What Makes a Good Youth Sports Coach

We’ve all heard stories about youth sports coaches, both good and bad. There’s the coach who makes training exciting and a fun place to be, and then there’s the coach who yells at the kids, almost as if they enrolled into boot camp. 

If you’re a youth sports coach, there are certain qualities that parents look for and that kids need in a coach and mentor. 

This blog post will highlight what makes a good youth sports coach — it’s both a guide for coaches (what to do and what not to do), and for parents to help them find the right coach for their kids.

What are the qualities of a good coach in youth sports?

Good sports coaches often share similar qualities — they leave behind patterns.

Youth coaches typically have many of the following coaching behaviours: 

  1. They make training fun 
  2. Winning is not the priority 
  3. They teach good sportsmanship
  4. The coach does not play favourites
  5. They are patient
  6. Good youth sport coaches have a positive can-do attitude
  7. Let all kids get involved
  8. Teaches basic skills 
  9. Knows how to effectively communicate with the kids 
  10. Provides equal playing time and opportunities 

They make training fun 

Good sports coaches know how to make training fun (and why it’s important). 

We’ve all seen or heard the screaming coach — it’s not a good look, and it’s the wrong approach to coaching (especially when coaching young kids).

Training should be fun and may include friendly competition.

For example, there’s the classic warm up of stuck in the mud, tag, and other fun games.

If you’re in the pool, you might play a game such as attack of the killer bees (tag with pool noodles). Although, no contact with the face or head is allowed.

Or maybe if you’re playing football, you’ll finish the session with a quick round of crossbar challenge, involving all players and keeping things fun and competitive.

Winning is not the priority 

Winning should not be a priority of a youth coach.

Yes, it may feel good. And the team may enjoy it. But the priority should be to have fun.

Young athletes who enjoy training are more likely to stick with it, whether that’s for months or years.

Furthermore, not winning actually teaches many life lessons and skills, especially if you experience these from a young age. 

They teach good sportsmanship

Good sportsmanship should be taught from an early age. It not only teaches respect in the world of sport, but in life.

At the end of a session, youth coaches might ask their athletes to high-five each other.

At the end of a game, players should handshake their opponents.

Good youth sports coaches recognise the opportunity to teach proper sportsmanship and respect, and include these behaviours where possible and appropriate.

The coach does not play favourites 

The same can be said for any coach, whether in youth sports, high school, or at the elite level.

A good coach should never have favourites. 

Yes, they might have one or two star athletes (this is normal), but during training, they should provide their attention to all athletes. Not one, two, or a select group.

Prioritising certain children and athletes over others should be an instant red flag.

Related: What qualities make a great sports coach? 

They are patient 

At the end of the day, kids are kids.

They’ll talk over one another, they might not listen the first time, and you’ll have to repeat things over and over.

A good sports coach at the youth level needs to be very patient. 

That means not shouting when they don’t listen, and being willing to go the extra mile to explain concepts to kids who might be struggling to grasp them on the first try. It’s part of the learning process and part of developing new skills. 

This patience and dedication go a long way — you’ll see first-hand how much of a profound effect you can have on young athletes.

Good youth sports coaches have a positive can-do attitude 

At some point or another, we’ve all had (or seen) a coach who had a positive attitude — they were enthusiastic and pushed us to achieve more than we thought was possible.

A youth sports coach with a positive attitude is highly underrated. They motivate kids to attend practice, push themselves, and face many challenges.

They are also typically great at providing positive reinforcement and building self confidence in kids.

Related: What is the Most Effective Way to Provide Feedback to an Athlete?

Training instantly becomes more fun and enjoyable, and kids are equally as excited to attend the training session.

Compare this to a coach who shouts and screams at their athletes, and you’ll see first-hand how powerful that can-do attitude is. 

Enthusiasm is infectious — look for this quality in a youth sports coach. 

Let all kids get involved

A great coach lets all kids get involved, not just one individual player.

Excluding any kid or athlete is a sign of a bad coach.

Youth coaching (and any coaching) is about inclusivity. 

Excluding any kid is not only harmful in the moment (they may feel left out, upset, etc.), but you might stop them from playing sports later in life.

Sports exclusion is one of the worst things you can do — it’s not a good coaching behaviour. Avoid this at all costs, especially in youth.

