By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician
There have been numerous articles published about referee conduct and responsibility in various referee publications. However there have not been too many articles that focus on the responsibility and conduct of a coach in referee publications.
The NFHS Rules Book provides information in Rule 4 Section 3 about the responsibilities that a coach has regarding players’ equipment. “Each head coach is responsible for ensuring that each of his/her players is properly and legally equipped.” This means that the head coach must ensure that players have proper shoes, age and size-appropriate shin guards with the NOCSAE seal, matching socks, numbers on the jersey, etc. The coach is also responsible for ensuring that no player is wearing any jewelry or other illegal equipment. Prior to each game the head official will ask each head coach if all players are properly and legally equipped. The coach must respond and take full responsibility. If it is determined by the referee that a player is wearing illegal equipment, the head coach shall be cautioned. if another player from the same team is also wearing illegal equipment, the player will be cautioned. The head coach will not receive a second caution (ejection) for illegal equipment. The head coach is totally responsible for all players to be properly equipped.
The NFHS Rules Book also provides a Code of Ethics for all coaches. The primary function of an interscholastic coach is to “educate students through active participation in interscholastic competition. An interscholastic program should be designed to enhance academic achievement and should never interfere with opportunities for academic success. Each student should be treated with the utmost respect and his or her welfare should be considered in decisions by the coach at all times.” This introduction to the Coaches Code of Ethics provides very important guidelines for coaches. Interscholastic soccer is an extension of the classroom and is designed to help not hinder the overall high school experience for players. Coaches must never act in a manner that is detrimental to a participant’s well being.
An interscholastic coach has a great amount of influence on a student, his/her education, soccer growth and more. The player should be able to use the coach as a role model and learn both additional soccer skills and life lessons from the coach. The coach should be instilling the highest ideals in the player.
An interscholastic coach is more than a person that trains soccer players and oversees them during a game. A coach is recognized in the community and as such must set an example of the highest ethical and moral conduct as possible. Unprofessional behavior, either on or off the field, can lead to players not wanting to participate on the team or parents not allowing the players to participate. A coach must always remember that he/she is in the “public eye” at all times.
Social media is a relatively new area that any coach must be keenly aware of in two different aspects. First, no coach should post anything in social media that will have a negative impact on any player or the interscholastic program in general. Care must be taken to ensure all posts made by a coach are positive and professional. Secondly, a coach must monitor what the players on the team may be posting. Prior to the season a coach should advise all players that inappropriate or less than professional posts about the team, officials, school administrators, faculty, etc. will not be tolerated. This proactive approach will prevent potential problems during the season.
A coach should become a student of the interscholastic rules and teach them to every player on the team. A coach is permitted to question a rule interpretation by an official but must know the rule prior to raising the question. This is especially so regarding when substitutes are permitted, injuries, restarts after injuries, etc. The coach must know what the state association overtime procedure is during the regular and post-season. This will help eliminate problems when overtime situations develop.
Sportsmanship is a very important part of interscholastic soccer. Every coach should act in a manner that promotes good sportsmanship. The coach should also work with parents, spectators, cheerleaders, booster clubs, etc. and use his/her influence to enhance good sportsmanship. The coach’s actions before, during and after the game go a long way in emphasizing good sportsmanship.
Part of coaching is to teach every player to respect the opponents, officials, spectators and administrators. This is critical to a successful soccer program. Every player must be taught how to play the game within the rules and strive to be successful without attempting to injure an opponent or playing in an unfair manner.
The last area to discuss about ethics deals with a coach and the relationship with other faculty members. A coach must never attempt to influence a faculty member to adjust a grade so that a player is eligible to be part of the team. No player should ever be given special consideration no matter what his/her talents are. This sets a poor example and gives the player the impression that academic achievement is not important.
In summary, a coach has many responsibilities in addition to coaching the team on soccer skills. This article is not all inclusive of the responsibilities but provides some guidance on what is expected of every interscholastic coach.