What is a Coaching Philosophy- Part 3


In this series of articles/blogs on Building a Coaching Philosophy, I am urging Coaches to document their approach to coaching. You are unique, have a certain skill set and have something so amazing to pass onto the next generation of athletes.

If you are the Director of Sport at a Club, University or School your coaches should share a common philosophy to coaching and similar methodologies. You should be systematically BUILDING year by year as players progress through the different age groups. It is worth taking the time to work on a document together to wrote down your approach. One of the most outstanding examples of this is seen in NZ rugby where there is a national approach to player development and synergy and alignment between the five Super Rugby Teams and the All Blacks. The first two points I covered in the two previous articles were:

  1. Know Yourself
  2. Know culture you want to build

What is next?

3. Know your context and your environment

As much as it is important for you to know your personality traits, strengths and weaknesses it is important to know that environment in which you coach. How much liberty do you have to influence and change the environment or is it difficult to change anything in your context?

  • Are you coaching in an amateur or professional context?
  • Are you working with a team or individual athletes?
  • How successful is the athlete/team you are coaching?
  • Do you have adequate facilities?
  • Do you have the support of the president of your team, club or school?
  • How would you rate the support of your fans or parents?
  • Are you coaching alone, or do you have assistant coaches? Are you able to recruit some other volunteers or staff to help you coach or to assist with administration?
  • Does everyone speak the same home language i.e. English, Spanish, Afrikaans, Zulu?
  • Is your athlete/team able to buy the best equipment and clothing or are you working in a poorer community?
  • Do you have sufficient sponsorship? Are there ways that you could raise more money through fund-raising or getting additional sponsors?
  • Are your practice and match-day facilities in good condition?
  • Do you have a respected and authoritative voice in your organization or are you a new coach who is still gaining the necessary respect to bring about the change you desire? How are you going to gain a more influential voice in your club?

4. Know your athletes and your team

A recent study done to determine why athletes participated in sport indicated that the athletes’ primary reasons were to have “fun” and learn skills. “Winning”, perceived by many to be likely the most important reason for participation, ranked no higher than 7th even among the most competitive athletes. With this in mind you should ensure your program focuses on these critical areas in order to retain your athletes and recruit new ones.4

  • What are the ages, gender and ethnicity/culture of your athletes?
  • Have they received quality coaching before?
  • What is their understanding of authority and leadership?
  • Are they amateurs or professionals?
  • How much time do they realistically have to train?
  • What other major pressures are they facing i.e. academic and financial pressure, a difficult home situation?
  • Are they ambitious? Do they have significant goals and aspirations? Are they self-motivated?
  • Have they won many events or games before? Do they believe that they can win?
  • Do they have the support of their family and friends?
  • What are their worldviews, values and beliefs?
  • What are their skills and strengths?
  • How would you describe their attitude?
  • Are they confident in a match situation?
  • What is their favourite position?
  • Who are the leaders in the team?

Before you too hastily conclude on how you should lead younger athletes consider the writing of two experts in generational theory, Graeme Codrington and Sue Grant – Marshall.

Leading and coaching different generations:

“Boomer: born 1940s to 1960s

Xer: born 1960s to 1980s

Millennial: born 1980s to 2000s


Xers and Millennials need to respect the individual intrinsically, not the title, position or rank. They take their time to develop respect as they get to know the person, his ethics and integrity. They expect people to work for that respect.

Tips for leading the generations:


  • You will need to earn their respect, yet they will take a while to demonstrate that respect for you. Act with integrity and they’ll come on board soon enough.
  • Give surprise awards for unusual achievements.
  • Fun is serious business! A little humour, something silly, practical jokes, even a little bit of irreverence, will help to create a stimulating and productive workplace.
  • Try a reverse mentoring programme in which younger staffers are assigned to older executives, to help them get up to speed with technology, consumer culture and information analysis.
  • Don’t look over their shoulder all the time – it irritates them.


  • Provide mentors. Millennials enjoy interacting with older generations, and learning in a hands-on manner.
  • They like to be challenged. Assign them to projects where they can truly learn.
  • They like to try new things. Boredom is your, and their, greatest enemy.
  • Let them work with friends, as they are sociable and sharing.”