What makes a good coach?



In sports, records and streaks are king. Emphasis is placed on the number of wins. A team’s true success is measured in time and numbers. Years and seconds can lead to immortality and fame. One could easily compare wins, but every coach loses. So, what makes a good coach…good?

Judy Goss, a Mental Performance Consultant who works with coaches and athletes, believes that good habits can lay the groundwork for successful athletes.

“There are many habits that a coach can adopt to get the most out of their players. They are first and foremost a role model, so when they arrive early, they are prepared, bring energy and positive attitude – this sets a tone with their athletes,” says Goss.

“They communicate clearly and demonstrate their values and connect on a personal level with their athletes, this is a good start. This doesn’t even touch on using the mental skills that they could also demonstrate or encourage the athletes to use,” says Goss.

Good habits can help lay the foundation for what a good athlete can do – be it mentally or physically. Perception is also another trait that can help coaches assist their athletes overcome mental hurdles.

“Dealing with failure and how to handle that will eat you up until you gain perspective on it. That’s one of the things, I think, is the hardest for young athletes to learn. It is a game of failure, but others look at it like a game of opportunity. You’re going to get ten shots, make the best of them,” says Sam Dempster, Durham Lords baseball coach and former MLB scout.

Methods to The Madness

No two sports are the same. This difference causes changes in styles. A baseball coach doesn’t use the same methods as a curling coach. Much like sports, no two players are the same either. A women’s coach may communicate or think differently than a male’s coach, but age old perceptions of gender may actually hold players back.

“I think I push harder than most coaches push their men’s teams,” Humber women’s volleyball coach Chris Wilkins told sweat. The Humber Hawks have recently won their 10th OCAA championship title in a row. He told sweat that he wasn’t always a women’s coach, starting off as an assistant coach for the men’s volleyball team for a few years before being offered a job as assistant coach for the women’s team by a friend.

“The difference is, you know, women are very intelligent, and they need to know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and why they’re doing it and you have to be a good communicator. I think in the women’s game there’s a lot more team oriented aspect to the game where you need to have a bunch of players that are willing to play well together, for each other. In a women’s game there has to be a cohesive unit working together or you’re not going to be successful. That’s for sure,” says Wilkins.

Jordan Thin, the Niagara Knights women’s curling team head coach shares the idea that communication is different.

“It’s very important for me to keep calm because my athlete’s sense that energy. I am not shy to tell them my feelings and behaviours so they do not mistake something they may see me do and have that add to the stress of the moment,”says Thin.

“You still have the same focuses and same goals as well as same elements that you are always improving on in practice; technical and strategic. Men’s play can utilize a heavy weight shot more than the women’s game, but that says, even that gap is rapidly closing. The biggest difference can be the sweeping, but that varies based on the athlete of course.” says Thin.

“Ultimately, each team, each player is different so my job focuses on pushing the right buttons to get my teams [and] players in the right state of mind and body to succeed,” says Thin.

Balancing Act

If pressures from work or outside life seep into a coach’s brain, it could cause stress and distract them, increasing the potential for loss. A team represents a fully functioning machine and every player must perform their duty smoothly in order to be effective.

“The weight room is a great place to face your limitations. It’s always good to get in there and push yourself against something you know is greater than you. Every coach, every manager has dealt with what ifs. You have to make a decision and live with it. Sometimes you have to say this is the best decision we have and we have to run with it and sometimes it pays off,” says Dempster.

Vacations, hobbies and a gym membership can make the difference in letting out some on court steam. The hours associated with a coaching job are unpredictable and even when they’re off the clock, the phone can still ring.

“Coaching does generally have different hours as do some other occupations. I think that it is just as hard for coaches to balance their life demands as with other occupations. It is more about a coach having the resources to meet the demands of his [and] her job. If you do not have or have access to the necessary resources to meet the demands of the job, that is when it causes stress,” says Goss. A healthy lifestyle and even listening to ones athletes can help a coach find a balance between work and play and may even help a coach understand their children and players more.

While the question of what makes a good coach is subjective. There are some key traits that can help make ones game better if they aren’t already being utilized.

  • Positive attitude
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Ability to communicate emotions properly
  • Ability to admit mistakes and apologies
  • No grudges

These are all examples that should be utilized daily to help avoid causing fatigue and bad attitudes. While one can argue that there are other things that make a coach good, these are certainly things that can help make any college coach tolerable.