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/// May 29, 2017 6:00:00 PM

The Changing Face of High-Performance Sports Coaching

Posted by Jay Hedley

The job of a sports coach has evolved over the years. Today’s coaches are expected not only to be experts in their sports but to also be mentors and teachers.  They need to have technical and tactical experience that can be conveyed to their players in order to successfully dominate their field. As the complexity of a coach’s job increases, there is a need for coaches to take on a higher level of leadership.  

Five-Point Leadership Matrix

The Coaching Room teaches a five-point leadership matrix that should be an integral part of training for today’s high-performance sports coaches.

  1. Self – This is about having self-awareness, responsibility, resilience, and a desire to develop.
  2. Others – Sports are about polarities. Coaches lead and manage others. This requires dialogue and fierce conversations.
  3. 3Ps – Parenting, partnering, and prescribing are the three roles coaches needs to step between with the people they are leading.
  4. 4 Quadrants – The quadrants include first, second, third, and fourth person perspective. Coaches need to lead their own state as well as the state of those around them.  This means objectively leading the culture, actions, and behaviors of the team while also being able to lead system processes throughout the organization.
  5. Feedback – Coaches must be able to provide and receive high quality, sensory based feedback.

Beyond Technical and Tactical

Sports coaches need to be able to go beyond the technical and tactical, into a developmental role where they can lead individuals holistically. Rather than focusing on being the expert that simply directs players, a leader needs to be a collaborative partner.  In this capacity, coaches can facilitate, empower, and embody responsibility within their players.  Coaches need to be able to awaken the potential within a team so they can take ownership of the game they are playing.

Losing Effectively

The polarity of sports is mainly focused on the outcome of the game.  Playing a game where there is only going to be either a winner or a loser sets up a polarity. All sports organizations want to win, but that doesn’t always happen.  Since every team will face some losses, coaches need to be able to teach their players how to lose effectively.  Losing effectively is about learning how to develop and grow from loss.  This is the greatest developmental opportunity a player on a team has in high-performance sporting.

Becoming an Effective Leader

From a personal perspective for the coaches, the process is about how they connect and communicate with their players. By learning to be more effective leaders, they can relate to the players with more clarity. This gives them the ability to hold and utilize moral authority.

As we learn more about the human psyche, we have a greater appreciation for the complexity of developmental stages. Coaches need to learn how to coach the human elements of their sport, not just the technical elements. All coaches need a developmental coach to teach them how to take their coaching to the next level beyond tactics.

Coaching the Entire Organization

The Coaching Room works with all elements of the sporting team, from the players and the coach to the executive staff.  Their workshops help organizations understand what leadership entails and how it is changing. The executive team is faced with a multitude of tasks, including board management, coach management, player management, and player selection.  All of these dynamics come into play when the team is on the field trying to win their games.

If a team is having a bad season, there may be additional pressure from the media. Coaches must manage through the dynamic of these pressures that flow down from the executive level.  Maintaining balance despite the pressure can be done using the different perspectives identified in the four quadrants. This allows coaches to identify what is opinion versus fact.  Once these differences are understood, coaches can focus on the facts, which is a critical element of leadership.  


One of the most impactful changes that comes with learning to be a more effective leader and coach is self-awareness.  Coaches become more aware of their language, especially the use of first and second person pronouns.  There is an awareness of self and one’s reactions, called state management, which allows people to let go of unfinished business.  There is a capacity to move from telling to inquiring, seeking first to understand other perspectives before making decisions. All of this awareness enables a coach to provide high-quality feedback that is sensory specific, making a linear distinction between person and behavior.

Coaches Need Coaches

Players aren’t the only ones that need coaches. Coaches need coaches too. The Coaching Room offers a variety of training to help you take your coaching to the next level.


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