Assisting the athletes and teams to set their own goals.
  • Player development and achievement of the athletes and teams goals.
  • Developing an attitude of self-awareness that assists athletes to make decisions and correct themselves.
  • Prioritizing the development of the whole athlete technically, physically, mentally and socially.
  • Viewing athletes as individuals, each with their own needs.

This is in sharp contrast to the historical practice of coach-centered coaching, which involves telling the athletes what to do, is centered on the coach’s goals, has a win at all cost mentality and is a results-based approach, where the coach’s objectives are paramount. Coach-centrism is managed through control and it is not what NAPSE envisions as appropriate coaching for high school students. It is not an approach that focuses on creating a positive learning environment or the development of a student’s potential. Importantly, it does not cater to the needs of all young athletes, rather it concentrates on ‘star’ players or those who are seen as capable of ensuring a team win.


2. Identify, model, and teach positive values learned through sport participation.

  • Role modeling for young athletes means that coaches must take responsibility for their actions and demonstrate honesty, integrity and ethical behavior. If coaches do demonstrate good moral character themselves, the outcome can be very positive.
  • Coaches should be aware that they are in an important position to help young people develop the positive values of fair play, teamwork and sportsmanship.
  • Well-organized sports programs can provide powerful contexts for the teaching and learning of good moral habits.
  • These programs can teach confidence, control, concentration and commitment, all positive values that will help young athletes in all areas of their lives.
  • For successful character education, athletes need positive role models, a supportive environment, and a strong moral background provided by parents, coaches and teachers.


3. Teach and reinforce responsible personal, social, and ethical behavior of all people involved in the sport program.

Research has shown that about 70% of young athletes leave sport by the age of 13. The two main reasons for this are the behavior of their coaches and parents.

  • Many people are central to a high school athlete’s life, such as, teachers, coaches, parents and administrators. They all play a role in teaching young athletes, through what they say and how they behave.
  • Coaching standards attempt to address the learning and sporting environment through prescribing player, coach, and parental behavior.
  • It is the responsibility of every member of the coaching staff to teach and model good citizenship and sportsmanship. This must include respect for opposing teams and fans, coaches, parents and officials.
  • These codes are concerned with ethical conduct towards colleagues in the organization, other athletes, and the community as a whole.
  • For an ethical and philosophical code to be effective in shaping these environments, education about the organization’s values and code is mandatory.


4. Demonstrate ethical conduct in all facets of the sport program.

  • All young athletes need to be encouraged to participate and be involved in as many facets as possible of the competitive, interscholastic experience.
  • All team members, regardless of ability, should be offered the opportunity to develop their work ethic, sense of commitment and responsibility, and athletic skills in whatever sport they choose.
  • The athletic program should seek to educate athletes concerning community support and encourage them to return that support.
  • Off-season practice activities may be of benefit to a high school athlete, but these activities must be selected by the athlete and not mandated in such a way that it curtails the opportunity of the individual to take part in other activities that interest them.

Coaches are undeniably the standard bearers for athletic integrity and as such play an important role in molding their young charges lives. Research shows that these values are carried into all areas of a child’s life, through to adulthood. When coaches adopt and practice ethical responsibilities, interscholastic sport will grow and prosper and be of benefit to all who participate. They have a huge responsibility to the youth of America.




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