Coaching Philosophy

NZ CoachApproach

The NZ CoachApproach is a philosophical approach to coaching that promotes athlete learning, and ownership of that learning through creating awareness, responsibility and self belief.
It aims to create independent, confident, and motivated athletes able to coach themselves.

Sport New Zealand has produced a series of nine video presentations to promote the CoachApproach and illustrate effective New Zealand coaches in action.

What is the Purpose of the videos?

The video presentations available here are designed to be used by New Zealand Golf and the PGA of New Zealand, in the development and support of coaches to:

- Promote the understanding that there are a wide range of coaching styles and that effective coaches will use a variety of approaches to suit the circumstances and the needs of the athletes being coached
- Illustrate key principles of effective coaching
- Encourage exploration of different coaching approaches
- Help coaches develop their own coaching philosophy.
What is covered in the videos?
Stephen Fleming and Sarah Ulmer take you through each of nine chapters to provide an introduction and understanding of the philosophy behind the NZ CoachApproach.

Click on the thumbnail images under each chapter title to view the NZ CoachApproach video presentations.

Chapter One: An Introduction - About the Coach Approach
The coach approach is a philosophical approach to coaching that promotes athlete learning and ownership of that learning through creating awareness, responsibility and self belief. It is not new but simply a reinforcement of best practice in coaching and how people can learn effectively.
The NZ CoachApproach aims to create independent, confident and motivated athletes able to coach themselves.

Why have the NZ CoachApproach?
At a sports venue, how many times have you seen or heard the following;
- A coach saying ‘I’ve told you that 100 times'
- 'Will you never learn?’
- Athletes trying harder and harder but performance actually getting worse
- Athletes who can do it in practice, losing it under pressure
- Two very different athletes with different needs being treated the same way
A coach-centred approach to coaching is limited to the imagination/knowledge of the coach. The NZ CoachApproach encourages increasing use of an athlete-centred approach.
Some key reasons for promoting the NZ Coach Approach are:

- Different groups and different individuals have different needs
- Simply telling is not effective
- Research shows that both the short term and long term retention of learning increases with a combination of telling, showing and experiencing
- People learn best when they help set the learning objectives and have ownership of the learning process
Where do the Ideas come from?
The NZ CoachApproach encompasses principles of leadership, empowerment, emotional intelligence, athlete learning preferences, Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU), Inner Game, implicit motor learning and experiential/ discovery learning.

Chapter Two: Coaching Styles - The Coaching Continuum
There is no single right or wrong way to coach. These video clips show effective coaches demonstrating a variety of coaching styles involving both coach centred and athlete centred components.

A pure coach-centred approach encourages athlete compliance and tends to be instructional, directive, autocratic and based on the coach’s knowledge.

An athlete-centred approach is based on the athletes’ knowledge and needs and is empowering, creates athlete awareness and tends to use a questioning approach. The NZ CoachApproach encourages coaches to use a broader range of coaching approaches, appropriate to the particular situation, that increasingly raise athletes’ self awareness, gives them greater responsibility for their own learning and leads to an outcome of increased athlete self belief.

These videos show the coaches demonstrating behaviours at different parts of a continuum of coaching styles in many different circumstances, with different types of athletes and different sized groups.
In observing coaches in each of the videos, you should ask yourself questions like:
- Where does this coaching style fit on the continuum?

- What factors do you think affected the coach’s choice of approach?
- Do you think the approach is appropriate for the circumstances – why?
- What techniques/strategies do you think the coach has used to help their athletes understand, learn and/or perform?
The scale shown on some of the video clips is intended as a broad indicator only, to illustrate that in this situation the coach is using an approach that tends towards a particular area of the continuum.

Chapter Three: Raising Awareness - Awareness, Responsibility and Self Belief
The role of the coach is to help athletes learn and create change to improve athlete performance.
The key to the CoachApproach is to create an environment that encourages this.
To do this the coach needs to communicate to their athletes.
The process involves:
- The concept of sending/receiving
- The coach has thoughts, feelings, or intentions he/she wishes to convey
- The coach transmits messages
- Messages are received and interpreted
- The athlete responds
Messages are communicated verbally and non-verbally which involves use of both the eyes and ears. The way the message is conveyed (body language, emotion, etc) affects how the content of the message is received.

