Coach or trainer?

A question for those of us who speak fluent American: do you say coach or trainer to refer to someone who is directing your training for a sport? I think trainers usually means shoes.

He wore out his trainers could mean one of two things.

He sat on the coach has its ambiguities too.

He sat with his coach on the coach clutching his trainers
doesn't bear thinking about.

The winning word becomes the standard in my current book.


Tabitha Bird said...

I haven't a clue Gary. I'm as Aussie as you. But that's just plain funny!

MattDel said...

We Americans tend to use both words in different contexts. "Coach" can refer to the leader of a sports team, or in terms of a "strength coach" for weightlifting and such.

"Trainer" seems to be the most popular because of "personal trainers" hired to help with exercise programs.

I'd go with "trainer" personally. It connotes what you seem to be going for better than "coach" does, in my opinion.

Chris Eldin said...

Coach for kids' sports like baseball and soccer (note: not football)

Trainer for the young, sexy dude who helps get middle-aged ladies back in shape at the gym.

Two different people, entirely.

Anonymous said...

In the U.S., the shoes you call "trainers" we call "sneakers."

Chances are you want the word "coach" (if it's Americanese you're after, that is).

One nuance, though: if it's baseball you're talking about, the boss of the team is the manager, not the coach. To make this even more confusing, if you're discussing lower-level baseball, such as kids' Little League, "coach" is commonly used ("I got stuck coaching my son's Little League team again"), but at the professional level, it's "manager" you want.

Now I'll toss one back at you. I seem to have noticed that in England, they frequently use "called" where Americans say "named," as in the following: "I'm going to meet a guy called/named Nick." Question: what's the Aussie usage there?

Gary Corby said...

Thank you Matt, Chris & Steve.

This is obviously a lot more subtle than I thought.

Some more information, which will probably confuse things:

This character is the trainer/coach for someone who's competing in the Olympics in the pankration, which was the ancient Greek martial art.

I guess the closest modern equivalent would be the coach/trainer for, say, someone competing in boxing, wrestling or Judo in the modern Olympics.

Does that change the answer?

pseudosu said...

Trainer seems to imply more of a one to one situation such as a personal trainer at a fitness club, where coach implies some kind of team dynamic. -- Except I do have a friend who is taking private golf lessons and her "pro" has asked to be called "coach". (?)
I have another friend who coaches a boarder-cross team, which is some kind of team snowboarding where they make each other wipe out a lot trying to take out opponents apparently.

RWMG said...

While the answer is intrinsically interesting, why do you need to know? Since you're Australian, why can't you use whatever you're comfortable with in Australian English? Or are you writing purely for the American market?

Gary Corby said...

Steve, the answer on name/call is Australians almost always use "called". "Named" might be used in officialese but would imply bad news for the person "named".

"There's a guy called Fred on the phone."


"Gary Corby was named as a person of interest in the inquest into the death of Ms Reid, after she drowned in a vat of fried liver."

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Sue. That puts your answer in the "trainer" camp for my guy.

Gary Corby said...

Robert, the possibly odd answer is my books are appearing first in the US, not Australia. They'll only appear in my home town if someone buys the British/Commonwealth rights. (If anyone's interested, don't be shy!)

So I'm writing in US English, or my version of it anyway. My editor Kathleen is probably having a good laugh this very moment.

Anonymous said...

Regarding named/called: thanks, Gary. I think I've busted Lee Child in a rare error; in the latest Jack Reacher book, (Brit) Child has (American) Reacher using "called" when an American would say "named."

If informed of the error, I bet Child will be so heartsick he'll cry real tears - which he will then blot away with the thousand-dollar bills he uses for hankies.

Gary Corby said...

Steve, I've probably done the same thing all over the place. Thanks for letting me know.

Now I'm going to do a global search for "called" across 2 and a bit manuscripts.

CKHB said...

It sounds like your character is a personal trainer, except that "personal trainer" sounds like such a modern term to my ears...

"Coach" is usually for a team, not an individual.

Can you use a term like sensei/teacher and avoid the whole issue that way?

Gary Corby said...

Hi Carrie,

The conceit is you are reading in modern English what was actually said in Classical Greek. To introduce a Japanese term like sensei would be one brain twist too many. Besides which, it probably wouldn't be accurate since training back then was pretty rough stuff.

I'm reasonably sure coach or trainer or some simple equivalent will have the right meaning for a US reader; it's merely a matter of getting the correct nuance. On the answers I've seen it looks like "trainer" is the closest hit.

Loretta Ross said...