Related: 5 Qualities of a Bad Coach (And How to Avoid Them).

Teaches basic skills 

A good youth sports coach focuses on the development of young kids (that includes teaching basic skills).

Often, these skills will be naturally built into training sessions and school PE classes.

For example, life skills such as teamwork, good communication, sportsmanship, and even fundamental physical skills (balance, jumping, running, hopping, etc.) are commonly taught.

These are easy to implement (but very important), and kids usually don’t even realise what lessons and skills they’re being taught until later in life.

Knows how to effectively communicate with the kids

While all coaches need to be effective communicators (it’s an integral part of coaching), it’s especially important when coaching young athletes and kids.

Young people have shorter spans of attention. They are more likely to become distracted. And you might need to explain a concept multiple times (visual and auditory) for them to get it.

Good coaches know this and are extremely patient with the kids. They have great communication skills and use these in (and out of) practice to get the most out of young athletes. 

Provides equal playing time and opportunities 

And finally, youth sports coaches should provide equal playing time and opportunities for all their athletes.

During training, that means everybody gets time on the ball, has equal opportunities to shoot hoops, and nobody is excluded in a game of tag.

Good youth coaches know how to involve all kids in a fun and engaging way — training becomes exciting, and kids look forward to their next session.

Which, as you can imagine, has many positive rebound effects.



What Makes a Good High School Sports Coach?

A high school sports coach is a very unique role — you’re not only developing student athletes to achieve their best, but you’re also a part of the wider school community.

You’ll teach fundamental skills to kids and advanced tactics to others. You’ll coach an entire netball or football team over the course of multiple seasons, and if you’re lucky, you might experience great success.

Oftentimes, you’ll also be a shoulder to lean on (or cry on), someone to talk to when an athlete is going through tough times, and you’ll teach general life skills to set up the next generation for success.

It’s rewarding. It’s demanding. And it’s one of a kind.

But what makes a good high school coach? Here’s everything you need to know.

Key takeaways:

  • You’re more than a coach; you’re a mentor 
  • Try to get the best out of each of your athletes
  • Know how to provide effective feedback & support

High school coach qualities 

  1. Provide a positive experience for all students
  2. The coach genuinely cares about their athletes
  3. A good coach pushes their athletes but also supports them
  4. Improve players’ weaknesses and double down on their strengths
  5. A good coach teaches the importance of discipline
  6. Lead by example
  7. Teaching that it’s not always about winning
  8. Use technology to provide effective coaching feedback

Provide a positive experience for all students

High school students have a lot of responsibilities. 

Unlike elite athletes who eat, sleep, and train, high school athletes have a lot more on their plate. For example, they have classes, exams, hobbies, relationships, and other things going on in their lives.

It’s unlikely and unrealistic to assume that student athletes can follow the same day-to-day recipe for elite success.

A lot of kids also run into family problems, relationship issues, and bullying. It’s not just about sport.

This is not unheard of — high school can be a tough time for a lot of kids. 

That’s why it’s even more important to provide a positive experience for all students as a high school coach.

For a lot of kids, sports are a way to relieve stress, hang out with friends, and have fun. But to make sure they get the most out of it, high school coaches should:

  • Encourage sport participation
  • Keep training fun and interactive
  • Emphasise teamwork and good sportsmanship 

The coach genuinely cares about their athletes

A high school sports coach who actually cares about their athletes — how they are doing in school and in general — will provide a lot more value to the youth than others.

Most likely, they will also play a much bigger role in youth development. 

Unlike a sports coach who’s coaching the world’s best basketball or football team, high school sports coaches face numerous unique challenges.

Yes, you might have one or two-star athletes. And you might have a team capable of winning a state championship. But you’re also part of the school community — there’s a lot more to it than the eye can see.

Great coaches (especially in youth) also teach life lessons, are mentors, and oftentimes, are somebody to talk to on or off the field if a kid is going through a tough time.

But who knows, you might have student athletes succeed, too. That’s the dream of every high school coach.

A good coach pushes their athletes but also supports them 

A good high school sports coach knows how to get the most out of his/her athletes.

But equally, they are there to support them when they need it. Whether that’s after a defeat, through injury, a tough training session, or the stress from exams and high school.

A good high school coach knows when to push their athletes and when to step off the gas and tone down the intensity. 

