Characteristics & Qualities of a Sports Coach

Coach in locker room, standing in front of chalkboard
sports coach in a locker room (Image: Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

As you attend a sporting event, you watch the athletes go through a number of plays, trying to score points and beat the competition. Behind the scenes, the coach is calling the shots. A sports coach is the leader and motivator to the team of players and assistant coaches. Anyone can coach, but the most successful coaches have specific characteristics and qualities that maximize game performance.

Knowledge of the Sport

The most important characteristic of a sports coach is knowledge of the sport you coach beyond the general rules and regulations. Basic knowledge is sufficient for youth sports, but a detailed knowledge base is essential for college and professional sports. This knowledge includes an in-depth understanding of the skills, tactics and strategies required for effective training, practices and game-day decisions. Most sports evolve over time, making it essential for coaches to learn new information as the competition, training techniques and rules change. Coaching clinics and camps are an opportunity to learn these new techniques while gaining knowledge of the game.

Patience

It is said that “patience is a virtue,” and you must have patience to handle the long season, training schedule and sometimes frustrating attitudes of players. Youth sports coaches, in particular, require patience to handle the growth and development of the young players. This patience is displayed through your own self-control and discipline, which can rub off on the players, assistant coaches and parents and ultimately lead to improved performance by the team.

Leadership

You must be an organized leader to keep your team, players and assistant coaches motivated and focused on the same goal. Your first commitment is being the expert who everyone looks up to for decisions. Being a good leader starts with setting and obeying rules and is displayed through always attending practice, leading by example, having a positive attitude and showing respect for the performance of your team, even when it's far from perfect.

Communication Skills

You can have superior knowledge of a sport, but without sufficient communication skills that knowledge is never passed onto the players. The ability to effectively communicate your thoughts to a player or assistant coach allows you to motivate and create a positive atmosphere at practice and games. By motivating and inspiring through your words and actions, you increase the likelihood for success. The best sports coaches adapt their communication skills to match the individual personalities of the athletes.

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