Styles of Coaching

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When you think of a coach what comes to mind? Thoughts of whistles blowing, a yell, a scream, a slam of a clip board or perhaps a “flying” chair? Or do your thoughts conjure up an encouraging word, a pat on the back or a gentle arm around the shoulder and the phrase “good job!” There are so many different styles.

I attended a USATF Level 2 school this past summer and even though we did cover a lot of different types of training, there was a large section on psychology. In chapter one of Sport Psychology Special Topics they discussed the different styles of coaching. The authoritarian, the submissive and the cooperative coach.

The authoritarian would be someone like a military drill sergeant which is someone who just barks out orders and expects the athletes to comply. This may help them learn to follow orders, but will not allow them to develop personal qualities or thinking skills.

The submissive lets the players run the program. I have a client who has a coach like this and they say this person is more like a baby sitter than a coach. Not much instruction or direction. With this style athletes will not improve as much because they lack the direction and training a coach should provide.

The cooperative coach has the athletes share in the decision making process. The athletes will work harder, show more respect and will be more willing to listen knowing that the coach is genuinely interested in them and their opinions.

Obviously being a coach we have a lot of influence on our athletes. The style we have says a lot about who we are as people not just coaches.
As mentioned in the Sport Psychology Special Topics manual, there is a psychological model about how important our influence is. It is called the Developmental Model of Sports Participation (DMSP). It is based on elite and recreational athletes from many different sports. The DMSP highlights the critical role that the coach can play in positively or negatively influencing a young athlete’s sport experience.

“Research shows that youth coaches who placed more emphasis on winning exploited their athletes with less consideration about their developmental stages and advancing their psychological and social best interests. Athletes who had coaches who were more autocratic, controlling, less encouraging and supportive dropped out or got burned out of sports more often.”

Are you a Bobby Knight? He was a successful basketball coach if you look at his won/lost record of 902-371 which is 7th all- time along with 3 National Championships at Indiana. But when you hear the name Bobby Knight I believe most people think of the bad temper he displayed. Who can forget the now famous (or infamous) “chair tossing” incident he displayed in one of his basketball games. Ultimately it was his bad temper that led to his firing regardless of his record or championships.

“Research also indicates that the best liked coaches were those who were more technical, instructional and reinforced positive behaviors. Coaches who created an atmosphere that the athletes perceived as more fun and fostered more team unity had lower dropout rates than the untrained coaches.”

Are you a John Wooden? He was also considered a very successful basketball coach with a great won/lost record (664-162). He also won 10 National Championships at UCLA. When you hear the name John Wooden I believe most people think of a calm, mentoring father figure.

So which style are you?

Again, I learned many things at the USATF Level 2 School, but perhaps the most startling thing I learned was that there are an estimated 70% of kids who drop out of youth athletics by the time they reach high school. I was completely blown away by that statistic! There is not one proven reason why this is happening so we really only have speculation as to the cause. But in talking with many of the athletes that I have had the pleasure of coaching and in talking to parents of athletes, they site that a bad coaching experience is a key reason for some of them not continuing on.

As I mentioned earlier the style we have says a lot about who we are as people not just coaches. So as we move forward in our coaching careers let’s wield our influences in a positive direction. Let’s develop a style that will give them a great experience, give them self-confidence and self-esteem and watch them grow. It is all about the kids after all.

Sport Psychology Special Topics – Denise K. Wood ED.D CSCS
Developmental Model of Sports Participation – Côté, Lidor, and Hackfort

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