01 September, 2015

Developing your Coaching Philosophy

Developing your Coaching Philosophy

Coaching can be tough. You are constantly required to make decisions. Decisions about yourself, your athletes and your team. Sport usually has winners and losers, but sport has a much greater opportunity to develop individuals. Your approach as a coach around your emphasis on winning vs development requires a clear philosophy to guide your coaching.

Your philosophy guides you everyday, you just might not know it. It helps you interpret the events around you and the reactions you have. It influences the way you view your experiences and interact with people around you.

Your coaching philosophy will guide the way you interact with the athletes you coach and the program you implement. It is a statement of the values you hold and how you will approach your role as a coach. The statement might be a few words or a paragraph. But it needs to explain why you coach and capture your beliefs and principles to achieve your goals as a coach.

My coaching philosophy is captured through ‘fostering excellence in sport and life’. This captures my belief that the pursuit of excellence is worthy, but as a coach I can only foster this, I have to help the individual find their motivation to achieve this. I also see sport as an opportunity to develop individuals holistically, hence the ‘sport and life’. You can learn more about my coaching philosophy here.

As a coach you have a huge opportunity to have a positive impact on athletes, particularly youth athletes. Even though we as coaches only see our athletes for a small portion of their week, they turn up to be engaged, mentored, educated and lead by someone that they should see as a role model in their life. The question is, are you living up to their expectations as that role model?

So what does a coaching philosophy look like practically?

  • How would you react if you saw one of your players cheating or showing poor sportsmanship?
  • What would your reaction be if this behaviour was having an influence on the game, which meant your team was winning?
  • How would you react if your star player broke one of the team rules, such as not turning up for team practice?
  • What would you do if one of your athletes was accused of racial vilification of another player?

The way in which you react and deal with the situation is based on your philosophy of life. Is good sportsmanship preferable over winning? Is working as a team preferable over the having the best individuals on the field? Is treating others as equals no matter their race, gender, sexuality or ability the right thing to do? If you are faced with these difficult situations, they are all opportunities to educate, guide and mentor your athletes to not only be better in the sports arena, but also to be better people.

Your experiences in life influence how you react to these types of situations. By having a clear coaching philosophy then you will be able to act in a fair, open and just manner towards your athletes. Of course a coaching philosophy is more than just how you react to difficult or ethical decisions, it will influence the way you approach your coaching too.

If you lack a philosophy for coaching, then you will likely find it hard to make difficult decisions or deal with ethical dilemmas. You might also lack direction in your coaching and find yourself trying to please everyone.

The key to developing your coaching philosophy is to understand yourself and for it to be continually evaluated and adjusted as we encounter ongoing life experiences. As a coach ourselves, we should be continually learning and have a mentor ourselves to learn from and help us reflect on our practices.

When developing your coaching philosophy, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • How do you coach? Are you an educator?
  • What is your leadership and management style?
  • Do you care about your players and their lives outside of sport?
  • Are you prepared to plan your sessions?
  • Do you know enough about the tactics, techniques and strategies for the level you are coaching?
  • How do you deal with failure?
  • What defines success for you?
  • How do you interact with assistant coaches and support staff/volunteers?
  • How do you provide feedback to you athletes?

When times are tough, and if you coach for long enough then you will experience challenges. Then you need a strong coaching philosophy to be your foundation. This will guide you through the rough patch and see you out the other side.

To start to develop your coaching philosophy, you need to reflect on some questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want in life?
  • Why do you coach?
  • What are your goals as a coach?
  • What are your experiences from life that make you a good coach?
  • What would make you a better coach?

I encourage you to reflect on these questions and do some writing. You might also like to watch and read more about a legendary college basketball coach called John Wooden and his coaching philosophy.

Thanks again for being a coach, your commitment and experiences are what our future athletes need. 

© 2019 Paul Mead