Ever wondered how a hockey team would do if it were coach-less? After all, the coach or manager doesn’t cross the white line and actually go out and play.

Coaching is a role in which his or her professional efficacy can’t only be measured by results – simply winning or losing. A bad coach can succeed because he or she is lucky to have great players. Likewise, a wonderful coach can fail and be wholly undermined by a team short on talent, effort, or other variables largely out of the coach’s control.

Coaches are teachers, role models and mentors

This is not to denigrate coaches or their roles. Coaches in sport, especially in those formative years at junior level, are vital – they are teachers, role models and mentors. They can inspire individuals and teams, but when all’s said and done they cannot actually go out and perform for them. Furthermore, two coaches with contrasting methods can have comparable levels of success. Ultimately, it comes down to a few common traits.

So what are those traits, and what can a coach do? What makes a good coach and how can a coach make those small differences and marginal gains that can affect the outcome?

A good coach needs to:

  • Instill belief and self-confidence. Empower your players or athletes by building them up and not knocking them down. Never embarrass or humiliate your players for making a mistake
  • Develop a rapport with each player
  • Avoid a one-size fits all approach and understand differences. Be flexible
  • Focus on the process rather than the result / outcome. The result is a by-product of the process
  • Place a greater emphasis on application and hard work rather than winning
  • Listen to your players

Instilling self-belief

The most important thing a coach can do is instill his or her players with self-belief. Confidence and self-esteem play an incalculably huge part in any sportsman’s performance. Whether hockey, rugby or football – the premise is the same.

In football, Jürgen Klopp has forged a reputation for being able to instill all of these things, cultivating a feverish hunger and a common purpose among his players which enables them to become collectively greater than the sum of their parts – which for a coach of any team is the holy grail.

Another key aspect of coaching is adapting to continually changing landscapes. Situations change, opposition changes and context changes. Engand and GB women’s coach Danny Kerry has overseen the most successful era in the history of the England and Great Britain women’s teams and he has done this through binding his squad together with that common purpose, and by constantly adapting to ever-changing circumstances.

Failure occurs routinely in hockey and in all sports, and most great coaches will embolden their charges by allowing them to make mistakes. Instead of embarrassing the player who made the mistake, good coaches use failure as an opportunity to calmly demonstrate where they went wrong and give feedback. And, as the old saying goes, “feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

Coaching is a wonderful way of giving something back and having a positive influence on a great number of people. If you want to get involved in coaching, contact your local club or visit www.sportscoachuk.org.

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