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Guest Blog: The road to becoming an elite coach

About the author: Matt Blandford is a MRes Sport Science student at Portsmouth Uni, researching elite cricket coach development.

About the blog: Matt Blandford shares thoughts from his research on what it takes to become an elite coach. 

Becoming an elite coach is not easy and is far more than just ‘collecting’ coaching badges. In a study where I interviewed elite coaches about their development history, I found that many of these coaches shared experiences outside of formal coach education, which they believe helped them to reach the elite coaching environment.

So to become an elite coach it’s recommended that you:

  • Get yourself a mentor (or mentors) that you respect greatly, not just someone you deem to be an expert but that you look up to and exhibits good coaching skills. Coaching is made up of many different aspects so don’t be afraid to use different people to learn about different aspects of coaching, however remember not everything they say is gospel so decide for yourself (filter) what advice to use.
  • You can never have too much experience. All of the elite coaches interviewed said you’ve got to have ample experience in elite sport to be able to coach effectively at that level. This experience doesn’t have to come from playing at an elite level either, you can learn the technical and tactical knowledge you gain from playing by amassing plenty of hours coaching.
  • Never stop learning. As a coach the moment you lose that thirst for knowledge you will begin to stagnate. The best coaches believe their peak is always ahead of them and will still go out of their way to learn be it from reading, mentors or other sources.
  • Do not ignore the development of your interpersonal skills. Elite coaching is not just about having in depth technical knowledge.  Good communication and the ability to build and maintain strong relationships were identified as the hallmarks of any good elite coach.
  • Keep adding to your CV. Some coaches have professional playing careers behind them which will get them elite jobs, but in the modern era of sport, specialist skills like IT and applying recent research can set you apart as a coach and help you secure that elite coach role.  What is your unique selling point as a coach?  What strengths will you bring to the environment?

The road to becoming an elite coach is long, often challenging and reasonably uncharted.  Research is starting to look into how coaches make transitions towards elite performance, but with the variability in coaches backgrounds should coaches have different attributes to improve or experiences to have to improve?

Matt Blandford, Master of Science Research, University of Portsmouth

Follow: @Matt_Blandford


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