When you are coaching football you are interacting with your players and coaches within the context of football. Your players are executing football actions when they are on the pitch and as the coach, you are executing coaching actions.
Imagine a beautiful day at your training facilities when you walk out onto the pitch to start training session. What is the first things that you do? You are looking around, taking in the information your surroundings are communicating to you. You notice how many players that are on the pitch, if the sun is shining or if it’s still cloudy, and you notice which way the wind blows today. Based on this information you might make a decision to change your plans for todays session slightly by moving the pitch a couple of meters. Thereafter you execute this decision by moving the pitch or asking one of the other coaches to do it for you.
After the session you have scheduled a team meeting with your players. You are in the dressing room and your assistant is showing videoclips and talking to the players while you are observing the players. Imagine you notice a couple of players that are playing with their phones while your assistant is talking. What are you going to do? Based on this information your players have inadvertently communicated to you, there is a decision to make. Will you ask these players about their motivation to improve since they are obviously not paying full attention to what your assistant is saying? Or do you decide to let it go since they are not disturbing the rest of the group and talk to them individually? Whether your decision is to address these players in front of the group or individually, you will execute this decision with a certain tone of voice and body language appropriate to get your point across.
Both of these situations are examples of coaching actions within the context of coaching football even though it’s not happening during a game or a session on the pitch. Think about when you are on the pitch and coaching in a session and you realize that you are repeatedly executing coaching actions. Imagine one of your players, a midfielder who is looking to receive the ball from a team mate in the center of the pitch just below the circle when building up. You see that the midfielder, before receiving the ball is only looking towards the player with the ball and can’t see the opponent coming from behind and as a result, the pass is intercepted.
You decide that you want to make your midfielder aware of this mistake immediately since this is not the first time is has happened. Therefore you decide to freeze the play and address the situation by asking the midfielder what happened and what options are available for the next time a similar situation arises. And of course, if you decide to not address this situation immediately by freezing the play, possibly because you want to coach the player in a different way, that is also a coaching action. The decision of ’not doing anything’ is also a coaching action as long as you as the coach have seen the football problem and decided that inaction is the best action.
Whether you are coaching in a training session or in a game you are executing more than just one coaching action. And just as the players want to improve their football actions, you as a coach want to improve your coaching actions. You want to become a better coach, which means that you want to improve your communication, decision making and execution of these decisions within the context of coaching football. If you are able to shorten the time between your coaching actions you could increase the level of your influence on your players by executing more coaching actions.
Sometimes you see in games coaches who are very active at the start of the game by executing many coaching actions as long as their team is ahead. However, when the opponent scores you see the coach turning around and finding a place to sit on the bench and for some reason the coach seams to stop coaching. When do your players need you more, when you are winning 3-0 or when you are losing 3-0? In the same way as you want your players to maintain good football actions and many football actions at the end of the game and regardless of the score, you as a coach also need to maintain good coaching actions and maintain many coaching action throughout games and training sessions.
In the post coaching football we took a philosophical look at what it is that the coach does in football. To summarize, coaching football is enabling players to execute better decisions (football actions) in the game of football. This is done by helping the players improve their football actions together with their team-mates in the context of attacking, transitioning and defending against an opponent. Thereafter, in the post How should you coach we saw what the starting point for all coaches should be. The next question for coaches who want to improve is what better coaching means, so let’s have a look at that today.
When coaching football the starting point for all coaches should of course be the characteristics of the game. However, what you see sometimes is that coaches take their own personality as the starting point and that things like their current mood dictates how they coach. This is a problem since the coaching of these coaches who use their personality as a starting point is arbitrary and non-contextual. As a result you end up with a team of players that are under-developed since they have not been coached from the starting point of the game. Football is a players sport which means that it’s up to the players to make and execute decision in the game. Therefore the job of the coach is to help the players improve their decision making regardless of the current mood or personality of the coach.
Now, when you as a coach take the game as the starting point in your coaching and are able to disregard your personality, the next step is to identify what external factors and football situations that require which leadership style. When coaching with the game as the starting point the leadership style of the teacher will be how you coach by default. However there are external factors and different situations that sometimes require a different leadership style. There are situations where you as the coach have to be more of a commander or a manager than a teacher. Identifying these situations and external factors is a prerequisite for being able to chose the correct leadership style.