As part of a wider community, you have more responsibility. Some training sessions will be skipped for exams, and for others, kids may feel unmotivated, tired, and not in the zone to perform.

The best coaches recognise this and work with (and not against) the athlete to get the most out of the students. 

Improve players’ weaknesses and double down on their strengths

Many coaches are quick to identify a player’s weaknesses. Maybe their short pass could be improved, their form breaks down in the last 400m of a race, or their long pass is inconsistent.

And while fixing (or at least improving) these weaknesses is a must — you should also double down on their strengths.

Perhaps the athlete has an excellent long pass, great leadership qualities, or is dominant when running elbow to elbow on the track.

Many successful coaches improve athletes’ weaknesses but also double down on their strengths.

This contributes to player development but may also result in overall better teamwork on the pitch. It’s no surprise that the best coaches take the best skills and qualities from their athletes and use these to their advantage in competition. 

So what should you do as a coach?

  • Identify your athlete’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Work on these one at a time
  • Ensure the coaching experience is more positive than negative

A good coach teaches the importance of discipline

Youth sport and sports at high school teaches the importance of discipline and hard work.

Students will show up to training even when tired, push when needed, and get the most out of themselves (with the support of a good high school sports coach).

A lot of the skills you teach your athletes are transferable outside of sports. For instance, the discipline they learn on the track, court, or field can be applied to their studies and futures. 

For example, a conversation on goal setting in sports can be put to use in other domains of life.

Good high school sports coaches recognise the opportunity to teach valuable life advice in sports. Many of your athletes don’t want to become the next LeBron James, but you can teach many lessons that can be applied off the court.

Recognise this and put your knowledge to good work! 

Lead by example

We’ve all met that one coach who has a positive attitude no matter what. Win or lose. Rain or shine.

If you can lead by example and with the right attitude, you’ll encourage kids to do the same.

Share your love for sport, teach the importance of respect and a good work ethic, and you’ll hopefully get the same in return.

Coaching high school students can be very rewarding. And a lot of the time, you get out what you put in. It starts with your approach to coaching — so put in what you want to get out.

Teaching that it’s not always about winning

Winning feels great. But it’s not always about winning — it’s about growing as a team and giving it your all. 

As a high school sports coach, you should teach the value of improving (as a player and a team) over winning. 

This lesson goes beyond sports. Knowing how to deal with stress, loss, and failure is a very valuable life lesson.

Sports contain many highs and lows. Often, kids will encounter these first-hand in the game. A good coach teaches athletes how to deal with adversity.

Use technology to provide effective coaching feedback

Giving feedback to high school students can be tough. While some kids may have dreams of becoming professional athletes, others may want to focus on an entirely different area in life. And that’s okay.

But to provide more effective feedback, you need to better relate to the students — you can use technology to do this. 

The current generation of high school kids are very good at using technology. So why not take advantage of this?

For instance, you might use a smartphone to capture an athlete’s form for visual feedback or use fun and interactive training videos to teach fundamental skills.

And while you may need to adapt your coaching strategies ever so slightly, you’ll find it to be very rewarding.

Rewire for Teams — Athlete Management Platform

Rewire for high school coaches 

High school coaches have a great amount of responsibility — they are a huge part of the school community, and for many athletes, are trusted mentors.

A lot of the coaching you’ll do in a high school will be general talent development and fundamental skills training.

But you’ll likely also have a handful of athletes who have the skill, ability, and desire to go that little bit further.

Rewire for teams can help you provide better coaching recommendations and insights for these athletes. You can monitor their stress management and readiness for training to better balance school and sports. It also means you’ll have better data to prepare for training and competition.

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Rewire can help your team.


What are the best qualities of a sports coach?

A good sports coach is positive, supportive, a mentor to their athletes, respectful, and very good at communicating. The best coaches also recognise that their coaching goes beyond sports.

What are the characteristics of a good mentor?

Good mentors (in sports and in life) are good listeners, are very knowledgeable, honest, non-judgemental, and know how to give quality feedback.

What skills are needed to be a sports coach? 

Professional coaching skills include a good understanding of sports, patience, a keen eye for analysis, great organisational skills, and others.

Related Topics:

What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?
What Qualities Make a Great Sports Coach?
6 Ways to Inspire Your Sports Team as a Coach
5 Qualities of a Bad Coach (And How to Avoid Them)


5 Qualities of a Bad Coach (And How to Avoid Them)

Know what qualities of a bad coach to look out for for the best experience.

