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  • Sarah McQuade

Why Quality Coaching Matters by Sarah McQuade, Coach Development Consultant & Sr. Director with USTA

When you watch or listen to excellent coaches, what is it that you notice them do or say unbelievably well? What have excellent coaches done during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Undoubtedly, they know their X’s and O’s; including a sound technical and tactical grasp of their sport. But what else sets them apart?

Excellent coaches:

  • Relate to players’ as people first

  • Apply different approaches for different players

  • Have highly evolved and flexible communication skills

  • Ask great questions that challenge players to think and act for themselves and listen to their answers in order to deepen understanding

  • Are unafraid to use silence as a go-to teaching tool, giving the player quality time and space to think

  • May share the decision-making process with athletes while delivering feed- back in a way that allows athletes to retain understanding and gain in- dependence and confidence in their abilities

  • Have flexed their coaching approaches to manage the challenges and embrace the opportunities associated with COVID-19. They have been a role model. They have maintained contact with each athlete. They have established a new/different culture. They have embraced the use of virtual technologies to stay connected. They have focused on the skills that really matter, which aren't necessarily the sport specific ones. They have celebrated effort. They were there.

Excellent coaches adopt a player or athlete-centered approach to coaching. With its origins in humanistic psychology, athlete-centered coaching emphasizes the development of the whole person. It empowers the athlete to take more responsibility and ownership over their performances in their sport and in life. Athlete-centered coaching has gained immense traction in the sports coaching world and is more than just a statement. It is a coaching choice.

An athlete centered approach to coaching should sit at the heart of your personal coaching philosophy. Now ask yourself, what is your personal coaching philosophy? What specifically does it speak to or focus on? Performance improvement or whole athlete development? Practice design or the cultivation of high-quality learning and development environment? What does it reinforce about your choices in terms of coaching behaviors?

If what you know and believe about athlete centered coaching is true and you want to commit to integrating this, ask yourself how well your philosophy is translated into practice? Notice which elements of your philosophy when applied in your coaching context are congruent with the athlete centered coaching approach. Notice which are not. And now ask yourself what you can do more, differently and even better to model an athlete centered coaching approach.

Why ask and answer these questions? Because #qualitycoachingmatters


About Sarah:

Sarah is the founding director of e.t.c coaching consultants, an international coach development practice. She has spent 20 years working within education, sports and sports coach education. She

led the technical development of the UK Coaching Certificate (a professional qualifications framework) with sports coach UK, the UK governments lead agency for coaching. 

She spent 10 years consulting with sports organizations in the UK to support the training and ongoing professional development of coaches and coach developers. Organizations included UK Sport, Sport Scotland, The Professional Golf Association, Rugby Football Union and UK Athletics among others.


Now based in the USA, Sarah works collaboratively with partners to create the right coaching systems, coaching programs and coaches to ensure they can positively

impact athlete experiences and outcomes. At the delivery end of coaching, much of her work is focused on helping beginner coaches learn how to coach and established coaches think differently about how they do what they do in order to improve their coaching effectiveness.

Sarah counts various national and international sports organizations as clients including the US Olympic Committee, International Olympic Committee, World Rowing, USA Football, sports coach UK and the British Horse Society. She works extensively with the University of Delaware and of course United Soccer Coaches where she is a tutor and mentor on the Master Coach Program. She has also designed and delivered United Soccer Coaches’ Coach Developer Diploma.

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