Establishing Core Covenants And The National Standards For Sports Coaching’s 8 Domains

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Coaching has developed over the years into both an art and a science. Sports coaches inspire their athletes up and down the field, in the arena, and on the courts, driving them forward with a stern, military-style demeanor. Coaches also implement tried-and-true core covenants for their team and creating a culture of hard work and motivation.

Core covenants are essentially promises to which both coaches and athletes agree. Covenants formally declare values and behavioral expectations. Covenants also help to establish a team’s identity, define a team’s philosophy, provide guiding principles, and define what is acceptable and what is not. Without covenants, a team’s culture and vision are left to chance and can be unstable.

Today’s online Master’s in Coaching Education programs cover the methodology behind using core covenants with student-athletes to instill a sense of shared values, agreed-upon goals, and guiding principles.

The Purpose Of Core Covenants

Covenants are invaluable to team building because they help teams reach their potential. They set great teams apart from mediocre ones, they address problems and obstacles directly, and they formulate plans to avoid them – all while inspiring athletes to serve a larger goal: the team itself.

In competitive sports, covenants also provide clear and consistent standards that become the foundation of a strong team. “The personnel on teams changes every year, but when programs have a strong covenant and expectations for team standards and behaviors, the program remains consistent,” coaching writers Bruce and Dana Brown explain in “Proactive Leadership: Empowering Team Leaders” on

“Your standards become the legacy of your program. The clearer your standards are, the better they can be taught. The better they can be taught, the more likely people will buy in. The more consistently the leaders model the actions, the more likely followers are to duplicate the actions. [These standards] need to be simple enough that they can be remembered and articulated.”

The best way to establish standards as a part of your team’s core covenants is to extract values from a team’s vision of what its members want to become. Once that is done, a competent coach can assign actionable steps to those values. Covenants can then be formed around those actions. Once the covenants have been articulated to the students, they can be declared publicly, written down, institutionalized, taught, and put into practice.

Behavioral Covenants Build Strong, Resilient Teams

Sports teams can easily fall into bad habits when there are no standards. Rules must be established to guide members toward pre-established goals in a way that connects everyone, including the coaching staff, to a shared culture.

“A covenant is a binding agreement where action is visible,” coach Scott Rosberg says in his article, “Covenants For Teams And Coaches” on The Coaching Toolbox. “Promises come from the world of distrust, so people feel the need to say something along the lines of ‘I promise that I will fulfill this obligation.’ But covenants are based on trust.”

Covenants define who a team is, what it stands for, and what people can expect from its members. “When all members of a team buy into the covenants that have been established, it is an extremely powerful force in helping a team become all that it is capable of becoming,” Rosberg continues. “ In essence, team members are saying, ‘I commit to living my life the way that we as a team have decided we need to live in order to be the best we can be.’”

In the world of sports coaching, behavioral covenants help teams reach the physical goals that are so imperative to competitive sports. Mental covenants that convey group values (such as fair play, good sportsmanship, honesty, and loyalty) also have their place in making a team culture whole and sustainable, but behavioral covenants require team members to commit to strict regimens of physical training to achieve both maximum individual and team performance.

Covenants And The 8 Domains

The 8 Domains of the National Standards for Sport Coaches, according to “Domains, Standards, and Benchmarks” on, consist of:

  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Safety and injury prevention
  • Physical conditioning
  • Growth and development
  • Teaching and communication
  • Sport skills and tactics
  • Organization and administration
  • Evaluation

A team’s driving covenants, if devised precisely and rationally, can address these domains in a way that incorporates them into a team’s standard operating procedure for years to come.

Athletic directors Scott Jarvis and Pete Wilkinson discuss their weekly meeting model of coach mentoring and development in “More Than A Score” on

With the eight domains and covenants in mind and following a set curriculum, their meetings cover overall skills for student-athletes, including fundamental thinking skills, building confidence, committing to goals, avoiding burnout, and leading others to victory (even in the face of a loss).

Coaches and students regularly discuss topics and issues facing them in sports, they point out. Issues may include maintaining focus after a big win, rebounding from a defeat, preparing for important games, rebuilding confidence after a poor performance, and maintaining composure, intention, and direction.

All topics covered in the weekly meeting format go hand in hand with the 8 Domains of Coaching. For example, maintaining focus after a big win encompasses the team’s philosophy, physical conditioning, and teaching/communication. Leading other team members (even after a loss) involves a team’s ethics, evaluation, sports tactics, and athletic development.

Ohio University’s Online Master Of Coaching Education Program

Ohio University excels at preparing its students to coach effectively at all levels, from middle school athletics departments to professional sports leagues. Graduates of Ohio University’s MCE program are prepared to increase the athletic performance of athletes of all ages with the technical skills, such as the 8 Domains of Coaching, and leadership experience required to coach a sports team.

MCE coursework includes management, leadership, and the practice of core covenants for coaches, injury prevention, performance and conditioning, ethics and diversity, and risk management. Learn more about Ohio University’s online master’s in coaching education degree by visiting the program’s webpage.

Recommended Reading:

How to Develop a Coaching Philosophy
Three Motivation Techniques for Coaches, from Coaches
The Importance of a Strong Coach-Athlete Relationship


Covenants for Teams and Coaches