It is important when coaching athletes that you are aware of why you are doing it and what you are aiming to achieve. Is it about creating winning athletes, or is the main aim for your athletes to have fun, will you be a part of the group or a figurehead who stands apart from it, much as a teacher in class may do.
Although, these aims may not be clearly expressed to the athletes, it should become clear to those being coached what the coach wants from them. One view of coaching, which might be considered healthy, might be as follows
"To promote the pursuit of high level attainment within a field, over a period of years through the practice of hard work, dedication and above all enjoyment."
How an individual coach might aim to do this will be just that, individual. Every coach will approach their task in a different way, reflecting their aims, beliefs and personality. This is entirely healthy and provides an environment for innovative practice.
It is important that all coaches bear in mind that their coaching philosophy must be compatible with providing athletes with what they both need and want.
When coaching younger athletes there will often be an emphasis on development of the athlete mentally as well as physically, focusing on improving self-confidence, dedication, communication skills etc., more generally than just in relation to athletics (These skills are clearly important in adults as well, but will usual be better developed already).
To achieve their aims a coach needs to adopt a style of coaching, based around a series of principles. He needs to set a program for his athletes to follow, conduct himself in an appropriate manner and encourage and advise his athletes towards their aims. To do this he will draw on his experiences, skills and knowledge from the past as well as his coaching philosophy and combine these with his personality to provide athletes training environment.
He also needs to be aware that, just like his athletes, he needs to strive for improvements constantly. Continually assessing his performance in training is vital and will allow him to create the best possible environment for the improvement of his charges. Keeping a diary or receiving advice from others can often help with this process.
Overall, coaching is about the forming of a trusting relationship whereby the athlete believes that they are being guided in a way that will be in their best interests and that these aims are fulfilled as far as possible.
Incidentally, if you would like to join a running group, with Richard Holt (co-author of this site) as your coach please click here to find out more information. The coaching philosophy and principles above form the foundation of how his group functions.
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