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Posted in: General

Do you need a qualification to be a great coach...

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  • Jaimie

    Up until last year I'd been involved in coaching American Football for the best part of 25 year's with no recognised coaching qualification.  In that time, I've enjoyed success on the field, but more importantly to me, I've made lasting friendships and connections that will last for life. Obviously their is no win/loss collum to adhere too in this regard, so how would you recognise a great coach with no recognised qualification!?!  I would also suggest a win/loss record does not qualify in this case, I've seen plenty of winning coaches who range from not liked to detested by players and peers alike.

  • anfy

    An interesting question, but I think the inclusion of the word "great" is a mistake. I personally think a qualification is a necessary evil - not because it is impossible to coach without it, but rather the reverse - a qualification should instill a basic understanding of what coaching is about, and ensure that there is less influence from those who assume, because they are reasonably good at the sport, they must be able to coach it! (OK, so I am currently a little biased, having just spent several hours "unpicking" the disastrous results of inaccurate guidance from a well-meaning but ill-informed player who has set himself up as a coach).

    In other words : A qualification won't make someone a great coach, but it should hopefully improve the basic skills of an aspiring coach, and give the tools to make an ordinary coach even better. 

    I would like to extend the question, following this comment : 

    On 24/05/16 9:41 AM, Jaimie Sinfield said:

    I've seen plenty of winning coaches who range from not liked to detested by players and peers alike

    Is it important that a coach is liked? Most people (presumably) would prefer to be liked, but the clue is in the word "winning". They may not be liked, but are they (and their guidance) respected? Back to the parent/child relationship - is it healthy if parents set themselves up to be their children's "best friend" rather than be the adult in the relationship?

    Why are the coaches detested? Are you suggesting popularity is more important than success in the job? Is the fact that they are detested actually having a detrimental effect? Would they be even more successful if they were liked?

  • Jaimie
    On 24/05/16 10:31 AM, Anthea Dore said:

    An interesting question, but I think the inclusion of the word "great" is a mistake.

    Maybe a poor choice on my part, but is using 'successful' or any other word any better? I only ask as I don't believe a successful coach in the win/loss collum is necessarily a good one..

    As you suggested, I would assume most people want to be liked, but is it essential? In terms of winning and losing I would say no, but in terms of respect I would say yes. Being 'liked and being 'friends' are two different animals IMO. I'm not suggesting popularity is MORE important than success, only that success isn't always measured by points alone..

  • Coach_Browning

    Just leaving the qualification bit aside for a minute, I think that there is a just a genuine problem within coaching (and beyond) with understanding / identifiying what we mean by great. It can mean so many things in so many contexts

    I think that you could class Louis van Gaal is a great coach given his overall track record...but that hasn't helped him. As you are likely aware, we are also having our own internal discussions right now over what constitutes a great coach!

    So I think that there are 2 questions here:

    1) what constitutes a great coach

    2) can you be a great coach without a coaching qualification

    For me...

    1) Probably impossible to define completely. I would say that somewhere in the definition would need to be a phrase like "difference maker". Something about how the coach can get the very best out of people - whatever that may be. 

    2) Can you...? Possibly. But it would be very rare and would need a special set of circumstances to align. I would say that it is possible be a good coach if you were just utilising playing, and general, experiences... but I think to get to great needs a form of qualification to bring out that added extra.

  • jturner83


    I don't actually believe that a great coach needs to have all the badges, we've had great coaches before the standardisation of sports coaching. For me a great coach is autonomous and has the great tacit ability (knowledge) to do the right thing at the right time. That might become more likely by gaining knowledge through 2-3 day courses. However, most coaches still say that they learn most from talking with and observing other coaches, and the impact of short courses, often referred to as not that relevant to day to day practice, is yet to be shown. I’d go as far to say that the same thing is happening to coaches as it did to the teaching profession, that is becoming too reliant on guidance and losing the ability to fix problems that aren’t in the handbooks.

