The Search for the Philosopher’s Stone Continues…

On Friday I was having a coffee with a University Lecturer friend of mine. He was telling me about the focus for his day’s lecture with undergraduates studying coaching. The topic of the lecture explored the importance of philosophy in coaching. We enthusiastically set to putting coach education in the UK to rights, highlighting how little coaching philosophy is covered within the vanguard of traditional coach development and coach education.

This brief breakfast conversation made me reflect on my own 24-years of coaching and how I came about my own coaching philosophy. Like many coaches I began with a love for my sport; first playing, then assisting and eventually coaching and teaching. When I took my first qualifications I was introduced to the four pillars of player development; physical preparation, technical development; tactical development and mental development.  After 7-years of that journey I started my Level 3 studies, but even studying at this level did not afford me the opportunity to explore the true value of a coach’s philosophy.

Along the way I clumsily borrowed bits of philosophy from great players and coaches in my sport and others (I am grateful to the likes of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Vince Lombardi).  But at times this left me with a mish-mash of ideas, values and platitudes that I could not easily articulate or share with others.

Picture of Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1913. As head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi led the team to three NFL championships and to victories in Super Bowls I and II (1967 and 1968). Because of his success, he became a national symbol of single-minded determination to win.

If you submit to the school of thought that coaching is about developing people as much as it is about winning games and titles, then a coach’s philosophy should be at the heart of their coaching tool kit.

Philosophy, for me, is a combination of so many things it’s no wonder we rarely give it the credence it deserves in traditional coach development. Philosophy might be described as beliefs about what makes a good coach and good coaching. Those beliefs in turn should influence the behaviours, values and character of the players, assistant coaches and other support staff that engage with the coach.

In my own coaching we (my players and other coaches) talk about character, mental approach, tactical approach and measurement. We value confidence, teamwork, integrity & honesty, determination & hard work, discipline & focus and sacrifice.

However, it’s not enough to simply talk about character, values and ethics. The challenge for any coach is how their personal philosophy and own coaching behaviours positively influences the collective values of the team or the athletes they coach.

This is no simple thing, and after 20-plus years of coaching, I’m still trying to refine how best to “walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk”.  So, I’ve co-opted the help of my colleague and friend, Richard Cheetham, to help us explore this subject in greater depth in a series of articles over the coming months. We’ll look at some of the following challenges for coaches: –

  • How do you create a meaningful coaching philosophy?
  • Getting your players and staff to walk the talk?
  • Understanding the C-system?

In the meantime, give some thought to your own coaching philosophy and feel free to share any pearls of wisdom that currently serve you well.  It may help to couch your thoughts in terms of the following: –

  • What are your core coaching values?
  • How do your coaching ethics affect these values?
  • Who sets the values, ethics and behaviours for your team and how are these monitored and measured?
  • How do you encourage your players to express their character in your coaching?

Whilst my own philosophy is more about developing people than just winning, this is one of my all-time favourite Vince Lombardi quotes.

Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.

You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time.

Winning is a habit.

Unfortunately, so is losing


Posted on 14/10/2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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