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A Positive Example

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

When you first thought about becoming a coach, you knew that you would have to teach skills and concepts. You also were likely excited about standing on the sidelines and making decisions during games. However, you might not have considered the possibility of serving as a role model, not only for your athletes, but also for fans. But this is exactly what you have to do to be an effective high school coach.

Unlike professional or major college coaches, who are paid to win, you work within an education-based athletic program. This means that the growth and development of the student-athletes is the ultimate objective and everything you do should serve as a positive example. The moment you say “Yes” and accept a coaching position, you become a role model.

What exactly is involved in being a role model? Actually, everything. Anything that you do and say, as well as your appearance and mannerisms, are important. You are providing a positive example, one that is worthy of being emulated. Therefore, everything has to be considered and included.

As a role model, you should:

  • Use proper English and grammar and never use inappropriate or foul language. Even if you get frustrated during games, you have to address your student-athletes in a respectful, positive, and professional manner.
  • Remember that you are often the most visible spokesperson in the school other than perhaps the principal or superintendent. This means that great care has to be taken when responding to questions from the media. What you say will be taken as the official stance that represents the school.
  • Dress appropriately for practice sessions and definitely for games. The attire will vary sport to sport and also possibly with respect to your setting. But it is important that you always project a professional appearance.
  • Engage with officials in a respectful manner. Yes, you can question a call and ask for a clarification. However, this needs to be done in a calm, quiet manner. You must never do anything that could incite negative, disruptive reactions by your players or fans. You set the standard for the actions of others at a game.
  • Consider the traits and qualities that you want from your athletes, and then model them yourself. These might include dedication, hard work, focus, commitment and many more.
  • Follow the rules of your sport, and the policies of your state association and school district. Bending the rules or utilizing loop-holes does not set the standards for ethics and integrity and this needs to be modeled for young people. Your athletes do see and learn from your actions.
  • Provide support, encouragement, and a nurturing environment. As a coach, you serve in loco parentis and need to provide these elements in an educational setting. You have as much, if not more, impact upon young people than anyone else in their lives.

While preparing your team for competition and teaching sport-specific skills are important, nothing that you do in coaching rivals serving as a positive role model. Take this responsibility seriously, because you are molding young people for the rest of their lives. A few years after graduation, they won’t remember the scores of games but they will remember your impact. 


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.

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