    Example - So I had a young girl once who literally cried every time the ball either touched her or went near her. I kid you not, the girl was something else, full blown tears. I had 50+ children spanning two sports halls and one child who cried her eyes out the entire day. Now, I could skim through every handbook, and I can assure you that there is no set plan to deal with that situation, it was something I had to manage whilst maintaining the session for all the other kids (with the help of some volunteers).

    I would certainly say that having badges does not make you a great coach (far too many ex-professionals are fast tracked through badges, but that’s for another day). I feel badges could help or give a coach food for thought, but I doubt their ability to transform a coach into something he/she wasn’t before doing the course. From personal experience, I might pick up one or two things I’d take with me and look at a few things differently, but hardly enough time to make a massive difference on my overall coaching ability. I will repeat what I said on another post, and this was said to me during a conversation with a very experienced academic, ex-rugby player, rugby coach and data analysis person. He said he can walk into a room full of first year coaching students, observe them for a session and know if they are going to be a good/great coach… it’s something a person has in them, where you just know that they get it.. You could put the ones that don’t cut it through all the courses you want, but it will not make them a good coach. It sounds harsh, but we do the same to an athlete right? We look at them perform and you can tell if that natural ability, mental and physical attributes are there to compete, same with coaches. You could put an athlete through 10 years of intense training, but it will not make them win the Olympics, only really knowledgeable on what they wish they could do. I’m ranting on a bit :p

  • jturner83
    On 24/05/16 9:53 PM, Simon Browning said:

    I think that you could class Louis van Gaal is a great coach given his overall track record

    Controversial, he's a manager also and not a coach. Actually, throughout his career he has struggled to manage/coach senior players, which is why he brings in kids at every club he joins. He has won trophies in several countries, but you've got to know how to handle senior and young players to be a great team manager, and I think his personality gets in the way of him stepping up amongst the likes of Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson... Steve Mcclaren (clearly that last one was not serious). Those were managers who could handle big personalities old and young.. I mean both had to manage Roy Keane.. say no more, that guy was a criminal in football boots.

  • Wendyrussell

    I think the other questions that need to be also looked at is 

    1-What level of qualification and age group?

    2- What are you getting out of the qualification?

    I know some fantastic people who are great with younger children getting them engaged in sport, yet put them in a elite adult session and they struggle. This can also be said of the opposite, where an elite and very qualified coach struggles with younger players.

    I have had personal experience of watching an extremely qualified coach, yet they struggled with beginners due to other characteristics they had.

    This leads onto the second question of, what are you getting out of the qualification? Is this just to fulfil insurance purposes, develop tactical or technical knowledge or develop coaching skills?

  • Ralph

    One of my Mentors, the great coach Alan Jones (Tennis), told me the coach he thought was the best that he came across, “never coached anybody of any high world rank.” Certainly the worlds best and most successful volleyball coach who had no qualification and never even played volleyball himself, existed. I know a very good coach that neither wants to be nice and doesn’t require respect, and he often isn’t. I asked him why people still turn up, he said, “They want the results.” His opinion is, “all people are selfish, it’s a normal part of the human condition.” The Selfish Gene R. Dawkins.

    Which is why I don’t have a problem with Jamies word “great” and in fact think it needs to be in the question and not a poor choice. If one isn’t great, Anthea IS having to clear up the problems. But by definition, if the coach is great, he is NOT “ill-informed.” One can have a qualification and still not have a basic understanding of what the sport is about. In other words, it would HOPEFULLY inspire them but not necessarily. Our Gov. bodies get hung up on qualification but this is mainly out of fear of funding and litigation first, far more than raising standards.

    Does one need a qualification, obviously not, is it required, obviously yes!

    It is also true, a Gov. body insisted a national coach that emigrated to the UK go through all the beginner and intermediate courses and exams, despite being a national coach with many qualifications higher than the coaches examining him. The worst coach I came across was an ex-world champion, who was allowed to coach despite having no qualifications by the same Gov. body. The ex-national coach didn’t bother doing those exams and ended up coaching coaches. Oh the irony. These days he could sue for discrimination.

