In coaching development, we often first teach coaches the importance of a coaching philosophy. A coaching philosophy, in short, is a summary of what a coach believes is important and what she or he will so to uphold these values. We advise coaches to write these down, revisit them, revise them, and hold themselves accountable to them. There is evidence in coaching literature (e.g, Martens, 2012; Hogg, 1995; Parsh, 2007) and social psychology literature (e.g., Festinger, 1962) that the adoption of a philosophy, and the act of writing and affirming an agreement with a philosophy, creates an environment that makes a coach more likely to adhere to the values that she or he believes are important in coaching.
In the study of coaching practice as an academic endeavor, it is widely recognized that there is no one "right" way to coach. Indeed this is reflected by track coach Ron Warhurst who called upon the coaching community to recognize that coaching must shift with the athletes it aims to serve (Warhurst, 1984). In coaching research, we adhere to investigation rooted in "constructivism," or the practice of constructing truth as it pertains to the interpretation of the observer and those sharing their experiences. We generalize understanding not by claiming to find an underlying truth, but in describing the multitude of layers that contribute to what we know about the field. The usefulness for coaches comes from viewing answers to an investigated question against the backdrop of the context that birthed the answer to the question, and constructing the application based on similarities or dissimilarities of one's own situation. Scientific "truth," therefore, is context specific.
I've been coaching for a little over 8 years and I've come to understand the coaching process as complex, dynamic, unstandardized, and "messy" (props to a good friend for coining that in particularly). Many of these descriptions are reflected over the past 60 years in publications such as Track Technique (now Track Coach) and Track and Field Quarterly Review (now Track Techniques) (yes those are different, I'll post on that in the future). As I've tottered along in my own development, I've stumbled on three core values that guide me in my endless pursuit to positively contribute to sport: Stay Curious, Stay Critical, Stay the Course.
As I reflect on my own experience as a coach, I keep coming back to these three main tenets as ever present in my own path. These form the call for action in my own coaching philosophy. My decision to start sharing my thoughts in this blog doesn't come from a sense of celebritized self-importance, but is a reflection of my own process, my own context. Research on philosophies doesn't claim that there is a "right" philosophy. Likewise, I don't claim that my core action values are "right;" they are what just helps me keep pushing forward in my own search and pursuit of excellence. As I share my thoughts here, my posts will likely be rooted in one or more of these core values. My hope is that you can take some of my perspectives and apply (or not apply!) them to your own situation.
Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Scientific American, 207, 93–107.
Hogg, J. (1995). The ability to develop and live out your coaching philosophy. In Mental Skills for Swim Coaches. Edmonton: Sport Excel Publishing.
Martens, R. (2012). Successful coaching (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
O’Brien, K. (1982). General concepts of the developmental training system. Track & Field Quarterly Review, 82(3), 25–29.
Parsh, D. (2007). Eight steps to a coaching philosophy. Coach and Athletic Director, 76(9). Retrieved from http://coachjacksonspages.com/44.pdf
Warhurst, R. (1984). Training for the mile. Track & Field Quarterly Review, 84(3), 31.
Wilson, H. (1983). Preparation of 1500m runners. Track & Field Quarterly Review, 83(3), 14–18.