Frequently Asked Questions


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– NFL Running Back Arian Foster,
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– NVL Player Brittney Hochevar

University of Michigan, Head Football Coach, Jim Harbaugh
University of Denver’s Head Lacrosse Coach, Bill Tierney

Boston College’s Head Women’s Soccer Coach, Alison Foley

– Our very own Dr. Brian Gearity
– Award-Winning Sport Sociologist and Author, Dr. Jay Coakley.
– Many more coming!


A sports coach needs professional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal knowledge. Professional knowledge is knowing what and how to coach, which makes it very broad. Interpersonal knowledge is knowing how to effectively interact with athletes, other coaches, parents, and others in sport. Intrapersonal knowledge is about knowing one’s self and working to develop one’s self.

Coaches should possess a wide variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Coaches need to know how to instruct, motivate, and lead. Coaches should have a foundational understanding across the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains.

Good coaches possess a wide variety of qualities such as being caring, fair, and responsible. Good coaches are humble, continuously learning, and adaptable. Athletes often prefer coaches who involve them in decision making, respond to their needs, and provide good training and instruction.

A good coach is ethical and effective. They are effective when they help athletes to improve their performance and other desirable outcomes. They are ethical by understanding and implementing virtues and principles that do not harm and support human flourishing.

Leadership & Ethics

Leadership refers to the art and science of directing or guiding others. A sport coach’s leadership philosophy sets the vision and mission for their team. People look to coaches as leaders because they are in positions of authority and can exercise great power.

Coaching ethics refers to what society deems to be right or wrong. There are a variety of ethical theories or ways to understand ethics such as virtue ethics, deontological ethics, or situational ethics. Sport coaches constantly make ethical decisions related to fair and caring interactions with athletes, the use of drugs or performance enhancing substances, and playing by the rules of the game.

Coaching in leadership is a guided approach to developing more effective leaders. Leadership used to be thought of as direct, authoritarian, and dominating. Coaching suggests something more collaborative, facilitative, and suggestive. A coach educator would provide sport coaches with guidance on how to improve their leadership.

Coaches should be ethical because they have a duty to protect those in their charge. Youth coaches act in loco parentis, which means in place of the parent, and are therefore obligated to care for the welfare of young athletes. All coaches should be ethical because it is the right thing to do and can also help the sport team be successful over time.

Ethical standards of coaching include being athlete-centered, developing athletes holistically, teaching positive values, and being inclusive and non-discriminatory. Coaches are expected to possess ethical standards for themselves such as integrity, honesty, responsibility, and self-discipline. Ethical standards change over time and new reasoning or evidence informs what is considered an ethical standard.


Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, religion, ableism, nationality, socioeconomic class, and family structure are sociocultural factors in sport. These factors affect sport in varying ways such as participation, uniform and equipment, and rules of the game. For example, there are differences in youth and professional lacrosse, basketball, and track and field (athletics) based on gender. Sociocultural factors can be understood individually or collectively, which means how one of more factors overlap. For example, researchers have shown differences in access to and participation in sport based on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class.

Sport is a cultural creation. Sport does not exist naturally like water or trees. In essence, everything we know about sport is mediated by culture. The meaning and practices of sport vary by culture. For example, cricket and soccer are wildly popular around the world, particularly in India and England, whereas cricket is mostly unknown in the US.

Ethnicity refers not to skin color like race, but to a common group identity. Different ethnic groups participate in varying sport. For example, research in Canada has shown that people born in Canada often participate in hockey and skiing, whereas immigrants (Asian, Indian) to Canada participate less in these sports. Ethnicity can also affect biases and stereotypes that coaches and others develop, which subsequently can affect recruitment, participation, and treatment.

Sport participation is affected by a wide range of demographic, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Some of these factors include: body image, gender, motivation, race, proximity, and socioeconomic status. Culturally processes and the media also play a big role in sport participation.

Culture affects participation in a lot of ways. Sports are cultural creations and their prevalence and popularity based on culture. For example, soccer (football) and cricket are widely popular sports in throughout the world, especially in Asia, Australasia, and Europe. However, cricket is rarely played in the United States. Some cultures prohibit or discriminate sport participation based on gender, sexuality, or religion.