Some ways to help raise athlete awareness and increase understanding are:
- Modelling or demonstrations
- Asking questions Providing feedback
- Giving effective instruction
- Letting athletes just do it (athletes learn when the coach is not talking).
A number of specific techniques to support these approaches are demonstrated in the various sections of the videos. These include:
- Use of a rating scale
- Encouraging a zero error situation 
- Creating a picture in the athletes mind 
- Use of video
- Use of analysis
- Setting a goal or creating a challenge for self discovery
- Subliminal learning (raised net in Volleyball)
The videos illustrate giving athletes responsibility and ownership of their learning by referring to leadership opportunities and showing situations where coaches empower athletes to help both themselves and other athletes to learn.

Increasing athletes self believe arises from the athletes experiencing a positive environment and success. As this is a concept that is addressed continuously by effective coaches, the videos have not tried to target a specific example. Rather, you should look for examples of coaching that help athletes gain confidence and self belief as they occur throughout the chapters.

Chapter Four: Setting Goals
A swimming clip illustrates a more formal discussion of goals.
Other informal examples where coaches set up short term objectives or challenges and help athletes achieve these occur throughout the videos.

Chapter Five: Questioning
Many of the learning situations illustrated in the other sections and video clips were prompted by questions.
Questions can:
- Raise athlete awareness
- Encourage problem solving
- Shift the athletes’ focus to promote learning
- Illicit biomechanical responses
- Encourage responses that supply additional information to the coach
Different types of questions include open, closed and directive questions and questions to raise awareness, promote thinking and promote comparing, rating, analysing and/or discovery. You could try identifying some of these different types of questions throughout the chapters.

This chapter includes good examples of coaches asking a question, listening to the response and using the athlete’s response to follow up or probe deeper.

Chapter Six: Feedback
Feedback refers to the information available to athletes during or after performance.

Feedback can be positive, negative or neutral, external (explicit) or internal (implicit), immediate or delayed. Non judgemental feedback is critical to learning.

Coaches can provide feedback at different levels from no feedback (just observing and saying nothing), zero feedback (a non committal comment), negative and positive feedback, to more subjective approaches that encourage athletes to do, think and explore by themselves.
This clip should prompt you to think about when to give feedback, the amount of feedback to give and the timing of feedback. It should raise awareness about coachable moments when the giving of feedback will best enhance learning.

Two obvious situations which demonstrate aspects of feedback are shown in this chapter. However, feedback is another ongoing process and examples of coaches and athletes giving and receiving feedback occur throughout all chapters.

Chapter Seven: Effective Instruction
Passing on information and giving instructions are essential parts of the coaching process.
Some situations where giving instructions is appropriate are:
- Where there are time constraints
- Where there are safety issues
- Where athletes want/need to be told
- Setting up a new activity
- Where the instructions are part of a variable approach (For example to get a bigger group going to allow individual follow up).
Instructions can still encourage feel/flow and raise awareness. Directions can be used to prompt athlete thinking, reflection or self exploration. (For example, a coach can say, ‘try this and tell me how it feels’).

Instructions should be clear, simple, have a single focus and there should be checks that athletes have understood.

Chapter Eight: Helping Athletes Learn
This chapter aims to illustrate the importance of athletes learning and practicing in a realistic context.
Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and the use of progressive activities are a good way of achieving this.

The video highlights advantages of a game or activity based approach to develop both technical and tactical skills. The first cricket example shows this occurring in a warm up and the other clips show these concepts in the body of a practice session.

Chapter Nine: The Wrap Up
The development of this DVD would not have been possible without the commitment and help of a large number of people.
SPARC wishes to acknowledge Sarah Ulmer and Steve Fleming for their role as presenters and for setting the tone for the DVD; the coaches that opened their coach session for filming and were available for interview; the expert panel (Leigh Gibbs, Mark Bone, Selwyn Maister, Wayne Smith and Mike McHugh) who reviewed the video material and provided expert comment for the clips; the NZ Academy of Sport Coaching Team who initiated the NZ CoachApproach concept and provided expertise and background information; the staff from SAUCE who were involved in the planning; filming and production of the videos and the SPARC staff who contributed to planning; reviewing publishing and distributing this resource.
The NZ CoachApproach is still an evolving concept. SPARC would welcome your feedback on the videos and the supporting notes. Please email feedback to