10 top tips for developing a coaching philosophy

Guide All Ages

Chris Morris, FA county coach developer in Cornwall and ex-professional with Sheffield Wednesday, Celtic and Middlesbrough, outlines his ten top tips to help grassroots coaches develop a coaching philosophy.


1. Think beyond tacticsMost coaches talk about tactics and formations or how they organise practice sessions when asked about their coaching philosophy. Instead, try to think about the values and beliefs that guide your interactions, relationships and decision-making. It is more than just how your team plays.

2. Know what you stand for

A coaching philosophy is a working definition of your values and what you stand for. It should have a direct correlation with, and be representative of, your behaviours and actions. Consider what’s important to you: do you consider holistic player development to be a priority for you or are you more results orientated?

3. Think about these questionsWhat represents my moral standards and integrity? What are my objectives? How can I help my players and what do they need? What ethical and inclusive framework underpins my coaching philosophy? What would be my personal and team mission statement(s)?

4. Take responsibility and accountabilityAnswering the questions in point two will give you an outline of your values, personal belief system and mission statement. After that, you have to be accountable for your coaching philosophy. Show that your philosophy is real, robust and tangible.

5. Link your philosophy to footballClearly demonstrate you will do what you say you will do. For example: if you have been working on developing possession through the thirds in training, what message does it send out if you scream at your players to launch it forward in the last ten minutes because you are losing 1-0?

6. Consider what others would say about your approachWould a parent or fellow coach be able to work out your philosophy without seeing a written statement or you telling them? Does the way you conduct yourself tell the story of your philosophy?

7. Communicate your philosophySharing your philosophy means that you have openly and publicly declared your intentions and therefore, as a by-product, you have assumed responsibility and accountability for your future actions. Expect to be challenged if you don't do what you said you would do.

8. Write your philosophy down, but live it every dayIt is useful to have an actual written philosophy - something tangible to refer and reflect on. However, a philosophy may lack credibility if it only ever appears as a written document and is unconnected to your actual actions and behaviours. The best way to present your philosophy is to live it and to 'walk the walk'.

9. Don’t be afraid to tweak your philosophyResearch has shown that ‘expert’ coaches recognise the effect that operational and organisational context has on a philosophy and therefore adapt their philosophical framework accordingly. Do you fully understand the context and environment you work in?

10. Don’t underestimate the importance of life experiencesRecognise the impact of life experiences and how reflecting upon those experiences can help shape your philosophy, making it a moving, ever-evolving framework guiding your behaviours and actions.

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