If you are able to identify the external factors and situations that require a certain leadership style you as the coach has two options. Either you only choose situations (jobs) that require the leadership style that you know – or, you learn to use all leadership styles and become a better coach. However, it will probably be difficult to find situations that will only require one leadership style for a longer period of time, but maybe it could be possible for a shorter time period. Learning to use all three of the leadership styles, the teacher, the commander and the manager gives you the best opportunity to become successful in your coaching.
As you know and have probably experienced, there are good and bad teachers, good and bad commanders and good and bad managers everywhere in the world. Even though you know how to use these different leadership styles, that does not necessarily mean that you are coaching like a good teacher. Increasing the quality of your teaching, commanding and managing will lead to better coaching. This means that given the fact that you are able to; take the characteristics of the game as the starting point (and not your personality), identifying different situations and use all three leadership styles when you are coaching you can increase the quality of your teaching, commanding and managing.
Better coaching means that you are increasing the quality of your coaching by disregarding your own personality and taking the game (situation) as a starting point while using the correct leadership style when coaching.
When you are coaching football you are in essence executing (inter)actions with your players and staff in the context of the football game. These coaching actions can be executed in a lot of different ways which is what is called leading, the way you coach. We have earlier described in general, three different leadership styles that you as a coach use when leading; the commander who tells players what to do, the teacher who guides the players and the manager who takes a step back and let the players guide the process. Now, let’s zoom in on the remaining leadership style, the manager, and take a look at when it could be a good idea to use this leadership style in your coaching.
Imagine that you take over a team that has been very successful over quite some time with a group of players that all have a lot of experience. These older players are used to success from earlier clubs or have been in this team for quite some time. Would it be a good idea as a coach to lead this group of experienced players as a commander and tell them how to do things from now on? Or do you think spending time teaching these players who’ve had success for many years will be the most effective way to get them performing at their best? Maybe it would be wise to use the experience of these and the success that these players you’ve inherited has had? When you take over such an experienced and successful group isn’t your objective to maintain the current level of the players? Instead of coaching like a commander or a teacher you can increase your chance of maintaining the current level of your new players if you choose to coach them like a manager.
Something of a similar situation can arise if you have been coaching the same team for a number of years and taught your players how you want things to be done, or as it is also called; ’installed your culture’ in the team. If you have successfully taught your players to coach each other in accordance to your standards, the culture that you have created could lead to you choosing the leadership style of the manager as the best option. This process will probably take quite some time and it’s not a certainty that this culture is possible to achieve.
Now, what if you’re coaching a team that are filled with young talents instead of older, experienced players? Could that be a scenario where coaching like a manager is a good fit? Well, the characteristics of the leadership style for the manager is to ’take a step back’ and facilitate the processes instead of guiding them as the teacher or instructing them like a commander. When you are coaching younger players they are in need of guidance to develop since they have not yet accumulated the knowledge and experience needed. Therefore coaching young players like a manager is not a very good idea. When the manager is ’taking a step back’ it does not mean that you let the players run the show on their own. It means that your starting point when coaching changes from developing players (as a teacher) to maintaining the current level of your experienced players like a manager.
As we’ve described earlier, due to the characteristics of the game of football, your starting point as a coach is to lead like a teacher and guide your players to develop better decision making. Since football is a players sport and it’s up to the players to execute the decisions they make on the pitch in the game, you as a coach should help them improve these decisions. However, when you are working with a very experienced group of players with a high level of decision making, the best way of helping the players to execute good decisions could be to coach them like a manager.
Last week we zoomed in and had a closer look at one of the three main leadership styles that football coaches use when leading their players, the commander. When you are coaching and executing your coaching (inter)actions, it’s how you do that, the way you coach that differentiates you from another coach. In general, there are three leadership styles coaches use when leading; the commander who tells players what to do, the teacher who guides the players and the manager who takes a step back and let the players guide the process. In this blog post we will zoom in on one of the two remaining leadership styles and take a look at the teacher.
