What makes a good football coach?

My stance on this question has changed over the last 30 years in coaching football to boys and girls, men and ladies, elite and development players, from the young beginner to the experienced pro.

The simplest and most purest answer is – the end result in working with the group of players or individual coached. Not just in the short term after one session or from week to week, but in the long term over a season or over a career of the player. But there has to be a means to an end!

So how do you judge success to gauge whether or not the end result in working with your players. Well after one session a coach can see for oneself if a player has improved from the start of the session to the end by demonstrating and showing an understanding of the coaching points you have put across during the session. This can be monitored from session to session and from match to match over the course of the season to evaluate performance progress.  To track the coaching for player and coaching development I recommend using football management software to monitor progress.  So if the individual players have improved from point A to point B then that is success ! If the team has improved from the beginning of the season to the end or from one season to the next then that is success ! If the players you coach go on to play a higher standard than the league you are in then that is success ! If you are coaching young players and they go on to play senior football into adulthood whether it be local Sunday league or plays as a professional then that is success as you have given them the enjoyment of continuing playing the game and maintain a healthy and social active lifestyle.

So if you are able to produce all or some of the above then you are a good football coach! My memories of coaches whilst I was a young player have stayed with me forever so they make a lasting impression. Some of the coaches taught me great technical ability and were recognized professional coaches with lots of coaching qualifications whilst others were just unqualified dads that ensured you had a good time and had fun. Both equally has important as each other looking back as I went on to play the game until my legs went and maintained my love of the game in coaching and managing football at many levels. Therefore the coaches that have taught me over the years must have been good coaches ! Well they definitely game me the love for the game and I appreciate the good ones as equally I can remember some awful ones as well that made you feel you want to quit the game and resort you to tears. For some players though its just in your blood, but the nature – nurture debate is another story.

The football coach and the culture has changed over time and now you cannot coach a under 7’s team without a level 1 coaching certificate. I think this as weeded out many coaches that think they are above taking a qualification and have fallen away. At the same time though the culture has produced coaches that think just because they have their coaching badge they know it all and are only doing it to feed their own ego and failed playing career rather than the development of the team and the individuals. This normally coincides with the win at all costs attitude and thinking winning 16-0 makes them a good coach!

So going back to the original question – What makes a good football coach? From my experience as a player and as a coach here are my key ingredients that come to mind. They are not in order of importance, but all play an integral part of the make up of a good coach.

  • Can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a player/team and coaches them to maximize their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.
  • Creates a fun learning environment whilst installing discipline and good long lasting habits.
  • Can adapt the practice to the needs of the group and can differentiate players within the group.
  • Use their own style of coaching that has derived from their own personality, learnt from coaching courses, observed from other good coaches and knowledge from their own playing experiences.
  • Can recognize when they need to adapt and refine their coaching and takes on board advise from other coaches and feedback from the players.
  • A good coach is always learning and looking at ways to better themselves through watching others coach, CPD events and online courses, and reflecting on their own sessions for improvement.
  • A good understanding of subject knowledge is required and a appreciation of  technical ability, psychological, physical and social attributes of the game.
  • For coaches working with younger players, gauges success on player development rather than results or league positions. Unfortunately coaches in the pro game will not be in a job for too long if results and the league position is poor!
  • Embraces modern technology to improve player performance and uses this information to back up their coaching strategies.
  • Can communicate in a way that inspires learning and encourages creative thinking.
  • Combines a mixture of coaching styles to suit the needs of the individual and blends old and new methods of delivery, although you cannot reinvent the wheel.

I hope this has been useful and has made you think about your own coaching or coaches that you know of at your club ! If you feel I have missed anything out and wish to contribute to the debate then please get in contact and leave a message.

For young players and coaches that want to get involved in a football club go to  Kettering Town Youth FC for more information.

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