Three Types of Coaching

The premise of this post is that there are three distinct types of coaching that coaches must understand and be cognizant of when they make decisions.

  1. Theoretical
  2. Practical
  3. Political
I would also add that there are many many more types of coaching. So, anyone who responds to this post without reading it after seeing the headline in social media, and says there are more than three types, I know who you are!


This type of coaching is very important. It is evidence based and analytical in nature. It looks at problems and comes up with logical solutions.

A couple of common examples in volleyball coaching are:

  1. Research shows it is better to land on 2 feet than one, so I will teach my players to land on two feet and correct them when they don't
  2. Research shows it is better to pass midline than outside your body so I will teach my players to move so they are always mid-lining the pass and correct them when they don't.


To follow on from the example above, when you watch high level volleyball it is very easy to see that many landings are not on 2 feet and many passes are not midline. Therefore we can assume either these top international players had bad coaching when they were younger and now have poor/lazy technique, or that at the highest level it is impossible to land on two feet all the time due to the nature of the game. The same goes with midline passing. The more plausible answer is the latter.

So, the solution? Accept that, while theoretically better, in practical terms players must be able to safely and effectively do other things. So teach players to be able to pass outside their body and teach them to land safely on one leg.

(Hint: thoracic mobility and good lower body strength and mechanics will help this.)


Three examples of political coaching:


We know from research that the benefits of timeouts are questionable. But people still expect timeouts to be called and will be critical of the coach if they don't call them. So, it is politically prudent to call timeouts when people expect them. Most importantly, a coach should call a timeout when the President of the club thinks they should.


We know from research that allowing athletes time to solve problems themselves is valuable, and that questioning athletes is a critical way for athletes to learn and retain that knowledge in the future. However, sometimes athletes, parents and club managers think that a lack of feedback is due to a coach ignoring the athlete, and that the coach could end up suspended for it.


In some organisations a coach has a variety of support services available to them. Sometimes a coach might have a very low priority on some of these resources for compelling reasons. But it might be politically sensible for them to utilise the resources, even if they don't fit in with the overall program, in order to ensure managers know that they are important.


Coaching is hard.


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