7 Leadership Qualities Every Coach Needs

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Master of Athletic Administration

Running shoes and business shoes

Behind every great team is a capable coach who can overcome the challenges presented by managing different personalities and circumstances. Coaches push players to produce results by nurturing their self-esteem and showing genuine concern for their off-court lives. To build a real connection with your team, you must empathize with all the influences that combine to affect the players and invest time and commitment to building trust.

Career Challenges

Fans commonly underestimate a coach’s responsibilities. The public will frequently equate your value based on your team’s performance, whether the organization wins or loses. As a result, passionate fans can sometimes voice unwelcome and unfounded judgments based on recent game outcomes.

Coaching involves managing many player characteristics. Even though the fans cannot possess the intimate knowledge of a coach, they often feel that their love for the game or the team validates their opinions. These circumstances are part of coaching, but great sports leaders possess several qualities that go beyond overall team performance.

Quality 1: Inspires Self Realization

As a coach, your job is to help the team members believe in themselves and consistently perform beyond their own expectations. To help them reach their full potential, you must motivate the players to think outside of their mental comfort zones. A good coach knows how to motivate athletes without using negative reinforcement, which can achieve short-term results but eventually does more harm than good.

Quality 2: Teaches Transferable Skills

To coach effectively, your lessons should apply to life as well as the game. This means teaching more than game-related skills. Every challenge presents opportunities to provide life lessons. This requires careful consideration of the messages that you relay. By providing relevant and nonjudgmental critiques, you can build the players’ self-esteem while providing valuable guidance. You can accomplish this by paying close attention to their statements and actions, verbally clarifying the responses and providing affirmative feedback.

Quality 3: Envisions the Big Picture

Exceptional coaches understand that player development is more important than personal career growth. As such, you should view your particular arena as a classroom. In the classroom, you are teaching your students skills that will help them achieve excellence by competing and winning in challenging environments. It is your job to instill your passion and commitment into the players, who expect this from you to motivate them towards victory.

Quality 4: Views Players as Individuals

A competent coach understands that the players possess individual characteristics. Understanding them takes time and dedication, which will show with your ability to relate to each teammate and maximize their performance, especially during difficult times. Great coaching requires a deep connection that only comes with trust and the team members accepting you as their leader.

Quality 5: Provides Personal Guidance

Excellent coaching requires the ability to treat athletes as more than sports figures. You must have a genuine concern for the players’ personal lives, rather than viewing outside influences as distractions. These occurrences present additional opportunities to reinforce learning. During these challenges, your actions may not align with moving the team toward victory, but you must place the players’ well-being before the game.

Quality 6: Able to Adapt

To coach effectively, you must adapt to changes quickly and understand that your team members will sometimes struggle to comprehend lessons. When this happens, it is important to understand the underlying reasons that the players did not recognize what you want to relate. Trying to force an individual to grasp a concept is counterproductive. Instead, you must open up a two-way dialogue to discover what the player is misinterpreting. With enough inquiry, they will eventually realize the insight that you seek to impart.

Quality 7: Can Relate with Players

Coaching requires excellent communication skills, which begins with mutual respect. If you have true concern for your team, you can often understand what the players are expressing, despite what they may actually say or do. However, occasions do arise where the team members have difficulty expressing an idea. When this occurs, you should listen carefully, then repeat – in your own words – what you believe they are attempting to express. By initiating a reciprocal dialogue, you can help your players overcome learning obstacles.

It’s Not Always about the Win

All coaches and teams want to win games. However, setbacks present learning opportunities that you can use to prepare your players for the future. To this end, you must create a learning environment where the team members are not afraid to take risks. They need to understand that you will not penalize them for mistakes if you want them to perform at their best. You must remain calm and patient to create this atmosphere, while portraying the characteristics that you want to teach the players, even during disagreements. Despite the dialogue, you should always conduct your exchanges in a manner that promotes self-worth.

As a coach, in addition to leading your team to victory, you should also provide lessons that will help the players excel in life. The job is a delicate balance between pushing athletes to perform beyond their expectations and building their self-esteem, which requires an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. You must also manage the non-game related influences that affect athlete development and constantly seek opportunities to teach the players valuable lessons – while exercising commitment, patience, and mutual respect.

Learn More

Ohio University’s online Master of Athletic Administration program is designed to teach professionals how to manage the many changes in interscholastic sports. The university launched the nation’s first academic program in sports administration in 1966 and continues to be a leader in sports business education.

Ohio University’s online MAA program is housed within the university’s College of Business, underscoring the university’s dedication to providing world-class sports business education. The program works in collaboration with the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) to prepare graduates for certification and is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA).


Competitive Edge, “Special: What Makes a Good Coach?”
Janssen Sports Leadership, “The 6 Critical Qualities of the World Best Captains”