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Coaching Principles

Is Coaching an Art or a Science?


To support the coach is a wealth of scientific information based on research conducted with athletes. Information is available to assist the coach and athlete in training and development, including nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, physiology & medicine. There are several scientific methods to measure and analyse the athlete's performance, e.g. computer-aided analysis of VO2 max, lactate levels, running technique etc.


The art of coaching comes when the coach has to analyse the scientific data and convert it into coaching and training programs to help develop the athlete. This analysis relies heavily on the coach's experience and knowledge of the event/sport and the concerned athlete.

By understanding the science, which is the foundation of training, can develop a well-designed training program to help athletes reach their full potential.

So, is coaching the art of understanding the science and applying it?

UK Coaching Certification (UKCC)

"Coaches are crucial for sport at all levels - on the school pitch, in the local club or for a major international team. They are the people who motivate, encourage and inspire. This certificate will recognise coaching as it should - a profession with a properly accredited qualification and career development structure." Richard Caborn MP, UK Minister for Sport

In July 2002, in response to the UK's Government "Plan for Sport", the Coaching Task Force published their report on coach education and qualification schemes in the UK and identified the need for a coaching structure suitable for all sports and the implementation of a UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC).

The five coaching levels of the UKCC are:

  1. The coach will be qualified to assist more qualified coaches, delivering aspects of coaching sessions, usually under the direct supervision
  2. The coach will be qualified to prepare for, deliver and review coaching sessions
  3. The coach will be qualified to plan, implement, analyse and revise annual coaching programs
  4. The coach will be qualified to design, implement and evaluate the process and outcome of long-term/specialist coaching programs
  5. The coach will be qualified to generate, direct and manage the implementation of cutting-edge coaching solutions and programs

The five levels provide coaches with a progressive development pathway from being a beginner coach (Level 1) to a highly evolved expert coach. The levels reflect the coaching skills attained and not the level of the performer being coached.

Coaching Process

The coaching process comprises three elements:

  • Planning - developing short and long-term training programs to help your athlete achieve their goals
  • Conducting - delivery of training programs
  • Evaluating - evaluation of the programs, athlete development and your coaching. This element may result in an adjustment of your athlete's training program and your coaching.

You will need to develop your knowledge and practical coaching skills to support this process. These include, but are not limited to:

The Coach's Non-Technical Tool Box

The following information was first published in Issue 28 of the FHS magazine.


  • Being a good coach is not about having excellent sports-specific and technical knowledge
  • The skill of effective coaching lies in asking the right questions
  • It is essential to ask yourself: Have I planned for perfection and covered all eventualities?

Coaches as leaders:

  • Require excellence; do not expect perfection
  • Understand your athletes before you can influence them
  • Create trust and command respect
  • Motivate and inspire

Communicating with your athletes:

  • Keep the message concise and precise
  • Work out whether your athletes receive the same message as the one you think you are communicating
  • Remember your tone of voice and body language - only 10% of what we recall comes from the words spoken
  • Find out your athletes' preferred styles of thinking - visual, auditory or kinesthetic?
  • Try to use a story to help get what you want to say across

Understanding how your athletes tick:

  • Think about how your athletes like to be coached
  • Look at how well you know your athletes:
    • What are their goals?
    • What is stopping them from achieving this?
    • What can you do to help?
  • Think about how often you ask for feedback from your athletes about your coaching

Understanding how your athletes like to learn:

  • Understand what your athletes' preferred learning styles are
  • Look at how your preferred coaching style is likely to be received by those with different learning styles
  • Build the needs of those with different learning styles into how you present information
  • If you feel you are not getting through to your athlete, remember that it might be the medium and not the wrong message

Making use of the media:

  • Remember that journalists are looking for a story that will sell
  • Know what you want to get across and make it into a story
  • Recognise the needs of different branches of the media and tailor your message accordingly
  • Think before you use the media to try to psych out your opponents

Page Reference

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

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Coaching Principles [WWW] Available from: [Accessed