    So is it important that a coach is liked? Yes, it is now. I use the Steve Jobs executives quote, “It’s not binary Steve, you can be a nice guy and be successful.” It’s part of the, nice guys finish last pathology and it is an illness to believe “It’s a dog eat dog world” Alan Sugar. “It’s not a popularity contest”, wrong yet again, sport needs butts on seats, elite athletes need sponsors.

  • Ralph

    The study below, from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, appears in the journal Child Development.

    Harsh verbal discipline happens when parents (or coaches) use psychological force to cause a child to experience emotional pain or discomfort in an effort to correct or control behavior. It can vary in severity from yelling and shouting at a child to insulting and using words to humiliate. Many parents shift from physical to verbal discipline as their children enter adolescence, and harsh verbal discipline is not uncommon. A nationally representative survey found that about 90 percent of American parents reported one or more instances of using harsh verbal discipline with children of all ages; the rate of the more severe forms of harsh verbal discipline (swearing and cursing, calling names) directed at teens was 50 percent.

    Few studies have looked at harsh verbal discipline in adolescence. This study found that when parents use it in early adolescence, teens suffer detrimental outcomes later. The children of mothers and fathers who used harsh verbal discipline when they were 13 suffered more depressive symptoms between ages 13 and 14 than their peers who weren't disciplined in this way; they were also more likely to have conduct problems such as misbehaving at school, lying to parents, stealing, or fighting.

    Moreover, the study found that not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youths, it actually appears to increase such behaviors. Parents' hostility increases the risk of delinquency by lowering inhibition and fostering anger, irritability, and belligerence in adolescents, the researchers found.

    The effect went the other way, too. Children who had conduct problems at 13 elicited more harsh verbal discipline from their parents between ages 13 and 14.

    The study looked at 967 two-parent families and their children. About half were European American; 40 percent were African American and the rest were of other ethnic backgrounds. Most of the families were middle class. Students and parents completed surveys over a two-year period on topics related to their mental health, childrearing practices, the quality of the parent-child relationship, and general demographics.

    Adolescents' conduct problems were assessed at ages 13 and 14 by survey questions like "In the past year, how often have you: a) been disobedient in school, b) lied to your parents, c) stolen from a store, d) been involved in a gang fight, and e) damaged public or private property for fun?" The response format ranged from 1 (never) to 5 (10 or more times).

    Parents' behaviors indicating harsh verbal discipline were measured by questions like "In the past year, after your child has disobeyed you or done something wrong, how often have you: a) shouted, yelled, or screamed at the child, b) swore or cursed at the child, and c) called the child dumb or lazy or some other name like that?" Items were rated on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always).

    "This is one of the first studies to indicate that parents' harsh verbal discipline is damaging to the developing adolescent," says Ming-Te ****, assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study. "The notion that harsh discipline is without consequence, once there is a strong parent-child bond -- that the adolescent will understand that 'they're doing this because they love me' -- is misguided because parents' warmth didn't lessen the effects of harsh verbal discipline.

    "Indeed, harsh verbal discipline appears to be detrimental in all circumstances," **** concludes.

    **** suggests that parents who want to modify their teenage children's behavior would do better by discussing with them their concerns about the consequences of the behavior. The study's findings can inform parenting programs so that parents can learn alternatives to shouting and insulting their teens.

  • jturner83
    On 25/05/16 6:46 PM, Ralph Samwell said:

    The study below, from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, appears in the journal Child Development.

    It's a little unhelpful to mix up child development with athletic development, and harsh verbal discipline with not 'being liked.' Athletic development is a distinctly different process to the holistic development of children, and the relationship between a parent and child a completely different one to a coach and athlete. You cannot put a blanket measurement on how important it is to be liked as a coach without looking at the contextual issues of each coach, and I think that one thing that is becoming apparent in recent years is what a coach is and does has still to be absolutely understood and defined. I know coaches that have a ‘my way or the high way’ policy with their athletes, shout at their athletes and even ‘punish’ their athletes. I find his approach hard to watch and it’s clear that during some of his sessions that some of the athletes dislike his harsh methods. Having spoken to some of those young athletes outside of the session, they couldn’t speak highly enough about him, because they know that he can get them to where they want to be. I would say respect, rather than being liked is more important. You could be the nicest, most caring coach in the world, but if the results do not come in then athletes will lost their respect in your ability to get them where they want to be. If being liked did come into things, it would more than likely be if the athlete didn’t need to be there and your goal was to retain as many participants as possible, because I think it’s that respect and desire that keeps athletes in sessions they are not ‘enjoying’ but when performance and results are not so important, they are likely to just walk.