Now, as you probably know, football is a players sport where it’s the players who make decisions on the pitch and execute these decisions within the context of the football game. That means that when a player is in a game situation, for example attacking, it’s up to the player to execute good decisions with or without the ball based on the communication of team-mates and the opponents. Regardless of which team function (attacking, transitioning or defending), where on the pitch or when in the game, it’s up to the player to make the decisions and not the coach. Due to the short time that is available for the player on the pitch to make a decision in the game it’s impossible for the coach to shout a decision from the bench, even though you might still do it sometimes. At best your shouted decision of ”shoot” or ”pass to the left” arrives just in time to confuse the player and disturb the decision making process. In professional football players usually can’t hear the coach because of the fans, but in youth football and at a lower level your shouting might lead to the player choosing to execute your decision instead their own.
What is the problem with this picture of a coach shouting decisions to a player as in the example above? Who did we say is making the decisions in the game of football, the player or the coach? If you are coaching young kids or at a lower level you might be able to shout some of your decisions to the players which they have the time to execute. Maybe that leads to some good results in that particular game and you are thinking ’why shouldn’t I keep doing this?’. Sure, in the short time, this leadership style of being the commander and telling your players what to do might be working and in some situations it might be needed. However, when developing players or a playing style over time it will be counter productive since the players are not making the decisions themselves and therefore can’t learn from their own mistakes. If the players make mistakes in the game when you as the coach have told them which decision to make, they are actually executing your mistakes.
Based on the characteristics of the game, the job of the coach is to improve the decision making of the players and not make the decisions for them. The leadership style that is best for improving players decision making is the teacher. A teacher is someone who guides the students (players) in the subject (football) that is being taught. Using different methods a coach that leads like a teacher is guiding the players in training sessions to help them improve their decision making. That means that instead of telling players what to do, the coach guides the players by asking different questions that are more or less open and/or leading to help the players improve their decision making. These question does not need to be verbal questions, they could also be questions that are asked by the coach through manipulation of game situations in the training session.
Given the fact that football is a players sport, you as the coach need to guide your players as a teacher in order to improve the quality of their decision making. However, sometimes you find yourself in a situation with external factors that might influence you to choose a different leadership style, and rightly so at times. That said, if you are coaching football your starting point when leading your players is always the leadership style of the teacher.
As a football coach you are every day executing coaching (inter)actions with your players and staff in the context of the football game. These coaching actions can be executed in a lot of different ways which is what is called leading, the way in that you coach. We have earlier described in general, three different leadership styles that you as a coach use when leading; the commander who tells players what to do, the teacher who guides the players and the manager who takes a step back and let the players guide the process. In todays blog post we will zoom in on one of the leadership styles and look at what the benefits and challenges could be for a coach that is constantly leading like a commander.
Let’s use a general example to describe a situation where a coach leading like a commander is somewhat common in todays football. Imagine you have a team that are playing pretty well esthetically but not scoring a lot while conceding too many goals with the natural consequence of few points added behind their name in the league table. They are losing a lot of games even though they are having a lot of possession and playing what people refer to as ’nicely’. In the beginning of the season there is patience and everyone hopes that things will turn around. They hope that this ’beautiful’ playing style, even though it’s clearly quite naive since they are conceding more goals than they are scoring, will one day lead to better results and more points. However, the results never come and the team eventually becomes involved in the relegation battle. The board members start to get nervous and make the decision to fire the head coach with 1/3 of the season left to play. You can probably think of a couple of cases like this example, so let’s use this as our starting point.
What type of leader do you think the board will hire in this scenario? You guessed it, the likelihood is high of a commander walking through the doors at the club telling the players where the goal is and in what direction to kick the ball. And with the team being in complete crisis mode, it could be very smart by the coach to lead like a commander in order to take some pressure away from the players. This leadership style lets the players think less about what actions to execute and think more about executing the actions that the coach commands. This thinking about executing actions could leeds to what some call ”increased confidence”, namely that players are thinking ’execute action’ instead of thinking ’possible consequences of next action’. Now, note that there is nothing in our example that states that the previous coach could not, or would not, change leadership styles and start leading like a commander. However, there is little doubt that in this scenario of a team in crisis, a coach who leads like a commander is welcomed.
