The Characteristics of Coaching Expertise

By Strand, Brad; Benson, David et al. | VAHPERD Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

The Characteristics of Coaching Expertise


Strand, Brad, Benson, David, Buck, Ronald, McGill, Weston, Smith, David, VAHPERD Journal


College basketball coaches Don Meyer, Mike Krzyzewski, and Pat Summit sit at the top of the overall wins column for college basketball. Meyer has a record of 923-324, a winning percentage of 74% (Official Website, 2013a); Krzyzewski has a record of 957-297, a winning percentage of 76% (Official Website, 2013b); and Summit has a record of 1098-208, a winning percentage of 84% (Official Website, 2013c). All three of these coaches have seen great success in their programs and many consider them experts in their field. Each of these coaches has similar characteristics that have made them experts, with one of the important characteristics being that they have all coached for over 35 years. This many years of coaching enabled each of them to gain knowledge, develop their philosophy, and use their experiences to teach and master their coaching techniques.

In every sport there are coaches who rise above the rest. Docheff, (2013) wrote about the leadership traits of coaching legends such as James Naismith, Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, and Bill Walsh. These coaches mastered their profession by becoming as efficient as they could be in many areas of teaching, coaching, and leadership. There are many aspects that contribute to being an expert coach, but planning and preparation are certainly vital (Baker, Horton, Robertson-Wilson, & Wall 2003; Wiman, Salmoni, & Hall 2010). These coaches were more precise in how they wanted their practice sessions to go and over time, developed a sense of intuition.

Possessing extensive, specialized knowledge allows expert coaches to draw from their many years of experience and solve problems at a superior level (De Marco & McCullick, 1997). The development of expertise in coaching is a long journey, but in order to gain such a high level of proficiency one has to partake in deliberate practice, thorough planning, and self-evaluation which leads to better problem solving skills and better outcomes for athletes. With this as a background, the rest of this paper will discuss the characteristics of expert coaches and the many attributes that contribute to being an expert coach.

Development of an Expert Coach

Thinking of coaching as a skill that needs to be developed and deliberately practiced allows coaches to breakdown the essence of what they are trying to accomplish. Bell (1997) identified the stages of expertise development as beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. Beginners display struggles such as learning the established rules and procedures. They seldom feel any personal control over workplace conditions and may even lack a sense of responsibility for their own actions (Bell, 1997). The more experience one earns, the more one can begin to predict outcomes and log recurring incidents which help them become more efficient when problem solving in the future. As coaches refine their coaching practices, it becomes easier to filter out unnecessary information in typical situations and instead, focus on essential information (Bell, 1997). If a problem does arise, experts are able to address the situation with fluidity, elegance, and ease (Tan, 1997).

Gaining experience and rising to the ranks of an expert only comes with time and deliberate practice. The concept of deliberate practice is that one actively seeks to improve an activity in which they are involved. More specifically, deliberate practice in coaching allows coaches to clearly define a task with the appropriate level of challenge for the specific learner (Gilbert & Trudel, 2012). This takes into account the years of development of interpersonal knowledge. Expert coaches are able to effectively communicate with their athletes, which in turn, allows them to explain difficult concepts of sport and sport skills. Some coaches have developed great interpersonal communication skills while others are required to work on those skills. Deliberate practice plays a role in that regard as well. …

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