The Complete Guide to Successful Coaching

Mr N Hopkins, a road running competitor from the UK, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"This really is the definitive reference in it's area - even the BBC link to it instead of producing their own content."

A message from

Brian Mackenzie
Sports Coach Founder and Web Master
UK Athletics Senior Coach (UKA 4)

Dear How To Win reader

The role of the coach has been defined as one which:

"enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavours"

and it has been said that:

"the wise coach develops not only the fullest physical potential in his charges, but also those capacities and habits of mind and body which will enrich and ennoble their later years"

The role of the coach could be quite daunting. The above implies what could be construed as quite awesome responsibility, especially for the part-time non-professional.

I believe the role of the coach is to create the right conditions for learning to happen and to find ways of motivating the athletes.

Most athletes are highly motivated and therefore the task is to maintain that motivation and to generate excitement and enthusiasm.

The roles that you will find you undertake as a coach will be many and varied and you will find at some stage in your coaching career that you will be : instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, advisor, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counsellor, organiser, planner and the Fountain of all Knowledge.

Coaching Skills

As a coach you will find that you need to develop many skills. These include:

bulletknow how to communicate effectively with your athletes
bulletunderstand the learning process and training principles
bulletunderstand and implement appropriate teaching methods
bulletunderstand the various coaching styles
bulletunderstand the capabilities of growing children
bulletadvise athletes on track safety
bulletunderstand the causes and recognise the symptoms of over-training
bulletunderstand how to reduce the risk of injury to your athletes
bulletprepare training programmes to meet the needs of each athlete
bulletassist athletes to develop new skills
bulletuse evaluation tests to monitor training progress and predicting performance
bulletadvise athletes on their nutritional needs
bulletunderstand and know how to develop the athlete's energy systems
bulletadvise athletes on relaxation and mental imagery skills
bulletadvise athletes on the use of legal supplements
bulletevaluate the athlete's competition performance
bulletevaluate athlete/training and athlete/coach performance

Coaching Roles

As a coach you will have many roles, including:

bulletAdvisor - Advising athletes on the training to be conducted and suitable kit and equipment.
bulletAssessor - Assessing athletes performance in training and in competition
bulletChauffeur - Transporting them to sporting events if parents or family are unavailable to take them.
bulletCounsellor - Resolving emotional problems on the basis that sharing anxieties can be both relieving and reassuring.
bulletDemonstrator - Demonstrate to the athletes the skill you require them to perform. To achieve this it is important that you also keep fit.
bulletFriend - Over the years of working with an athlete a personal relationship is built up where as well as providing coaching advice you also become someone, a friend, who they can discuss their problems or share their success with. It is important to keep personal information confidential because if you do not then all respect the athlete had for you as a friend and coach will be lost.
bulletFacilitator - Identify suitable competitions for them to compete in to help them achieve their overall objectives for the year.
bulletFact finder - Gathering data of national and international results and to keep abreast of current training techniques.
bulletFountain of knowledge - This may be part of the advisor role in that you will often be asked questions on any sporting event, events that were on the television, diet, sports injuries and topics unrelated to their sport.
bulletInstructor - Instructing athletes in the skills of their sport.
bulletMentor - When athletes attend training sessions you are responsible, to their parents and family, for ensuring that they are safe and secure. You have to monitor their health and safety whilst training and support them should they have any problems or sustain any injuries.
bulletMotivator - Maintain the motivation of all the athletes the whole year round.
bulletOrganiser and planner - Preparation of training plans for each athlete and organise attendance at meetings and coaching clinics.
bulletSupporter - Competition can a be very nerve racking experience for some athletes and often they like you to be around to help support them through the pressures. Role of a 'Friend' and perhaps 'Counsellor' come in here to.

Is Coaching an Art or a Science?

To support the coach there is a wealth of scientific information based on research conducted with athletes. Information is available to support the coach and athlete in all areas of training and development including nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, physiology & medicine.

There are a number of scientific methods to measure and analyse the athlete's performance e.g. computer aided analysis of VO2 max, lactate levels, running technique etc.

The art of coaching comes when the coach has to analyse the scientific data and convert it into coaching and training programmes to help develop the athlete. This analysis process relies heavily on the coach's experience and knowledge of the event/sport and the athlete concerned.

By understanding the science, which is the foundation of training, a well designed training program can be developed that will help an athlete reach their full potential. The art is understanding the science and then applying it.

What a coach wants to know

Many years ago as a new coach I wanted to know what I had to do to
develop my athletes at each stage of the season. The questions I wanted answered, included the following:

bulletWhat are the different stages of a season?
bulletWhat are the stage objectives?
bulletHow can these objectives be achieved?
bulletHow can progress be evaluated?
bulletWhat drills are there to develop correct technique for each event and sport
bulletHow do I correct bad technique?
bulletWhat should be in a warm up and a cool down - and so on.

And what about non-athletic activities, such as:

bulletheart rate monitors,
bullettraining aids,
bulletsports drinks,
bulletinjury prevention,
bulletover training,
bulletthe energy systems used by different events

The coaches of today still have the same questions — I know because they keep asking me them on my website, Sports Coach.

When I set up the Sports Coach website in 1996, my objective was to address these questions, providing training and coaching advice world wide for athletes, coaches and students studying sport-related qualifications.

The perfect partnership of practical coaching experience and sports science research

Earlier this year, I started a partnership with Peak Performance, the world-renowned sports science newsletter.

Over the years I have received and read every word of every issue of Peak Performance and always enjoyed their translations of the latest sports science research into practical advice that coaches and athletes can use to improve performances.

