Good Coach – Bad Coach


Phillip Bazzini wrote the following in response to my post about Jim Steen : Which leads me to a thought I have been pondering; if coaches’ success is measured almost exclusively in wins/losses, how do we measure our success as coaches of athletic development? Phil, this is a great question. Especially in light of the fact that I think we are in a crisis situation in regard to caoching today. There is a distict lack of trained coaches accross sports at the developmental level. The attitude is anyone can coach. I don’t think so. Just becaue you plyed the game at any level does not qualify you to coach. (That is another topic for another post)

Let me begin by giving my opinion of a what makes up a good coach in general and then I will get specific to the Athletic Development coach. This is something that puzzled me from the day I got into coaching in 1969. I saw coaches that were recognized as great coaches that could not coach their way out of a wet paper bag. My observation then and now is that they were blessed with talent and were smart enough not to screw it up. I saw this at the high school where I coached. They were dominant in football for a long period, but when the talent ran out, the same coach doing the same things was terrible. He was not a very good coach. he coach football, not the people who played football. A good coach coaches people not the sport. I am also convinced that recognition does not necessarily make a good coach. There are so many coaches at junior high schools, high schools, small colleges, swim clubs and tennis clubs that consistently do a great job of developing the talent they have. Helping them to be the best they can be. There may not be any DI athletes come out of those programs but the kids learn their sport and have a great experience competing and improving. Good coaches are good teachers of fundamentals, they have discipline that is fair and firm. Great communication skills are very important to be a good coach, communication with everyone, the administration, parents, assistant coaches and most importantly the athletes.

What makes a good Athletic Development coach? The same as above, the coach who makes the most of the talent they have to work with. Do the athletes consistently improve? Are they free of preventable injuries? At the pro level do they actually work with the players? In so many situations the AD coach is a figurehead that the players avoid like a plague because they do not have faith in the coaches ability. I know one coach who is considered a great S&C coach because of the championship teams he ‘worked ” with, who never worked with more than four players on the team on a regular basis. So winning is not a validation of a good AD coach. How about being S&C coach of the year? Most of the time those are popularity contests, if you drink and socialize with the good old boys then you are a candidate for coach of the year. AD coaches are part of the support team. As support team members they should be anonymous, not upfront. The same holds true for doctors and trainers. The focus should be on the athlete. A good AD coach is organized, and knowledgeable. They have ability to communicate and motivate the athlete. They should have a growth mindset. They have a thorough plan and then implement that plan. They thoroughly understand the sport they are working with.

These are my opinions, I would be interested in your thoughts and ideas.
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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