Imagine that the new coach is able to save the team from relegation after commanding the players for the last third of the season. There will probably be a lot of pats on the back for the board members for making the right decision and brining in a commander to coach the team. But what happens when the new season starts and if the new coach is still leading like a commander? There is no longer a crisis, the club stayed up and everyone is back to thinking they will challenge for the top places in the league. As you know, football is a players sport where it is the players that have to make decisions on the pitch, and the job of the coach is to improve this decision making in order to improve the team. Is that possible when you are constantly commanding players what to do? Or do you need to guide the players more like a teacher in order to improver their decision making?
Needless to say, if the new coach is unable to change leadership styles from commander to teacher there will again be a problem. This time with an underperforming team that may be clear of the relegation battle, but nowhere near fulfilling it’s potential. Perhaps the board again becomes nervous and decide to change coaches after only half a season to bring in a new coach who leads like a teacher. It is not uncommon to see coaches performing well in crisis mode only to perform less when things are back to normal. There are some coaches who have been able to save teams from relegation more than once by leading as a commander, which is very impressive, and they are sometimes viewed as ’specialists’ for doing this. But if they are only able to lead as a commander and not able to use any other leadership style, they should be viewed as ’limited’ coaches. Leading as a commander is very smart in a crisis situation as described in the example above, however when the crisis is over another leadership style is necessary. As a coach you should practice these different leadership styles and your ability to switch between them, because you never know when you are in a situation that requires the one or the other.
There are a lot of resources online about how you can coach football. These resources usually have their starting point in someone else’s subjective application of coaching football in their particular environment. This in itself is not a problem as long as you as the coach who are visiting these resources understand that this is the case. However, the problem arises when your own subjective application of coaching football takes someone else’s subjective application as the starting point. In this post, let’s look at what coaching football is from a philosophical viewpoint to give you as the coach an objective starting point for your subjective application on the pitch.
First, we need to understand that coaching football is something that happens within the context of the game of football. This game contains of the team functions; attacking, transitioning and defending, with the objective of winning which is done by scoring minimum one more goal than the opponent. The team functions have different team tasks, when your team is attacking they are executing the team tasks of building up to create chances and (hopefully) scoring while when defending they are disturbing the build up of the opponent and preventing scoring. Each player on the pitch contributes to the respective team task by executing different football actions, i.e. passing, creating space, pressing, blocking passing lanes etc. A football action is communication, decision making and execution of that decision. In football, the players are the ones that make the decisions on the pitch which is why we call football a players sport and not a coaches sport (as for example baseball).
Now, imagine that you as the coach of your team would ignore the context of the game in your training sessions. How would that look? It could for example mean that you have activities where players are kicking the ball around cones, executing ”passing patterns” without opponents and other, similar activities without the need for (verbal and non-verbal) communication and decision making. Execution for the sake of execution. Does this example sound familiar? Coaching football means that you as the coach help the players improve their football actions. But how can you improve a football action without any communication and decision making?
Since the game of football is played 11 against 11 (in youth football the game is simplified with fewer players on each team) it is not enough to coach each player individually without taking their team-mates, opponents and the context of the game into consideration. Therefore, coaching football is done in the context of the different team-functions; attacking, transitioning and defending with the appropriate team-task and opponents. In addition to improving the individual players football actions, coaching football also means improving the quality of the different team-functions in order to help your team perform better and increase the chance of winning.
To summarize, coaching football is enabling players to execute better decisions (football actions) in the game of football. This is done by helping the players improve their football actions together with their team-mates in the context of attacking, transitioning and defending against an opponent. How you help the players, or how you coach, is your subjective application, or style of coaching football.
If you are interested in more football philosophy, I strongly recommend the book Football Theory by Jan W.I. Tamboer that you can buy here.
Read this statement that was made of a football coach ”There is a direct correlation between mental toughness and defending. You won’t find a mentally tough team who don’t defend well”. The question you need to ask yourself after reading this statement is if you think it makes sense, because if you think it does, you need to think again. Now, for those who don’t think this statement makes sense or for those who is intrigued to find out why it doesn’t make sense we will analyze this tweet in this blog post. I want to make clear that this analysis and what follows is only an example of a bigger and more general problem in the football world and not directed specifically at the author of this particular tweet.
