The Importance of a Coaching Philosophy

Ferguson-Guardiola: Definitely have a coaching philosophy

A coaching philosophy. What is it? Why do we even need one?

Here’s a definition I found of a coaching philosophy that brings it down to what it’s really about:

An attitude held by a coach that acts as the guiding principle for the training and development of an athlete or team.

The words that jump out at me are ‘attitude’ and ‘guiding principle’. It has to be a collection of ideas that determine everything you do as a coach; from how you handle situations you face with your players and parents to how you want your team to train and play. A coaching philosophy should give an insight into how you are as a person and a coach.

The benefits of having a coaching philosophy will be portrayed in the effectiveness of your coaching over the long term. Knowing the way you want your team to play provides a clearer outlook on how to structure your sessions and the content you want to teach over a season. This provides the advantage of being able to plan the content of your sessions over a season in advance, allowing for flexibility depending on the imminent needs of your players. As a result, you will have a clearer idea on what goals you want to achieve as individuals and as a team.

For example, if I know I want my team to play a possession game, building up play from the back with midfield rotation, I gain a better idea of what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I can create a season plan detailing when I want to teach specific content rather than a constant changing of topics week after week with no consistency. This creates a platform that allows me to judge how far the players have developed over the course of the season. Creating a philosophy has the advantage of clarifying what you want for your team and planning accordingly to maximise your team’s development.

Stay true to your beliefs

A coaching philosophy changes over time as you build experience and face the many situations that come with being a coach. But the core values of a philosophy should be consistent because they are an embodiment of how you are portrayed, the style of play you like to see and the way in which you handle each situation you face. That is why not only is it important to have a philosophy, it’s important that you tailor it to what you actually believe in and not what others want to hear or see.

I hear a lot of coaches talking about the Barca way of playing, the Mourinho type of management or some other nonsense when talking about their own philosophy. But when there is a lack of consistency in the way you interact with your players or parents, the level of trust and respect begins to disintegrate.

Players know when you’re not being yourself. Ranting and raving at your players because you’re attempting to copy the Alex Ferguson ‘hairdryer’ is detrimental to the way your players will react and what they will expect of you in the future.

You should also look to identify your core values as a coach. These core values will outline how you expect your team to behave and what you as a coach believe in. Once you start to understand your core values, you start to become more consistent in your actions and set standards for how you want your team to function.

This is vitally important because the standards you set yourself are usually reflected in the team you coach.

We’ve just seen one of the best managers ever, arguably the greatest, Sir Alex Ferguson retire. One thing that stood out to me whilst listening to all the interviews with former or present players was that they all spoke about the standards he set for the team. Most of you have probably already read this article but Gary Neville sums up the importance of the standards Sir Alex Ferguson set and you can see it reflected in the players themselves:

Club philosophy – A lack of clear direction

The ability to create a philosophy is very beneficial for a coach. However, the lack of a clear philosophy and direction by a large number of grassroots clubs has hindered the progress of our players. A lack of a clear development path from when a player joins a club at the youngest age groups to when they leave is detrimental. How do you judge their success? How do you efficiently evaluate how far a player has come and where they need to go?

Players are joining a club and learning the same basic content year in year out without challenging the players because there isn’t any clear direction from or communication between coaches.

Coaches stay with the same year group each year, without a clear idea of what they need to teach in order to progress the players for the next coach. Or they progress with the team, lacking the knowledge to teach a different age group. Either way the players are the ones getting hurt.

Furthermore, a club philosophy improves the club’s recruitment system by allowing a club to identify coaches with a similar philosophy. This would allow the club to outline what they expect from the coach in terms of a playing style and conduct, which would create a culture that improves performance of coaches and players alike.

At this moment in time I have created a club philosophy that I’ve worked on for the past few months. I’ve also worked on a personal coaching philosophy that still needs development. One thing I noticed is the similarity between the club philosophy and the coaching philosophy, which would enable me to identify coaches cut from a similar cloth once I feel I’m ready to implement all these ideas at a club.

How do you create a coaching philosophy?

It’s something that has been mentioned before but it’s true; coaching courses are only a small part of your journey as a coach. The lessons we learn outside our coaching courses as well as on our courses will allow us gain a better idea of what we want from our coaching.

The first question you should ask yourself is WHY do you coach. Once you’ve answered this honestly, you’re on your way to building your coaching philosophy.

Over the past year I have read a few books that have helped immensely in providing new views from successful coaches, and not just in football (I’ll make sure to write another blog post on this!). Reading books along with learning from the experiences you face as a coach will help to shape your philosophy.


The creation and implementation of a coaching philosophy allows a coach to gain a clearer idea of what they want from players, parents and any other individuals associated with their team. This in turn will allow more coaches to create a clearer development path for their players, therefore allowing coaches to set more effective, measurable and attainable long and short term goals.

A coaching philosophy as well as a club philosophy are important to the development of our players. Don’t do them a disservice. Create your philosophy today and develop it until you stop coaching.

How important do you think having a coaching philosophy is? How have you developed yours? Does your club have a philosophy that creates a clear pathway for player development?

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6 thoughts on “The Importance of a Coaching Philosophy

  1. A coaching philosophy is something that all coaches should spend some time reflecting on and developing. They can be useful for making decisions, and explaining those decisions to others. For instance, playing time and the playing of injured players are two areas that a philosophy can provide direction on. When faced with these situations, a clear philosophy of your position regarding development versus winning can make it a lot easier to make the right decision. If you explain your philosophy to players and parents at the start of the season, you are able to fall back on this when challenged over decisions you make.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Definitely agree. Not only does it clarify your position in certain situations such as playing time, but you also become more consistent in your actions, which players notice.

      I read your blog post on mistakes of a beginner coach and found it a great read. Look forward to future blog posts.


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