Team Culture

One model for building a team culture in sport involves forming, storming, norming, and performing. Begin by developing a vision and mission for the team, start to come together to do shared work and challenge one another, and then reflect and refine your processes. Social activities, not just work related tasks, can also help teams become stronger. Inclusivity and developing a sense of belonging are also essential to team culture.

Culture is the beliefs, values, customs, practices, etc. of a group of particular people in society. A team is a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal. Team culture in sports refers to the shared values, practices, etc. of a group of coaches, athletes, and others trying to achieve common goals.

In sports, stronger teams or a team high in teamwork, often outperforms weaker teams or a team low in teamwork. Teamwork helps coaches and athletes unite to achieve their goals. High functioning teams work better as a collaborative unit. As they say, teamwork makes the dreamwork.

Good teams embrace psychological safety. Many coaches and sport parents make the mistake of instilling fear into their athletes or children. Harsh criticism, negativity, and retaliation reduce psychological safety. Athletes want to follow positive coaches who offer constructive and instructive feedback.

Changing team culture begins with leaders identifying a vision and clear values, in consultation with team members. Leaders, such as sport coaches, should align their processes and practices to fulfill this vision. Consequences or rewards need to support behaviors in line with this vision and eliminate undesirable behaviors. Consistency and alignment of all these aspects strengthens team culture.

Strength & Conditioning

A strength and conditioning workout is the time, effort, and exercises and activities an athlete performs to prepare for their sport practices and competitions. A single workout may also be referred to as a microcycle. Strength generally refers to lifting weights and conditioning to running, however, this is a simplification. A strength and conditioning workout often includes a dynamic or moving warm-up, resistance training, conditioning, and cool-down that includes stretching.

Conditioning is a colloquialism that refers to biological energy systems or an athletic training practice involving running, agilities, and the like. From a biological perspective, the three main energy systems are phosphagen, glycolysis, and oxidative. Sport specific conditioning is importance to optimizing performance. A long-distance runner or swimmer would want to condition or improve their oxidative energy system, whereas this would be detrimental for a shot putter, football lineman, or weightlifter. In sport settings, people use the word conditioning most frequently when referring to aerobic training or the oxidative energy system.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning’s textbook, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 4th edition, strength is, “the ability to exert force” (p. 25). Put simply, strength refers to how much force or weight an athlete can lift. Strength is often conflated with power, which has a short duration or higher velocity component to it that strength does not. “Absolute strength” generally refers to how much weight can be lifted one time or commonly referred to as a 1 repetition maximum.

Strength and conditioning can help athletes improve their sport performance. For example, resistance training or strength training increases bone density and ligament strength, which can prevent injury. Plyometric exercises such as jumping, and resistance training like weightlifting, can improve sprint speed and vertical jump, which are essential movements in sports like basketball, volleyball, and high jump.

Conditioning generally refers to activities like running, whereas strength training refers to lifting weights. The two main factors associated with conditioning are duration and intensity. Longer duration activities are referred to as aerobic and challenge the glycolytic or oxidative energy system. Short duration, high intensity activities, such as less than a 100m sprint, challenges the phosphagen energy system. Strength training involves activities designed to increase muscular force, or commonly called lifting heavier weights. Athletes perform a variety of movements with an external load to increase their strength.

Periodization & Program Design

Russian physiologist Leonid Matveyev is generally credited with coining the phrase periodization, but other scientists and coaches have contributed to popularizing this term, including the work of Hans Selye, a pioneering stress scientist. At a time when scientists were creating new theories to understand universal and cause and effect relationships, the concept of periodization was created to identify how national team or Olympic level athletes succeeded. Although there have been reasonable critiques of periodization, such as it generalized too much and omitted numerous other factors affecting athletic performance, the term endures today. In today’s age, periodization often means systematic, multifaceted planning, but the belief that it is a magical theory that explains athletic performance is outdate

Periodization is a multifaceted, heterogenous term used to describe how to optimize athletic performance. In a strict sense, periodization refers to dividing the year up into periods or phases to emphasize the development of particular athletic or team skills. In a broader sense, periodization is the planning and decision making involved in all aspects of coaching. In strength and conditioning contexts, periodization is often limited to physical aspects of athletic performance, but this is short-sighted as performance encompasses psychological, tactical, technical, and social factors.

