Compose Your Coaching Philosophy

Many are familiar with football coach Pete Carroll and his championship runs with both the USC Trojans and the Seattle Seahawks. In his book Win Forever, Carroll describes working with defensive legend, Monte Kiffin, when he was a 26-year old graduate student. During one of their conversations, Kiffin pulled out a well-worn sheet of paper with no more than several sentences and began to share his personal coaching philosophy. As he listened, Carroll was “amazed at how clearly and succinctly he was able to express his philosophy.” In this moment, Kiffin shared a powerful belief: “In order to be successful, you must have a consistent philosophy. If you change who you are from year to year, you’re never going to be great at anything.”

Unfortunately for Carroll, it would be many years and two firings before he would heed Kiffin’s sage advice, put pen to paper, and formulate a personal coaching philosophy that would bring all his ideas together. Instead, he continued to use a mix of disjointed principles and themes he observed throughout his career.

Carroll’s experience isn’t an exception. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden coached for 15 years before developing his Pyramid of Success. One season after putting his behavioral blueprint on paper, however, he won the first of ten NCAA titles.

No matter what your lot in life, you can benefit from a well-crafted leader philosophy. For a coach who is leading a diverse staff and impressionable players, while helping guide a team from from Point A to Point B, it is essential.

With regard to a philosophy, less than 25% of the coaches we’ve worked with have actually put “pen to paper.” Your Coaching Philosophy is an internal document that explains who you are as a person and professional, and how you will lead a team. Based on your beliefs, knowledge, and experiences, it guides how you behave as a coaching leader, how you measure success, how you interact with others, and how you make decisions.

“A set of beliefs, values, and principles that strongly influences how we interpret reality and guide our understanding of influencing humans. It’s our philosophy, our understanding, and interpretation of leadership, that affects how we react to people, events, and situations around us.” — George Ambler

Different than a team vision, your philosophy serves as a compass to guide you no matter where you find yourself coaching. There is no specific format…it simply must be authentic, clear, and from the heart. To begin composing your philosophy, carve out some solitary time and answer the following questions:

1. Why do I lead? (reveals your purpose)

2. How do I define success and how do I want my followers to describe me after I’m gone? (paints your desired future)

3. What are my core values and/or what do I place my faith in? Specifically define these identified values. (forms your foundational belief system)

4. What are the principles by which I choose to live my life? (guiding principles that translate values into action)

5. What type of environment do I want to create? (remember…your people will spend the majority of their waking hours in the atmosphere you allow)

Once you’ve answered the above questions, capture and frame your responses in a creative 1-page document that works for you. No coach speak. No convoluted jargon. No business rhetoric. Just an emotional, authentic, and accurate depiction of what matters most to you. And remember, don’t become burdened by the task. Use the questions as a guide, but take the liberty to “add to” or amend the process to what best suits you and your style. If you’ve gotten to this point in your coaching journey, you’ve worked with some exceptional coaching leaders who have taught you much. Pull from what you loved as well as what you didn’t like. Much like Carroll, you’ll discover a new-found ability to talk about your deepest beliefs and how you will lead a team.

Don’t delay. Whether a current head coach or an aspiring assistant, the time invested in this exercise today will maximize your potential and yield dividends to you and those you lead for years to come. You’ll become more self-aware, self-confident, and better prepared for the leadership challenges ahead. If you’d like to learn more about crafting your customized culture blueprint, or if we can help you in your personal leadership journey, contact us at horizonperformance.com.

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