Sports Coaching.

By: A.M.Stellenberg – 7 Jan 2023

The coach behind the games.

Stafford (2011) implies that there is much more to sports coaching than what meets the eye of spectators. Everyone can see the coach screaming and shouting in frustration at players from the side of the field, but no one knows what goes on behind the scene, the hard work the coach puts into preparing the team or the individual for games.

This blog article will target the topic of sports coaching in its different elements. Firstly, explaining sports coaching. Secondly it will discuss coaching philosophy, coaching skills, and a coach’s role in sport.

According to Stafford (2011) a sports coach is defined as a person in a position of authority who actively makes decisions to improve the performance of individual athletes or for a team within a particular sport through the development and delivery of a training program that is observed and tailored to the needs of each athlete, as every athlete is different in every aspect (physical needs, learning ability and capacity, psychological needs, extra) (Hague, McGuire, Chen, Bruner, Côté, Turnnidge and Martin, 2021).

This ties in with coaches having a coaching philosophy since a coaching philosophy does provide the platform for which their training program is based on, how an athlete’s development is prioritised and/or how the team dynamic would work. According to Stafford (2011) every coach has or should have a coaching philosophy. However, as one would mature in their role, their ideas and perspective will change with time impacting their philosophy. Many great coaches of the past had their own philosophies. Allen (2018) mentions a couple of coaches who had their philosophies that influenced how team training sessions would run, what the aim of each training session would target and so on. This can be seen in The Last Dance (2020) when Doug Collins and Phill Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls. Their believes of how to win the game were very different, as Doug Collins looked to use the best athlete to reach the goal whereas Phil Jackson aimed to award every team member the opportunity to reach the goal by developing every athlete on the team.  

Phil Jackson, coach of the NBA Chicago Ball from the year 1989 to the year 1998, had a philosophy that focused on individuals staying focused in the game and the team working together. According to Allen (2018) Phil Jackson had led his team into mediation sessions to strengthen the mind, enhance athletes’ focus and to help the athlete become aware of their body positioning. From observation Phil Jackson’s sports coaching philosophy was about developing athletes’ abilities, awareness, cohesion as well as their mental state.

With a coaching philosophy comes sports coaching skills and an understanding of a sport according to Stafford (2011). According to Dohsten, Barher-Ruchti and Lindgren (2020) coaches must aim to have balance between performance, high-pressure and well-being. Understanding one’s athletes become beneficial in how coaches interact with their athletes and how they implement their coaching philosophy. Sports coaching does come with a psychologic aspect to it, such as understanding how and why your athletes would react to your coaching technique differently. According to Stafford (2011) for a coach to be effective at delivering a training programme that allows for every athlete he/she works with developing certain skills become rather essential to the effectiveness of one’s coaching methods. In a podcast with Professor Ross Tucker and sports journalist Mike Finch it is implied that a sports coach should become in “sync” with their athletes in the sense that a coach can tell that the athlete is not in the right mental, physical, or emotional state to train at a particular level of intensity and work with this to ensure athletes are not over trained or under-trained (The real science of sports podcast, 2019). Therefore, Stafford (2011) states that common skills a sports coach should have are as followers: communicate effectively with both athletes and management, identify the needs and goals of both the sports club and athletes and link the two, relay effective feedback and important information to athletes and management, plan and organise training programmes and training sessions as well as study and assess their own coaching practices, athletes’ development, training programme effectiveness and so forth.

Keeping the sport coach skills in mind leads us to look at the role coaches play in an organisation as well as in the life of their athletes. Professor Ross Tucker and sports journalist Mike Finch briefly discuss the role coaches play in the life of an athlete and in an organisation in their podcasts “What it really takes to ride the tour de France: a doctor’s perspective” (The real science of sport podcast, 2019)and “How to make a champion” (The real science of sport podcast, 2019). It is briefly stated that the role of a coach is to plan, organise, manage, and develop an athlete for whatever the athlete’s and the organisation’s goals are. Stafford (2011) goes on to mention that coaches play many roles in the life of athletes especially young athletes. Coach, teach life lessons through sports, become the responsible adult young athletes can talk to about problem (sometimes), supporters, and so much more. In elite sports coaches play a similar role. According to Stafford (2011) at the elite level sports coaches play a role in the mental, physical, and emotional development of athletes as they help with the control of emotional outbursts, pressure control, goal setting, sports performance motivation and so much more. In terms of the organisation sports coaches should provide a balance between the goals of the organisation and the goals of the athletes.

In conclusion sports coaching is more complex than what the definition would suggest. This is since the definition states what a sports coach’s job description is however the definition does not account for the roles coaches play in the life of an athlete or the organisation nor does it state the skills a sports coach needs to be more effective. Sports coaching is not a theoretical job where one can read “How to coach” but it is a practical and dynamic job since coaches are always learning and evolving with the different athletes they work with. This is an aspect of coaching that most coaches do not take note of as it is done subconsciously. However, it impacts their coaching philosophy, planning, organising, and delivery of training programmes as well as how they interact with athletes and other staff members. It also impacts the role they play in the life of their athletes and in the organisation and what they deem essential skills for effective coaching.


Dohsten, J., Barher-Ruchti, N. and Lindgren. E. 2020. Caring as sustainable coaching in elite athletics: benefits and challenges. Sports coaching review, 9(1): 48-70. [Online]. Availablie at: [Accessed 13 December 2022].

Hague, C., McGuire, C. S., Chen, J., Bruner, M. W., Côté, J., Turnnidge, J. and Martin, L. J. 2021. Coaches’ influence on team dynamic in sport: A scoping review. Sports Coaching Review. [Online]. DOI: 10.1080/21640629.2021.1874096 [Accessed 13 December 2022].

Stafford, I. ed. 2011. Coaching children in sport, London: Routledge.

Tucker, R. and Finch, M. 2019. How to make a champion. [Online]. 13 August. Available at: [Accessed 20 December 2022].

Tucker, R. and Finch, M. 2019. What it really takes to ride the tour de France: a doctor’s perspective. [Online]. 23 July. Available at: [Accessed 20 December 2022].

The Last Dance. 2020. Episode IV, Season 1, episode 4. Directed by Jason Hehir. Composed by Thomas Caffey. [Netflix]. First broadcast 2020. United States: Netflix.

The Last Dance. 2020. Episode X, Season 1, episode 10. Directed by Jason Hehir. Composed by Thomas Caffey. [Netflix]. First broadcast 2020. United States: Netflix.