11 Qualities of Highly Successful Coaches

Having recently started a new job with AFL Victoria, one of my early tasks was to go out and complete a Level 2 Coaching Assessment for five AFL footballers.  Equipped with a clipboard, an A4 checklist and 60mins I was expected to judge the capabilities and competency of these budding coaches.

After this was completed and upon further reflection, I began to think about how we assess and judge our coaches before coming to an endpoint question “how do determine what a successful coach looks like”.

Further from that, how do we compare coaches against each other?  Who is rated a better coach out of Claudio Ranieri of Leister fame taking a low budget team to the top of the Premier League compared to Jose Mourinho who has numerous titles for some of Europe’s biggest clubs?

Traditionally we have focussed on the pure win/loss and championship titles as our clear metric of success.  However, it is my opinion that this metric measures the success of the team, in which the coach is an integral part, but is created from several factors including club stability, financial prowess, availability of resources, player talent and conditioning to name just a few.

Many of these above areas have various methods of evaluation which makes it easy to measure.  For example financial and personal stability at a club, facilities and dollar investment in resources, player attributes through speed, strength and match day output can all be quantifiably recorded.

To determine the success and skill of a coach is a far more difficult task.

Qualities of a Good Coach in Sports

If we take team sports as an example, the coach is required to merge together a group of people with various talents and characteristics into one harmonised team that will then execute on the coaches behalf.

Take outgoing Melbourne coach Paul Roos.  Having inherited a club on its knees Roos has overseen a rebuild of personnel, player development, culture and execution.  Although he and the players would be devastated with their response to his final game in charge (a 100 point plus thumping), let’s not forget they were playing for a potential finals spot a week earlier.  Will Paul Roos be judged on his time at Melbourne on pure win-loss (21-45) or the foundation he has built for incoming coach Simon Goodwin?

In this respect is the inherent value of the coach in group management and being able to get the best out of each individual?

Coach John Wooden, one of the USA’s most acclaimed Basketball Coaches described success in the following way Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming”.

Many of the success factors a coach possesses are in fact an amalgamation of numerous intangible characteristics.  These characteristics and skills are not mutually exclusive either rather they interdependent of each other and born out of years of experience and continual learning.

Below I have compiled a list of qualities that are common in all successful coaches:

  1. Ability to form and foster meaningful relationships

  2. Has real care and understanding for their players

  3. Delivers a values-based, team-first culture

  4. Creates an environment of continual improvement

  5. Is meticulous in both planning and preparation

  6. Has a clear understanding and feeling for the game

  7. Possess the ability to transfer their knowledge to the athletes

  8. Is a clear communicator

  9. Will use questioning to challenge and inspire athletes

  10. Will always value effort over result

  11. Sustained long term on-field performance

In summary, the skill and value of a coach are often hidden in the intangible qualities and not easily measured.  So, the next time you measure the success of a coach, consider not only the results of the individual or the team but look a little deeper into the personal qualities and characteristics of a coach to determine their full effectiveness.

On behalf of Leaders of Evolution, thank you for sharing your insights, Gavin.

To learn more about developing these qualities as a coach, visit our e-learning hub.

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Gavin Mahony

Gavin values first approach to building quality relationships to has led to across various sectors including education, sports administration and coaching. His global resume continues to position his insights at the forefront industry best practise.


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