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Chris' Blog

What is Coaching Theory?

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 4:55 PM

Coaching theory is a systematic process for leaders to coach their teams to victory regardless if its a sports, corporate, or family team. All managers need a plan to succeed, but truly effective leaders encompass an evolving methodology which adapts to their changing situation.


Coaching theory involves four features that a leader must continuously develop if they wish to constantly improve themselves as a leader. The features are:


  1. Possess a clear vision
  2. Understand their climate
  3. Develop strong attributes
  4. Utilize an effective methodology


Before any of the other four leader features can be acted upon, an effective leader must know where they want to go with their team. By developing a clear vision of where the leader plans on taking the team, it keeps them on track as they develop the three remaining features of leadership.


Once a clear vision of where a leader intends to take their team is established, they must obtain a firm understanding of their climate. A leader’s climate is the combination of two things; situation and culture. The situation is the combination of environment and time. Environment being the place in which the team is operating. In the sports world this can be a league, in business it is a market, and for families it is the stage of family (pre-children, young children, adult children, no children, etc). Time is the time in which everything is occurring as well as how much time the team has to operate. In other words, what is going on in the team’s environment as well how much time does the team have to reach their goal.


A team’s culture is who they are or how the team identifies themselves as such. Culture is a direct reflection of a team’s leader and their situation. It’s how the team operates. A team’s culture is set by its core and bond. Core is a team’s focus and bond is the strength holding a team together as they drive towards that core. When a team has a strong bond towards their core, they possess a positively motivated culture.


After identifying the climate, a leader can identify the attributes they need to reach their vision in the given climate. Every leader’s attributes for success are going to be slightly different depending on a leader’s vision and climate. Even if two leaders have the same vision, the chances of them operating under identical circumstances are slim to none. Only after recognizing where a leader wants to go and what they have to work with can they begin the development process. The development process is how a leader develops their leadership skills and team (more on the development process later).


The final feature of leadership is an effective methodology. Choosing an effective coaching methodology that fits a leader’s vision, climate, and leadership attributes is the art behind the science. There are countless books, journals, and clinics that teach coaching methodologies. With that said, the best coaching methodology for a given team depends on so many variables that only a competent coach (one that knows their vision, climate, and attributes) can identify which methodology is best for their team.


Going along with the four features of a leader is the development process. Effective leaders are always working towards developing themselves as such as well as their team. The development process entails:


  1. Learning
  2. Observing
  3. Acting
  4. Sustaining


Learning is simply the process of gathering as much knowledge and skill that one can on the team’s area of operations. This includes formal education such as school, informal education like reading peer-reviewed journals, and experience gathered from working with a mentor or prior experience that can be applied to the new climate.


Observing is noticing opportunities when they arise. Opportunities only occur when people understand the area in which they are operating so they can identify where their strengths and weaknesses align and strategically move themselves towards their strengths and away from their weaknesses.


Acting is simply action taken towards those opportunities or away from their weaknesses. It is one thing to see an opportunity and an entirely different thing to take action towards it. Nothing is worse than the “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” This is when we look back and say “I would have done that, I could have done that, and I should have done that.” By acting on our opportunities (or realizing when not to act, which is equally as valuable) we move forward in our development.


Sustaining is what we do when we get where we want to be. The best part about sustainment is not only acting towards maintaining our new improved position, but we are now in a new “area” physically and mentally that allows us to start the development process again and take us to new heights. Once a team has reached their goal two things happened, they either adjourn or set new standards and a higher goal. Adjourning is easy, if there is no need for a team it will naturally adjourn with time, but to keep a team motivated, they must set new standards and new goals to take through the development process.


Overall, coaching theory is an adaptable system for leaders to coach their teams towards victory entailing features that a leader should possess as well as a process to improve upon those features. Coaching theory is a cycle of identifying success and prospering on that success in a continuous cycle of growth. It is applicable for any team regardless of size or focus and is based upon learnable characteristics which allow anyone to improve. With that said, the next time you are in charge of a team, try identifying the leadership features associated with that team and yourself and take the team through the development process and see opportunities for success that you never knew existed.

Stay active, 

Chris Johnson 


Categories: Coaching Theory, Contemporary Issues in Sport, Ethics in Sport

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