Creating Your Coaching Philosophy

The best coaches don’t just coach well, they plan well. They determine how they want their players to play and create a culture of process and focused execution. Do you do this? If not, it helps to have a coaching philosophy.

A coaching philosophy is a well thought-out list or paragraph that summarizes the keys to your coaching. It could include goals, culture, and offensive and defensive philosophies. It doesn’t have to follow any specific example, but those are some components you may wish to include in it. What you want is something on paper that you can refer back to the remind you of what your purpose is, what your goals are, and what your process is to meet that purpose and achieve those goals.

The great coach Pat Summitt had a philosophy that was a simple list of 12 points known as “The Definite Dozen”. These points showcased her expectations of her team.

Pat Summitt’s Definite Dozen

  • Respect yourself and others
  • Take full responsibility
  • Develop and demonstrate loyalty
  • Learn to be a great communicator
  • Discipline yourself so no one else has to
  • Make hard work your passion
  • Don’t just work hard- work smart
  • Put the team before yourself
  • Make winning an attitude
  • Be a competitor
  • Change is a must
  • Handle success like you handle failure


Obviously these ideals were successful for Summitt: she won over 1,000 games as the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, including 8 National Championships. For her the key was not just drawing up expectations and goals, but following through with them and getting players to buy in to them.

Your coaching philosophy should include your core values for your team, your expectations, and a strategy on how to achieve success. While it’s helpful to study and observe what other coaches do, t’s important that you make your coaching philosophy yours. Don’t directly copy other coaches, but instead use theirs as a guide to develop your own. You’ll be most influential when you’re honest and authentic with your players.

Most importantly, your coaching philosophy should focus on how you will develop young athletes on and off the court. You’re main goal isn’t training young athletes to win games and tournaments, it’s developing young athletes to be the best they can be in all areas of life. We call this the 360 Progression: developing athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially. One of the great coaches from the early to mid-1900’s was a man named John Bunn. He described his coaching philosophy with this sentence: “The important thing is to provide an atmosphere in which, by the way athletes react to the challenges they receive in sports, they are strengthened for their role as responsible citizens.”

Spend some time working on your own coaching philosophy. Once you have one put together, share it with fellow coaches. Discuss it and share ideas. You can influence other coaches who may not have a philosophy down on paper to make one. Coaching is more than a job; it’s a calling. Knowing why you’re doing it and the processes for developing young athletes will be beneficial. Not just for you but for the numerous young athletes you will influence.