Which Coaching Style Is The Best Fit For Your Team?
There are many different ways to whip a recreational youth soccer team into shape – and it’s imperative that you choose a style that meshes with your team’s culture and attitude. Even competition youth soccer teams adjust to the personality of the coach’s style. Here is a great quick take on the different styles of coaching and some of the many things to think about as a parent in the world of youth soccer.
This is a guest column from Brad Wayland, the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton, an on-demand t-shirt printing company with lots of orders from the soccer world.
I put sports coaches in the same camp as teachers – and I’ve a lot of respect for both.
Even if you’re dealing with adults, it’s not easy to take a large group of individuals and turn them into a fully-functioning, cohesive unit. There’s a lot of intuition involved, and a lot of knowledge.
You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your players. You need to know what sort of strategies will work best in any given situation. And most importantly, you need to know who they are as people, so you can tailor your coaching strategies to fit their unique needs.
That’s what we’re here to talk about today. What are some of the different coaching styles you’ll encounter in your kid’s playing career? More importantly, which ones are the best fit for your team, and for your player?
Let’s get started.
The Two “Breeds” Of Sports Coach
First, let’s talk about your focus. Are you goal-oriented, or are you more interested in cultivating improvement in your athletes? Is immediate performance more important than long-term improvement?
It’s important to note that this isn’t a dichotomy. There are plenty of coaches who borrow elements from both methodologies – and that’s perfectly acceptable. Again, it’s important that you pick and choose whichever techniques you feel most comfortable with.
Transformational: Inspiration Can Change The World
The perspective of a transformational coach can be summed up in a single sentence: a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and it falls to you to build each player up to reach their full potential.
Your focus is on the individual first, and the team second. You hold athletes accountable for their actions, give them responsibilities, and focus on teaching them above all else.
Transactional: The Bottom Line Justifies The Means
Transactional coaches are focused on the end result rather than the journey towards it.
They’re often highly demanding, and their techniques and strategies are all focused on utilizing the strengths of their team’s best athletes in order to achieve victory. If you’re a transactional coach, you reward good performance, while at the same time punishing mistakes.
Coaching Styles and You
Now that we’ve given a general overview of the two ‘breeds’ of sports coach, let’s talk about some specific styles of coaching that might be utilized by each. And again, remember that you don’t need to wholly dedicate yourself to any of these styles individually. Mix and match to fit your team’s unique characteristics.
Autocratic Coaching: I’ll Tell You How To Win
Part and parcel of the transactional coach, autocratic coaching is where the coach takes full control of their team.
Players have little input into how things are run, and the coach is responsible for dictating all drills and strategies. The advantage of this approach is that it tends to lead to a better-disciplined, better-organized team…but at the same time, you’re missing out on potentially invaluable input from your players.
Democratic Coaching: Let’s Talk About What We Can Do
Democratic coaching is a bit more lax than Autocratic coaching, and involves coach and player sharing responsibility for their team.
While the coach still provides leadership and positive guidance, players take a much more active role in managing their team. This not only leads to a sense of accountability and freedom, it also helps players to develop better decision-making skills that will serve them well on the field.
Of course, democratically-coached teams often tend to be less organized than autocratically-coached ones, and the players may tend towards having less discipline.
Laissez-Faire Coaching: You’re In Charge – I’m Just The Supervisor
The most freeform of the coaching styles, Laissez-Faire coaching is exactly what you’d expect. The coach takes a completely ‘hands-off’ approach to the team, making little effort to lead or teach. Instead, the players largely handle decision-making on their own, taking full ownership of their choices, drills, and strategies.
Holistic Coaching: Everything Is Connected
Not technically related to the previous three styles, holistic coaching is the stance that everything is interconnected.
A loss is not the result of any single player’s weakness or mistake, just as a victory isn’t the result of any single play. Holistic coaches are very ‘big picture,’ and interested in examining how every action, drill, and play impacts their team’s overall dynamic.
None of the above coaching styles and techniques are perfect, and any one of them might be the right choice for your team (or the wrong one). And as has already been stated, you needn’t restrict yourself to any single strategy. You’re free to blend things until you find a style that works for you.
Of course, that isn’t to say there aren’t a few factors you need to consider when doing so:
- Your team’s overall level of experience.
- How disciplined/organized your players are without you.
- What level your team’s operating at – casual vs. college vs. professional
- How previous coaches ran the team, and whether or not their methods were effective.
- Your own personal traits.