Coaching Philosophy

Thursday, October 14, 2010
Consolidating coaching philosophy

The actions of every coach are guided by an underlying set of principles or beliefs; their coaching philosophy. Coaches should regularly review and consolidate their coaching philosophy. 

As David Parkin explains “if you're reproducing exactly what you did previously, then the best you can do is come a good second. Why? Because someone has already taken your bench mark and added something better and different to it.”

Although the ‘system’ or philosophy can and should change over time, Parkin explains that “often coaches get themselves into difficulty when they haven't firmed up their approach, or they unexpectedly change their system.”

Understanding coaching philosophy

An exercise to help you understand coaching philosophy is to analyse a current senior AFL coach and identify as many aspects of their philosophy as possible. 

  • What are they good at? 
  • What do they bring to their role? 
  • What is their game plan/style?

Now consider your own coaching philosophy. Start by figuring out your own beliefs on coaching. 

  • What is coaching – why do you believe that? 
  • Why do you coach? 
  • Why are your players participating? 
  • Are they your players, or are you their coach? 
  • What are your expectations? 
  • What are the expectations of your players?

An effective coaching philosophy should help you to set goals to ensure your players and assistant coaches are all striving in the same direction.  Limits (codes of conduct) can help you achieve these goals.

A coach should be able to articulate their coaching philosophy. David Parkin explains that “footballers should clearly understand the truths, principles, attitudes and values you bring to their environment as a coach.”

An effective system should provide “clear guidelines for consistency, trust, cooperation, understanding and expectation, as it relates to discipline, teamwork and communication between all parties,” Parkin explained.

Read more about David Parkin’s take on Coaching Philosophy

Developing a coaching philosophy

Consider the following categories/points when developing your philosophy. It is not an exclusive list and they are not presented in any particular order. You will create your own categories as your philosophy develops and different areas will have more importance than others to you as a coach.

  • Teaching
  • People Management
  • Leadership
  • Character
  • Care and Interest
  • Discipline
  • Planning and Preparation
  • Training
  • Innovation
  • Strategy and Tactics
  • Success
  • Failure
  • Criticism
  • Assistant Coaches
  • Recruiting
  • Communication
  • Feedback
  • Honesty

To help provoke thinking you might like to determine your beliefs around the following:

  • Youth or Age?
  • Character or Ability?
  • Athleticism or Skill?
  • Risk or Safety?
  • Defence or Attack?
  • Motivation or Inspiration?
  • Individual or Team?

When times are tough and wins are few and far between, you need a strong system of coaching. It's not appropriate to significantly change your philosophy. Confidence in what you believe is negated rapidly, if the coach 'loses their way'. Have confidence in your coaching philosophy - have the faith and belief to live by it.
This article is based on the presentation made by Lawrie Woodman (Manager Coaching and Volunteers, AFL) and David Parkin (AFL Coaching Ambassador) at the 2010 National Coaching Conference held at AAMI Stadium in Adelaide in January and a workshop on Coaching Philsophy delivered by David Wheadon (Skill Acquisition/Game Development Coach, Geelong Cats).


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