Legal Requirements for Sports Coaching

What legal requirements must sports coaches adhere to?

Sports coaches are often directly involved with working with young children and vulnerable individuals. Accordingly, if you want to be a sports coach, you must be subject to appropriate checks as to your suitability to work in this environment.

This would include a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which would assess whether you have a criminal record and ensure that you are not on a barred list which would prohibit you from working in specified sectors. There may also be vetting and barring scheme checks required by the individual sport you choose to work in.

To be a coach for a particular sport in the UK, you may need to undertake a minimum level of training and achieve certain qualifications. For example, if you wish to coach tennis within England you’re be required to attain the required level of coaching qualification from the Lawn Tennis Association, the national governing body of tennis in England.

Code of Practice for Sports Coaches

The National Coaching Foundation’s Code of Practice for Sports Coaches aims to provide an ethical framework for sports coaches and has been adopted by a number of governing bodies of sport and employers of coaches.

The code details various areas and issues with which it says all sports coaches ought to conform to. These ethical standards cover a number of areas, the main cornerstones of which are:

  • rights;
  • relationships;
  • responsibilities – personal standards;
  • responsibilities – professional standards.

Rights

Coaches must respect and champion the rights of every individual to participate in sport and physical activity. They are also expected to:

  • always treat everyone with respect;
  • not discriminate on the grounds of gender, marital status, race, colour, disability, sexual identity, age, occupation, religious beliefs or political opinion;
  • not allow any type of discrimination to go unchallenged;
  • not publicly criticise or verbally put down others;
  • be discreet in any conversations about participants, coaches or any other individuals;
  • communicate with and provide feedback to participants in a way that reflects respect and care.

Relationships

Coaches should form a relationship with their participants (and others) based on openness, honesty, mutual trust and respect. They also need to:

  • refrain from any behaviour that could be construed as abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, bullying;
  • advance the well-being and best interests of their participants;
  • avoid sexual intimacy with their charges, either while coaching them or immediately after the coaching relationship ends;
  • do something if they are worried about the behaviour of an adult towards a child or vulnerable adult;
  • encourage participants to be responsible for their own decisions;
  • clarify the nature of the coaching services being offered
  • exchange ideas and work with other organisations and individuals in the best interests of participants.

Responsibilities – personal standards

Correct personal behaviour and conduct should always be shown by coaches. They should also:

  • operate within the rules and spirit of their sport;
  • educate participants the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs in sport and cooperate fully with UK Anti-Doping, UK Sport and governing body policies;
  • maintain the same level of interest and support when a participant is sick or injured;
  • refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs before or while coaching;
  • show control, respect, dignity and professionalism to all involved in your sport.

Responsibilities – professional standards

Coaches should ensure they reach an appropriate level of competence through qualifications and keep their skills and training up to date. They should also:

  • ensure a safe environment by assessing and minimising possible risks
  • promote safe and correct practice
  • maintain a level of professionalism and take responsibility for their actions;
  • commit to providing a good service to their charges;
  • promote the wider benefits of sport and activity to the health, well-being and education of youngsters and to society as a whole;
  • share knowledge and ideas with others, and work with other agencies and professionals.