What is Coaching?

Coaching is a true generalist profession. Coaches have to have some knowledge of a multiple of other disciplines from psychology to management to kinesiology. However, what is coaching? Is it just the amalgamation of other professions into a competitive arena or it a distinct profession with its own disciplines and sub-disciplines?

To get an idea, I reviewed the required curriculum of 29 university programs (23 minors, 1 major, and 5 master’s). 63 different class titles were identified. According to this brief review, coaching is:

  • Coaching Internship/Practicum (Required: 19; Elective: 1)
  • Injury Care & Prevention  (R: 19; E: 1)
  • Coaching Techniques/Principles (R: 17; E: 1)
  • Sports Safety (CPR/First Aid) (R: 13)
  • Sports Administration (R: 12; E: 4)
  • Sports Psychology (R: 10; E: 3)
  • Individual Sport Classes ( R: 1; E: 14)
  • Legal Issues (R: 6; E: 3)

If we use these to describe the coaching profession, how much emphasis is given to the teaching of skills, the communication with players, the setting of expectations, and the managing of players and games? The success of such a program would depend on the course material covered in the Coaching Techniques/Principles course, which appeared to be a general introduction to coaching course in most cases. Wouldn’t a general course go over the basics necessary for administration, safety and legal issues? Therefore, if those topics are covered briefly in a survey course, do future coaches need additional coursework on these matters? What about other courses that were offered and required far less frequently, like the Pedagogy of Sports Skills (R:3), Performance Analysis (R:1), Psychology of Coaching (R:5), Theory of Training (R:1), or Physiological Foundations of Coaching (R:2)? What about more general courses like Kinesiology (R:1, E:1), Motor Behavior (R:2), Motor Learning (R:1, E:2), Biomechanics (R:3, E:2) or Functional Anatomy (R:6)?

What about topics like planning practice, players’ learning styles, dividing playing time using the bench, dealing with parents, learning the rules, demonstrating the skills and more?

What is coaching? Can we decide on a specific definition or is coaching a combination of disciplines? If we can define coaching, what are its sub-disciplines or topics (i.e. sports psychology involves motivation, arousal, self-determination, imagery, goal setting, etc.)? What does coaching include?

By Brian McCormick
Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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