Fundamental’s of a Great Coach

  • September 24, 2015


What does it take to coach? What are the fundamental skills required in coaching? A lot of what a coach does goes beyond technical know-how. We know that some of the best coaches have not been elite athletes themselves, but have developed strengths in key areas such as motivation, communication with athletes, and demonstrating leadership on and off the playing field.

Some universally required skills are:

Leadership: Whether coaching a team or an individual, coaches need strong leadership skills. To lead the development of players and teams, coaches also must develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

Communication: Central to coaching is the coach-athlete relationship. Coaches should enjoy working with people, have strong communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to work within a team environment.

Passion: Not to be forgotten with the modern focus on sports science and analytics, great coaches still possess a love of the sport. Communicating their passion for the game is as important as anything they do. Along with that passion comes a desire to make a difference in a person’s life.

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Coach Responses

What other skills do you think are required to become a great coach?

What role do they play in your coaching?

Share your tips and best practices!

Coach  Ken Anstruther – Taekwondo – Mississauga – 15 Years

“An athlete must believe they can do what needs to be done. The coach must help instill that belief by using positive inputs throughout the training. The coach must be a good listener, observer and translator. He or she must allow divergent thinking but have the ability to converge on the right things.

He or she must be able to listen to and observe the athlete and translate the words, emotions and sports actions into adjustments that fit with their athlete. E.g. a parent came to me and advised his son was developing OCD characteristics. I researched strategies for dealing with their fears and anxieties and discovered that this could apply to other athletes. The right answer could lie anywhere, so the coach must be prepared to look everywhere.”

Coach  Sean Ferguson ChPC, RGP  –  Swimming – Waterloo – ?? Years

“A great coach also needs to be mature. ‘Mature’ is one of those funny words, as many may assume that the younger you are, the more immature you may be, and therefore the older you are, the more mature you will be.

However, I personally don’t equate one’s maturity level with their age; age is only a number, and to me, it’s a fallacy to assume one way or the other with respect to age and maturity level.

Mature individuals make great coaches, because: they walk the line calmly, they educate themselves/seek information, they choose to be open-minded, they learn how to wear different hats when needed (multi-skilled), they are not afraid to admit fault, and they adapt to their environment all while being a great leader which is not an easy thing to do.”

Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 15 Years

“I think having patience is the key to becoming a great coach.  Knowing how to let certain things go and when to spend time on something or move on.  This is super important to helping you grow and your team develop.”

Coach Howard Dewsbury – Baseball – Barrie – 18 Years

“The skills that make a good coach change as the athlete develops, here I will talk about what I think makes a good coach for entry-level athletes. At all levels, a coach must understand that they cannot win a game only the athletes can do that. It is the coach’s job to prepare the athlete for winning.

To prepare an athlete for winning the coach must teach the fundamental skills required to play the game, to do this the coach needs to be able to demonstrate those skills and explain them to the athlete. The coach must also realize each athlete is different and be able to vary their approach to suit the individual athlete.

A good coach also understands that the time for teaching is at a practice or a careful word when they are on the bench not while they are on the field during a game. On the flip side, a coach can lose a game by not properly preparing the athletes, too many times I have seen coaches teaching their team about game strategies without having taught them the skills needed to execute those strategies. Many times they are doing this while the athlete is playing the game.

As a good coach you are prepared, understand the needs of the athlete and present a positive environment for the athlete to play in.”

Coach Patricia Careau – Weightlifting – Pembroke – 20 Years

“Human beings are hard-wired for connection and vulnerability. You need to be able to listen and hold space with athletes especially when the going gets tough…or even when they share their fears, anxiety, anger, disappointment and everything else that they bring with them on the field of play.”

Coach Joe Benedetti – Fastpitch – Hamilton – Too Many Years

“…I recall reading a short article on this topic and the 3 top assets of a coach were:

  1. Hard Working
  2. Qualified
  3. Enthusiastic

We certainly cannot ask our athletes to work any harder than we are. We must all strive to be life-long learners and stay up to date in the area of knowledge and skills and attitudes. Finally, what better way to develop the passion and motivation of our athletes than for them to see us having FUN coaching.”

Coach Rolf Waffler – Football and Skiing – Thunder Bay – 20 Years

“Patience. Regardless of the level of sports athletes acquire, consolidate and refine skills and abilities at different rates.  Patience is required to develop training that includes athletes who are refining skills and those that are still acquiring the same skill. Age, athletic ability and mental maturity all factor into the teaching of sport and life skills. In teaching this the coach’s patience will always be tested by the athlete and more often by the parent who will be questioning why isn’t little Johnny at the same level as the remainder of the team. Patience is required to stay the course of a well-laid training plan.”

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