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A Coaching Philosophy

Lance Smith explains how to create your coaching philosophy.

What makes a good coach? What is expected of a coach?  Why do you want to coach?  These are questions you should ask yourself and keep asking yourself as you progress through your coaching career.   And they should be answered in the context of a coaching philosophy.

We all have a philosophy of life – our beliefs, values, and past experiences govern the way we think, the way we act, and the way we interact with others.   They also influence the way we coach.   This becomes a coaching philosophy.

Rainer Martens in "Coaches Guide to Sport Psychology (Human Kinetics, 1987) states: "Usually your philosophy of life will shape your philosophy of coaching and your philosophy of coaching will influence your philosophy of sport".

He continues with, "Developing a useful coaching philosophy involves two major tasks.  The first is to develop greater self-awareness and to come to know yourself better.  The second is to decide what your objectives are in coaching, which in turn will shape the way you see your role as a coach and consequently many of your behaviours as a coach."

Lynn Kidman and Stephanie Hanrahan (The Coaching Process, Dunmore Press, 1997) state, "Coaches have the power to help athletes reach their goals by providing the most positive experience possible….This power is reflected through a coach's personal beliefs, values, principles, and priorities, which are the basis of their behaviour.  Coaches can influence whether athletes' experiences are full of frustrations or satisfactions, or whether they feel success or failure".

So it stands to reason what kind of person you are, influences the way you coach.  It sets the tone of training sessions and determines what is taught how it is taught and what values are passed on to the athletes.   Will your coaching be autocratic or consensus-based, emphasise learning or emphasise winning, be weighted towards the elite or the beginner, be formal and business-like or loose and free-spirited, strict and severe or lenient and lots of laughing, stress competition or stress participation?   None of these criteria is right or wrong, but all need to be taken into account when devising a coaching philosophy.

Taking time to think about and formulate such a philosophy will help clarify your approach to coaching and give you guidelines that can be used as a reference in all your coaching activities.   It also helps the athletes, both current and prospective.  They know what you stand for and where you are coming from, for if athletes hold different values from the coach, perhaps they have the wrong coach.

When formulating a coaching philosophy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to coach?
  • Why do I think athletes (or any athlete) want me to coach them?
  • What do I want athletes to achieve?
  • What do I want to achieve as a coach?
  • What values do I want the athletes to acquire?
  • How do I judge success?

The answers will help you create your coaching philosophy.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • SMITH, L. (2019) A Coaching Philosophy [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Lance Smith is a practicing coach with Athletics Southland in New Zealand with coaching qualifications in sprints, track endurance, road and cross country, steeplechase, and high jump and has coached athletes to national championship medals in all the above events. He is also an active "master" athlete and takes part in track events and jumps.