Coaches as Fitness Role Models

By Nichols, Randall; Zillifro, Traci D. et al. | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

Coaches as Fitness Role Models


Nichols, Randall, Zillifro, Traci D., Nichols, Ronald, Hull, Ethan E., Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


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The lack of physical activity, low fitness levels, mad elevated obesity rates as high as 32% (Ogden, Carroll, Curtain, Lamb, Flegal, 2010) of today's youth are well documented. Many strategies and grants have been developed at the national, regional, and local levels to help counteract these current trends. Strategies have been developed mad implemented for schools, households (parents), and communities, but an area of influence that has not been clearly addressed is that of the youth/scholastic coach. This article focuses on the role that youth and scholastic coaches can play in having a positive influence on their athletes by teaching health-related fitness (HRF) during practice.

The role of the youth sport coach is complex and will likely vary according to a myriad of contextual factors and an athlete's personal characteristics (Gilbert and Trudel, 2004). Unlike practitioners in most fields, youth sport coaches often do not have extensive formal training that would provide clear examples of how they should flame their role (Gilbert and Trudel, 1999). Therefore this article will describe one of the areas that youth/scholastic coaches can be a positive influence.

By nature coaching provides a unique and authentic opportunity to focus on developing a range of skills (Intrator & Siegel, 2008). Coaches are goal-setters, communicators, and planners; they motivate themselves, inspire others, and create conditions for players to learn. Coaches practice and exhibit many of the skills for success in both the classroom and life, which could include health-related fitness knowledge and strategies.

Currently, most physical educators are taught the importance of including an HRF component in all of their lessons. However, the limited amount of time students spend in physical education is not likely to result in large improvements in physical fitness (Corbin, 2004). Therefore, one of the goals for youth and scholastic coaches could be to include an HRF component in their coaching, similar to that of a physical educator. As the Physical Best Instructors Guide states: "Teach students what to do to be healthy and fit, how to do it and why it is important to be healthy and fit," (NASPE, 2005). Additionally, since youth mad scholastic coaches are often viewed as role models (Young, 2009), their personal fitness and health behavior may translate to their players.

Practice Planning

A practical way to incorporate HRF into practices is through organization. One way to begin organizing practices is by incorporating the use of practice plans with ma HRF session in every practice. Table 1 shows an example. Posting this plan, or at least the HRF segment, prior to practice will allow athletes to read about the session and any educational material included. To ensure your team reads the plans, post them in different common areas and give copies to all coaches and parents. One method to encourage your team to read the plans is to ask them questions about the HRF plan before you start practice. For example, include a motivational quote and place it at the bottom of the practice plan. Try to relate the quote to something the team is going through at that point of the season. Then, at the team meeting, randomly ask one of the athletes to recite the quote or the essence of today's fitness plan. Every practice plan could have at least one specific area that works on developing one of the HRF components.

This does not mean plans for developing the athletic skill levels of athletes are altered simply to spend time on an HRF goal. Instead, coaches are intentional about addressing an HRF component when their practice plan overlaps with a fitness component, or when the fitness component can be easily incorporated into the normal progress of that day's practice. When coaches start examining their practices, they will most likely find that they already incorporate multiple components of fitness. …

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