What defines a good coach?

On Monday I got my monthly e-newsletter from the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). It contained this piece on high school coaches, which surveyed coaches and athletes about coach performance. Here are the findings:


Most Coaches Do It Right
Commentary by
Michael Josephson

Like ’em or hate ’em, sports are a major cultural phenomenon that reflect and shape our national values. The way sports are played and the way participants and spectators react reveals the best and worst of human nature.

At their best, sports provide an ennobling metaphor for life, teaching us to strive and struggle with passion and integrity, to pursue victory with honor. We’re constantly exposed to instances where an intense win-at-any-cost mentality has resulted in awful behavior and plentiful examples of premier athletes with shabby characters.

The fact is, however, misconduct by coaches, parents, and players – while far too common – is still the exception, not the norm. Involvement in sports is overall an overwhelmingly positive character-building experience for most participants.


A recent survey of 3,700 coaches and 1,400 athletes by the Josephson Institute of Ethics demonstrates the vast majority of coaches and athletes have healthy and ethical attitudes about sports. Good coaches are, first and foremost, teachers concerned with much more than athletic prowess. They seek to enhance the mental, social, and moral development of athletes and instill positive life skills to help them become personally successful and socially responsible.

The good news is most coaches are good coaches. A total of 83 percent of athletes said their coach sets a good example for ethics and character, 73 percent said their coach is more concerned with building character than winning, and 98 percent of coaches said they would rather be remembered for helping their athletes become better people than for winning games or championships.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


I wonder about the logistics of surveying 2,300 more coaches than athletes to decide if coaches are allright. How about parental opinions, too?

I do, however, agree with the philosophy that good coaches not only should develop players athletically, but they should “seek to enhance the mental, social, and moral development of athletes and instill positive life skills to help them become personally successful and socially responsible.” Good coaches ARE teachers. And though I’m not a big fan of tests and regulations, I think there should be some sort of certification required to coach high school sports, because it’s one of the most important jobs in the world.

I’ve touched on the subject of what defines a good coach before, but I’d like to throw it open to readers.

What defines a good coach to you? What traits and characteristics? What is a “must” for any coach who is considered good? What philosophies do good coaches share? What do good coaches do?

I’ll put all responses in bright lights.

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  1. Oh Sue great find – I totally agree with you – what would surveying coaches about themselves mean, another way to pump themselves up, I can't imagine that their players would be saying the same thing about most of them especially the parents. I think the state of high school sports is not good at this current time as winning has become such an over ride of what their job should be. All I hear about is terrible stories of players being ridiculed and verbally and mentally abused by coaches, expeciallly those who feel they can withhold play time etc.