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How to become great at coaching track and field

Mr. Tayyab explains what it takes to become a great track and field athletics coach.

To some people, track and field athletics is everything in life, but to others, it may be a seed of interest that they would like to explore further at a specific phase of their life.

As an inclusive track and field coach, bringing the two together to ensure every individual has the same opportunities and develops equally both physically and emotionally at their own pace should be on everyone's agenda.

Once you understand the fundamental principles of bringing different athletes together whilst equally challenging them, the path to becoming a great coach becomes clearer.

Understanding Athletes and Philosophy

Athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Many men and women from different backgrounds and walks of life come together on the field when coaching track, looking for someone to enrich their sporting development.

When coaching track, it is imperative to understand that it is you as a figure of authority and representative of the sport, who can make or break a person's interest in track and field.

Not only is a coach there to teach athletes new skills and drills, but to take on the many branches that make up the coaching tree.

The difference between an average coach and a great coach may be the understanding of athletes as individuals rather than collectively, for example, different body types, strengths, weaknesses, and goals.

The coaching philosophy is a natural mantra that is present in all coaches.

Every coach has a coaching philosophy. Much like an opinion, there is no right or wrong philosophy, and even when a person has a similar background or education to another, their coaching philosophies may be very different.

Ultimately, two primary factors shape a great coaching philosophy:

Coaching Style

A coaching style is a choice between you and your athletes and the type of relationship and boundaries you set. A particular style usually reflects a person's natural personality, but it is important to remember that this is not always the case.

Style can also affect the way you communicate with, discipline, and motivate athletes in a passive, authoritarian, cooperative manner, or a combination of all three. Great coaches can often transition between the three styles effortlessly depending on who they are dealing with and at what stage in their development an athlete is at.

Coaching Objective

The coaching objective brings together a mix of outcomes and goals set out by you as an individual coach on what you believe your overall responsibility is and your measurement of success.

Some track and field coaches put more emphasis on winning, whereas others focus primarily on individual development and improvement for a season.

Whatever your objective, be sure to evaluate and record your journey and the behaviour of athletes regularly. For example, too much emphasis on winning may create anxiety and motivation loss, which negatively impacts a person's overall development. What is more is, that a great coach knows when to switch up their objectives rather than trying to bang the same drum and expecting to get a different sound.

Using Philosophy To Lay Great Coaching Foundations

You may find that as you progress through your career and gain more valuable experience, your coaching philosophy changes.

However, it is important to lay solid foundations that will stick with you throughout your career.

This not only forms the basis of your values but sets out clear principles that student-athletes are aware of so that you are both reading from the same page from the start.

Also, solid foundations act as a guarantee for both coaches and athletes that they will experience good practice and be able to have an idea of where they will be in 6 months to one year and beyond.

Whether you learn to shape your philosophy from observing other coaches, or adjust it through your own experiences, laying the right foundations will ensure you start your coaching journey on the right path.

Furthermore, although each coach has their philosophy, it is naive of anyone to expect them to know everything and do everything right all of the time.

Below is a list of the general foundations of a great coach:

  • Put your athletes at the centre of attention at all times. This is about them, not you or your ego.
  • Aim to improve and develop each athlete to the best of their ability and at their own pace.
  • Remember that athletes are there to learn new skills, develop techniques and master the sport through teaching and demonstrating.
  • Treat every athlete with respect and dignity.
  • Be open-minded about your philosophy, including style and objectives so that you are approachable, reasonable, and are available to take constructive criticism. Communication is a two-way street and imperative for coaching-athlete bonding.
  • Your athletes will lose as well as win. Teaching them to react and respond correctly can be the difference between a good coach and a great one.
  • Athlete motivation can be determined by respect. Fail to command respect between you and your students and you will not only fail yourself but fail your athletes as well.
  • Understand that your decisions have consequences and not making them in your athlete's interests can affect their social, emotional, and physical development.
  • Be positive and keep sessions fun, even when preparing for competition.
  • Train sensibly and do not over-work your athletes.
  • Keep your training drills relevant to the skills that each athlete is developing. Match athlete interests and strengths to specific events.
  • Plan sessions both short and long term throughout a season to meet goals and achievements individually and as part of a team.

Page Reference

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

  • TAYYAB, M. (2019) How to become great at coaching track and field [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Mr. Tayyab is a Freelance Journalist who writes about Nutrition and Minerals to help athletes.