A sport specific training program is a process involving: needs analysis, exercise selection, training frequency, exercise order, training load and repetitions, volume, and rest periods. The needs analysis includes essential aspects including a physiological, biomechanical, and injury analysis. Once the essential needs are identified, then other elements of sport specific training programs can be planned, along with the individual preferences. There is no perfect training program, and athletes and coaches should be constantly considering better ways to train.

Create a sports training plan by mapping out one calendar year. Next, identify all of the contests or games for that year. Then, identify basic or foundational skills of the sport that an athlete needs to perform and plan to do those in the off-season first. As you get closer to the season, start incorporating more sport-specific skills and build off the basics to more complex exercises, techniques, and tactics.

A sports development program is a planned approach to enhancing sport and life skills through physical activity. These sorts of programs usually emphasize the holistic development of young people through sport. Sport is used to build physical skills, as well as psychological and social skills. A sports development program can also include adults, communities, and even sovereign nations.

Exercise Technique

Proper exercise technique helps to enhance performance and reduce athletic injury. Athletes with effective technique produce greater amounts of force and power. In turn, this makes them more likely to succeed in their sport. Effective technique also reduces injury by avoiding forces that could cause damage to bones, ligaments, tendons, or muscles.

Exercise technique fundamentals consists of the physiological, biomechanical, motor learning, and psychosocial aspects of human movement. In sport settings, exercise technique fundamentals refer to athletes being able to perform essential movements in training or practices and games. Fundamental movement or motor skills tend to include establishing an athletic stance, body awareness, and movement in multiple planes or directions. Additional fundamental movement skills are balancing, running, jumping, throwing, catching, hopping, galloping, skipping, leaping, kicking, striking, wheeling (adaptive), hinging, rotating, pushing, pulling, squatting, and swimming.

Exercise technique is the ability to properly perform an exercise or movement. Each exercise has a “bandwidth” of generally acceptable technique, which refers to a range of human movement that optimizes performance.

Proper training and technique is to the science and practice of appropriate athletic preparation practices. These sounds practices are informed by science, experience, professional judgment, athlete or coach preferences, context, and more. Being able to do proper technique is different than knowing about proper technique. Athletes need to be able to do proper technique, whereas coaches generally do not, although it may help them with a demonstration. Coaches need to know proper technique, which they use to help athletes do or perform proper technique.

Proper exercise technique helps to enhance performance and reduce athletic injury. Athletes with effective technique produce greater amounts of force and power. In turn, this makes them more likely to succeed in their sport. Effective technique also reduces injury by avoiding forces that could cause damage to bones, ligaments, tendons, or muscles.

Sport Science

In general, science has helped people, including athletes, live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Sport science and athletic performance have benefitted from this as well. Sport science and athletic performance have always operated together, so separating out the two is essentially impossible. Sport science has indeed helped us to understand how and why athletic performance can be enhanced or hindered. Causality (x causes y) and outcome variables (how do we measure improvement) will continue to be important topics for sport science.

Sports scientists help athletes, and others such as coaches and the sports medicine team, by using scientific skills to understand, and attempt to improve, athletic performance. Sport scientists commonly test hypotheses to understand cause and effect relationships and how varying types of stress effect the body. For example, sport scientists have shown how protein enhances muscle repair and growth and how training with heavier weights or loads is superior than lighter loads for improving muscular strength.

Sport scientists are employed at universities in both academic and athletic departments, training facilities or performance centers, research labs, professional or national sport teams, or in the government, including the military. Sport scientists that do research in a laboratory are often called lab scientists and conduct basic research. Sport scientists that work in athletic settings, such as collegiate or professional athletic departments, are often called applied scientists and do applied research in dynamic environments.