Let’s start by taking a look at the first part of the statement ”There is a direct correlation between mental toughness and defending.” At first glance maybe you are thinking ”That makes sense” in which case you are mistaken. The only reason for this statement to be even close to making sense is the fact that tv-pundits all over the world use the same non-contextual words and statements to fill time on tv when they don’t know what to say. This means that you may have heard the statement many times, but as you know, that doesn’t make it true. In our analysis of this statement we first need to understand what ”mental toughness” is and what it could refer to in the context of football. In order to do that we need to split the two words and see if we can find out what they mean individually before putting them together.
What does ”mental” actually mean? We hear the word everywhere but there doesn’t seam to be all that many that can explain what it is. Without going into a deep philosophical analysis about the theory by Descartes of Body and Mind that was coined in the 17th century and how and why he was wrong, let’s summarize it quickly. In his theory of Body and Mind, Descartes said that the Mind, whatever that is, was something else than the body. However, when you ask people where this ”mind” thing is, they usually point to their head. That means that the ”mind” seams to be located roughly in the same place as your brain. So when people say that you have a ”mental” problem, that is a problem with this ”mind” thing of yours that is located in your head, probably in the area where your brain is. The funny thing is that when you have a really big ”mental” problem, for example depression (negative thinking), you get subscribed anti-depressants that help balance your hormonal levels which leads to less negative thinking and less depression. But that must mean that the ”mind” and this ”mental” problem is a body problem? How else could a correction in hormonal levels effect your thinking? We now know that the process of thinking takes place in this very complex thing called the brain and even though there is a lot that we don’t know about this body-part, we do know that it’s inside the body. So, in general when people use the non-contextual word ”mental”, they are talking about a body issue and actually mean to say ”thinking” in most cases. In other words, you do not have a ”mental” problem that is for example ”lack of confidence”, you have a thinking problem that is you thinking that you cannot execute the action.
Back to the statement where we now can exchange the non-contextual word ”mental” with the correct word thinking. The consequence is that the statement becomes ”thinking toughness”. Now, that doesn’t make much more sense than it did before. We have a second problem with a non-contextual word, namely ”toughness” and need to find out what this word means. From the Cambridge dictionary we can read that ”Toughness” is an American word that means ”the quality of being strong and determined”. Put that into the context of the statement and it would read ”Thinking being strong and determined”, but isn’t determination or, being determined a thinking process in itself? And what is strong in the context of football and defending?
If we zoom out and look at the complete first sentence in the statement ”There is a direct correlation between mental toughness and defending.” and insert the correct words it would look like this ”There is a direct correlation between thinking being strong and determined and defending”. Now, you could argue that the coach is correct about the correlation between thinking and defending. If you cannot think, you can hardly execute the team function of defending, or walk to the pitch, dress yourself or get out of bed for that matter. But when it comes specifically to thinking being strong and determined, does this really have a direct correlation to defending? Or would the correlation be higher if the players are thinking about executing defending actions instead of thinking that they are strong?
To summarize we’ll look at the whole statement again ”There is a direct correlation between mental toughness and defending. You won’t find a mentally tough team who don’t defend well”. As you might notice, in the second sentence the specification of the quality of defending (well) is added to the mix. It seams highly unlikely that teams where players are thinking being strong and determined instead of thinking execute defending actions would be defending very well. That raises the question of what kind of study or scientific research the coach has performed to come to the conclusion that there is a direct correlation between the two. No proof of the claim that there is a direct correlation is given which is hardly surprising since we now know that the statement in itself makes no sense. In short this statement is a collection of non-contextual and arbitrary words that are saying nothing.
