Developing A Sports Coaching Philosophy
Athletes may be the ones to pick up the medals, but as any professional will tell you, it takes more than just one person to win a race. Competitive athletes usually have an army behind them, and central to this team is the ever-present sports coach.
We’re the ones shouting from the side-lines, texting from the dinner table, missing family events, to put the athlete front and centre. Our sacrifices are huge, our ability to inspire profound, and our background in coaching established.
So, when it comes to being a successful sports coach, a coaching philosophy is a must. This guide outlines the steps that need to be taken to reach set objectives, crucially underpinned by a set of values and personal style.
When devising a coaching philosophy, there are six core questions to ask yourself:
Start with why?
Sports management is no different to any other business practice, and it always starts with ‘why’. In your case, why do you want to be a sports coach?
No doubt, you have a great passion for the sport, but what is your motivation for teaching on a professional level? Is it the competitive element, the fun of taking part or the excitement of it all? Is it the ability to inspire and lead a team or individual, or perhaps an unrequited ambition that you were personally unable to fulfil?
Once you understand your own motivations, you will be able to communicate your vision, personal beliefs and values. Personal training on any level requires a two-way relationship; being able to identify your style will enable you to attract talent with common ground.
What do you want to achieve?
Before we go any further, take a moment to think about your own personal goals. What is it you want to achieve in the role of a sports coach? What made you enter this industry and what kind of athletes do you want to train?
Do you have any personal ambitions that your athlete will lead you to – possibly competing in global events?
Knowing what you want to achieve from the outset will help you grow and develop, and ensure you remain on the right path for success.
What makes a good sports coach?
Reflect back to previous coaches you’ve worked with or met along the way. It might even be a famous sports coach that inspires you. Think about the unique attributes they possess and how it might make them outstanding in what they do.
Now think about how you will apply these skills to your role as a mentor and coach.
As an expert in your field, you will have undertaken sports coaching courses and have sports coach qualifications; these are essential to provide the best foundation for teaching. Get to know the; physical, technical, tactical, psychological and social traits required to be a good coach. Know how you will apply these learnings to every day practice.
The professional relationship between a sport coach and athlete is unique as it serves an explicit and defined role. This means that a good coach will create a balance between counsel, mentor and teacher. Give some time to consider how you will do this.
What goals do you want your athletes to achieve?
Ask your athlete to think about what they really want out of this relationship. It can be quite diverse, from; learning techniques to apply in competitive training, to understanding specifics like aerobic training, or helping to overcome psychological barriers – or quite possibly for inspiration and motivation.
Goal setting is a motivational tool in itself, and by having tangible goals to aim for, both coach and athlete have a clear direction.
Once you know what your athlete wants to achieve, you can tailor your coaching according.
A great coach offers a methodology, based on their professional knowledge, skills and experience to facilitate or enable the athlete to achieve their goals or to meet their needs.
What should athletes learn from me?
It’s time to dig deep! One of the most important questions to ask yourself (and honestly) is ‘What will athletes learn from me?’
When thinking about this, try to remain objective. From your executive coaching you will remember that we all have a unique style, with views and beliefs that shape the way we approach training.
Once you have identified what your unique approach is, draft three to five key messages that athletes can learn from you.
For inspiration, look at what famous athletes have said about their sports coaches in the past. For instance, Usain Bolt has described his coach Glen Mills as supportive in times of self-doubt, adding that; “Coach is always there to say, ‘Don’t worry, I know what I can do to make you run faster, and what you need to do to go faster.‘”
What might your athletes say about you?
What are my values?
And finally, it’s the one thing that sets you apart from other sports coaches in your field. So, it’s only right to give some thought to your values and beliefs.
When you consider how closely you’ll be working with your athlete, and how enduring this relationship may be, a shared philosophy is one that can bind you.
Start by drawing up a list of what is important to you and chime with your own personal beliefs. This might be an emphasis on discipline and early starts, it may focus on a balanced diet and positive outlook on life, or perhaps it’s about behaving with honesty and integrity.
Whatever it is you stand for, identify it and communicate it. With any luck, you may just find a ‘forever’ sporting partner!
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