  • jturner83
    On 25/05/16 6:23 PM, Ralph Samwell said:

    Which is why I don’t have a problem with Jamies word “great” and in fact think it needs to be in the question and not a poor choice.

    I have to agree, I can't see an issue with using the word great. 

  • jturner83
    On 25/05/16 6:23 PM, Ralph Samwell said:

    So is it important that a coach is liked? Yes, it is now. I use the Steve Jobs executives quote, “It’s not binary Steve, you can be a nice guy and be successful.” It’s part of the, nice guys finish last pathology and it is an illness to believe “It’s a dog eat dog world” Alan Sugar. “It’s not a popularity contest”, wrong yet again, sport needs butts on seats, elite athletes need sponsors.

    It's the athlete's performances that ultimately attracts spectators and sponsorship? You’re forgetting that some athletes ‘like’ being shouted at and need to be shouted at to get the best performances out of them. Each athlete has their own unique personality, you can’t surely be suggesting that being the nice guy works best for all. The most important thing is to be what the athlete needs you to be, a coach should have the tools handle all personalities and adapt accordingly, if anything has changed in the last twenty years is the need for coaches to be more athlete centred… but that doesn’t necessarily mean nice right? Was it Tony Blair that said the same thing about politics haha ‘Ideology is dead, what matters is what works.’ Forget what we think is the ideal coach, do what is needed for the athlete to reach their full potential surely.

  • IanMahoney

    You don't need a qualification to be a great coach although a coaching workshop can give you ideas on how and what the coach.

    Most coaches are former athletes and what did your coach do that kept you coming back for more?

    A coach should be disicplined and 'ozze' authority without being over powering

    be relatable, thats were you youger years can help, the principles of trining haven't changed and you know what experience yout athletes are having, because you had all of them.

    The best coaches are ones that are approachable and can keep a conversation between you and him/her. One of the main roles of a coach is to be a friend and have an athlete centred approach.

    A contridication a quaulification is only need if you want to become a professional and get paid to make the athltes/players to perform,

  • Ralph

    I have to disagree James, I hope you would reconsider. Would a sponsor be interested in a World Champion that was a self promoting racists or sexist? I don’t see the sponsors cueing up to sponsor Tyson Fury, Sharapova used to get three time more sponsorship than Serena, yet theirs no comparison of performance. I can’t think of an objectionable athlete that is even mildly sponsored and I know many objectionable athletes and coaches. Would I copy their methods, just because it gets results, would I sacrifice my ethics to win, do you? “Performance doesn’t attract a sponsor, marketability does”, and I should know, I had to deal with many sponsors and the great Stuart Turner agrees, he would it’s his quote.

    There are 12 recognized types of spectator, only four are interested in performance and those four want different things. The vast majority of “supporters” in those directors boxes, have never even kicked a ball. Theirs brilliant video of Tony Blair kicking a football on youtube.

    I’ve not forgotten a thing James, I’ve taken into account some athletes are so brainwashed, they think being abused is good for them. I do get it, I’m well aware of the “Hairdryer Method.” There’s the infamous JE Loehr story about a football coach that punched a chalk board at half time in front of his team, every time they performed badly, (he didn’t tell them, they were ordered especially, to shatter easily).

    Have you ever asked yourself, why an athlete performs better, when they are being shouted at? What would be your answer? Do they truly believe they are so weak-willed, they need to be shouted at to be motivated and if they do, do you really believe that’s a good thing? I have the research, it doesn’t make good reading but that’s why ALL army recruit trainers use this technique. I am lucky enough to work for the Stanley Kubrick family, ever watched Full Metal Jacket James? What matters is what works, also known as, “The ends justify the means.”

