The concept of establishing values and practicing those values has always been central to my education as both a teacher and a coach. As a result, I have spent a great deal of time considering what my values are and how they apply to my practice. Moreover, my coaching career has centred around building programs, both at the grassroots and high performance level. Therefore, the ability to articulate values and achieve buy-in from athletes, colleagues, and other stakeholders has been critical to my success.
Although I am satisfied with my coaching philosophy in its present form, I am aware that philosophy is an evolving set of ideas and I am interested to see how it changes through my time in this program. I will also be interested in seeing if my philosophy shifts as my athletes target a more elite level of performance. I don’t anticipate a change in my core values but I am interested to see if some of the more specific behaviours or leadership styles outlined in my philosophy shift or change based on my coaching context. In terms of a more specific outcome, one of my goals in this program is to position myself as an expert and serve the sport as a leader via coach education and program development. So part one way in which I can measure the success of my philosophy will be whether I can model the way for others in responsible and ethical coaching practices that align with their personal values.
In terms of evidence, the following is a document, which I frequently annotate and update. This is the document from which I draw and adapt pertinent points to use in presentations with athletes, prospective athletes, colleagues, and other stakeholders. It is based on the NCCP template of coaching philosophy as an intersection of purpose, leadership style, and values.
This coaching philosophy is a representation of what guides my decisions both inside and outside of the coaching realm. I share my philosophy with all of my athletes, colleagues, and stakeholders and my experiences with these individuals continue to shape my philosophy. My purpose, my leadership style, and my values each contribute to the philosophy that guides my coaching.
My purpose in coaching is to partner with people to build themselves and their communities into something greater. This is not simply my purpose in coaching, it is my purpose in life. It guides my interactions with my athletes, my students, my colleagues, and the people in my community. My success in achieving my purpose can will be measured according to the following three criteria:
- Of the athletes that I coach, how many of them did I help to achieve success at the level they targeted for themselves?
- Of the athletes and participants that I coach, how many of them continued to be involved in the sport in an Active for Life context after their progression was complete?
- Of the athletes and participants that I coach, how many of them have taken positive experiences from the sport and used those experiences and skills to achieve success in other areas of life?
My leadership style centers around the NCCP core leadership practices of “inspiring a shared vision” by “modeling the way”, which “enables [the athletes I coach] to act”. The reason for this is simple: our program operates in a similar manner to most provincial or national teams. Our athletes spend the majority of the year spread out across the province. So, although they are following detailed training and competition schedules, it is impossible for me to monitor the minutiae of their lives. Therefore, our success depends on my athletes’ belief in our shared vision. In order to inspire that belief, they need to trust my values and that I have their best interests at heart by walking the talk. This in turn, allows my athletes to feel equipped and empowered to communicate with me honestly and to act in their own best interests on a day-to-day basis. It is through this formula that we will achieve success.
My personal values align closely with the NCCP core principles and ethical standards of behaviour. I believe that the ultimate purpose of sport is to contribute to the mental and physical well-being and the ultimate success of the individual on their chosen path. Moreover, athletes and coaching must be ambassadors for the sport in their behaviour both in and outside of the sporting context. If sport is not contributing to those outcomes in the athletes that I coach or our behaviour is not worthy of ambassadorship on behalf of the sport, then I have failed in my responsibilities. As long as I am prioritizing the safety and health of the athletes, understanding and respecting the authority that comes with my role as a coach, conducting my relationships with the utmost integrity and transparency, and treating both athletes and the sport with the utmost respect and inspiring that respect in them, I will be a successful and ethical coach.
My coaching philosophy is built on six pillars, each of which support my mission statement. This philosophy guides every interaction with my athletes, colleagues, and stakeholders. I encourage these individuals to speak up when they feel that I have made a decision that does not align with this philosophy. My philosophy is expressed through the following six statements:
My coaching is inclusive. There is nothing more important in sport than the person within the athlete. My coaching environment is inclusive for athletes, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or gender identity. An athlete cannot be successful if they do not understand that they are safe in my coaching environment.
My coaching is athlete-centred. Every decision is made by placing the outcomes that will affect the athlete at the centre of the decision-making process. This includes decisions regarding my personal development or the development of the program at large. If an outcome that is best for the program or for me personally but is incongruous with the best interests of the athlete, then the decision and the parameters therein must be re-examined.
My coaching matches the athlete’s passion. While it is my responsibility to inspire a shared vision with my athletes, I cannot create passion for the sport or motivation to succeed. I can only show them the path for them to act on their passion and achieve success. For my own well-being as well as the overall success of our program, I cannot be more invested in an athlete’s success than they are themselves. However, I am committed to maintaining an inclusive environment for athletes at different stages of their long-term development and will always match their passion.
My coaching prioritizes values over rules. I value sport because it contributes to the ultimate success of the person in their chosen endeavours. My coaching decisions and interactions reflect that value. I do not want to train athletes to follow my instructions because I said so. I want to teach athletes to identify their own values and buy in to the collective values of the program and regulate their own behaviour accordingly.
My coaching walks the talk. In my interactions with athletes, colleagues and stakeholders, it is crucial that I never ask them to do something that I would not do myself. If I am asking for their patience, it is because I have demonstrated patience. If I am asking for their perseverance, it is because I have persevered in service of their success. I am confident in my ability to elicit peak performance if the athletes understand that I am working just as hard to facilitate their success as they are working to achieve it.
My coaching is driven by life-long learning. In the same way that sport requires an athlete to push themselves to improve, coaches must continue to improve. If I am to “walk the talk” and be the resource that pushes my athletes to success, I must continue to learn and improve my coaching practice throughout my career. As soon as I allow my own development to stagnate, it’s only a matter of time before I am no longer a useful resource for the athletes that I coach.