What is a sports coach?

When we hear the term ‘sports coach’, it is naturally associated with exclusively helping players and teams, plus improving sport performance through training and coaching techniques.

However, sport coaching jobs have many different components. While one of the main responsibilities of a sports coach is undoubtedly maximising standards of play, it can also involve discovering potential, creating training programmes, and inspiring youngsters or those from underrepresented backgrounds in sports.

The role of a sports coach is outlined by Josh Arnold, a graduate of UCFB’s BA (Hons) Sports Business and Coaching degree at UCFB Wembley, who is now one of the Head Coaches at Bloomsbury Football Club.

He says: “My job is a fascinating mix of organising training and fixtures, running programmes, overseeing other coaches and aiming to improve and grow Bloomsbury Football for those benefitting most from it.”

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Josh in his former role at Aldro School

Skills needed for a sports coach

In order to coach sport successfully, you must be able to quickly develop working relationships with people and ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of the athletes you work with, whatever their age or ability.

Good communication skills are essential, particularly in football coaching and team games, as the coaches or managers sets a precedent for how players interact with one another.

England Manager Gareth Southgate, who began his coaching career at Middleborough without the required qualifications, worked his way up to the very top of the coaching ladder.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with UCFB, he shares how he got there. “You need to be always looking for new ways of working and new methods of getting the players to understand your messages,” says Southgate.

“You must learn from your experiences and analyse what went well, what went wrong, and what you might have done better. You’ve got to be honest with yourself in appraising your performance.”

While Southgate is referring to England’s World Cup disappointment in 2018, his advice applies to all those interested in becoming a sports coach; regardless of your experience levels, you must analyse sports performance honestly and openly.

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How do I become a sports coach?

In order to become a sports coach, you will need a coaching qualification. UCFB offer a variety of coaching programmes, including programmes in football coaching, talent development, sports business and coaching, along with a variety of other industry-specific degrees.

It is also vital that you gain work experience alongside your degree; volunteering and work experience opportunities can help you understand the roles and responsibilities of a sports coach in more detail, whilst our degree programmes are designed to focus on the practical, pitch-side aspects of the job.

We have also developed a number of unique Master’s programmes for those already working in the industry, with courses such as Football Coaching & Analysis providing delegates with an opportunity to master the sports industry.

Challenges of being a sports coach

There are, however, many challenges that are part and parcel of being a sports coach. These can include managing team dynamics or disputes, while having to maintain professionalism and a good relationship with everyone in the squad.

It can also be extremely difficult to motivate players after setbacks or disappointments, and coaches in team sports need to be able to adapt their behaviour accordingly for each individual. Athletes need to feel special and valued, without coaches showing clear favouritism or unfair prioritisation.

But mostly, you yourself as a coach need to be constantly striving towards greatness, as Southgate explains: “You need to be willing to learn and improve all the time. You always must be thinking how to get a result tomorrow, but with an eye to six months or a year down the line.”

Click here to find out more about football and sports coaching.