Chances are, you’ve seen a bad coach or two. And if not, then you’ve definitely heard stories.

There’s the bad coach who yells at their athletes at the most minor of inconveniences; there’s the coach who encourages their athletes to run through pain; and others who do not listen to the athlete’s needs.

If you’re an athlete and you’re mentored by a bad coach, you may encounter a mix of issues ranging from injury to a lack of motivation to train. 

And if you’re a coach, it’s a good idea to watch out for these bad coaching qualities to ensure your athletes can progress and grow in a supportive environment. After all, it’s the coach’s responsibility to get the most out of their athletes.

So what are the bad qualities of a coach?

5 qualities of a bad coach

If you’re a coach, these are the bad qualities you should pay extra attention to:

  1. Bad coaches provide more criticism than positive feedback 
  2. A sole focus on winning
  3. Chooses favourites
  4. Pressures players to play when injured
  5. Does not listen to athlete feedback

Continue reading to see how each bad quality may contribute to a bad coach.

Related: What Qualities Make a Great Sports Coach?

1. Bad coaches provide more criticism than positive feedback

There are many types of feedback coaches can provide athletes. At the most basic level, there is positive and negative feedback.

Positive feedback is your standard: “Keep going; you’re doing great. Only 400 metres to go” approach. On the other hand, negative feedback could be the “you’re too slow, you’re never going to win a race” type of feedback. 

The second is the type we want to avoid at all costs.

Bad coaches often provide more negative feedback or criticism than positive feedback. Unfortunately, this is often counterproductive and can cause athletes to not look forward to, or even dread training.

Instead, there is a better way to think about feedback.

The skill training communication model

If you’re a coach, you should consider personalising your feedback. This is something a lot of good coaches do.

The skill training communication model takes into account the skill level of the athlete to determine what type of feedback works best.

For example, beginner athletes are more likely to benefit from basic trial and error and positive model learning (demonstrated technique and execution). Alternatively, more experienced and elite athletes will benefit from more instructive and direct feedback. 

In the elite population, this could include technique adjustment suggestions (“drive your knees high and push forward with your hips.”).

Although a simple change in how a coach provides feedback, it provides a mix of instructional methods to get the most out of your athletes based on their current skill and experience.

Related: What is the Most Effective Way to Provide Feedback to an Athlete?

2. A sole focus on winning 

“If he dies, he dies.” Okay, well, not quite. But it’s that Rocky IV approach that you should avoid at all costs.

Coaches who focus solely on winning are typically not the best coaches.

And while results matter, athlete development and progress are more important.

In fact, focusing on athlete development, progression and teamwork (if a team sport) can mean the difference between winning and losing.

3. Chooses favourites

It’s obvious to spot, and it makes other athletes feel left out. If you’re a coach, avoid choosing favourites.

And while you may have that one “star” athlete, when training in a group, provide the same respect, attention, and time to all of your athletes.

There shouldn’t be the “chosen athletes” and then the “other athletes.” It should be one team.

4. Bad coaches often pressure players to play when injured

When an athlete has an injury, they need rest and recovery. It’s coaching 101.

But when a coach encourages an athlete to play or train through injury, this is a major red flag.

No athlete should play through pain and injury, even if it means the difference between winning and losing.

A coach who puts their needs first, not listening to their athletes and encourages players to play through pain and injury is one to avoid. 

5. Does not listen to athlete feedback

Some coaches often do not listen to athlete feedback. Instead, it’s often the “what they say goes” approach.

There are numerous issues with this coaching method. 

Firstly, having open communication between coaches and athletes is crucial. If an athlete feels like they cannot speak up, they won’t get the most out of themselves during training.

A great example of this is an athlete feeling a slight twinge, pain, or niggle during training or competition. A bad coach may create an environment where speaking up about their injury is not encouraged. Alternatively, if they do mention it, they may be told to run or play through pain.

Open communication between the coach/coaching staff and athletes can help protect their athletes from injury, not only causing pain, but potentially ruining their season or even career. 

So if you’re a coach, how can you improve communication? It starts with being present and available for your athletes. Stay behind after practice, ask what they thought about the session, and be there for your athletes if they need you. 

Bad coaching in youth sports

A bad coach is a bad coach. Period.