Unfortunately these kinds of false statements that use non-contextual language and arbitrary words are common from football coaches all over the world. Mostly this is because of a lack of knowledge and poor coach education and should not be blamed on the coach who is seldom aware of his shortcomings. Perhaps by pointing out that these types of statements are false and makes no sense, we can help these coaches become aware of their shortcomings so that they get the opportunity to improve. Wake up your critical thinking before you retweet and share these kind of statements on social media that contain non-football words! Ask the coach what they really mean and why the statement is supposedly true. If they can’t answer in 140 characters or less, they probably don’t know what they are talking about…
In the sport of football the players are the ones who are making decisions continually within the game. This is different than from other sports like for example baseball where the coach makes the decision and the players go out on the field and execute them to the best of their abilities. Also in American football the play is already decided by the coaches and executed by the players. Although there are certain players on the field that are allowed to make decisions and change plays, it is not everyone that has this freedom. The fact that in the game of football it is the players that have to make decisions and then execute these decisions means that football is a players sport and that for example the game of baseball is more of a coaches sport.
This fact has a clear consequence for how the game of football should be coached. Given that the players are the ones who makes the decision in the game it provides the coach with clear guidelines on how to coach for the most of the time. In general, one could say that the job of the coach is to increase the quality of the players decision making in the game. If the players execute better decision they will have a greater chance of attaining the objective of the game which is winning. Now, the question is how should you coach in order to increase the players decision making?
As previously discussed in the post How do you coach, we looked at three general ways of coaching which was connected to different leadership styles. If you as the coach are telling the players what to do you are leading more like a commander or a drill sergeant. On the other hand, if you as their coach are guiding the players through your training sessions and in your coaching, you are leading like a teacher. The third leadership style that was mentioned was for coaches who might have a very experienced team or installed a culture over time in a club. That coach can take a step back and be more of a facilitator for the players and lead like a manager who is more focused on maintaining the players current level.
These different leadership styles all have their time and place within the context of football training and football coaching. However, one of these styles should per definition be more commonly used than the others. In order to find out which style and why, let’s shortly look at some examples of situations where the different leadership styles might be applied.
Imagine that you as a coach find yourself in a situation that resembles some sort of crisis, for example you might be taking over a slumping team mid-season and asking yourself what leadership style to use. Well, in a crisis situation like this you would probably benefit by taking decision making responsibilities away from the players for a short period of time since they have experienced a lot of pressure from the outside world during this slump. For this situation of crisis it could be a good idea to be more of a commander who tells the players what to do. This way you take the pressure of the players for a period of time and can be extremely clear when implementing your reference for how your are going to do things on and off the pitch.
Now, imagine you are hired as the coach of a team that won the league last season with a big margin. Are you going to start telling them what to do or could it be a good idea to give them more freedom to chose for themselves? In the situation of taking over a successful and experienced group of players it might be a good idea to take a step back and lead more like a manager. Your main job will be to maintain the current level of the players and be a facilitator of their knowledge into good decision making and execution on the pitch.
The above examples are somewhat of abnormalities within the game of football if you look at the big picture. Although they probably happen for all coaches sooner or later and for some maybe even within a season, these different situations are not normal for most coaches in their daily coaching. Given that the game of football is first and foremost a players sport as described in the beginning, there is one leadership style that should be the default for all football coaches, namely the teacher. To improve the players decision making they need to be guided (more or less) and given the opportunity to make decisions that the can execute on their own, something that is not possible if you are for example leading as a commander. This is of course even more important when developing young players and therefore the starting point for all coaches should be to lead like teachers.
When you are coaching your players you probably do that in different ways depending on certain things, and as we saw in the posts What influences your coaching – Part 1 and Part 2 the influences are your personality and your context. Leading is how you coach which is influenced by your leadership style as mentioned in the post Coaching vs Leading. Let’s have a look at the different leadership styles that influence how you coach your players.
Are you telling your players what to do all the time? Maybe you find it hard to not have control and you end up telling both your players and your staff exactly what to do and when to do it. This way of leading can be effective in some short moments when there is some sort of crisis, but in general you might want to think about changing your ways. Imagine that you are a player and your coach is always telling you where to play the ball and when to go forward, sideways or back. Do you as a player increase your level of decision making? No, because there is no need for you to make a decision, the coach has already made it for you. In the game of football the players are the ones making decisions and executing them on the pitch, not the coach. Therefore telling your players what to do all the time will not be a successful way of coaching in the long run. When you are telling your players what to do you are coaching like a commander (or a dictator) and that is not an effective leadership style for coaching players since they are not allowed to make their own decisions.
