Jan 19, 2018
A Little Philosophy
David Hoch

In any sport, the skills a player must learn to succeed are fairly standard. However, the style of play can vary from team to team. Coaches can use numerous types of offensive and defensive schemes.

How should a coach decide on his or her team’s style of play? In some cases, a coach might adapt to the talent on hand. However, most coaches choose a specific philosophy and stick with it.

As a new coach, therefore, you really want to spend time thinking about what you do and why. It is extremely important that you take this step. You should have definite, valid reasons why the offense, defense, special situations, and all other aspects of coaching are the absolute best and most workable for your athletes. In addition, even experienced coaches should periodically reexamine their coaching philosophy and make additions or revisions as necessary.

When you start your process of developing or clarifying a coaching philosophy, the following considerations should help:

1. Begin by making a list of everything that is involved in coaching your team. This should not only include major aspects, but also every drill, how you plan a practice, and techniques that you use to motivate your team. List anything that is associated with your responsibilities such as paperwork used with inventory, injury reports, and awards criteria. No item, detail or task should be overlooked!

2. Take your list and answer why you do or use each item on it. Actually write your reasons down and if you don’t have a good, strong basis, you probably should explore and consider other possibilities. You have to be convinced that what you do and use truly is best for your team.

3. Understand that suggestion #2 forms the basis for the next step, which is to have a strategy for explaining your philosophy. While you need to have a firm grasp of what is important and why you do everything, you also have to be able to clearly and convincingly explain everything to your athletes. Also, you may have to take this step with their parents. Therefore, your ability to explain the how and why is critical.

4. Observe and take notes about things other coaches do that you might use — on both the high school and college levels. Take the opportunity after hearing a clinic presentation or watching a game to ask the coach questions about why they use this play, scheme, or concept and how they teach it. Most coaches will be happy to help and you should take advantage of their expertise.

5. Always evaluate at the end of the season how effective your offense, defense, special situations, and all aspects of your program worked. If something was not as successful as it could have been, look for new and better options. This can be done by attending clinics, reading books, watching instructional videos, visiting with college coaches, and working at summer camps. But you have to take definite, specific steps in order to find something better for your athletes.

It is fairly common that new coaches start by implementing what they did as players. This what they know and they are comfortable with it. However, there are many ways of doing almost everything associated with coaching and you should always be receptive and searching for the best options. Developing your coaching philosophy takes some serious thought and effort, and it should also be an ongoing process.

It is also important to put in writing what your coaching philosophy involves. This can and should be done in three or four well-crafted sentences. Putting something on paper is a great final exercise to actually capture and clarify your coaching philosophy.

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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