What Makes a Good Coach?

9 Qualities and Skills to Look for in a Sports Fitness Coach

The tuck jump.
The tuck jump.. lovro77/Getty Images

Sport and fitness coaching is an art as well as a science. A great coach needs to know more than just the rules of the game. Great coaches also know how to communicate with players in a way that gets results on the playing field. The goal of great coaching is to guide, inspire and empower an athlete to realize and develop his or her full potential.

9 Qualities and Skills of a Great Sports Coach

When you are looking for a coach, look for these qualities.

If you want to be a better coach, you should rate yourself by these criteria to see how you might improve.

1. Knows the Sport

To be able to teach effectively the coach must have an in-depth understanding of the sport from the fundamental skills to advanced tactics and strategy. Coaches may have experience playing, but not all former players make good coaches. Coaches must plan for the season, know the progressive nature of training adaptation, know the rules, and provide a simple, structured environment for athletes to succeed.

2. Seeks Out New Information

While a good coach knows a great deal about a sport (s)he must continue to learn and develop new training techniques. Staying up to date of new research, training and rehab information, attending coaching clinics, camps, and seeking out tips from elite coaches and athletes is a sign of a great coach. Watching videos, reading books, studying periodicals can also be helpful.

Attending university classes in sport psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology is a great idea and is readily accessible for any coach who wants to grow and improve.

3. Is a Motivator

The successful coach is a motivator with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the game and the players. The ability to motivate and inspire is part of the formula for success.

Getting athletes to believe in themselves and achieve come far easier from some coaches than others. The coach who can motivate is able to generate the desire to excel in their athletes. Motivation may mean keeping the practice fun, fresh and challenging. When motivating a player, a good coach stresses trying to reach performance goals, not outcome goals. A coach should make sure that players understand that you can completely control your own effort and training, but can't control what your opponent does or the outcome of every match.

4. Knows The Athlete

Being aware of individual differences in athletes is also an important ingredient in coaching excellence. Yelling, screaming, and other emotional displays may work for some athletes but could have a devastating effect on others. Individualizing communication and motivation to specific players is key to team success. Paying attention to the player's emotions, strengths and weaknesses are the responsibility of a good coach.

5. Is an Effective Communicator

The effective coach is a coach who communicates well and exudes credibility, competence, respect and authority.

A coach should be able to explain ideas clearly. Clear communication means setting defined goals, giving direct feedback and reinforcing the key messages. Acknowledging success is also essential for good communication.

6. Is a Good Listener

Part of communicating effectively is listening. A coach should be a compassionate ear and should welcome the players comments, questions and input. The effective coach will seek out information from the players. Finally, the good coach will be flexible and will use player feedback to modify the training plan if necessary.

7. Is Disciplined

Athletes need to adhere to a reasonable set of rules both on and off the field and if these are ignored the coach is responsible for discipline. The effective coach clearly states a code of conduct up front and adheres to it. When violations do occur, discipline should follow. Evidence supports that for discipline to effectively change behavior, it must be mild, prompt, and consistent.

8. Leads by Example

The effective coach also leads by example. A good coach adheres to the same rules (s)he expects of the players. A coach who wants respect should also show respect. A coach who expects players to remain positive needs to display a positive attitude. A coach who wants athletes to listen will also listen to the players.

9. Displays Commitment

The best coaches are in the profession because they love it. Besides being strongly committed to the sports and success, the best coaches display a clear commitment to looking out for the best interest of the individual players.

A great coach is not easy to find and requires a unique set of talents and skills. If you are a coach, or if you are looking for one, these qualities may help you identify the strengths and weakness of typical coaching programs. It's unlikely any one person will excel in all areas, but a good coach will have many of these qualities.

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