The Three Tenets of Coaching

Sitting in the office the other day, we were having a discussion about what makes a good coach and what areas you have to excel in to be considered “good.” After some thought and conversation, I believe that coaching comes down to three major areas: Technical, Tactical and Interpersonal.

1. Technical: A good coach must have a strong technical knowledge of the game or sport that they are coaching. Technical expertise is anything that is involved in the mechanical ability to complete an action. In hockey, this boils down to skating, passing, shooting, stick positioning, how to play the body, ability to execute under pressure, etc. Personally, I feel as though situational play also falls under technical ability, although an argument can be made for this being a part of the tactical game. For example, how you play rushes (on both sides of the puck) can be seen as both technical and tactical. Executing on both the offensive and defensive side of a situational play is a technical ability and, to me, the tactics involved in the situation are again a technical skill in the game of hockey.

2. Tactical: The tactical elements of the game mostly involve systems and what structure a team plays with. A coach’s tactical ability influences a game in a number of ways – primarily through adjustments and the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses (both in game and on tape) and attack/protect the respective elements. Coaches with strong tactical abilities have an ability to impact the game through the style of play of their team, their ability to implement adjustments and their proficiency in teaching their systems. 

3. Interpersonal: The interpersonal abilities of a coach are often the biggest indicator of success. Coaches who can interact with people, teach their players and thrive in a pressured environment are often the ones that are the most successful. Good coaches must have strong interpersonal skills to relate to their players, their own peers in the coaching world and their colleagues within their office/department. You can be the best technical and tactical coach in the world, but if you cannot relay your message to your players, it is completely useless. The ability to connect and build trust with your players is critical. In addition, you must be able to get along with your peers in the coaching world and your colleagues in your office/department.

It is my belief that all great coaches possess these three elements – I know there are many more skills and habits that create a successful coach, but without these three tenets coaches will struggle to be successful.

I would love to hear some feedback – what do you think? What have I left out? What does it take to be a successful coach?

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