The primary functions of coaches have been extensively researched in recent years.7 Several functional and competence-based frameworks have been developed at national and international levels, such as those of some international federations, the European Coaching Council, Zone VI in Africa, SASCOC in South Africa and the National Coach Certification Programme in Canada. The International Sport Coaching Framework specifies six primary functions, all helping to fulfil the core purpose of guiding improvement and development. These primary functions have been derived from consultation, a review of the literature and primary research.8
- Set the vision and strategy. The coach creates a vision and a strategy based on the needs and stages of development of the athletes and the organisational and social context of the programme.
- Shape the environment. The coach recruits and contracts to work with a group of athletes and takes responsibility for setting out plans for specified periods. The coach also seeks to maximize the environment in which the programme occurs through personnel, facilities, resources, working practices and the management of other coaches and support personnel.
- Build relationships. The coach builds positive relationships with athletes and others associated with the programme, including personnel at the club, school, federation and other levels. The coach is responsible for engaging in, contributing to and influencing the organisational context through the creation of respectful working relationships.
- Conduct practices and prepare for and manage competitions. The coach organises suitable and challenging practices using effective techniques (e.g., practice design, demonstration, observation, feedback) to promote learning and improvement. The coach prepares for targeted competitions and also oversees and manages the athletes in these competitions.
- Read and react to the field. The coach observes and responds to events appropriately, including all on- and off-field matters. Effective decision making is essential to fulfilling this function and should be developed in all stages of coach development.9
- Learn and reflect. The coach evaluates the programme as a whole as well as each practice and competition. Evaluation and reflection underpin a process of ongoing learning and professional development.10 The coach also supports efforts to educate and develop other coaches.
These primary functions describe how coaches accomplish their aims in general terms. Substantial variation may exist depending on the nature of specific coaching roles and circumstances. Also, experienced coaches typically are more engaged than early-stage coaches in all of the functions. However, all coaches should strive to fulfil these primary functions regardless of experience. The knowledge and competence associated with these functions are examined in detail in chapter 6.
The primary functions are interrelated and occur in a cyclical process of improvement that includes planning, implementation, review and adjustment as outlined in figure 3.3.
The process also recognises that coaches operate in cycles ranging in duration from just one practice session to a portion of a season, an entire season, a quadrennium, or the major part of an athlete’s career.