What Makes a Coach Great?
When I'm talking about 'Great Coaches' in this context, I'm not only talking about great coaches of champion teams, but also, what makes a great coach of beginners, and developing players?
The traditional coaching pathway is linear in nature. Beginner coaches coach beginners, developing coaches coach developing athletes, and elite coaches coach elite athletes.1 This is understandable and generally due to two things: ambition and money. Developing coaches are always wanting to coach 'better' athletes, and we financially reward coaches who coach higher profile athletes.
Most of what has been written on 'great coaching' is simply looking at a coach who won, and then working out what he/she did. It makes sense to do this, we want to learn from success. One of the risks of only doing this, it that it often involves historical revisionism. (Hint, when you hear someone say: 'the results speak for themselves', that's code for 'please don't investigate the methods of this coach because I'm very uncomfortable with them'.)
What I'd like to discuss is: what exactly is it that distinguishes 'great' coaches all the way along the development pathway. What makes a GREAT coach of beginners? What makes a GREAT coach of developing athletes? What makes a GREAT coach of elite athletes? What particular skillsets do each of these three coaches have? Here are my thoughts:
- Technical Competence
- A great coach must have the knowledge and skills to develop technical competence in their athletes. This means, athletes are not limited by technical deficiencies in the future.
- Physical Competence
- A great coach must develop fundamental movement skills and body control. This means, athletes are not limited by physical deficiencies in the future.
- Child Pedagogy
- A great Beginner Coach has understanding of brain development and motor skill development for children.
- Social Science
- A great Development Coach has understanding of the social needs, family needs and life balance in developing athletes.
- Scientific process
- A great High Performance Coach has understanding of the process of critical evaluation and adjustments.
1 The exception to this process is the former elite athlete who starts coaching elite athletes.↩