Coach (sport)

In sports, a coach is an individual involved in the direction and instruction of the on-field operations of an athletic team or of individual athletes. Coaching entails the application of sport tactics and strategies during the game or contest itself, and usually entails substitution of players and other such actions as needed. Most coaches are former participants in the sports in which they are involved, and those who are not have usually had extensive training in the sport in question.

The term "coach" is sometimes equivalent in U.S. usage to the term "manager" in other English-speaking countries in reference to the director of a sporting team, particularly with regard to soccer. Additionally, the director of the operation of a team in baseball, a sport far more popular in the U.S. than in any other English-speaking country, is also properly referred to as a "manager", particularly in the context of a team comprised of adults as opposed to youths.

A coach, particularly in a major operation, is traditionally aided in his efforts by one or more assistants known as the coaching staff. The coach's leadership is often cited, rightly or wrongly, as one of the prime or even the prime ingredient in successful efforts by the athletes under his or her direction, as indicated by the "Coach of the Year" award traditionally presented by all major U.S. sports. Often in major team sports the principal coach, usually referred to as the head coach, has little to do with the development of details such as techniques of play or placement of players on the playing surface, leaving this to assistants while concentrating on larger issues.

In some professional sports operations the head coach also serves as general manager, the team executive responsible for acquiring the rights to players and negotiating their contracts, generally in recent years with their agents, and for trading or dismissing players, but these roles have been increasingly likely to be seen as separate functions fulfilled by separate persons in more recent years, although many coach/general managers still exist.

Many coaches, usually those of school-sponsored sports teams, also bear the responsibility of teaching the skills, rules and tactics involved in a particuliar sport to its players. This can be accomplished individually, by team, by division (ex. Defensive Coaching, Offensive Coaching, etc.) or by position (ex. receiver coach, quarterback coach, etc.) where applicable. Under this system in which duties are divided, there is necessarily a head coach who oversees all other coaches as a supervisor.

Successful coaches often become as well or even better-known than the athletes they coach, and in recent years have come to command high salaries and have agents of their own to negotiate their contracts with the teams. Often the head coach of a well-known team has his or her own radio and television programs and becomes the primary "face" associated with the team.

Coaching techniques and philosophies are often taught by prominent coaches to youth and high school coaches at events referred to as "coaching clinics". Coaching philosophies are passed along from one generation of coaches to another through these events, and of course the tendency of assistant coaches serving under a successful head coach being the most likely to be given an opportunity to become head coaches in their own right. All major collegiate sports have associations for their coaches to engage in professional development activities, but professional coaches tend to have less formal associations, and have never developed into a group resembling a union in the way that athletic players in many leagues have. Most coaching contracts allow the termination of the coach with little notice and without specific cause, usually in the case of high-profile coaches with the payment of a financial settlement. U.S. collegiate coaching contracts require termination without the payment of a settlement if the coach is found to be in serious violation of named rules, usually with regard to the recruiting or retention of players in violation of amateur status. Coaching is a very fickle profession, and a reversal of the team's fortune often finds last year's "Coach of the Year" to be seeking employment in the next.

The term "coach" has been expanded greatly in U.S. English usage, especially in recent years, to include such non-sports-related concepts as "personal coaches", "sales coaches", "life coaches", "investment coaches" and the like; see the article on coaching for more information.

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