How to create a coaching philosophy: the questions you need to ask

Creating and developing a coaching philosophy is much deeper than tactics and your style of football. It’s a live and working definition of your values, beliefs and behaviours. Below are a few key considerations I used back in 2010 when I very first tried to understand and articulate my own coaching philosophy on paper.
Your core values; what do you stand for?

‘Players don’t care how much you know, until you show them how much you care.’

A rather bold and interesting statement but what exactly do you care about?
The result? Player development? Their enjoyment of the sport? What exactly is your objective as a coach? Once you start to explore these questions and understand your own intrinsic morals and values - it will help begin to pin your philosophy framework.
What would be my very own personal mission statement?

This will have started to materialise when exploring the considerations above. If you’ve ever written a CV, nine times out of ten you provide a paragraphed mission statement to help give the potential employer an insight into what they could expect from you professionally and personally. Your mission statement will most likely be hidden in that paragraph!

Why play that way?
‘They try and play football the right way.’
Another interesting and vague statement we’ve all heard and perhaps used. What exactly is the right way?

Football has been and always will be a game of opinions; whatever style of football you choose to embed is fine (sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but that’s the sport!) - as long as you have a rationale and understanding of its weaknesses, benefits and its identity. Make sure you appreciate the environment and even the context that you work in.

Do I live my philosophy?

Do your behaviours and conduct to others correlate with what you’ve written down? Would other people - parents, coaches, players - be able to interpret your philosophy through your behaviour?

If you’re focusing on a particular block of work with your players such as retaining and building possession but in the next breath hammer your players for not shooting at every opportunity because they’re losing – what message does that send out?
How will I communicate it to my players, staff and parents?

As alluded to in the last question, simply living it is paramount. Make sure your external actions match what you’ve said you stand for to ensure it maintains credibility. Simply ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’.

Writing the philosophy down is important, some choose to have a scribble in a coaching book whilst others opt for a presentation style; whatever suits you. I always make mine available for parents (particularly those of Foundation Phase children) by delivering a pre-season presentation. It allows parents to understand what to expect from you as a coach and how you will be supporting their child. Be warned, people will challenge you, disagree at times – be prepared to defend it, whilst respecting we all have different opinions.

Be ready to evolve:
Your philosophy will change; as mentioned it’s a living and breathing document about you. Just as you go through different life experiences (non-football related), your behaviours, priorities and values will change. As you experience success and failure and gain knowledge, you will find that you will want to add/change information. Whether it’s interpersonal skills and trends on how you deal with your players as people, or what you now expect of your full backs when in possession, just ensure you have a rationale to it – people will challenge you.

Author: Owen Southgate