Unfortunately, many kids who play sports also encounter a bad coach.

Coaching at the youth level (for most kids) should be about teaching valuable life lessons, involving the whole team, and making training fun.

Just like any other coach, youth coaches should not play favourites, exclude players, and should not prioritise their own child (if they also coach them — which is common).

Parents should meet with youth coaches before practice and ask for reviews from other parents to find the best coach for their sport. You can also find coaches through schools.

What makes a bad coach?

In many ways, it’s easier to identify what makes a bad coach than a good one.

Typically, bad coaches are easy to spot — you’ll find them screaming at their athletes, athletes will complain about them, practice is something they dread, and you’ll see a bunch of athletes hobbling off the pitch or field with injuries. Although, this is not always the case — just an extreme observation.

Related: What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach? 

To summarise 

Many coaches are great at what they do. But some coaches have a few bad qualities, some of which we’ve highlighted in this blog post.

If you’re a coach, consider working on any bad qualities you may have. This will make you a better coach and mentor for your athletes.

But it doesn’t have to end there. 

All coaches are looking for new ways to gain that competitive edge, to find a few extra seconds here and there, and to stand out against their competitors. It’s what sport is all about.

Rewire for teams provides a mental fitness platform for coaches, alongside a handful of useful tools for your athletes. As a coach, you can view insights into your athlete’s readiness scores, providing you with essential data to make smarter recovery decisions. This allows you to tailor your coaching to each individual athlete, enabling you to unlock their full potential. 

With Rewire, we have been able to help understand our athletes mental state which has allowed us to adjust our practices, weight lifting, time with the athletes, study halls, etc. where we are better able to manage them on an individual basis as well as collectively. This is a tool every coach should have in their toolbox.” — Will Hander (Head Coach Men’s Soccer, University of Providence)

Find out more about Rewire for coaches


How do you tell if you have a bad coach?

There are many signs of a bad coach but some include winning over everything else, picking favourites, providing negative feedback, and having poor communication with their athletes.

How do bad coaches affect athletes?

Bad coaches can bring players down mentally and physically. They can drain their motivation for their sport, stagnate performance, and even cause mental health issues.

Related Topics:

What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?

What Qualities Make a Great Sports Coach?

6 Ways to Inspire Your Sports Team as a Coach


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What Qualities Make A Great Sports Coach?

A great coach has several unique traits — here’s what they are.

Coaches play a fundamental role in mentoring the next generation of athletes. And the skills learnt don’t end on the pitch — they also include life skills such as self belief, and many other important qualities.

Naturally, some coaches are better than others. That’s why the very best coaches mentor the greatest athletes. Think: Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Eliud Kipchoge… the list goes on. But how do coaches go from being good, to great? What makes some sports coaches that much better than others?

And how can you become a more successful coach?

Related: What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?

That’s what this blog post is all about. We explain key traits and qualities of great sports coaches. If you’re a coach, there are definitely a few takeaways you can use to improve your coaching further. There’s something for everyone, whether you coach youth athletics, track and field, or professional sports.

Here’s why some sports coaches host better coaching sessions, and are generally more successful.

What are the qualities of a great coach?

So, what makes a good coach? What qualities do some coaches have that others do not?

  • An expert understanding of their sport
  • Effective communication
  • Good coaches have the willingness to share knowledge 
  • Commitment, discipline, and passion

An expert understanding of their sport

Many of the great coaches were also athletes in the same sport.

For example, Phil Jackson won an NBA title with the New York Knicks as a player in 1973; Kenny Dalglish, a professional footballer player for Liverpool, Celtic, and Scotland, later went on to manage Liverpool, and Wayne Gretzky, arguably the greatest professional hockey player of all time, was also head coach at the Phoenix Coyotes.

While it’s not a requirement that the best coaches also be players, their first-hand athlete experience can certainly lend itself to a better understanding of the sport that they coach and how their athletes operate.

Athletes who turn into coaches can pass on their knowledge, from training techniques to mental preparation leading up to a big game. They can better relate to their athletes — they know what works, what it feels like to be a player, and what it takes to reach the highest level, especially if they achieved great success as an elite athlete.

Great coaching and effective communication go hand in hand

The importance of effective communication is coaching 101. But being able to state goals and expectations and deliver feedback clearly is a fundamental component of being a great coach.

