Hierarchy of Coaching

May 11, 2010By Velocity Sports Performance - Irvine

By: Ken Vick, Sports Performance Director
Recently, author, Seth Godin wrote a blog post about his “Hierarchy of Success”.  I thought it was very relevant to coaching overall.  Seth wrote;

The hierarchy of success
I think it looks like this:

We spend all our time on execution. Use this word instead of that one. This web host. That color. This material or that frequency of mailing.

Big news: No one ever succeeded because of execution tactics learned from a Dummies book.

Tactics tell you what to execute. They're important, but dwarfed by strategy. Strategy determines which tactics might work.

But what's the point of a strategy if your goals aren't clear, or contradict?

Which leads the first two, the two we almost never hear about.”

He continues the article and discusses how each should drive the other. It's probably important to define two of these that are often used interchangeably; Strategy is WHAT you're going to do, Tactics are HOW you're going to do it.

When you hear a lot of coaches talking (or arguing) about training and athletic development its often about the last two. The execution of the specific drill or exercise is important to most of us. Countless arguments focus on execution.

The tactics may be doing heavy lifting vs. using bodyweight exercises.  Machine vs. free weight.  Small sided games vs. full field. We can go on and on with the arguments over tactics. There are more presentations and dvds on tactics than we will ever need.

I have to agree with Seth here. In the big picture, no one succeeds because of tactics and execution. You may fail if you don't do those well, but they don't bring success.

I'll say it again. The way you do the plyo drill or lift the weight won't bring success. This sounds like blasphemy coming from a coach who believes in teaching and enforcing proper technique, but I believe it's true.

I can have my athletes execute the best single leg, recovery focused, butt kick bounding out there. They did it because I decided that it was the best tactic to build specific explosiveness for sprinting.

However, if the goal was to play faster on the offensive line, but employed the wrong strategy of building specific explosiveness for sprinting, then I have a problem. I should have been building explosiveness for acceleration or acceleration against resistance.

So you can see how getting the goals and the strategy right are more important than execution and tactics. We do have discussion however about the next one up the hierarchy, approach.

Your approach in coaching terms are the broad strokes. If you see athletes who need to be faster will you use "technique drills" to develop speed or do believe strength is the primary focus. This can influence the goal to be either "we need better sprinting technique" or "we need to be stronger!" Do you believe in developing general athleticism or sport specific skills? The broader questions of approach will dictate how you set goals.

The last one, attitude, I think is more of the overall philosophy you have. Towards performance, towards competition, towards life. It's the driving force behind the rest.
This is the most important piece of all.  It trumps just about everything else.  Yes, the exercise technique and selection make a huge difference.  Selecting or executing poorly can destroy a program or athlete, but they won't make you successful.  It's the solid and broad foundation of your true attitude, your beliefs, that set the base to grow coaching success upon.
It's your attitude as a coach.  As a person that has the greatest effect.  What do you stand for and what do you bring to your athlete's everyday?  If you are a positive person, you want the best for your athletes, you are sincere in your efforts, and you strive to be the best, it shows.  You can't hide this or fake it.  Not over the long haul. 
This is the true foundation of your coaching.  All of the other stuff is built upon this.  If the attitude is wrong, the athletes will see through it.  If the attitude is wrong, their motivation will disappear.  When your coaching is only based on the specifics of exercise technique and rep/weight selection you've got it upside down.
This key point is why I believe there are some coaches who have a methodology that may be faulty in some ways, but if their Attitude and Approach are lined up, they will be successful with many athletes and in many settings.  Attitude and approach can make them successful in spite of their actual training methodology.
Because of an attitude, they can affect their athletes effort and focus. At times, when the window of opportunity is big enough, and the complexity is not too great, the right attitude can trump some mistakes in all the other steps.
So as a coach, the question then becomes; 
  1. What are your core beliefs that construct your Coaching philosophy?
  2. Are you reflecting those in every coaching session and all you are doing?  
When you have those, you have the foundation for success.

Sign Up for a Free Trial
Schedule Training

Facebook FEED