Improve your coaching by not coaching

May 03, 2016

Originally published in Coaches plan by the Coaching Association of Canada on and written by Wayne Goldsmith. (Original post available here).  

You read that right – improve your coaching by not coaching. Coaching improves performance. But too much coaching – over coaching – can have a negative influence on performance.

Who over coaches?

Typically five types of coaches over coach:

  1. Young, inexperienced coaches who are trying too hard.
  2. Coaches who lack real belief in themselves and who try to make up for it by giving too much information. These coaches often want to be liked, and feel the more coaching they do, the more the athletes will like them.
  3. Coaches who lack belief in their athletes and feel the need to control every element of preparation and performance.
  4. Coaches who are being evaluated or assessed and aim to impress by being seen to control every element of the training session, i.e., they believe that great coaching is talking more.
  5. Ego-driven coaches who see athletes/players as a vehicle to promote themselves and their reputations.
There are many problems associated with over coaching. Here are 10:
  1. All sports require athletes to take responsibility for decision-making and problem solving in competition. A coach who allows athletes to make decisions in training is setting them up to succeed in competition.
  2. All sports require athletes to drive their own performance in competition. A coach who allows athletes to take responsibility for their own performance in training has prepared them to win in competition.
  3. Over coaching assumes athletes have nothing to contribute to the performance. In reality, most of what we learn as coaches is from working with, listening to, and observing athletes.
  4. Over coaching says, “This is my team, my performance.” Whereas, most successful teams are ones where the coach leads but the athletes drive the performance. Ownership of the performance is shared.
  5. Giving too much information at inappropriate times can confuse athletes, causing them to make errors and bad decisions.
  6. Coaching is about giving athletes independence. Over coaching creates a dependence on the coach for decision-making and problem-solving which is performance suicide.
  7. Over coaching stifles on-the-field creativity. Quality coaching provides opportunity for creativity and genius to be expressed through great performances.
  8. Over coaching creates frustration in the athletes and assistant coaches, staff, etc. Everyone on the performance team can contribute to the success of the group if given the right opportunity.
  9. Over coaching can create anxiety and pressure, particularly when athletes are over coached in the final few days before a big competition. As a general rule, coach less as the competition gets closer.
  10. Over coaching can send negative messages of panic to the athletes, e.g.: “We have not done the preparation we need to be successful, so I am going to keep coaching until the last minute.” Quality coaches lead by example and their confidence through words and actions.
So how can you avoid over coaching?
  • Believe in yourself. All great coaching flows from self-confidence and self-belief.
  • Be selfless – the opposite of selfish. Put the athletes first and your own ego in your back pocket.
  • Coaching is a performance partnership. The more faith and belief you place in your athletes, the more you can both grow and improve.
  • Empower athletes to make decisions, make errors, solve problems, learn and grow in training. Provide them with a wide range of training experiences to teach better decision making.
  • Accept that all coaches, regardless of their level of performance and experience, are learners. It does not matter if you have coached athletes to five gold medals at the Olympics, coaching is lifelong learning and a career of ongoing development. Accept this, and the humility that comes with it. 

Wayne Goldsmith is an Australian coach and coaching consultant who is a widely recognized writer, speaker, and thought leader in swimming.

Coaches plan is an online magazine for Canada’s coaches published three times a year by the Coaching Association of Canada.  To read more Coaches plan articles, please visit