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Holistic Coaching: Developing Skills for Life

Holistic coaching should be an integral part of the coaching process for all coaches, at all levels, and for all age groups


This page contains a range of resources that will:

  • support you on your journey to becoming a holistic coach

  • develop your coaching skills

  • give you a deep insight into the benefits of holistic coaching for personal development

You will have heard of the term holistic coaching, but do you really understand what being a holistic coach means in practice? 

The positive consequences of holistic coaching go far beyond helping people to become better athletes. 

Holistic coaching is about developing the whole person

Coaches who take a holistic approach can positively and profoundly impact on all aspects of people’s lives. This is done by adopting and prioritising the long-term development of participants over short-term success.

Embracing the person before the performer is regarded as the cornerstone of holistic coaching. This guiding principle paves the way for balanced development that supports every aspect of an individual’s life. These include developing transferable skills, qualities, and attributes so that participants are better prepared to sustain their success over their entire development pathway, sporting career and life, including:​

  • communication and leadership skills
  • self-confidence and self-esteem
  • resilience and the ability to cope with pressure
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • problem-solving and decision-making
  • a sense of belonging
  • ability to form relationships and build rapport.
  • ethical and value-based decision making
  • personal organisation, management, and responsibility
  • injury prevention
  • recovery
  • positive culture.

Coaching is about people 

To support people to be their best selves, and leverage a person’s full potential, coaching should first and foremost be person-centred

Relationships are the active ingredient of great coaching.

Coaches must go deeper than surface level when connecting with their participants to find out what makes them tick. A holistic coach will make a concerted effort to understand the personalities of every person they coach and gather detailed insight into their individual wants, needs, motivations, challenges, and aspirations.


Holistic Coaching: A Journey of Discovery and Growth


This inspiring short film reveals how coaching can transform a life.

The narrative centres around a young participant who thrives under the care and support of a dedicated coach.

Watch our hero’s journey unfold – from a timid newcomer on the field, to a fearless captain of her team, and finally a coach for the next generation.

By taking the time to truly understand their participants, coaches can create a personalised and meaningful programme for each individual.

At this point, it should be evident that holistic coaching goes beyond the technical and tactical aspects and the competitive stage of physical activity and sport. 

Winning isn’t the only measure of success. Coaching holistically means supporting people in all aspects of their development, including physical, social, cognitive, psychological, and emotional

The five aspects of development – physical, social, cognitive, psychological, and emotional – are like five ingredients needed to make a cake. Each ingredient contributes to the overall taste and texture of the cake, and if one is missing, it can drastically change the outcome. It may look great, yet have no flavour, fail to rise, be uneven in shape, taste out of this world but crumble when cut.

Similarly, each aspect of a person’s development contributes to their overall well-being and performance. If one aspect is ignored by a coach, it doesn’t just reduce their potential by a fifth (or 20%), but potentially even more. This is because these five elements of development are interdependent, much like how the ingredients in a cake interact with each other to create the final product. So, a deficit in one area can have a ripple effect, impacting the other areas and thus, the individual’s overall development.

In essence, holistic coaching recognises this interdependence and ensures a balanced approach to nurturing all aspects of a person’s development. Just like baking a perfect cake requires careful attention to all ingredients, effective coaching requires attention to all aspects of development.

And of course, the environment also has to be right. Returning to the cake metaphor: the temperature has to be right, as does the tin, the duration of the bake and the oven temperature. 

Just as a baker can’t just expect different cakes mixtures to be cooked the same way, so a coach must recognise that development is non-linear and impacted by lots of factors, which is why coaches should develop individual development plans for each of their participants. 

How to apply holistic coaching principles

To apply holistic coaching principles effectively, you need to consider how they fit in your own environment and setting. Remember: the person is always the priority.

A holistic approach involves continuously adapting to your participants’ needs and coaching setting. Holistic coaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires you to tailor your coaching style, methods, and tools to suit the unique situation and preferences of each participant. 

You need to be flexible and responsive to their feedback and adjust your coaching plan accordingly to align with the current situation and circumstances and with what matters to your participants – from changing development priorities to modifying game ideas to how you communicate with individuals during sessions.

