By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA
Have you ever wondered why high school coaches have to be role models and what exactly is involved? While most of us assume that coaches should be role models, this is a difficult question to answer. It is even a more vexing issue when some professional athletes dismiss the notion that they should be role models.
Why can’t high school coaches also take this stance and simply decline to serve? Since athletics is part of the total high school experience and has educational value and significance, you have no choice. By the very fact that coaches are part of this educational process you are and have to be a role model.
While athletics is not the most important part of the educational offerings of a school, it is the most visible aspect. As such, everything coaches do will be easily observed and under constant scrutiny. This may make the coach one of the most important role models associated with our children’s lives and something that is an absolute expectation of the position.
Since a coach doesn’t have a choice of being a role model, what is involved? Everything! Absolutely everything. This means how we act, express ourselves, what we do and even what we don’t do. We are a walking example for our athletes.
There are several areas in which coaches need to be a role model.
- Sportsmanship. Coaches always need to be under control and conduct themselves with class and dignity. This means showing respect and courtesy to opponents and officials. Coaches can’t expect their athletes to exhibit good sportsmanship if they are berating officials, snarling at clock operators or throwing water bottles. The maxim that actions speak louder than words certainly pertains to coaching.
- Appearance. What is considered appropriate attire on the sidelines of every sport varies considerably, but it should always be professional and within the parameters of each individual sport. For example, a polo shirt and khaki slacks may be perfectly acceptable for a football coach; it isn’t necessary that he wear a coat and tie.
- Sound work ethic. While coaches expect their athletes to play and practice hard, they also have to be equally up to the task. Athletes should be able to expect coaches to thoroughly scout opponents, conduct well-planned practice sessions and to have detail-oriented preparation for all contests.
- Appropriate language. Athletic competition may bring with it occasional frustration and surges in emotion. During these stressful times, coaches cannot use foul or inappropriate language. Athletes do look to coaches and will follow their lead. Educationally, there is no place for inappropriate language in high school athletics.
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