Sport science is most often thought of as the use of scientific assumptions, thinking, methods, technologies, and procedures to enhance athletic performance, including injury prevention. Sport scientists often use a variety of experimental designs and statistics in real-world contexts within interdisciplinary teams to inform their athletic training decision making. Common topics in sport science include training theory, periodization and program design, data collection and analysis, and cause and effect relationships. This approach to sport science is most closely associated with the scientific paradigm labeled positivism.

In the 21st century, sport science education has mostly consisted of education from the natural sciences and mathematics. This education focuses on biology or physiology, biomechanics, motor learning, technology, and statistics. From a historical perspective, sport science education is as old as humanity. For thousands of years people have studied health and medicine, physical education, and sport, which continues to inform our thinking today, although with major changes.

Sport Psychology

Sport psychology is the scientific study of the human experience in sport and the application of this knowledge in an attempt to enhance a variety of outcomes. Typical outcomes include athletes, team, or coach performance and health and well-being. Because the development of sport psychology emerged from general psychology and scientific thinking, sport psychology tended to focus on behavior and problematic or maladaptive aspects of human living. Sport psychology has blossomed into a robust and multidisciplinary science studying the interaction of thoughts, emotions, and the physical body within sociocultural contexts.

Thoughts and emotions affect performance in a variety of ways. For example, motor learning (skill development) researchers have consistently shown that what people think affects their performance. In most cases, an external focus of attention enhances an athlete’s ability to perform a skill. Thoughts and emotions are not necessarily good or bad, positive or negative, but how they impact performance is what matters. Athletes experiencing anxiety often perceive or feel it to be unpleasant, will concomitantly experience negative thoughts such as doubt or physiological responses such as sweating, but they also learn to perform at high levels with this anxiety.

A sport psychology strategy is a purposeful approach to enhancing a sport performer (for example athlete or coach), sport organization, or other outcome such as health and well-being or social issue through the use of psychological knowledge, skills, and attitudes. A robust strategy entails a needs assessment and framing of the problem or issue, designing and implementing a problem-solving intervention or program, and evaluation and continuous improvement.

A sport psychologist often does research, teaching, or consulting. Sport psychologists are often employed as professors at universities where they teach students and conduct research; for example, to understand the psychology athletes or coaches. Sport psychologists may have a private practice or consulting business where they work with athletes, coaches, or even sport parents. Sport psychologists are also employed in a permanent or ongoing basis, often with a well-resourced collegiate, professional, or Olympic team, where they are in charge of designing, implementing, and evaluating a comprehensive sport psychology plan.

In general, a sport psychologist is somebody who uses their understanding of sport and psychology in a sport setting. They do this to improve the health, well-being, or athletic performance of their clients or employer. For example, a sport psychologist may help a coach understand how their own emotions affect their decision making. A sport psychologist may also work with an athlete to help the athlete learn how to regulate their attention or energy, which in turn affects athletic performance. Depending on the country and region, the term sport psychologist may be protected by law. This means that people can only legally call themselves a psychologist if they are licensed or have met the corresponding laws to be recognized.

Mental Skills Training

Mental skills in sport are psychological and social-psychological qualities that affect performance and well-being. Common mental skills include arousal, anxiety, and energy management, imagery, confidence building, goal setting, and concentration.

Mental skills training in sports and exercise psychology is the systematic and ongoing practice of psychological skills to enhance performance or well-being. After identifying a problem or psychological quality to improve, mental skills training uses a variety of techniques to strengthen this quality, and then the athlete or performer is better able to self-regulate their mental state.

Mental skills improve performance by affecting psychological qualities. For example, goal setting can be used to enhance motivation. Greater motivation leads to a greater quantity and quality of practices. In effect, physical, cognitive, and team skills are enhanced.

Mental strength in sport is important because it facilitates continued participation and positive outcomes. Athletes are constantly challenged in sport and mental strength or mental toughness helps them focus on what’s important and to perform well. Mental weakness can lead to dropping out of sport, giving poor effort, or focus on irrelevant aspects or cues.

