SIGN UP for our Digital Editions and E-Newsletters

Search form

Coaching within Education-Based Athletics

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA

While the figure is not a hundred percent, most high schools around the country embrace and use the education-based concept to guide their athletic programs.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, you may be thinking, “What is this?”

Simply put, education-based athletics is a philosophical approach in which the growth and development of student-athletes comes first.  While coaches should plan, prepare and strive to win, winning games or championships is not ultimate objective.  It is also important to point out that the growth and development of student-athletes is not restricted to the playing field, but rather education-based athletics means teaching life-long values and qualities.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a win and even being disappointed when your team loses a game.  But the focus of your program always has to be on the athletes, and you have to place them above your own personal goals, needs, and interests. 

In practice sessions and games, you can demand effort and expect execution.  However, the old-school approach of getting in the face of the athletes and being abusive is totally unacceptable.  Your coaching style always has to be marked by respect, patience, and providing constructive instruction just like teachers would use in the classroom.  Remember, coaching is teaching and has to have educational value.

If winning is not the ultimate objective and an individual’s advancement should not be at the forefront, how should a coach work or function within an education-based program?  The following aspects should be the cornerstones of your approach.

Serve as a role model.  This means that a coach needs to be positive, encouraging, nurturing, and professional with young people.   Everything that a coach says and does will come under scrutiny and he has to be a great example and ambassador for the school.  This responsibility also extends to communication skills and appearance.

Exhibit and promote sportsmanship.  Athletes and fans will usually follow the lead of the coach, and this means that coaches definitely set the tone for the team and school.  For example, you can question a call if it is done in a quiet, respectful manner, but baiting and harassing officials is unacceptable.

Use ‘teachable moments’ with your team.  Almost anything and everything can be used as an illustration to educate and provide learning opportunities for young people.  Situations that occur in practice sessions and games, articles in newspapers or websites and current issues should always be considered.  An aware coach can use teachable moments during the stretching and warm-up portion of practice, at the conclusion of sessions, or during a special, brief meeting.

Be a great teacher.  This means creating practice plans that provide sound sequential drills and learning opportunities.  Make corrections, provide repetitions for all athletes, and offer instruction that’s clear and concise in order to be effective.  Constructive criticism always needs to be tempered with positive encouragement, just as it is done in the academic classroom.

Promote and encourage academic attainment by your athletes.  In addition to verbal reminders, coaches need to be flexible and allow their players to go for extra help after school and to take make-up tests when necessary.  As with most efforts in coaching, actions do speak louder than words. 

Introduce and guide your team to get involved in community service projects.  By doing this, your team will learn the valuable lesson of giving back and helping others.  These efforts can and should also be tied into team bonding and leadership development opportunities.  An enlightened coach should always use community service projects as an integral part of education-based athletics.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.