Gary, I'm going to say *definitely* "coach" and this is why: To take Steve Ulfelder's baseball comments a step further, there are coaches in professional baseball. While the head of the team is the manager, you also have a coaching staff that includes pitching coaches, a first-base coach, a third-base coach, etc.

Also, like everyone else has mentioned, when we think of a "trainer" we think of a personal trainer, like in a fancy gym, helping mostly rich people get in shape.

So, a "trainer" is someone who helps with an exercise regimen to improve a person's general physical fitnesses. But someone who helps somone improve their performance in a specific sport would be a "coach".

Unless it was a professional boxer, in which case it would be "manager" again. But that's just muddying the waters. Coach should have the connotation you want.

Also, what's the other version of coach you use? I gather it's a type of transportation? In the U.S. we only use "coach" in that sense for an old-fashioned, horse-drawn thingie. :)

Kari Lynn Dell said...

As I so eloquently explained on Twitter, it depends. But in the case you describe either term could be used. I think 'trainer' or 'instructor' would fit better with the language of the period. Coach sounds more modern.

Kari Lynn Dell

Mimzy said...

As everyone else has said, in American-ese it's coach for just about every sport and trainer if you're shelling out the big bucks to hire someone to help you get into shape. However, trainers are usually for aerobics and weightlifting rather then sports.

Also, no one uses 'trainers' to refer to shoes. They're sneakers or tennis shoes. Don't ask me why.

Gary Corby said...

English is such a fun language.

I'm grateful you've all gone to so much trouble to write your answers. This has been far more educational than I expected and I really appreciate it!

It looks like we don't have consensus among the experts. Maybe I should write a passage both ways and see what works best.

Loretta, coach is used for a long-distance bus, particularly a luxury one carrying a tour group. It can also be the carriages on a train. And of course it's also the thingy with a horse in front, as you say.

scaryazeri said...

If you want him to sound SEXY then definitely trainer. :)

Yamile said...

I keep going back and forth between the two terms. As soon as I thought "trainer," I read another comment and went with "coach."
I think "coach" is the right word, but don't take my opinion. English (British or any other variation) is not my first language. I learned English as a child with a professor who spoke British English with a Canadian accent, and then moved to the States where I've been these last twelve years. I still have issues between "on" and "in." And I'm a writer! In English!
Good luck with your book. I can't wait for the one coming out next year.

Gary Corby said...

I'm with you, Yamile, both sides have a good case to make. Who'd've thought this one word could be such a tough choice?

Hi Scary, I'm afraid the coach-trainer-instructor isn't sexy. He's a hardened old fighter who's now being paid to train the next generation. Think of your average retired sergeant-major.

And may I say, to both you ladies, I am very impressed you both write so brilliantly in your second language. You could both teach we native speakers a thing or two.

scaryazeri said...

That is a very nice thing to say, thank you!
I was reading about your character, and had an idea...You could use this whole word play in your plot somehow, you know?

Like someone keeps calling him a "coach", whilst he insists on a "trainer"..There cold be some issue behind it. Maybe he used to coach and does not want to be a coach now... Made me think of Clint Eastwood... :))

Janet Reid said...

and here I though "coach" meant motor coach as in "bus."

I'll be interested to see what ends up in the book--as long as it's not me in vat of fried liver!

Kendra said...

I haven't read all the answers yet, but I did read your original post and follow-up question, and I think you need to know that Trainer means a staff member on a team for medical assistance - *especially* if you're talking about something as high-level as the Olympics. Yes, we have morphed into personal trainers, but in athletics (in America), a coach is the person who runs the team, a manager runs the coach, and a trainer is a near-doctor level person who deals with injuries. As I have friends who are trainers for teams, it's important to understand that the more organized the team (professional teams, olympic teams), the more trainer means medical personnel and NOT coach.

Good luck!

Gary Corby said...

Wow Kendra, that's useful to know. Thanks! Of course, things were a lot more rough and ready 2,500 years ago, but the analogy is there. Very useful.

Lily Cate said...

"Coach" to me says it's a team sport, and this is the person leading the whole group.

"Trainer" eludes to fitness. This is someone who designs exercise regimens, and instructs the athlete on nutrition - que scene of a boxer drinking raw eggs- or, like some others have mentioned, the hot guy at the gym who works with the urban cougars.

Each sport has its own lingo. Wrestling has a "coach", while tennis has a "pro" and skiing has an "instructor".
I don't think a US audience would be put off by either of those, except that "coach" doesn't sound very historical, for some reason.

(and for a lot of women I know, "Coach" means "handbag")

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Lily Cate. Another useful viewpoint to keep in mind.

Coach as handbag is a new one on me. But then, I guess I don't carry handbags all that often.