June 6, 2023 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Qualities of Level 1 Athletic Programs

Successful programs have administrators (Superintendents, Principals, and Athletic Directors) who:

  1. Know what they are looking for when hiring for leadership positions and hire the right people and then stand by them.


  • Administrators who understand athletics, coaching and have a vision of excellence
  • Administrators who expect excellence in behavior, preparation, and leadership within the entire athletic program
  • They know what they are looking for in a person to lead the entire program (the athletic director)
  • These schools normally have full-time athletic directors or the AD has a schedule that allows enough time to do the job correctly
  • They are continually looking for talented people and great young coaches
  • They hire great teachers who are also great coaches
  • They attract proven coaches or find coaches with potential
  • The AD has a Captain’s Council or some type of leadership group representing every athletic team that meets on a regular basis
  • They work hard to hire an entire coaching staff (assistants and younger level coaches) There is more on what to look for when hiring later in the booklet
  1. Have high standards and values for coaches, athletic directors, and athletes
  • Administration has clear expectations for everyone involved
  • Their values are not just words but are visible in the actions of athletes and coaches
  • They are present to observe
  • Administrators are visible in the community
  • Will confront and deal with problems
  1. Provide opportunities for training
  • Pay for head and assistant coaches to go to clinics
  • Develop a coaching library
  • Allow time for their coaches to visit great programs
  • Provide in-service for coaches
  • Coaches and administration intentionally teach and train team leaders
  • Provide mentoring for young coaches with experienced, successful coaches
  1. Assessment
  • There is an effective coaching assessment model in place
  • Feedback is obtained from the athletes – see index for examples of athlete questions
  • Occasionally they will provide an opportunity to be assessed by an outside group
  1. Value, Support, and Retain Coaches
  • Coaches feel valued and supported by the administration
  • Coach salaries at all levels are competitive with other districts
  • Administrators find a way to get people and equipment that are essential for success
  • Administrators support and protect the coaches when parent complaints have little or no merit
  • Problems are quickly addressed 
  • Administration recruits, trains and retains their coaches
  • They remove all reasons why great coaches would ever leave their program

Successful programs have coaches who:

  1. Are coach/educators
  • They are excellent teachers who understand the coach/educator model
  • They possess excellent knowledge of their sport and know how to teach it
  • They have excellent knowledge of their athletes (age, gender, ability) and understand how to teach them
  • They stay current and never stop learning their sport
  1. Are trusted and relationship-based
  • Coaches are either already coaches of significance or being trained to become one Coach of Significance  – Competitive, knowledgeable coaches, who also intentionally teach, model and reinforce character.  These coaches positively impact their athletes beyond the season and into their lives.  Athletes of these coaches are better parents, workers and citizens because of their athletic experience.
  • They develop trust – they have knowledge of their sport and how to teach it and are relationship-based coaches
  • Team cultures are intentionally created
  • Team traditions are positive and intentionally put in place – hazing in any form is not tolerated or part of the team culture
  • Team leadership is strong and intentionally created
  • Welcome evaluation or feedback from athletic director and athletes

Successful programs have communities who:

  1. Support the programs and leadership
  • Relationships with the schools and programs are continued even after their sons and daughters have graduated
  • They are supportive of the high school coaches
  • Have enough volunteers to coach feeder programs
  • They volunteer to assist at games and events
  • They go to the proper channels when there is a problem
  • They assist financially with facilities
  • They support all areas of student activities
  1. Understand and fulfill their roles
  • They support the building of a strong, cooperative feeder program
  • Booster clubs whose sole purpose is to help coaches help kids

This article is an excerpt from our booklet, Turning Around Athletic Programs. For support materials, go to our website – www.proactivecoaching.info. For additional application ideas call 360.502.0424 or email [email protected]. To bring a Proactive Coaching speaker to your school or community email [email protected].

Content provided by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. For more information visit: nhsaca.org.