What Makes a Good Coach?

Qualities of an Effective Coach

Coaching is an art as well as a science. An effective coach understands how to communicate with players in a way that gets results. The goal of coaching is to guide, inspire and empower the athlete to realize and develop his or her potential.

Qualities of an Effective Coach

  • Knows the Sport
    To be able to teach effectively the coach must have in-depth understanding of the sport from the fundamental skills to advanced tactics and strategy. Coaches may have experience playing, but not all former players make good coaches. Coaches must plan for the season, know the progressive nature of training adaptation, know the rules, and provide a simple, structured environment for athletes to succeed.
  • Seeks Out New Information
    While a good coach knows a great deal about a sport (s) he must continue to learn and develop new training techniques.

Staying up to date of new research, training and rehab information, attending coaching clinics, camps, and seeking out tips from elite coaches and athletes is a sign of a great coach. Watching videos, reading books, studying periodicals can also be helpful. Attending university classes in sport psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology is a great idea and is readily accessible for any coach who wants to grow and improve.

  • Is a Motivator
    The successful coach is a motivator with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the game and the players. The ability to motivate and inspire is part of the formula for success. Getting athletes to believe in themselves and achieve come far easier from some coaches than others. The coach who can motivate is able to generate the desire to excel in their athletes. Motivation may mean keeping the practice fun, fresh and challenging. When motivating a player, a good coach stresses trying to reach performance goals, not outcome goals. A coach should make sure that players understand that you can completely control your own effort and training, but can’t control what your opponent does or the outcome of every match.
  • Knows The Athletes
    Being aware of individual differences in athletes is also an important ingredient in coaching excellence. Yelling, screaming, and other emotional displays may work for some athletes but could have a devastating effect on others. Individualizing communication and motivation to specific players is key to team success. Paying attention to the player’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses are the responsibility of a good coach.
  • Is an Effective Communicator
    The effective coach is a coach who communicates well and exudes credibility, competence, respect and authority. A coach should be able to explain ideas clearly. Clear communication means setting defined goals, giving direct feedback and reinforcing the key messages. Acknowledging success is also essential for good communication.
  • Is a Good Listener
    Part of communicating effectively is listening. A coach should be a compassionate ear and should welcome the players comments, questions and input. The effective coach will seek out information from the players. Finally, the good coach will be flexible and will use player feedback to modify the training plan if necessary.
  • Is Disciplined
    Athletes need to adhere to a reasonable set of rules both on and off the field and if these are ignored the coach is responsible for discipline. The effective coach clearly states a code of conduct up front and adheres to it. When violations do occur, discipline should follow. Evidence supports that for discipline to effectively change behavior, it must be mild, prompt, and consistent.
  • Leads by Example
    The effective coach also leads by example. A good coach adheres to the same rules (s)he expects of the players. A coach who wants respect should also show respect. A coach who expects players to remain positive needs to display a positive attitude. A coach who wants athletes to listen will also listen to the players.
  • Displays Commitment

A great coach is not easy to find and requires a very unique set of talents and skills. If you are a coach, or if you are looking for one, these qualities may help you identify the strengths and weakness of typical coaching programs. It’s unlikely any one person will excel in all areas, but a good coach will have many of these qualities.

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