How as coaches do we care for our athletes? Caring Agenda

How as coaches do we care for our athletes?  Caring Agenda


How do coaches care for the their athletes?


It can be argued that by coaches spending numerous hours before and after training practices or matches, planning and organizing the team that this demonstrates care for their athletes? But is this enough?


Jones, Armour and Potrac (2004) found that the elite level coaches invest high amounts of time and energy into their work, whilst carrying out their duties in a committed, caring and conscientious manor, this can be related to all coaches at all levels, but isn’t this what is expected of coaches, and if so does this mean by doing this they are caring for athletes at all times.


Jones (2009) also suggests caring occurs through connections and relationships and within these relationships caring can consist of dialogue and confirmation; dialogue can be seen as talking, listening and responding whereas confirmation entails encouraging the athletes. However, these elements of caring that Jones (2009) suggest seem to be commonplace in the coaching environment, and again are something that would be anticipated from a coach.


So what is this caring? Noddings (1992) suggest caring is about building a relationship between the carer and the cared for (coach and the athlete) taking time outside of the session to build upon a relationship. However is this as simple as this may see, Noddings (2003) wrote “to create a climate where it is likely that attempts at caring will be well received, the cared-for must feel that the one-caring has regard for him or her” this would imply that the athlete being cared for must actually feel like the coach is genuinely interested in them the athlete.



Agne (1988) provides an insight into the types of characteristics that a caring coach might exhibit,  ‘Caring is the orientation of those who tend to express a high sense of self-efficacy and who internal in their locus of control. These people who care depend on their own initiatives to solve problems in these efforts, rather than to mainly rely upon others. Caring coaches are less inclined to blame other for failure in these initiatives or to blame factors outside of themselves or their control.


Furthermore Tarlow (1996) developed a number of characteristics associated with caring. These were time, sensitivity, empowerment and dialogue, Tarlow points out that it does not matter if the dialogue given to the athletes is confrontational or empathetic, but what is important is the relationship in which this confrontation is in i.e a good coach athlete relationship. This can be related to coaches at the elite end of sport.


When thinking about caring the trouble most of us as coaches have is that we already think we care, which can be linked back to Jones, Armour and Potrac (2004) which suggested caring is investing high levels of time and energy into their work which is what every coach automatically does. However the issue we have as coaches, is what we actually care about, and the consequence this may possibly have on the athletes we coach.


Jones’s previous work drawed upon the distinction between caring about and for athletes, Certainly in many instances coaches seem to care about their athletes but to care for them implies a deeper level of involvement, it implies an engagement in the athletes welfare and development.

Caring can be given a social stigma as something that is soft or fluffy, it can be seen as something that is very one-dimensional and can lack real meaning, however it can be seen as something that is essential in building upon a coach-athelte relationship which can encourage the self confidence of an athlete.

Noddings (1992) proposed three key areas that can influence caring within the coaching practice, caring for and caring about, the relationship between carer and cared for and lastly cares and burdens.


Caring for and about an athlete are commonly what most coaches can relate to, as coaches do care ‘about’ the athlete and example of this would be the coach caring for the success of the team or that the athletes have an enjoyable experience, but this is not directly caring for the athletes, caring for the athletes can be characterized by action based attention to detail which focuses on the individual needs of the cared for (athlete)


However there are cultural barriers that face caring. Within specific sporting environments it is not always acceptable to care, this could be in a hyper-macho situation i.e international standard of coaching, but this raises the questions of caring covertly, caring doesn’t have to be as mentioned early a fluffy soft act, But a clear action.


Gilbourne and Richardson, 2006 describe how caring can be demonstrating within a football environment. “These people (coaches) possessed empathic, compassionate and altruistic qualities. These attributes appear to work effectively in soccer settings when they are contained within behavioural norms that constitute a culturally acceptable ‘way of being’. These thoughts should be expanded on a little. Soccer is often an abrasive setting, consequently the caring qualities, outlined above, often manifest covertly through ‘action’ rather than overtly via a demonstrably tender disposition.”


When looking at caring in your coaching environment, think about each individual athlete and how you could better demonstrate care, and do you as a coach act differently to those who you do not favor as much as other athletes.