Qualities I Admire in My Favourite Coaches

“Players respond to coaches who really have their best interests at heart.”

~Mike Singletary


Being involved in sport for so long, I have played for A LOT of different coaches. They all had different levels of experience, both as players and coaches, different approaches to the game, and different coaching styles. I have played for some of the most famous and successful coaches in the world, and for some who were just starting their careers. Some were very focused on technical development, whereas other preferred to take a more tactical or mental approach to training. I have seen it all.

No matter who I play for, I always try to learn whatever I can, but like any relationship, there are some coaches that I connect with better than others. There are certain qualities that I have found to be common among all of my favourite coaches, and I thought it would be interesting to share some of those qualities with you all.

Qualities I Admire in Coaches

1. They care about athletes as people first

As athletes, especially as we start to play in higher and higher levels, it is clear that sometimes people fail to see us as anything other than athletes. We almost become like machines who go to practice, perform, and recover. Being in such an intensive environment day after day can sometimes start to take its toll, and it is important to be recognized as human, and to have our emotional or mental needs acknowledged.

The best coaches I have played for see their athletes as people first, and athletes second. They know that volleyball is something we do, but is not who we are, and they are very in tune with our needs. When athletes know deep down that a coach has their best interests in mind, it makes it much easier for them to fight through the tough days, and to trust in the process the coach is developing.

2. They are creative

There is absolutely nothing worse as an athlete than doing the exact same practice every single day. It is not only boring, but by continually performing the same drills and skills over and over everyday, our bodies adjust, and we stop improving. Consistently switching up drills and practices keeps athletes mentally sharp, and forces their bodies to perform different movement patterns, thereby increasing improvement.

My favourite coaches were some of the most creative. There were always a wide variety of exercises and drill objectives, and it kept us engaged and interested in practice because we didn’t know what to expect. Related to this, I have found that good coaches are able to identify necessary improvements in both the team and the individual athlete. They are able to create drills or design practices to address both of these things, sometimes at the same time. They understand that there isn’t a “one size fits all” model, and that different athletes may need to take different approaches to arrive at the same destination.

Coaching is not easy, and coming up with new ideas for drills can be challenging. The good ones, though, mix up the routine, and are always trying to create exercises to maximize their benefit to the team and individual.

3. They respect every opponent, and preparation is always the same

One of the traits of a great team is that they respect every opponent, and always prepare the same way for matches, no matter who they are playing. In my opinion, this attitude starts with the coach. When the coach takes every opponent seriously, and prepares their team as such, it creates a focused and deliberate team culture. It is great to be confident, but good coaches respect everyone, because anything can happen in sport. That is why we play the game.

4. They adjust

It is great to have a practice plan or a game plan, but sometimes, no matter the preparation, things don’t go the way we anticipate. Players may be injured and miss practice, or the opponent may be running plays we haven’t seen before. When this happens, we have to adjust. At the highest levels, and depending on the sport, the athletes may make adjustments themselves, but in my experience, good coaches are able to react and change course when necessary.

To me, this demonstrates a good understanding of the game and, in a practice setting, shows that they have a clear vision for how the team can improve. Sport is full of variables, and one of the most alluring aspects of sport is the back and forth between teams, and the evolution of a team’s strategy over the duration of a match. Being able to adjust as a coach not only gives a team a better chance to win, but helps teach athletes how to get out of trouble and think for themselves when the time comes.

5. They inspire excellence

Good coaches set a standard of excellence in their gyms and, like any good leader, they inspire their athletes to be better. As its essence, I feel that coaching is the act of helping people reach their maximum potential, and setting a high standard is definitely a step on the way to get there.

The coaches I admire most have an expectation of professionalism from their athletes, and hold them accountable. Coaches have different ways of expressing this; some yell, some punish, some are very quiet. No matter what style a coach takes, I find that as long as athletes understand that a coach has their best interests in mind, inspiring them to be better and work hard becomes much easier.

6. They are always learning and growing

As is often true in any field, the best coaches understand their own limitations, and don’t assume to be all-knowing. They surround themselves with people who’s skills complement their own, and they are not afraid to ask for help. Assistant coaches should be more than stat-takers or ball tossers!!

I really admire people who are always looking to learn new things, and who value self-improvement. Even in coaching, there will always be people out there who have different experiences or insights than you. To put the ego aside to pick those individuals’ brains and maybe learn up a new trick or two is not weakness…. it’s smart.

I am no expert on coaching, but having played for so many people, the above points illustrate qualities that I personally admire in coaches. I’m not saying that coaches HAVE TO adhere to these to be considered good at their job, but taking even a couple of these ideas into consideration could be helpful. I just want to present something for you all to think about.

What are some qualities you have noticed in coaches that you admire?

xo, Sarah



  • KD Phillips April 5, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Please email your impression of coach Cook. Thanks. KD

  • Julio April 5, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Sarah. This is very good. Thank you for sharing.


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