The Coach as a Leader


When people are asked, “Who is a leader?” many respond by naming politicians, presidents, senators, and governors, military leaders, business leaders, and… successful coaches.

Why are coaches included in this list? Because all coaches are leaders, coaching effectiveness is maximized by understanding how to lead.

In a way, the relationship between coaches and players is a contract. Players will follow the coach’s wishes or demands and in return they expect their reward, whether that is winning, playing time, positive reinforcement, or some other benefit. With that in mind, a coach has the obligation to find out what each individual’s wants and desires are and to get them to believe in the ultimate team goal(s). Here are some guidelines for specific implications of what the coach as a leader should do:

Master and Apply Current Knowledge. Be willing to learn and willing to take the time to understand correct movement mechanics, strategies, and the fundamental principles of sport.

Develop Interpersonal Skills. Develop interpersonal skills, especially communication skills. Have a sense of humor but scrap the sarcasm. Players need to feel that they can approach you, if they don’t feel that way problems can multiply.

Eliminate all Dehumanizing Language. Treat each person with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Give positive reinforcement rather than negative feedback. Offer solutions when criticism is necessary.

Control Your Emotions. Athletes treat the coach as the role model and will emulate their behavior. If coaches are on the sidelines yelling at officials and throwing chairs, what message is that sending to the players?

Help Athletes Set their own Goals. Goals need to be established as a team and as an individual. Goals should be something that the athletes can actually achieve. Coaches are there to guide athletes in the goal setting process as well as the evaluation of the goals but they are not there to tell the athlete what their goal is or what their goal should be.

Live in the Present. Athletes don’t need to be consistently reminded how good your team was last year or in prior years. You may use the past as an example but don’t compare your athletes or team to prior years.

Provide Opportunities for Success. Provide good practices, time for game conditions, sensible scheduling and a pleasant atmosphere. The administrative aspects of the job are just as important as any other aspect. Planning, preparation, and budgeting are very important functions. A coach must be a leader, teacher, and an administrator all at once.

Every coach has the ability to lead but it takes work to become a good leader. By following and living by these guidelines, you will be a long way on your path to becoming a good leader.

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