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UK Coaching Research Team
Organising and Planning

Four Questions to Consider When Coaching During Competition

Research with Olympic athletes has shown coach behaviour during competition can have both positive and negative influences on performance

The responsibility of a coach is not just to prepare athletes for competition but also to help them through the action. Research with successful track and field coaches has identified what coaches can do during competition.

Positive influences came from:

  • trust
  • good crisis management
  • decisive and fair decision making
  • commitment to the athlete, and
  • good planning.

On the other hand, negative influences came from:

  • not keeping things simple
  • over-coaching
  • spending too much time with athletes
  • unrealistic expectations, and
  • conflict.

So coaches have an impact.

Here are four key points that you might want to consider:

  1. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your coaching. How often do you step back and let the athletes get on with it? Trust in your planning and in your athletes.
  1. Have you thought about how your behaviour influences your athletes or players? This can be both what you say and how you act.
  1. How do you know when to intervene and when to stay silent? From these elite coaches, the key question to ask is: ‘Is this really what the athlete needs, or should I just keep quiet?’
  1. If you are going to give feedback during competition, keep it simple and concise. Why not ask your athletes how they prefer to receive feedback and what level of detail they find helpful?

Please note the researchers are keen to stress that their results cannot be applied directly to other settings – this is elite sport, and in other sports (especially team sports), the coach may have more direct influence.

Orchestrating Success

How Successful Elite Coaches Act During Competition

Read our Guide

Related Resources

  • A Framework for Critical Reflection

  • How Successful Elite Coaches Act During Competition

  • The Road to Becoming an Elite Coach


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UK Coaching Research Team