Jan Stirling on Coaching

Friday, March 07, 2014

Jan Stirling is one of Australia’s most successful coaches. As part of her engaging presentation on “Elite Mindsets” at the AFL 2014 National Coaching Conference, Jan drew on examples from sport and other elite performance endeavours to illustrate what this meant, as the athletes, coaches and other performers spoke on video about why they believed they had attained their success.

Jan also outlined her views on what coaching is and what makes a good coach. Some of these views are presented here.


Coaching is a privilege we should respect and value. The role of a coach is integral and it offers us an opportunity to help develop the athletes we lead and teach as people - beyond the playing field.

All coaches, irrespective of the level they are involved, play a vital role in our sporting landscape and in particular footy because of the diversity of the pathways available.

As coaches we have a duty of care to always give our best in providing a safe, enjoyable and stimulating learning environment for the athletes whose development has been entrusted to us.

What makes you a good coach? 

There are essential attributes in coaching that I know have certainly helped me in some very challenging environments over my journey. Here is my top 10.

  1. You must care about the development of “people”. My mantra is from the first day they arrive until the players leave our program, they must be better equipped to handle “life” through the learning and development they access and achieve being in our team environment.
  2. You need to show passion and diligence to your role, and that includes towards other staff and helpers, at all times be honest, thoughtful and respectful to all everyone involved.
  3. Be a sponge for knowledge and source help from others thinking outside the box. You must lead in the area of continual learning; your mindset with this will influence your players.
  4. Provide a stimulating and enjoyable training and learning environment. Develop a tool kit bag of resources (training drills), such as 20+ ways to do ball work!  VARIETY is a key!
  5. Plan your training session to ensure players train at a “higher level of intensity” than the game. This is the fun part - doing activities and skills at optimum levels accelerates confidence building.
  6. Monitor, review, measure what your players and coaches do. Critique and use the analysis objectively to forward plan for ongoing continual improvement.
  7. Feedback and analysis for you:  Video or audio record training and games and review them with a peer or mentor. Feedback and analysis for your players:  Honest, positive focus and use of “learning clips’ to show mistakes that can be improved at training. ALWAYS finish with a positive!
  8. Select good people (coaches and other staff) to support, help and assist you. Clarify roles, expectations responsibilities including how their actions will be measured & assessed.
  9. Empower your players (qualifiers) and your staff and allow them to contribute and share what they know - you may be surprised!
  10. Always retain a solution focused mindset to the challenges and opportunities that will arise in the privileged environment that team sport provides enabling you to excel in what you do. 

We are never a finished product. So gaining greater knowledge to then use to enhance the clubs or environments we work in - that is great coaching!

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