As someone who was a coach for many years, who has helped to train coaches, and who has met with some of the world’s great coaches, I get asked a lot of coaching-related questions. Probably the most common, however, “is what makes a great coach?”
While that’s definitely not a simple question, nor is it one with an easy answer, I’d have to say one of the key factors is trust. A good coach is one who the players trust in every possible way.
They trust him enough to make mistakes in front of him without feeling laughed at or unfairly judged. They trust him enough to take advice from him and to always put their best interests first. In order to establish that trust with players, though, a coach truly does have to have the players’ best interests at heart always and act accordingly.
Another big factor that goes into making a great coach is respect- from both sides. A good coach will respect his players at all times by doing what’s best for them and by treating them kindly and fairly, even when they make mistakes.
At the same time, a good coach will demand nothing less than the utmost respect from his players. He will not tolerate poor sportsmanship or bad behavior and will enforce uniform consequences for all players. Doing this will, in turn, earn him the respect of the players, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for all involved.
Great coaches are also coaches who motivate. Motivation through encouragement and unwavering support is the best way to build a player up. This isn’t to say that coaches have to praise everything their players do or give them false hope about their skill levels and abilities, but they DO always have to believe in their players and focus on encouraging them, not tearing them down. Even their criticisms and advice should be delivered in a supportive, caring way.
As a final piece of advice, it’s important to remember that everything you do as a coach plays into the relationship you have with your players. And, as is the case with any relationship, making one wrong decision can severely and negatively impact your relationships.
Thus, before you criticize, get angry, or do anything else, remember that it’s not just going to have an immediate effect. It will have a long-term effect and impact your relationship with that individual player and with the team as a whole.
If you can keep that in mind- that everything you do as a coach has far reaching consequences- it will make it that much easier to always maintain trustworthiness, respect, and an encouraging attitude, and that, in turn, will make you a truly great coach.