Mental preparation in sport is not yelling “focus” or “try harder.” Mental preparation in sport is about systematically planning and practicing getting into a peak performance mindset. It is also about enduring challenging times when you are not operating at your best.

Psychological Performance

Sport psychology is an applied field of study that focuses on the mental, emotional, and motor aspects of performance. Numerous psychological states and traits affect performance in many ways. For example, an athlete who is challenged too much or too little may provide inadequate effort and motivation.

Psychological preparation in sport refers to preparing an athlete, coach, or other performer, to prepare their mind for optimal performance. Compared to non-elites, elite-athletes report greater levels of self-confidence, motivation, and arousal, anxiety, and attentional control. Psychological preparation involved identifying and improving upon key psychological attributes of performance.

Yes, motivation affects performance. Without some level and intensity of motivation, people would literally not do anything. Many top athletes are extremely intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to perform at a high level. A high level of motivation can help performers concentrate and give good effort, which subsequently helps learning and performance.

Motivation in sport is the direction and intensity of effort. Interestingly, children and youth are generally intrinsically motivated to play and engage in games, but for sport, sometimes they have to be encouraged or need extrinsic motivators. Coaches can enhance athletes’ motivation by being positive, caring, and focusing on developing competence, confidence, and mastery of skills.

Personality generally refers to stable patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Personality affects performance in many ways, although determining if a particular personality leads to success is questionable. The most common personality theory measures the “big five” traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness. Specific to sport coaching, more research is needed to determine how personality affects coaches and coaching performance. Some research shows that openness and servant-mindedness leads to fewer athletic injuries and higher winning percentages. However, personality is often not specifically studied, but similar behaviors are studied.

Health & Well Being

Sport can, but not always, improve many aspects of wellbeing. Sport can help people improve their physical health by learning new skills, expending calories, and strengthening bones and muscles. Research shows that athletes on average possess higher grade point averages than non-athletes, but other research shows this is not the case and varies greatly by sport. Social and emotional health can also be improved in sport through relationships with teammates, coaches, and others, but other research shows athletes, coaches, and parents engage in lower moral decision making than non-sport participants.

Sports activity can help health wellness by positive and direct effects of physical activity on the prevention or slowing of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis (weakening of bones). However, sport activity can also harm health wellness by negative and direct effects of vigorous physical activity and collisions, such as traumatic brain injury, bone fractures, and sprains and strains of ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Sport is good for wellbeing when done under the proper conditions because sport can enhance all dimensions of wellbeing. This is especially the case if sport participants can transfer what they learn in sport to other dimensions of their life. Life skills development, positive youth development, and personal and social responsibility are all sport specific approaches to enhancing wellbeing.

Sport Management

Sports management focuses on the business aspects of sport such as leadership and management, finance, marketing, event planning, and related areas. Sports management as an academic field of study blossomed in the 1980s as revenues in sport soared and jobs in sport become highly desired.

Sport management is hugely important and foundational to every organization. Creating and planning the organization’s vision, mission, strategic plan, structure, and budge are central aspects of sport management.

The skills needed by sports managers vary by sector. For example, leaders need to think strategically and ethically to set the stage for the organization. Managers in sales and marketing need great interpersonal skills to address customer’s needs and preferences. It is also important to understand the culture of sport and how norms, values, and rituals affect what people do and expect.

There are a number of ways to get into sports management, but work experience, networking, and nepotism play big roles. Most people get into sports management with a degree in sports management and/or a closely related field. Students often get their foot in the door with one of more internships. Attending conferences, professional development opportunities, and visiting with colleagues can help extend one’s network. Many people in sport are hired by friends and family, so nepotism does play a role on who gets preferential treatment.

Generally, athletic management refers to the identification, recruitment, and development of athletes. Sport coaches, sports medicine, strength and conditioning coaches, scouts, nutritionists, sport scientists, and sport psychologists are central positions in athletic management. Sport management refers more to the business and fiscal aspects of sport. Many collegiate athletic departments and professional athletics are divided by athletic management and sport and financial management.


