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UK Coaching Team
Rapport Building and Communicating Organising and Planning Functions of a Coach

Top 10 Qualities You Need to be a Coach

Register / Login to Access. These transferable skills and abilities can be applied to any sphere of coaching. They will help you build rapport with the people you coach and will contribute significantly to maximising their experience, ensuring it is both enjoyable and rewarding

In coaching circles, there is a phrase that crops up time and time again. It is prevalent in handbooks, coach education courses and online learning platforms and is a favourite expression of coach developers:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to coaching.”

Don’t mistake this for a banal coaching cliché. Its frequent use should not detract from its value or its truth. Coaching is a people business and people are complex.

People’s incentives for engaging in sport and physical activity are wider than the sky. Their lifestyles and backgrounds are equally diverse. And what’s more, people’s individual wants, needs, goals and interests are in a constant state of flux. They are adapted, modified, discarded and reborn at regular points throughout their journey.

With the coach’s role to nurture and inspire people to perform and improve in accordance with their ever-changing needs and impulses, it is imperative coaches make a concerted effort to get to know every person they interact with, to understand what drives them to want to come back week after week, so that they can respond appropriately.

And to do this, they must possess a toolkit of essential skills and behaviours that strengthen their versatility and thus their ability to flex and tackle any coaching challenge that comes their way.

The good news is that these indispensable qualities are transferable – meaning they can be applied to any setting.

To become the best coach that you can be, and to help the people you coach achieve their best, it is vital you sharpen each one. And here are some handy tips – an illustrative but not exhaustive list – that will help you do just that.

The golden nuggets of advice have been collated from conversations, interviews and tips posted by members of ConnectedCoaches, UK Coaching’s free-to-join online community for coaches of all sports and activities.

  • Communicate clearly. Whether you are transmitting information verbally, non-verbally (visual gestures or facial expressions) or in writing, ensure the people you coach understand the message.
  • Communicate just one message at a time and, where possible, give an example to support your message.
  • Don’t assume that your participants know what you want.
  • Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when talking within your groups. This is a powerful way to establish rapport.
  • Communicating with the people you coach should be a dialogue not a monologue. Seeking to understand first is the key to great relationships and to great coaching.
  • In terms of communicating your broader philosophy, share your beliefs, strategies and expectations for the coming season with your participants – and parents – before the start of every campaign.
  • Have you thought about sketching out what is important to you as a person and coach?  It provides a great starting point for conversations with fellow coaches, athletes, parents and the wider support network.
  • Taking the time to explain why you are following certain coaching approaches and tactics is important, but making sure it is a joint effort through two-way conversation is just as important. 
  • And revisit topics at points throughout the campaign. For example, re-establishing role clarity and agreed selection policy; winning and development ethos; individual, team and performance-related goals.
  • If you are a children’s coach, always talk at their level. If they are on one knee, you go on one knee. Try to communicate face-to-face instead of talking down at them.


  • Use language and imagery that children can understand, and ask questions to make sure that they have listened and understood.  Allow them to summarise.  A story is a great way to capture an important message and make it ‘stick’.
  • Ask participants what practices, ideas and terminology works best for them and adapt your delivery accordingly. 
  • Signpost external resources. Don’t let your participants rely solely on you. And ask them to share them with you. Learning is two way!
  • Have confidence in your ability. You must believe in what you are doing and saying if you want to assure others. 
  • Don’t raise aspirations or hope through false promises. Be truthful to yourself and your participants when communicating feedback.  A crucial conversation often prevents a difficult conversation.
  • Creating time in your coaching sessions, often informally, will provide fertile ground. Remember, effective communication is an essential requirement of coaching as it will help you ascertain people’s individual wants and needs, relay information and provide constructive feedback. 

More resources below to help you develop your communication skills:

Building Rapport

Connect, communicate and build positive relationships

How to engage

People Skills

Discover how to be truly person-centred


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