Holistic development isn’t something that is done to participants – telling them what to do or how to live their lives – it is something that is done with and for them by working alongside them, asking probing questions, providing and seeking feedback, taking time for regular check-ins and monitoring progress. 

A coach has a duty to care for their participants, which involves creating a safe and trusting space where participants can express themselves freely and authentically.

It is then about empowering them to discover their own potential and solutions

A holistic coach respects their participants’ autonomyvalues, and decisions, and provides the appropriate levels of challenge and support to help them take action and accept responsibility for their own growth and development. 


Some of the key skills, qualities, and attributes a coach will need to demonstrate and combine in their coaching environment to achieve holistic development.


How do you design your coaching programmes and individual sessions? Do you reprioritise your plans for different groups or people, based on their age, level, goals and mindset?

Do you adjust your plans for different times of the year, such as before the season, during the season, before a competition or at the beginning of a programme?

How do you think about the progress of your participants?

For example, you can teach young children about nutrition by role modelling, encouraging healthy snacks and bringing a water bottle.

For more advanced participants, such as a participant on a talent pathway, you can talk to them about their eating habits, what nutrients they need, and how much energy they might consume for their required training.

Equally, the focus on athletic development may shift, For children, the priority might be on teaching them basic movement skills, with an increased priority of injury prevention through physical preparation for a participant who competes regularly.


Holistic Coaching Resources

The Importance of Holistic Development Within Coaching Environments



Barnaby Sargent-Megicks introduces the WHO, WHY and WHAT of holistic development environments.

Climates of Holistic Development Environments



Barnaby Sargent-Megicks explores the HOW of holistic development and highlights the climates and key qualities of the coaching environment that help promote the three domains of a holistic development environment.

Ten Steps to a Successful Holistic Development Environment



Barnaby Sargent-Megicks shares ten starting steps to success to help you design and develop your holistic development environment.



Personal Development in Holistic Development Environments



Barnaby Sargent-Megicks offers insight into the fourth climate of the holistic development environment: personal development.

Understanding Holistic Coaching



Talent Development expert Fieke Rongen explains the term holistic coaching and provides a framework for thinking about how coaches can introduce this into their coaching practice.

Understanding Planning for Development



Head of Performance Programmes and Pathways at England Rugby Don Barrell shares his approach to planning for development.



Select the resources below that match the level you coach at, the environment you coach in, and the individual needs of your participants, and start growing your holistic skills.

Further Reading

  • Be a Coach of People, Not Sports

  • Coaching the Person in Front of You: The Key to Helping Your Participants Thrive

  • Emotional Intelligence: Being the Best Version of You

  • Entry Coach: Applying Physical Preparation Opportunities in the Warm-up

  • What is Food Literacy and Why is it Important?

  • Supporting Participants Returning to Play Following Injury

  • Making Learning Happen

  • Developing Independent Participants

  • The Art of Practice: Intentional Training a Model Way of Embedding New Skills

  • Ten Steps to Better Communication with the People You Coach

  • How to Build Stronger Relationships with Your Athletes

  • Coach Developer Conservations (S2) (EP 9): Sally Needham - Understanding Social Engagement

  • Understanding and Reflecting on Your Identity and Self-Concept

  • PCDEs in Practice: How to Develop Psychological Skills through your Coaching

  • Developing Resilience with Your Participants

  • Emotional Intelligence is Integral to Becoming a Great Coach

  • Psychology Shorts: The Importance of Emotions

  • Psychology Shorts: The Teenage Brain

  • Understanding the ‘C’ System Model

  • Why Are They Here? Understanding People and Their Motivations

  • Nonlinear Development: What are the Benefits?

  • Thriving Environments: Critical Ideas to Shape Your Thinking

  • The Value of Interdisciplinary Thinking

  • Fundamental Activities and Games: Partner Challenges

  • Tips for Your Athletes on Training Snacks

  • Planning and Hosting Great Parents’ Meetings

  • Well-being: ‘Check your Settings’


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