Coaching is a profession that requires a lot of different skills and qualities. The great coaches are strong in all facets of coaching.
Planning: Great coaches have a capacity for planning. They anticipate the need to have an organized operation. Part of that planning is factoring in the unexpected with the expected. So when things go awry the plan does not disintegrate. The areas of planning range from the game plan the team take onto the field, to the training plan they use to achieve a proficiency around the game plan, to the logistics of organizing the team travel to get to the game and any other details that may impact on the team performance.
Organization: The plan is useless until there is an organization around the plan that facilitates the operation. The players, coaching staff and administrators around the team must understand the plan and be organized enough to execute the plan. Having a plan is just a start but having an organized plan gets everybody started.
Work Ethic: Great coaches never rest until the job is done and of coarse as a coach the job is never done. No matter how well the team play they are only as good as their last performance. The perfect performance never occurs. So no matter how well the team plays there is always room for an improvement. Of course when the team plays poorly there is plenty of work to be done. It is very rewarding for the coach when the team plays well but the moment the coach believes the team cannot improve the immediate result is a worsening of performance. Great coaches never rest on their laurels and a solid work ethic is the basis for that.
Leadership: Great coaches are also great leaders. The players and assistant coaches respect and trust in their judgement. A crisis is the real test of a leader, as leadership is easy when things are going smoothly. So when a crisis occurs for the team the coach is usually the person the players turn to for the solution. In those circumstances the great coaches remain calm and collected and give good advice to the team to get them out of the crisis. Because of the trust the team has in the coach, the team will take the coaches advice and act upon it. Staying calm under pressure is one of the great leadership tests for the coach and great coaches have the capacity to stay calm and lead regardless of circumstances.
Motivation: Great coaches are themselves highly motivated. But the skill of a great coach is the ability to motivate both players and staff. Motivation can often be misconstrued as shouting encouragement to players to perform better, either in training or a game. But that motivation is “Extrinsic” which means it is coming from outside the person being motivated. It has been proven conclusively that Extrinsic Motivation, although viable in certain situations, plays a very small part in the long-term motivation of people. The most powerful type of motivation is “Intrinsic Motivation”, which comes from within the person being motivated. Great coaches can tap into the Intrinsic Motivation within people and get those individuals to use their Intrinsic Motivation to enhance their performance in the long-term.
Talent Identification: All great coaches have an ability to identify talented players who can improve their team. It is almost an innate skill that allows a coach to see the potential in a player even when the player is young and undeveloped. It is not just the ability to recognize the potential skills set that the young talented player possesses but also to recognize the personality and potential in the player to be able to perform at a high level when under pressure. It is a very unique skill to be able to judge the potential of a player and there are occasions that even great coaches can get it wrong. But more often than not they will very quickly make an accurate assessment on a player’s ability and potential.
Skills Coaching: Coaching is often though to be just about coaching skills. But obviously there is more to it. Having said that the great coach is also great at coaching. It requires and in depth knowledge of every aspect of the game. Even if the coach delegates aspects of the coaching to their assistant, they must still know exactly the content that is being coached by their assistant. Otherwise they are not in a position to assess if the coaching information the players are receiving is accurate or being imparted in the most efficient way. Even of a coach knows the information they need to impart they must also possess the skill to impart the information. That is in fact the act of coaching. Great coaches have both the information and the necessary skills to impart rugby skills to their players either through an assistant coach of directly themselves.
Man Management: Great coaches manage their players and assistant coaches well. The players and assistants respect and trust the coach and the coach has the ability to communicate at a high level with everybody. This ability to communicate is crucial to man management. But man management is crucial to all the other qualities of a great coach mentioned above. In fact without the ability to communicate a coach would fail, not just to man manage, but on almost every aspect of coaching. Great coaches know that communication is “two way street”, in other words it is just as important to listen as it is to speak. As part of their man management skills the great coach will listen and take advice form both their players and assistant coaches and base their decisions on that information. Great coaches must also have the ability to give constructive feedback to players and assistant coaches. Constructive criticism is not just telling somebody what they did poorly but also what they did well. Also, when communication with somebody what they did poorly it is also important to communicate what they need to do to improve their performance. That is not just good feedback but also good communication and good man management.
Coaching is a multi-dimensional skill and the great coaches are highly skilled in every dimension of the job.