“It Doesn’t Get Better By Chance, It Gets Better By (Purposeful) Change: The Development of Positive Coaching Practice in Athletic Development

In our previous blog we explored we the importance of reason and choice in developing nutrition behaviours in youth athletes. We proposed that at the epicentre of our nutrition programme is education. The provision of meaningful education messaging, through signage to workshops to bespoke individual support, will always be the foundation of developing positive behaviours and practices around nutrition and fuelling in our environment. In this blog we will explore the importance of the coaching environment in the context of athletic development. At the heart of this will be the role of positive coaching in the acquisition of physical, psychological and behavioural skills and capabilities to support an individual’s developmental journey in sport.
Positive coaching as been previously defined in the research literature. The 4-Cs of positive coaching have been commonly identified, as can be seen below. I have added my interpretation of the 4-Cs within my coaching practice:

  1. Competence – to experience success
  2. Confidence – to experience independence
  3. Connection – to experience a sense of belonging
  4. Character – to express training behaviours

Whilst I am constantly looking to challenge and support the development of these areas in the young athletes I coach, I am conscious there are several factors that may accelerate or derail the development of these characteristics, including but not limited to:

1. Maturity – both physical and cognitive
2. Training age – the impact of past physical training experience on current ability
3. Commitment – a reflection of one’s application and/or contribution

These factors may be influential at various stages of development and I must be progressive yet considered in my approach to the development of the 4-Cs to ensure realistic goals and expectations are set and met. In this context, I would see the process of development through a guided discovery approach in which several critical stages exist:

  1. Autonomy – programme ownership
  2. Mastery – process ownership
  3. Purpose – motivational ownership

In summary, I believe striving to achieve the 4-Cs of positive coaching in a physical development programme is an intention that will provide rich rewards for the youth athlete later in their development journey. It is my role therefore, to consider the interaction of maturity, training age and commitment and offer both challenging and support in my coaching practice and coaching context to facilitate development. The outcome of programme, process and motivational ownership is always front and centre of my professional judgement and decision making and for me, provides the operational basis on which to see the 4-Cs of positive coaching come to life.

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