Sport administration is the act of directing and managing sport. The root word “administer” actually refers to serving or being a servant. Somebody administering something was thought to be serving others. Nowadays, sport administration refers to business aspects of sports and athlete development. On the business side, sport administration refers to aspects like finance, economics, accounting, marketing, and leading. On the athlete development side, sport administration refers to scouts, coaches, athletes, strength and conditioning, sports medicine, and others facilitating team performance.

Sports administration can be a good major for students interested in pursuing a career in sport. Students will receive sport specific knowledge and skills across a range of disciplines, such as leadership, management, sales, marketing, and law. Students should also understand if there are other career requirements or cultural norms such as obtaining certification (certified public accountant, CPA) for sport accounting jobs or a law degree (Juris Doctor, JD) for jobs in sport agency or compliance.

For all intents and purposes, there is little practical difference between sports management and sports administration. Within higher education, colleges and universities tend to refer to the discipline or field of study as sports management. Sports management is also in line with the name of the academic professional organization the North American Society for Sport Management. In years past, especially in k-12 settings, sport personnel such as Athletic Directors were referred to as Athletic Administrators, whereas nowadays, professional teams and the like refer to employees as sport managers.

Sports administrators do a variety of tasks such as marketing, human resource development, event management, sports marketing and communication, and ticket sales. Sport administrators hold numerous titles such as athletic director, general manager, scout, or director of a department. Two ways to understand what sports administrators do is to review job postings and search directories of organizations. Job postings detail primary and secondary job tasks, as well as qualifications required and preferred for the position. Directories of organizations reveal the organizational structure and range of job titles, from which you can infer what that person does.

To become a sports administrator, you will benefit by having a college degree in business, sport, or a closely related field. This will provide you with foundational knowledge, skills, and attitudes to succeed in sports administration. You will want to complete internships and jobs in sport to further prepare you for the realities of working in sports. Networking is also important as who you know is as important as what you know. You should also attend professional development and networking opportunities, such as conferences and workshops.

Mental skills are needed for sports training, but are often skipped or not systematically incorporated. The mind, and more broadly our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, are interconnected and always operating in sports training. Athletes, coaches, parents, and others often overlook mental preparation because they think it is only useful when problems arise, that it’s not useful, it’s quick or easy, or that it’s limited to elite performers.

Mental skills in sport include anxiety or energy management, attention and concentration control or focusing, communication, goal setting, imagery, self-talk, and team building, among others. Sport performers, often coaches and athletes, use mental skills to enhance their performance and other outcomes such as health, well-being, enjoyment, and career transitions. For example, an athlete may practice imagery to improve their sport-specific technique or do relaxation breathing to cope with stress and anxiety.

Sports are both mental and physical, and more, such as materials like equipment and the playing surface. Sport is also cultural, such as where and what sports are played, why, and by whom. For centuries, people have tried to divide the mind and body, which is often attributed to the philosopher Descartes. Sport psychologists praise the mind or mental, while sport scientists praise the body or physical. At different points along an athlete’s development or career, the mental and physical aspects become more or less important for success.


Athletes nutritional needs vary by the athlete’s current size and training, goals, sport, and other personal and environment factors. Generally, athletes require more calories than non-athletes or sedentary people because food is needed to fuel all the human movement required in sports. Aerobic athletes (long-distance runners and swimmers) tend to need more carbohydrates and fats to fuel the longer duration workouts and recovery, whereas anaerobic athletes (weightlifters, football players) tend to need more protein for muscle repair and muscular strength.

Principle 1 of sports nutrition is to consume sufficient macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, and micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, and water. Principle 2 of sports nutrition is to optimize nutrient timing, which entails eating the right foods at the right times. Principle 3 is to consider the use of performance-enhancing substances and supplements, such as creatine, which can facilitate desirable adaptations, but also requires ample scientific research to support their use.

An athletes’ nutritional needs should be understood fully and not just on a single meal basis. What an athlete eats for breakfast depends on what an athlete will eat later in the day and what activities are planned. In general, a breakfast with about 50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% fat is good, along with water or milk. Including fiber is good too because most people do not consume enough fiber and it prevents a variety of gastrointestinal diseases and problems.