The Basics of Sport Team Management

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A coach’s job doesn’t stop when the team gets off the field. Coaching a team takes considerable organizational skills and attention to detail. Coaches and athletic directors must be able to juggle schedules, train athletes to peak ability, handle business matters like insurance, counsel team members, and provide useful, engaging information to the press.

Scheduling the Team

Maybe the most obvious scheduling a coach needs to handle is a team’s practices. When is everyone able to practice? For a professional sports team, practicing and playing is a full-time job, so a coach can schedule a team to come practice at virtually any time. But for a college sports team, the coach will have to coordinate around class schedules, including considerations like midterms and finals.

How often and how long will the team practice? Novices might think more practice is always better, but that’s not the case. Scheduling practices is a delicate balancing act between keeping the team fit and skilled, and allowing them enough time to rest and recover. Too much practice over time – whether that’s too many sessions, or training for too long in individual sessions – can exhaust a team physically and emotionally, creating a condition called overtraining. Overtraining can have effects ranging from decreased performance and poor quality of sleep to depression. And as many observers know, training too long and too hard in one session has been implicated in several deaths in the world of high school sports. Good coaches should know when to cancel a practice to allow the team to rest, when to call a training session short, or even when to send an individual athlete home for the day.

Where will the team practice? A professional sports team may have a dedicated space. But a college sports team may have to share a gym, a field, a pool, or some other facility. Coaches need to coordinate with facility owners and other teams to make sure training facilities are open at the desired times.

Finally, how will the team practice? Drilling skills and strategies on the field may be useful, but players need to focus on strength training and flexibility as well. No training regimen is complete without cross-training, and coaches need to figure out how frequently to incorporate that training, and what kinds are best.

While arranging practices is maybe the most obvious part of a coach’s scheduling, consider also the scheduling that goes on around games. While coaches don’t have much (if any) say as to when games take place, they need to coordinate transportation to games and press interviews.

Handling Insurance

Everybody knows sports can be risky. Everybody knows players can suffer injuries on the field, ranging from the annoying to the life-threatening. But volunteers and coaches can suffer injuries, whether in practice, during games, or at other events in connection with the team.

In the event of accidents like these, sports teams need insurance, and it’s the coach’s job to purchase it. Coaches need to have a realistic understanding of the dangers on the field. They need to be able to weigh different insurance plans and select the one that fits the team’s needs, and if those needs change they’ll need to stay on top of the team’s new requirements. They’re often the ones filing insurance claims, and they may need to be able to present proof of insurance to universities, stadiums, and the like.

Communication with the Team

A coach’s job is, in large part, a social one. Leaving aside mundane issues like scheduling changes, coaches need to communicate vital information about the team’s performance to the players. This isn’t as simple as it first appears: coaches may the team’s performance as a whole, but they need to explain that information in a way that makes sense to individual players and that helps them adjust their performance to create the desired effect.

Consider also how a coach’s job involves managing individual personalities. Even the most skilled player might feel discouraged or unhappy – at lack of progress at practice, for example, or at a lost game – and part of a coach’s job is to serve almost as a counselor, providing useful encouragement from a realistic point of view.

And, of course, those individual personalities on a team can clash. Players are admitted to the team based on their individual skills, not necessarily their ability to get along together (whether professionally or personally). In cases of disagreements that teammates can’t work out on their own, a coach may need to step in to ensure that the team functions smoothly as a group again.

Communication with the Press

It’s not the first thing most people think of, but coaches need public speaking skills. They need to communicate with reporters, and to give interviews. A coach isn’t necessarily expected to be bastions of charisma, but they’re expected to be friendly, personable, and helpful in front of a microphone or a camera.

This involves keeping a cool head. Coaches need to know how to be gracious when discussing losing teams, and how to be polite to winners. When put on the spot about a player’s performance, coaches need to be able to respond to questions tactfully. They may also need to be able to discuss complicated strategies in relatively simple terms – or they may need to know when to hold back information about strategy or training that might help other coaches prepare their teams.

About Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration Degree

Ohio University’s online MAA program is designed to teach professionals how to manage the many changes in interscholastic sports. The university launched the nation’s first academic program in sports administration in 1966 and continues to be a leader in sports business education.

Ohio University’s online MAA program is housed within the university’s College of Business, underscoring the university’s dedication to providing world-class sports business education.

The program works in collaboration with the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) to prepare graduates for certification and is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). For more information, contact an enrollment advisor at Ohio University.