What Makes An Effective Coach?

Definition of effective coaching

What differentiates an effective coach from an ineffective coach? What is an expert coach?There are many definitions in the literature of what effective coaching looks like, however, Côté & Gilbert propose the following definition of effective coaching:

The consistent application of integrated professional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal knowledge to improve athletes’ competence, confidence, connection, and character in specific coaching contexts.

This blog post will outline and breakdown the main points in Côté & Gilbert’s paper titled ‘An Integrative Definition of Coaching Effectiveness and Expertise’. If you would like to read the full paper please see the reference at the bottom of this article.

The 3 components of effective coaching

Côté & Gilbert’s proposed definition of effective coaching contains 3 key components to include: coaches’ knowledge, athletes’ outcomes and coaching context which will be explained below.

1) Coaches' knowledge

Coaches knowledge is broken down by Côté & Gilbert’s into 3 areas:

Professional knowledge – this is sport specific knowledge typically learnt on coach courses, clinics and workshops. This would, for example, include knowledge such as how to hit a serve or forehand. Often coach education provides knowledge on technical, tactical, mental and physical aspects of the game which would all be professional knowledge.

Interpersonal knowledge – this is the coaches ability to interact with their athletes, athlete parents and other professionals such as a strength and conditioning coach or physio. To be successful the coach must constantly improve their interpersonal knowledge  and social skills to be able to effectively communicate with a variety of people.

Intrapersonal knowledge – this is the coaches ability to be able to reflect on their own practice. Getting the best out of someone requires the coach to understand their own strengths and areas of development. 

All 3 areas of knowledge are needed in order to be an effective coach.

2) Athletes' outcomes

Côté & Gilbert explain the 4 C’s that should occur as a result of effective coaching:

Competence – improving the athletes technical and tactical ability, healthy habits and improved health and fitness. Ultimately, resulting in successful performance outcomes in competition. 

Confidence – increasing the athletes self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, level of enjoyment playing the sport and overall self-worth. 

Connection – improving the athletes ability to build positive relationships and interact with people both within their sport and in life. 

Character – helping the athlete to be caring, compassionate, respectful and be empathetic, hold integrity and be a responsible person. 

3) Coaching context

Côté & Gilbert explain the coach must be aware of the context they work in as there are big differences between recreational, development and elite sport. Participative sport for example is based around enjoyment and is more health related, however, performance coaching requires more commitment, is more intense and involves athletes competing. The skills and knowledge required to coach a participative athlete and a performance athlete are different and the coach must understand where they are best suited to meet their athletes needs.

Expert Coach

To become an effective coach as defined and explained by Côté & Gilbert would take many years of learning and experience. It would take even longer and many more years to become close to being an expert coach.

Only once an effective coach establishes a track-record of coaching effectiveness over many years can he or she be considered an expert coach.

To read in more detail about effective and expert coaching, Côté & Gilbert’s paper is referenced below for you to read in full. 


1) Côté, Jean & Gilbert, Wade. (2009). An Integrative Definition of Coaching Effectiveness and Expertise. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching – INT J SPORTS SCI COACH. 4. 307-323. 10.1260/174795409789623892.Available HERE.

I hope this post was of value to you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please do send me a message on Instagram (simonjamescoaching). 

Thank you for reading.

Simon James

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