But as you already know, communication is a two-way street. It takes two (or more) people to have a conversation. A great coach listens to their athletes — they know how they feel about training, if they’re experiencing any niggles or pains, and also share their goals so the coach can help them reach their full potential. It’s all about mutual respect.

Likewise, coaches should also look out for the well-being of their athletes. This includes an awareness of burnout — they should know the key signs to support their athletes and should be able to provide recovery advice if needed.

In recent years, burnout (and general injury awareness) has become one of the most important qualities in a successful coach.

Athlete feedback and communication are a part of the coaching process

There are countless stories of coaches not listening to their athletes, and this happens not only in grassroots sports, but also at the elite level. 

Take Mary Cain, for example—she was the fastest girl in America until she joined the Nike Oregon Project under the supervision of Alberto Salazar. In a touching piece for the New York Times, Cain describes how her coach and coaching team did not listen to her needs, encouraged her to lose an unhealthy amount of weight, and even drove her to the point of having suicidal thoughts.

This is a perfect example of what not to do as a coach. A coach should do quite the opposite: they need to support their athletes, listen to their concerns, have open conversations with their athletes and actually listen to what they are saying.

The role of a coach is to support their athletes — this needs to be the number one priority. This is the big picture — everything else, in theory, should fit into place if you prioritise this correctly.

Successful coaches can identify unique strengths and weaknesses

Also in the domain of effective communication comes the sub topic of strengths and weaknesses. We all have them as athletes. Whether you’ve got better technique but poor form in the final 400m, or a solid aerobic engine but a lack of awareness on the field.

A good coach can identify these areas (especially weaknesses) and communicate these in the right way and with the right attitude.

If an open line of communication and respect is evident, athletes will be more open to feedback. And ultimately, that’s what makes for great athletes.

Good coaches should consistently strive to build effective communication with their athletes. It will also lead athletes to ask more questions, express feedback, and make for a better and more productive coach-to-athlete relationship in the future.

Good coaches have the willingness to share knowledge

A great coach not only tells their athletes what to do — what sessions to perform and when to take it easy — but they tell their athletes WHY they are doing it.

Sharing their knowledge provides athletes with a reason to do what they are doing. It adds context to those gruelling workouts — if an athlete knows that it’ll make them faster, they are more likely to commit to their training fully.

This is especially true with individual sports, such as track and field events. A lot of training is done solo — if there’s ever the need for a little added motivation, it’s when you’re tackling an interval session alone on the track.

Top coaches use this as a tool to build self belief in their athletes.

Commitment, discipline, and passion 

A great coach has an infectious energy — they share their commitment and passion on the track, on the field, and in the locker room. 

Athletes want coaches who can motivate and inspire them — this is an especially useful trait during challenging training sessions and intense competition.

A passionate coach can talk about their sport for hours. They often show great discipline and commitment to each of their athletes, going above and beyond to support them. Many coaches even coach in an unpaid or volunteer role — these are the coaches who really love what they do, supporting the youth and grassroots athletes, in particular.

Of course, you can be a paid coach with commitment, discipline, and an infectious passion for your sport. But having these three traits can make a world of difference for your athletes. 

Coaches can use Rewire to improve athlete performance 

If you’re a coach, whether you train older adolescents or adults, you can use Rewire to gain a better holistic understanding of your athletes. For example, you can measure their daily readiness, identify trends in performance, assess recovery and fatigue states, and even recognise physiological, cognitive, and emotional domains which may affect performance.

Rewire for Teams provides coaches with the tools to make informed coaching recommendations while supporting the health and wellness of their athletes.

Rewire is the best tool for coaches and practitioners — you can take your coaching a step further with new insights to support your athletes more holistically. Successful coaches use it and so can you.

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Rewire can help your team.


What Separates a Good Coach From a Great Coach?

The difference between a good coach and a great coach could mean winning or losing. A coach teaches and provides guidance to athletes. But a great coach understands each of their athletes, their strengths and weaknesses, what drives them, and how to get the best out of each athlete or player.

But what makes me qualified to talk about coaches — more specifically, what makes one good, and another great?

I’ve worked with a few coaches when I used to run, one of which coached team GB runners. I’ve also interviewed a bunch of athletes on sports injury and discussed the coaching approach and how their coach reacted and supported their recovery and return to training.