This partnership has made it possible for me to offer you what I call my complete guide to Successful Coaching, although its real name is Brian Mackenzie’s Successful Coaching

Here is what Mr N Basalyga, an athletics competitor from USA, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"Your site is great! I have learned a whole lot and the suggested training programs you have made for all different events are excellent. The training has helped my endurance and made me a faster sprinter. Thanks a lot"

Brian Mackenzie’s Successful Coaching

In a regular newsletter, I will help you become a better coach and then you will help your athletes improve their performances and achieve their potential.

I’ll answer those same questions that I asked all those years ago and that coaches across all sports still want answered. I’ll give you practical advice based on years of experience and the very latest sports science research.

Here’s a taster of what’s planned for the first issue of Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, due out at the end of March:

bulletI understand strength, endurance, mobility but what is conditioning? Here’s how to develop the physical condition of your team
bulletWhat ergogenic aids are there to support the coach (what’s ergogenic)?
bulletEndurance – How to develop a good solid base on which to develop speed.
bulletDeveloping a circuit training session
bulletThe attributes of a successful athlete
bulletWhat you do between work intervals can be as important as the work itself
bulletRecognising weakness

I understand strength, endurance, mobility but what is conditioning? Here’s how to develop the physical condition of your team

One of the misconceptions in the sports world is that a sportsperson gets in shape by just playing or taking part in his/her chosen sport.

If a stationary level of performance, consistent ability in executing a few limited skills, is your goal then engaging only in your sport will keep you there.

However, if you want the utmost efficiency, consistent improvement, and balanced abilities, sportsmen and women must participate in year round conditioning programs. The bottom line in sports conditioning and fitness training is stress. Not mental stress, but adaptive body stress.

Sportsmen and women must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress to increase physical capabilities.

Here is what Mr C Alexander, an athletics coach from the USA, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"As a first year track coach last year, I really struggled to find informative information about all of the sprinting events until I found this site. Not only did it help me, but it helped me take a team of 12 girls that had never won district almost to STATE!! Well done with this website. Thanks a lot."

What ergogenic aids are there to support the coach (what’s ergogenic)? Bet you never knew there were so many ergogenic aids in the Coaches arsenal

With better dope testing methods and hence the possibilities of detection and life ban from the sport, athletes and coaches are looking for legal ways to improve performance and/or hasten recovery.

The various ways by which performance can be improved are known as Ergogenic Aids. They include:

bulletMechanical Aids
bulletPharmacological Aids
bulletPhysiological Aids
bulletNutritional Aids
bulletPsychological Aids

Here is what Mrs S Watkinson, from the UK, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"Thanks from a complementary therapist able to pass on valuable advice to her clients, sporting types and non-sporting who also has two kids who swim for a local club and get more out of their sessions than ever before!!!"

Endurance – How to develop a good solid base on which to develop speed.

Endurance exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowers blood pressure. It also has positive psychological effects. Various scientific studies have shown that regular exercise reduces anxiety, improves self-esteem, and increases self-confidence.

bulletEnergy pathways
bulletTypes of endurance
bulletAerobic endurance – what is and how do we develop it
bulletAnaerobic endurance – what is and how do we develop it
bulletSpeed endurance – what is and how do we develop it
bulletStrength endurance – what is and how do we develop it
bulletDeveloping a circuit training session

The attributes of a successful athlete

What you do between work intervals can be as important as the work itself.

Does it really make a difference what you do between work intervals?

Research carried out recently in France answers that question with a resounding yes.

The new study suggests that if you're carrying out short, very intense work intervals, you're far better off exercising lightly during your recovery intervals, compared to just resting.

Active recoveries lead to better quality work intervals, which ultimately produce higher fitness levels and improved competitive performances.

Here is what Mr G Yiannibas, a road running competitor from Greece, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"Thank you very much for sharing your many years of experience as a coach. I plan to run my first marathon this year and I have found extremely important information to help me train and improve my performance."

Recognising weakness

One of the most common sites of injury, regardless of the sport, is the lower back region. There is a whole host of causes for lower back pain; for example, in runners, weak or inflexible hamstrings can often be the culprit. Poor posture is another common cause, so conditioning of the muscles that help to maintain solid posture should form part of the schedule of anyone who exercises regularly, whatever their discipline or sporting standard.

A variety of muscle groups contribute to good posture and all require attention. Naturally the lower back muscles can do with strengthening. Work on the abdominal muscles is also important because it will complement work you do on the back region.

It is dangerous to develop muscular imbalances by working on just one side of the body.

The contribution of the Gluteal and hamstring muscles should not be overlooked when considering sound posture and preventing injury to the back region.

Here is what Mr I Baez, an athletics coach from the USA, said about Brian Mackenzie's coaching advice:

"I am a Fitness Trainer for the US Army, "Sports Coach" has helped me increase the effectiveness of my personal training sessions as well as unit sessions for over 100 soldiers. I have implemented Plyometrics and Speed /Agility Drills into all my workouts and the effects are outstanding. Run times are getting faster and injuries are being reduced. As you may know, as soldiers we are required to perform in the most adverse conditions. I have recommended your site to my fellow Sergeants and Trainers and their reactions are very similar to mine — Hoooaaa!!!"


bullet8-week proprioceptive training programme
bulletSports Psychology report from Peak Performance
bulletCarbohydrate Report from Peak Performance

…and discover...

bullet"perhaps the most important training method of all"
bullethow you can quickly train and protect your muscles by doing very simple exercises — the results are fantastic!
bulleteffective mental training techniques that will improve your athletes’ performances
bullethow to increase your performance with the right diet

This message comes from Brian Mackenzie and Electric Word plc, 67-71 Goswell Road, London, EC1V 7EP United Kingdom