Monday, September 21, 2009

The Two Types of Coaches

Parents of young athletes generally respect two different types of coaches:

-The ones that are nice
-And the ones that push athletes to be better

The nice coaches will always have something encouraging to say even about the most embarrassing loss. If an athlete had an off game, the coach will still find something to praise them about. The nice coach is always a friend to every player he works with. He does not discipline, because most players do what he asks because they like him. You often find him coaching groups of athletes that aren't necessarily the greatest at their sport, but he always ensures that every player will enjoy practice and feel good about themselves no matter the circumstances, which parents like.

The pushing coaches will usually be the ones who can be heard yelling at their team for making mistakes that they have practiced to avoid. A pushing coach doesn't let athletes get away with anything but perfection in practice, and players who make mistakes are often required to re-run the drill or action until they get it right. Players obey the coaches instructions because they are afraid of being disciplined; a pushing coach will make athletes do things like push-ups or laps if they don't listen. A player who refuses to be disciplined is more often than not kicked out of practice, or benched at games. The pushing coach produces very competitive players, which parents like.

Both coaching types come with weaknesses.

A nice coach tends to let players get away with talking during practice, lets small mistakes go, and can end up letting athletes establish bad playing habits. He is liked by every player on his team, but is not respected. He is taken advantage of by players who want to avoid challenging drills or difficult exercises. Players with this type of coach miss out on learning important skills of the game. They do not establish a good work ethic in young adults, (something that makes youth sports teams great). Players with this coach compete in an environment where they don't have to try their hardest to be praised. The nice coach, (not by conscious choice), can endanger young athletes' potential to be successful later in life.

The pushing coach demands perfection and will discipline his players if he does not see hard work and focus every second. Coaches that use this style are easily frustrated during matches and are more likely to yell at the team and be overly negative. Athletes playing under a pushing coach are afraid of their coaches, and many even develop a hatred towards their coach. His players will oftentimes criticize him behind his back or even openly. Athletes playing for this kind of coach start to associate bad memories and experiences with the sport they play. This coach can and usually will force players with great potential to quit the sport for good.

The tricky part of being a coach is deciding which kind of coach you are. Most people don't decide to be one way or the other, their personality decides that for them. To be an effective coach you must Choose your Coaching Style before you ever meet the athletes. When you actually choose your coaching style, this is called your Coaching Philosophy.

My advice to coaches is to try to combine both styles. They both have their advantages, that when put together, can develop very competitive players (who turn into respectful and ambitious adults). The encouraging and sympathetic style of the nice coach coupled with the rigor and high standards of the pushing coach, forms a third type of coach:

-The well rounded coach

Which is what I encourage every coach strive for. And that is the type of coach I choose to be.

Dr. Alan Goldberg has some great articles about Coaching Philosophy on his sports psychology blog, visit