So, I’ve seen first-hand the difference between a good coach and a great coach. But I’ve also read up on the literature to provide further details and insights into the very best coaches.

What makes a great coach?

Many coaches are good at what they do — they train their athletes for competition, and many of them go on to succeed. 

But from personal experience and from talking to others, great coaches provide equal attention and interest to all of their athletes. I’ve heard time and time again (and you might have too) of the coach who focused on their “star athletes,” paying less attention to their other athletes who then get injured or fall out of love with the sport.

And sometimes, a coach can give terrible advice — I’m talking about running through injuries and not listening to the symptoms the athlete proclaims (fortunately, this one is not from personal experience).

A great coach is someone who:

  1. Listens to the needs of their athletes
  2. Knows how to keep training fun
  3. Understands sports injury and how to prevent it 
  4. Practices excellent communication 

Keep reading to find out more about each trait.

“I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you’re doing. You have to be a salesman, and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish on the basketball floor.” — Phil Jackson.

Related: What Qualities Make A Great Sports Coach?

Listens to the needs of their athletes 

A good leader coaches a team, while a great coach coaches their athletes.

For example, some athletes respond better to lower-intensity training than others — if they train too hard too often, they’re more likely to become injured. Likewise, other athletes require more intensity to reach their peak and are less likely to encounter injury.

Athletes and coaches should have a communicative relationship — coaching shouldn’t be a dictatorship; it should be more of a democracy.

Great coaches listen to the needs of their athletes and adapt the training to best suit them.

Knows how to keep training fun 

We’ve covered the topic of athlete burnout a ton on the Rewire blog — it’s so important. Therefore, coaches should have an awareness of burnout, including the risk factors and how to prevent it.

You can have the most talented and hard-working athlete in the world, but if they succumb to burnout, they may never set foot in the pool, on the court, or on the track again. 

Dr. Ralph Richards, former swim coach at the Australian Institute of Sport, states the importance of variety in training — helping to combat mental fatigue and burnout [2].

For example, you could include some kind of fun competition into training once in a while. You should also mix up the sessions so you’re not repeating the same workout week in and week out.

Variety is key here — a great coach has a mix of key sessions and knows when their athletes need a break from their training with something a little more relaxed and fun.

Understands sports injury and how to prevent it 

The number of sports injuries is increasing. For example, one study from 2021 investigating the epidemiology of sports-related injuries in 498 amateur and professional adolescent athletes found a staggering 40.4% of athletes experienced an injury in 2019 [1]. That’s almost half of the athletes in the study. 

Higher injury rates were associated with a mix of factors, such as increased hours spent training, not performing warm-ups, using inadequate sports facilities, and performing improper technique without the supervision of a coach.

A great coach teaches their athletes the importance of warm-ups and cooldowns and reinforces proper technique. While some risk factors cannot be eliminated entirely, a great coach knows how to minimise these.

Moreover, any great coach should have an excellent understanding of sports injuries and how to prevent them. This includes preventive exercises, proper warmups and cooldowns, and knowing how to listen to their athlete’s concerns, and respond appropriately, e.g. prescribing rest and not encouraging the athlete to push through the pain (again, advice I’ve heard other coaches tell their athletes).

A great coach practices excellent communication 

Excellent communication between coaches and athletes is fundamental. 

A great coach knows how to talk to their athletes, understand their needs, and adapt the training to best suit them. 

While communication is a two-way street, a great coach is easy to talk to and offers exceptional advice to athletes who need it most.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby.

Coaches can use Rewire to help their athletes reach peak performance

If you’re a coach, you can use Rewire to gain a better holistic understanding of your athletes. You can measure their daily readiness, identify trends in performance, recovery and fatigue states, and even understand factors impacting their performance across physiological, cognitive, and emotional domains. Rewire for Teams allows coaches to make informed coaching recommendations and support a culture of health and wellness amongst athletes. 

Rewire is the ultimate tool for coaches and practitioners — allowing great coaches to do exceptional work. 

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Rewire can help your team.


  1. Prieto-González, P., Martínez-Castillo, J.L., Fernández-Galván, L.M., Casado, A., Soporki, S. and Sánchez-Infante, J., 2021. Epidemiology of sports-related injuries and associated risk factors in adolescent athletes: An injury surveillance. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(9), p.4857.