How to Develop a Coaching Philosophy

Articles | Online Master of Coaching Education


Developing a coaching philosophy is central to managing your career and determining what kind of coach you will be. Your philosophy forms the foundation of your sports program and guides each of the athletes that you coach. It’s easy to see why developing a firm coaching philosophy is well worth the effort.

What is a Coaching Philosophy?

When you begin coaching, you will begin to shape a set of values that will guide you throughout your career and help you to make good decisions for your team. This philosophy is often shaped by the experience that you’ve gained as an athlete and while working with individual members of a team.
Perhaps you value consistency and dedication to the overall good of the team. You understand that when one player misses a practice, it impacts the entire group, so this affects how you handle athletes who are constantly absent.

Not all coaches understand the value of developing their own coaching philosophy. Conscious or not, each coach follows certain principles, based on their personal experiences. While falling back on what’s most comfortable can be the easiest way to go about something, it’s not always the best approach. Taking the time to develop a coaching philosophy will guide you through the challenges that pop up during practice and in the heat of competition.

Developing Your Coaching Philosophy

As you delve into the  world of coaching, it is helpful to review the system of beliefs that led you to become a coach in the first place. As you develop your coaching philosophy, it’s often easier to build on the beliefs of other great coaches, rather than reinventing the wheel.

Think about the coaches that had the most influence over your life. Did they help you to become a better athlete, or even make you decide to become a coach yourself? What values did they hold dear, and how did they communicate these values to others? These values can all be incorporated into your own unique philosophy.
Once you have some experience under your belt, it’s still a good idea to regularly review your coaching philosophy. You might find that your values have changed, or that you’ve strayed away from concepts that led you to love coaching.

Defining Your Core Values

When you start developing your coaching philosophy, start by defining what it means to be a coach. Do you view yourself as a teacher, friend or mentor, and what do you hope to accomplish in your career? What do you think makes a coach effective? Here are some of the aspects of coaching philosophies that you might want to merge into your own.

Placing players first: Winning is wonderful, but so is the development of positive athletes. It’s important to many successful coaches to place their players above themselves and the pressure to win.

Sporting Leads to Character Development: Along with developing a love of the sport, many coaches believe that playing leads to positive character development and confidence. For most, sports will not be a lifelong pursuit, however, what they learn during their years on a sports team can stick with them forever.

Love of the Game: Most coaches have a love for their game. How important it is to impart that love on the athletes that you coach will become part of your coaching philosophy.
Communication: How you communicate will determine what sort of relationship that you develop with the athletes that you coach.

Developing a Positive Environment: Many coaches believe that they have the ability to create an environment that fosters teamwork and encourages athletes to thrive.
Establishing a Baseline: Some coaches understand that developing an athlete can be just as important as winning games. Focusing on practice and skill development and building on previous physical accomplishments can be key components of a coaching philosophy.

Your Personality Style: Whether you are a risk taker or more conservative will determine how you coach and what values you teach your players.

Decision Making: As a coach, you are constantly in the spotlight. The choices you make not only affect the athletes that you coach, they also influence their own decisions. Some coaches view the teaching of positive decision-making as one of the most important things that they do.

Lifelong Learning: Just as athletes grow and mature over time, so do coaches. Some coaches place a high value on learning all that they can from other coaches, and their players and actively seeking out educational opportunities that will enhance their coaching style.

Consistent Improvement: Competition is a major driver, but it is not the only component of success. Some coaches place a high value on the consistent improvement of their players and positive skill development.

Once you have determined what you want your coaching philosophy to look like, it can be helpful to write it down, and even share it with your players, staff or colleagues, then stick to it. Although you cannot alter your players, you can alter your approach to coaching them, and that can make all of the difference.

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