As a coach, coaching philosophy as a subject is one that I have continually been intrigued with throughout my journey. As coaches, we can find ourselves in situations where we are asked what our philosophy is and initially I found myself talking about tactics and how I liked my team to play, but I have since realised it’s far more than that; it’s more than just tactics. A coaching philosophy is ‘an attitude held by a coach that acts as the guiding principle for the training and development of an athlete or team’. In this blog I am going to explore what this definition exactly means and how you can bring it to life as a coach.
Firstly, my advice to any coach that is going to explore defining and living their philosophy is to recognise two things: ‘who I am and what are my values and beliefs’. As a coach, you need to be true to yourself. Exploring your values, beliefs and who you are as a person will help give you guidance and govern how you are as a coach and how you work with your players, parents and other staff.
Who I am:
Who are you? Understanding who you are is one of the most important steps you can make as a coach. Who you are will define your ambition, objectives and the reason why you are coaching. A great way of exploring this is reflecting upon your own journey and what has made you go into coaching in the first place. Who you are will be your internal driver to improve and develop yourself and work towards success; with whatever you believe success will be. A great way of delving deeper into who you are as a person is looking into different personality tests which may give you a better indication and perhaps a tool to reflect into what makes you as a person. An example of this is the ‘Myers & Briggs’ personality test which will allow you to find out your personality types but also your strengths as well.
Your values determine who you are and how you wish to work in priority order. A great exercise for any coach is to look at a list of words that relate both to coaching as well as being a human being and then begin to highlight any words that resonate with you. Once you’ve highlighted these words the next step is to then rank them in priority order with the words that you feel represent your values the best at the top. These words should represent what you value most in your life and in coaching too. For example, a value may be ‘family’ and as a person you value the importance of families. So how do you bring this to life? Well, everything that you do should have ‘family’ in mind both for yourself, players and parents and you lead in creating an environment which may represent a family environment but also one that prioritises family over football.
A belief is simply a thought. Beliefs govern behaviours; what you believe will ultimately drive your behaviour both consciously and sub-consciously. As a person but also as a coach, your beliefs will govern your behaviour and how you work within your environment. For example, if you believe in ‘being the best that you can be’ then this mantra/belief will then directly influence how you behaviour as a person but also what is expected of those that you are working with as well. For any coach, I’d encourage you to explore what your own beliefs are and think about how you can bring them to life with your actions and behaviours.
How does this link to football?
Now you’ve begun to think about the above it’s time to start to think about how you can link your values, beliefs and who you are to how you coach. All coaches will work differently from their interactions with the players to how they set their team up and as a coach you will need to begin to explore how these things that matter to you most will begin to influence how you coach. A great way of beginning this is to start to look at the players that you are working with and define objectives for them and what you wan to achieve with them and what you feel is most important to those players. For example, it may be that if you are a coach working with 5-11 year olds; your objective may be for ‘children to love playing football’; which will govern you and how you work. Once you’ve defined your objective you can now begin to look at how these three areas:
- The player
- How you will play
- How you will coach
The player is simply how you will work with each individual player and how you will help develop them both on and off the pitch. There will be some generic content that will be essential to all players to help them develop, but as a coach you may also need to adapt how you work with one player to the next to support them further due to their needs. How you will simply be how your players and team work: in possession, out of possession and in transition. Summaries these into principles and then look at the coaching points and requirements for your players to perform these successfully. How you will play will vary from coach to coach but also from one context to another, so you as a coach will need to begin to understand the players, abilities and age group you are working with to adapt how you play to align to their needs and ultimately benefit them. Lastly, the best coaches are able to bring all of the above to life by how they coach. Here’s my top tips:
- Keep it simple: the best coaches are able to deliver their philosophy both on and off the pitch in the simplest ways. Therefore, look at key words and messages that govern all of the above so that you players, parents and other coaches can understand you, how you will work and also what is expected of them as well.
- Keep it consistent: players will have good games and bad games, teams will lose and win and also you will have some good sessions and bad ones but you may keep your messages consistent. Do not divert away from your values and beliefs and stick by them and my best piece of advice is do not try to be someone that you are not both as a person and as a coach.
- Actions; not words: make whatever you have presented to those around you on how you will work both on and off the pitch, make sure that you ‘walk the walk and not talk the talk’.
- Be ready to adapt and evolve: lastly, as you evolve and grow along your coaching journey you; you will find how you coach and who you are as a person will adapt and change. Continually review and reflect and not be afraid to adapt how you work whilst sticking true to yourself.