Track and field coaches, much like football coaches, are responsible for coaching athletes who are categorized depending on the requirement of their event or position. Just as football players are separated into offensive line, defensive line, receiver, defensive back, kicking, and special teams positions, track and field athletes include distance runners, sprinters, hurdlers, shot-putters, jumpers, and pole-vaulters. Therefore, a team may utilize several track and field coaches to teach the athletes the separate skill sets required by their event. These coaches are responsible for conditioning their athletes for such skills as endurance or explosiveness and teaching them proper technique. They may also educate the athletes on mental focus and preparedness, proper nutrition, treating injuries such as shin splints, off-season conditioning, and other factors that lend themselves to preparedness and optimum performance.
As pre-season conditioning is an important step in readying athletes for an upcoming season, track and field coaches may implement a program designed to improve their fitness level. Distance runners may train with road runs or other forms of endurance exercise such as swimming or cycling to get their lungs in shape for the season. Similarly, sprinters may engage in activities designed to improve their explosiveness or even their overall stamina, such as strength training. Coaches may oversee this training firsthand or assign workouts to their athletes in the months leading into the track and field season.
When the season begins, athletes may train simultaneously but be assigned to different track and field coaches according to their event or events. Distance runners will practice setting their pace for their event, making their gait more efficient. Runners who compete in relay races practice handing off a baton to their teammates, while sprinters will rehearse drills like leaving the starting blocks. Pole vaulters, high jumpers, long jumpers, and hurdlers may have their own coaches to train them on improving their technique. Similarly, shot-putters and discus-throwers will rehearse their event repeatedly in hopes of perfecting their form and achieving longer distances on their tosses.
In addition to working with the athletes during practice, track and field coaches are generally expected to be aware of and able to counsel athletes on sport-related nutrition, injuries, and other aspects of performance. Making sure the athletes are getting proper nutrition ensures they have the fuel they need to get through their race. Coaches may also advise athletes on handling injuries or refer them to other professionals like athletic trainers. Finally, coaches may serve as mentors to their athletes, whether in helping them to prepare mentally for competition or, in the case of student-athletes, improving their academic performance.