What Does a Good Coach Do?

Working in sport, I spent a great deal of time talking about coaches and coaching, and am fascinated about how people define what “good”. It is very subjective, and often debate-provoking. Most of us will measure what good coaching – or a good coach – is, by using a different score card.

Is a coach “good” because the people they coach are successful? If so, does that mean that a coach is “bad” when the people they coach are unsuccessful?

Coaches focus on different outcomes. Some develop athletes to be elite performers; others introduce children to the sport for the very first time. It is important that a coach can define what their intended outcomes are, as they can use this as a measuring stick to gauge if what they are DOING is working.

Regardless of what a coach’s individual philsophy is, or what their intended outcomes are, I believe there are some commonalities. For me, there are 3 main areas that ALL coaches – regardless of qualification / experience, and regardless of who the are working with – should focus on, on this order:

Most important priority. The coach should be concerned with the health, safety and well-being of the people they are coaching. This may seem obvious, but there are now enough examples of when this did NOT happen, that coaches should be explicit about this priority. As a parent, I want the coach to help my child develop – but more importantly, I want to know you they will keep my child safe.

The coach WILL NOT make you into an elite athlete after one session, but they may ensure you never become an elite athlete by turning you off from the sport, by giving you a bad experience. Fun is different for everyone. The coach’s job is to learn what puts a smile on their athletes face, and do as much of that as possible.

The coach should create a situation where the athletes step out of their comfort zone, because this is where learning / development / improvement happens. Just as important, though, is that the coach does something to step out of their own comfort zone. Some insight about themselves, the athletes or the environment which can be applied and will make their coaching practice better tomorrow.

Too often, we try to complicate coaching. We focus on technical or tactical aspects of the session, which is important; but when the coach does everything they can to improve, everyone wins.

Using these three priorities as a framework will be useful to all coaches.


(p.s. if you are interested in developing your coaching practice, may I suggest signing up to our email Book Club?)

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