Maybe you are guiding your players to find the answers themselves when you are coaching? You use a range of open to closed questions and set up the training sessions as a part of the greater curriculum that is guiding your players from one level to the next in their development. You are coaching like a teacher, the only difference is that the classroom is most often outside on the green grass and it’s football instead of for example maths. Imagine yourself being a player under a coach that is a good teacher of the game. Do you think that your decision making would evolve and that your level of executing decisions in the game would increase over time? That means that coaching as a teacher, by guiding your players through the process of learning the game and your style of play, is an effective leadership style to develop players.
What if you are asking your players what the best strategy for winning the next game is? That’s a different way of coaching, letting the players decide themselves and being there as a coach only to facilitate the process. Imagine being an older player that has played the game for 10-15 years at a good level and won a couple of trophies, you most certainly have some knowledge of the game and a lot of experience right? Do you want the coach to tell you what to do, teach you what you already know or would you rather have a coach that understands how to use your knowledge and experience? As a coach for a more experienced group of players it could be wise to coach as a manager by asking the players more and focusing on maintaining the current level of the players. If you want to maintain the level of your players the most effective leadership style is to be a manager when you coach.
These different ways of coaching, by telling, guiding or asking your players are a result of the influence by different leadership styles. If you are telling your players what to do you are a commander, if you are guiding the process you are a teacher and if you are asking them you are a manager. As a coach you may be using all three leadership styles in your coaching from time to time. In one session you might go from teacher to commander and finish off as a manager even though one of these leadership styles are probably more natural for you. Now the question is if you are aware of which of these leadership styles you use the most and why?
In What influences your coaching – Part 1 we saw how your personality influences your coaching actions. There where examples of how your personality traits, values, beliefs and habits that are part of your personality might influence your coaching actions. As a coach you are continuously executing coaching actions, communicating verbally and non-verbally, making decisions and executing these decisions. Your coaching actions are influenced by your leadership style as discussed in the post Coaching vs Leading. If you want to improve your coaching you also need to improve the quality of leading and your leadership style. In order to do this you need self-awareness in order to see what it is you need to improve or change to become a better leader and coach. But what is it that you have to become self-aware about except your personality? Or in other words, what else influences your coaching actions? Feel free to leave a comment with what you think influences your coaching actions.
Hopefully the starting point for your coaching is the sport that you are coaching. The characteristics of the sport should decide the content of your coaching and not your past experiences for example. When you let the characteristics of the football game be the main influence on your coaching you will not make your players run laps around the pitch. If you are coaching people that are running laps around a pitch you are hopefully an athletics coach.
Imagine you are the assistant coach of a team that you are coaching. One day you are promoted to the role of head coach. Will your coaching stay the same or will it change more or less from when you where assistant? Odds are that your behavior and as a consequence your coaching will be slightly different as head coach. This means that the coaching role you have within a staff will influence your coaching to some degree.
Now, think of a scenario where you are an academy coach of a small club. You are coaching both the U16 team and the U10 team. Will you coach both teams the same or will you coach them differently? Hopefully you will approach the U10 differently from the U16 since they are at different stages of their human development. The task of coaching younger players influence your coaching in a different way than when you are coaching older players and vice versa. So apparently the age of the players is something that also might influence your coaching.
As the coach for a team you will experience a number of external factors that can influence your coaching. Imagine starting the season with three straight losses when everyone expected you to be a top team, will that influence your coaching? Or what if you have planned a session and it’s the hottest (or coldest) day of the century, will you coach the same way as you normally would? Maybe you normally have 20 players in the training sessions but this one session only 11 turned up, will that influence your coaching?
The different examples above including characteristics of the sport, coaching role, age group and external factors are all part of your context as a coach. This means that your context will influence how you execute your coaching actions. The sport you are coaching, your role within the staff, the age of the players and other external factors will influence how you communicate to your players and staff both verbally and non-verbally. When making decisions you will be influenced by your context even though you might not be aware of it. If you want to improve your leadership style and the influence on your coaching actions you will need to analyze your context and become self-aware of the influence it has on your coaching.