    In which rules and moral duty are central, derives the rightness or wrongness of one's conduct from the character of the behavior itself is not as important than the successful outcomes of the conduct.

     Being a nice guy works best for ALL? I refer to the highly qualified Alain DeButton “The nightmare thought is that frightening people is the best way to get work out of them, and that somehow the crueler the environment, the more people will rise to the challenge. You want to think, who would you like as your ideal dad? And your ideal dad is somebody who is tough but gentle, firm but fair. And it's a very hard line to make. We need fathers, as it were, the exemplary father figures in society, avoiding the two extremes, which is the authoritarian disciplinarian on the one hand, and on the other, the lax, no-rules option.”

     As you can see, I’ve taken my quotes from coaches, I’m unhappy to use someone like Blair to prove a point, what would it say about my coaching ideology? Essentially, I have none. He certainly got the job done.

    Most use it as an excuse to achieve their goals through any means necessary, no matter how immoral, illegal or unpleasant the means may be. What the expression usually means is something like “It doesn’t matter how you get what you want as long as you get it.”

    I have to disagree with you James, “it always matters how you win” Orson Scott Card

    A lesson Tony Blair doesn’t want to learn but he’s never played sport and those that have in FIFA are being tested on this point.

     No, it is the intentions with which the action is carried out that counts. The risk of a negative outcome must be weighed before a decision but if a negative outcome ensues despite the odds being in favour of good, one shouldn't doubt the morality of the action itself. Life is not fair. **** happens. Sagar Apshankar

     To violate your own understanding of correct principles is to live in conflict with yourself. You may reach a desired end, but at the expense of your character and the peace of your soul. That doesn't seem worth the price. Bryan Kingsford

  • Ralph

    You forget Ven diagrams James, although it is a little unhelpful, I’m not mixing up the two just saying there is overlap, the law agrees we are loco parentis. The two are not completely distinct, every CPD child protection course claims this is so and I know many kids that have a better, more healthy relationship with their coach and team mates than their own parents. So much for holistic parents, they are not all bad, but I couldn’t eat a whole one. Human beings of which many coaches are, aren’t understandable, that’s why there are so many books trying to. There are very few absolutes but you are right context is almost everything.

    Thus my point, it’s not binary. There has to be a better way? Surely we as coaches can be respected and be liked and get the results. What other definition of a great coach do you need?

  • Ralph

    So what do the experts say about shouting and correlation between athletic and child development?

    “Conceptualizing needs as innate propensities at the personality level of analysis leads to the definition of needs in terms of the psychological nutriments (viz., competence, autonomy, and relatedness) that are necessary for healthy development and effective functioning. This definition not only gives content to human nature by detailing what is essential for natural processes to operate optimally, but, of even more empirical importance, it allows for prediction of the social conditions that promote high quality development and performance and of the person factors that, at any given time, contribute to that high-quality development and performance. The concept of basic psychological needs has served as a means of organizing and integrating a wide range of research related to social contexts, motivational orientations, goal contents, healthy development, high-quality performance, maintained behavior change, and mental health. The concept of needs, although once prevalent in empirical psychology, is now largely ignored in favor of the concept of goals. Our research shows, however, that a consideration of basic psychological needs provides a basis for predicting when the efficient pursuit and attainment of goals will be associated with more positive versus more negative performance and well-being outcomes. DECI & RYAN University of Rochester


    A low level of Contentiousness, which is characterized by lack of self-discipline and a tendency to act impulsively may be considered as a possible risk factor for injuries or even mortality. (Miller et al., 2004)


    "If you're in a meeting, the person sitting in the 'power chair' is going to be more ***** and look taller, they're going to use a strong voice, they're going to use hand gestures that signify dominance," he said. "If there's conflict, the person who yells the most or is the most stern will be seen as the leader. It establishes the hierarchy in that context."

