Is Coaching an Art or a Science?
To support the coach there is a wealth of scientific
information based on research conducted with athletes. Information is available
to support the coach and athlete in all areas of training and development
including nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, physiology & medicine. There
are a number of scientific methods to measure and analyse the athlete's
performance e.g. computer-aided analysis of VO2 max, lactate levels, running
The art of coaching comes when the coach has to
analyse the scientific data and convert it into coaching and training programs
to help develop the athlete. This analysis process relies heavily on the
coach's experience and knowledge of the event/sport and the athlete
By understanding the science, which is the foundation
of training, a well-designed training program can be developed that will help
an athlete reach their full potential.
So, is coaching the art of understanding the science and then applying it?
UK Coaching Certification (UKCC)
"Coaches are crucial for sport at all levels - on the school
pitch, in the local club or for a major international team. They are the people
who motivate, encourage and inspire. This certificate will recognise coaching
as it should - a profession with a properly accredited qualification and career
development structure." Richard Caborn MP, UK Minister for Sport
In July 2002, in response to the UK's Government "Plan for Sport",
the Coaching Task Force published their report on coach education and
qualification schemes in the UK and identified the need for a coaching
structure suitable for all sports and the implementation of a UK Coaching
The five coaching levels of the UKCC are:
- The coach will be qualified to assist more qualified coaches,
delivering aspects of coaching sessions, normally under direct supervision
- The coach will be qualified to prepare for, deliver and review
- The coach will be qualified to plan, implement, analyse and
revise annual coaching programs
- The coach will be qualified to design, implement and evaluate
the process and outcome of long-term/specialist coaching programs
- The coach will be qualified to generate, direct and manage the
implementation of cutting-edge coaching solutions and programs
The five levels provide coaches with a progressive development
pathway from being a beginner coach (Level 1) through to being a highly evolved
expert coach. The levels are reflective of the coaching skills attained and not
the level of the performer being coached.
The coaching process comprises three elements:
- Planning - developing short and long-term training programs to help your athlete achieve their goals
- Conducting - delivery of training programs
- Evaluating - evaluation of the programs, athlete development and your coaching. This element may result in an adjustment of your athlete's training program and your coaching.
To support this process, you will need to develop your knowledge and practical coaching skills. These include, but not limited to:
The Coach's Non-Technical Tool Box
The following information was first published in Issue 28 of the FHS
- Being a good coach is not just about having excellent
sports-specific and technical knowledge
- The skill of effective coaching lies in asking the right
- It is important to ask yourself: Have I planned for perfection
and covered all eventualities?
Coaches as leaders:
- Require excellence; do not expect perfection
- Understand your athletes before you can influence them
- Create trust and command respect
- Motivate and inspire
Communicating with your athletes:
- Keep the message concise and precise
- Work out whether your athletes receive the same message as the
one you think you are communicating
- Remember your tone of voice and body language - only 10% of
what we recall comes from the words spoken
- Find out what your athletes' preferred styles of thinking are -
visual, auditory or kinesthetic?
- Try to use a story to help get what you want to say across
Understanding how your athletes tick:
- Think about how your athletes like to be coached
- Look at how well you know your athletes:
- What are their goals?
- What is stopping them from achieving this?
- What can you do to help?
- Think about how often you ask for feedback from your athletes
about your coaching
Understanding how your athletes like to learn:
- Understand what your athletes' preferred learning styles
- Look at how your preferred coaching style is likely to be
received by those with different learning styles
- Build the needs of those with different learning styles into
how you present information
- If you feel you are not getting through to your athlete,
remember that it might be the medium and not the message that is wrong
Making use of the media:
- Remember that journalists are looking for a story that will
- Know what you want to get across and make it into a story
- Recognise the needs of different branches of the media and
tailor your message accordingly
- Think before you use the media to try to psych out your
The following references provide additional information on this topic:
- WELLS, L. et al. (1993) Guide to effective coaching: Principles & practice. WCB Brown & Benchmark.
- BUNN, J. (1972) Scientific principles of coaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
- JONES, R. et al. (2002) Understanding the coaching process: A framework for social analysis. Quest, 54 (1), p. 34-48.
If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:
- MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Coaching Principles [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/coaching.htm [Accessed
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: