What makes an effective coach?

There is no blueprint manual on what is required to be an effective coach.

It largely depends on the temperament of the group and how the coach relates to his players.

This is why we have seen many contrasting styles and approaches deemed equally successful in their tenures at the top level.

I found it interesting reading journalist Mark Robinson’s comments about Mick Malthouse in Tuesday’s Herald Sun.

He proposed that perhaps Carlton players were responding negatively to Malthouse’s erratic behaviour in the coaches box.

“Maybe his players see it and are now playing with fear rather than confidence, believing every mistake would invite a Malthouse tantrum”.

This can be the problem with “fire and brimstone” coaches that resort to giving their side a spray at every opportunity.

In a way it shows a lack of respect to the player and can definitely have a negative effect.

Players know when they make simple mistakes, such as a dropped mark or a bad kick – the basic fundamentals of the game.

And while some coaches deem it a lack of concentration and worthy of a spray, most times the cause of the problem is the exact opposite.

Players, especially the self-driven dedicated types, can overthink situations, such as executing a short pass, to the extent that they change their natural style and end up making an error.

That is not to say that there is no room for the good old fashioned “spray” anymore.

Players that disobey team orders and structures, or those that simply aren’t working hard enough may need a blast from time to time.

It is hard not to blame coaches for giving a heated message to their group because football is a passionate game.

Coaching can be a cut-throat caper and it is often the first position a football club looks to change when they are struggling on the field.

In recent times we have seen AFL coaches Brett Ratten and the late Dean Bailey made the scapegoat despite more concerning underlying issues at the club.

The best coach is one that can diversify their message and relate to all of their players on an individual level.

What makes one player tick can shatter another player’s confidence or motivation to perform.

Excuse the cliché but an effective coach makes their players want to give 100% for them out on the field.

Great communication skills may in fact be the most important characteristic needed to be successful.

There is no use having all the ideas if you cannot convey them effectively or you lose support of the playing group. Think Mark Neeld.

The roles of a coach change so drastically at different levels of football.

Country football coaches often play the role of recruiter, opposition analyst, player welfare manager, fitness coordinator and the list goes on.

Coaching senior football is something that I endeavour to do one day.

At the present I am enjoying coaching junior football, where I have been fortunate enough to coach consecutive U12 premierships with Northern Territory club St Marys.

I would like to think it was because of my coaching, but in reality I have been blessed with a talented group of kids that are prepared listen.

Obviously coaching senior football is a whole different ball game when compared to coaching junior football.

But we cannot discount the importance of having good junior coaches, because that’s where the champions are made.

I have seen talented junior footballers that have lost interest in the game or have not developed as well as they should have due to poor coaching.

I have been coached by a variety of people with different credentials.

From those that have played well in excess of 200 AFL games to those that have never played a game of competitive football.

Those that have fantastic football brains and also by those that simply have no idea.

In closing, I’ll leave you with what has been my favourite quote I have heard from a coach addressing his playing group.

Playing for Northern Territory in the NAB U18 Championships we faced NSW/ACT in the final game of the carnival.

With us having a 0-4 win-loss record things were getting desperate and in our pre-game address our coach Brenton Toy stated “I don’t care about winning; this is not about winning. I just HATE ******* losing! And so should you guys”.

While it may sound stupid for some, it resonated so well with the group and a match-winning goal from eventual draftee Jake Neade gave us our first and only win of the carnival.

So, what traits make a good coach?


TWITTER – @JClark182 

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Jackson – I love that you are putting back into footy and into the kids in your club. Your writing indicates that you are a deep thinker, and your track record suggests your are a good communicator and motivator.
    Great qualities for being a success in coaching and in life.

  2. Good question! In my experience the effective coach rarely needs to give a spray because he has leaders within the playing group who uphold the group’s standards more effectively than he ever could. The other feature that I have noted in my travels is that players of an effective coach believe that his primary goal every day but game day is to unlock their potential as a player.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great question Jackson your comment re Malthouse apples even more so to Hardwick in my opinion . Good communication , leadership skills , not to chop and change at the drop of a hat ( Robert Shaws huge weakness ) are vital and ability to treat every 1 the same ( Blights strength ) a extension is re team rules have the same consequence when a star player breaks them to when the battler does many a coaches downfall it results in loss of respect by the whole group if not implemented , love the topic Jackson

  4. Nick Gibson says

    Went to a junior grand final to watch some of my boys play (I was their teacher at the time)
    Wandered out to the 3/4 time huddles in a cliffhanger.
    Our boys were the underdogs, the other mob were undefeated all season.
    Went to the other mob first.
    The coach was giving the 11 and 12 year old boys a spray.
    ‘Their parents’ he thundered, ‘were ashamed of them’
    The surrounding parents looked more ashamed to be listening to this tripe and not taking their kids home.
    Off to my boys, two young coaches.
    ‘Boys’ they said, ‘You are absolute champions, it’s been a privilege to coach you this year. No matter what happens, we love you all, go and have some fun’

    They won.

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