    Upon victory, an athlete's initial and instinctive reaction is one that displays dominance over his or her opponent. journal Motivation and Emotion.


    Being a good sport ranks as top 'fun' factor in study of youth sports

    A new study identifies the top factors that make organized sports fun for kids.

    Credit: JOHN GARDINER/DC Stoddert Soccer, Inc.

    If you think winning is one of the key determinants that makes organized sports fun for kids think again: Winning along with other mental bonuses ranked near the bottom of 81 determinants of fun, each of which falls into one of 11 big fun factors, according to a new study. Despite the common belief that winning is all important when it comes to the "fun" factor, very little research had been done to actually identify and quantify what goes into this elusive concept -- until now.

    The results of this study might help researchers develop proven ways to keep kids involved in organized sports, which can help maintain a healthy body weight. Right now, more than one out of three U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese and many drop out of organized sports early in life -- often saying the activity just isn't fun anymore.

    The study showed that:

    The 11 fun factors lie within the fundamental tenets and include Being a good sport, Trying hard, Positive coaching, Learning and improving, Game time support, Games, Practices, Team friendships, Mental bonuses, Team rituals, and Swag. Among the 11 fun factors, Being a good sport, Trying hard, and Positive coaching were the most important when it comes to fun; together, these three factors were coined the "youth sport ethos" -- a collection of 28 fun-determinants that set the standard for promoting a culture of fun. "Most remarkably, Being a good sport, Trying hard and Positive coaching came in as the top three most important factors to having fun," says Visek.


    "Athletes are more likely to cheat if they have a domineering coach. People are more likely to cheat and make immoral decisions when their transgressions don't involve an explicit action," says Rimma Teper, PhD student and lead author on the study, published online now in Social Psychological and Personality Science.


    Boyatzis, a faculty member at Weatherhead School of Management, and Jack, director of the university's Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab, say coaches should seek to arouse a Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), which causes positive emotion and arouses neuroendocrine systems that stimulate better cognitive functioning and increased perceptual accuracy and openness in the person being coached, taught or advised. Emphasizing weaknesses, flaws, or other shortcomings, or even trying to "fix" the problem for the coached person, has an opposite effect.

    "You would activate the Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA), which causes people to defend themselves, and as a result they close down," Boyatzis says. "One of the major reasons people work is for the chance to learn and grow. So at every managerial relationship, and every boss-subordinate relationship, people are more willing to use their talents if they feel they have an opportunity to learn and grow."


    In identifying a willingness to take risks as an important attitude of mentally tough elite cricketers, Bull et al. (2005) and others (i.e., Kontos, 2004) appear to imply a form of calculated risk-taking rather than an impulsion towards risk. Bull et al. found participants reported a willingness to take risks at critical times within matches or in their careers in general. The research and theorizing of existential psychologists both inside (Nesti, 2004) and outside of sport (Maddi, 2004) suggests that when faced with important decisions, by choosing the challenges of the future (rather than stagnation, and comfort), individuals risk ontological anxiety, but as such are more likely to experience personal growth. Consistent with such theorizing, it is possible that a willingness to take physical risks (as evidenced in the present research) allows mentally tough athletes to avoid stagnation by facing challenges with the opportunity to learn important lessons about oneself.


    “Dad tried to teach me and my brothers that you should never try to be better than someone else. I'm sure at the time he did that, I didn't -- it didn't -- well, somewhere, I guess in the hidden recesses of the mind, it popped out years later. Never try to be better than someone else, always learn from others. Never cease trying to be the best you can be -- that's under your control. If you get too engrossed and involved and concerned in regard to the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect the things over which you have control. John Wooten

  • jturner83

    This study might interest you Ralph

    Gervis, M. & Dunn, N. 2004, "The emotional abuse of elite child athletes by their coaches", Child Abuse Review, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 215-223


    Kidman, L. & Hanrahan, S.J. 2011, The coaching process: a practical guide to becoming an effective sports coach, 3rd edn, Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon;New York;.

    Chapter 9 'A Humanistic Approach to Coaching'

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