As you look back at your own athletic careers, what qualities did the best coaches you came in contact with possess? Some common answers to this question relate to teaching abilities, sense of humor, caring and concern for others, and many more positive attributes. The purpose of this section is to help coaches understand that coaching exists on a continuum that ranges from directed to guided coaching styles. There are specific situations where different coaching styles must be applied to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all athletes. It is the goal of USA Rugby to develop athlete-centered coaches who work to enable athletes to perform at their best while enjoying all the benefits rugby has to offer. The beauty of rugby is that the more players are forced to make decisions, the more our coaches can adapt to a style that encourages this type of critical thinking, the greater our athletes will perform. It starts with coaches at the grass roots all the way to the national stage!
These descriptions offer two very different ends of the coaching continuum. As you move along the scale of coaching styles within context and task based activities, it is important to notice the differences. An athlete-centered coach tends to adopt more guided coaching practices. If you were to attend their trainings, you would be likely to witness less structured activities taking place. There would also be less explicit instruction and a greater amount of player freedom and decision-making going on. Take note of who is doing most of the talking during the instructional segments; athlete-centered coaches often ask questions to pull information for the player pre-existing knowledge. A training led by an athlete-centered coach may even look a bit chaotic as they encourage players to work out how best to master a skill-based game. Except when specific elements of safety are being addressed, there are likely few direct commands being given to athletes as they develop their skills.