Effective Coaching: Top 5 Tips

  • September 25th, 2018
  • Eleanor Durr

Mike Krzyzewski states "two are better than one, only if two can act as one." Here at Sportplan, we agree with Krzyzewski so have drawn up 5 top tips to help create a team that works as a collective from a group of individuals.

1) Athlete Preference

As athletes are diverse and learn in varied ways, a traditional 'one size fits all' approach is no longer appropriate and is likely to be ineffective. It can be extremely difficult for a coach as one group may have a number of different learner preferences; some may be visual learners who prefer seeing the drill set up on court, some may be auditory, preferring to listen and discuss the drill and others may be kinaesthetic, preferring a more hands-on approach. Due to this diversity coaches should try to employ a range of coaching approaches or styles in order to cater for different athletes to enhance their learning.


To ensure you cater for the needs of your athletes, you should explain the drill in several different ways. You can set the drill up on court for those who prefer a kinaesthetic approach so they are actively doing. Demonstrating this visually will cater for your visual learners and explaining the drill verbally will help your auditory learners. Alternatively, go round and provide individual support or re-explanation where necessary, to those who may have not understood the first time.

2) Inclusive Practice

Within a single group of athletes, you are likely to have a range of ages and abilities, yet despite these differences, it is crucial each athlete is included equally. As a coach you should always try to maximise each athletes opportunity for success and therefore differentiation is key. You can do this by simply challenging the more able athletes and supporting those who may be struggling.


Using an example of a passing drill, you can vary the practice by challenging the more able athletes - setting a target number of consecutive passes for example, whilst support those struggling by setting a lower number and not needing to be consecutive, thus allowing room for error.

3) Trust and Understanding

Research has found how a strong bond of trust and understanding between a coach and an athlete leads to higher levels of commitment and performance. Consequently a relationship built upon trust and understanding is an essential foundation of effective coaching. Your athletes need to trust you as a their coach and understand that the exercises you set are meaningful and worthwhile; this will ultimately better equip you to be able to support your athletes development due to your healthy relationship.


As a coach you should encourage an open and honest relationship, promoting a two-way dialogue. You can do this for example by querying if anyone has any injuries and engaging in informal conversation to build open channels of communication. You should understand that your athletes are people first and athletes second and therefore support and appreciate other commitments and aspects of their lives.

4) Holistic Development

To be an effective coach you should try to promote holistic development, this is not only developing your athletes sporting potential but also improving their cognitive and social aspects. Not everyone is able to win regularly, however everyone has the ability to improve their own performance, which highlights the importance of not heavily focusing on the outcome of the game, but instead the importance of the process.


It is only natural to provide competition within your sessions and athletes do thrive off this. However, to promote the holistic development of your athletes, place certain conditions upon the game to ensure your athletes are considering the process. By doing this, you can also assess individual and team development.

5) Enjoyable

An effective coach should always aim to provide enjoyable and engaging sessions that challenge yet inspire your athletes. Research has found that a more athlete-centred approach has proven to be most successful within coaching, allowing your athletes to play a central role within the session. When athletes begin to take ownership of their own knowledge, development and decision-making, it maximises their learning, enhances their enjoyment and consequently improves their overall performance.


To promote enjoyment within your sessions, you should provide your athletes with positive psychological responses, including frequent encouragement, positive feedback and praise, as well as providing questioning in order to test your athletes understanding and enhance intrinsic motivation and concentration.

Ultimately, coaching is a process and the most effective coaches are themselves lifelong learners. It is critical as a coach you reflect both 'in' and 'on' action, during and after the session. This will allow you to recognise and modify your behaviours in order to improve the quality of your coaching.

As a final take away... It is important to remember when the athlete and the coach are in perfect harmony, great things can be achieved (Coe, 1996).