Moral issues in sport coaching
An effective coach is thought to have many personal attributes and skills. Such attributes and skills include, but are not limited to, possessing technical knowledge appropriate to the sport they are coaching, having the ability to analyse technical and tactical elements and, prior to transmitting that knowledge effectively to athletes, an understanding of how they learn; that is, knowing and using the most effective coaching strategies and an awareness of how to motivate athletes. For many new coaches, and probably many experienced coaches too, the attraction of coaching generally lies in a desire to improve athletes’ performance and so their attention is focused on this element of their work. It is the elements of coaching listed above which form the basis of most coach education programmes. In addition, however, an effective coach is a mentor to their athletes, setting standards of behaviour and conduct, both in and out of competition, and is a role model to the athletes they coach. Therefore, coaching makes it incumbent upon coaches to reflect upon, consider and address moral issues within their work. As Hardman et al. (2010) point out, a good coach is required not only to develop athletes’ technical ability but also to support their moral development.1 For many coaches, particularly those at the point of entry to coaching, if the notion of enhancing athletes’ moral development figures on their agenda it probably does so well down the list of priorities. Nevertheless, coaching is an inherently moral activity, making it incumbent upon coaches to give attention to the athletes’ moral development. In addition to seeing their role as an ‘opportunity to realise a range of technical, physical and moral competencies’, a coach is required to take a proactive role in promoting the moral development of the athletes they coach. Put another way, coaching goes beyond merely passing on technical information, or as Carr (1998: 131) puts it, ‘expert instruction in a range of practical skills’, to include ‘the
promotion and acquisition of values and virtues’ (ibid.). Therefore, coaching takes on moral significance.