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A good coach is not only defined by his professional knowledge about X’s and O’s, but most of all his emotional and social abilities. They are the basis for all coach-player relationships. Brad Nein, founder of, writes about what truly defines a master coach.

John Wooden who was always ahead of his time in the field of coaching and relationship development delivers an amazing quote that is still incredibly relevant today. This quote is especially important in the field of coaching as so many coaches do not have a complete understanding of their effect during critical moments when player development could happen.

"It's not what you teach, it's what you emphasize."

(John Wooden)

Emphasis is defined as a special importance, value, or prominence given to something. As a coach, every training session or game is a unique opportunity to emphasize a specific part of the experience that will lead the individual or team towards present and future successes. When the most successful leaders and coaches are teaching, they have a superior understanding of what they need to emphasize in order to give their students the best opportunity for progress.

Master coaches are transparent with each athlete in terms of what is taught and what is emphasized. This transparency gleams through all coach-player interactions independent of the learning situation. Coach decisions on what to teach and what to emphasize occur during practice sessions and games. Master Coach examples include:

The coach that:

  • teaches players to act using sportsmanship behavior towards teammates and opponents and also emphasizes positive sportsmanship behaviors through actions during training and game situations.

  • teaches players to trust teammates in all situations during practice and also puts into action (emphasizes) that same trust in games especially during the most important portions of the game.

  • continues to teach and reinforce basic skills to participants of all ages because they emphasize to players that continually developing and mastering these important skills assist in progressing to learn complex skills and ideas.

  • teaches positive self-talk and visualization prior, during, and after games and then shows (emphasizes) the players on a daily basis how to effectively add this into their repertoire.

  • teaches all participants to hustle, provide leadership, and try their hardest throughout all activities and then emphasizes these behaviors through verbal praise.

I am sure you can see how a master coach must focus on what they teach and what they emphasize during all coach-player interactions and how quickly this idea of what a coach emphasizes could be undone through inappropriate or an untimely coach action. Player respect is often gained or lost depending upon the consistency of what a coach says and the actions the coach performs.

As coaches, our actions are what the players believe to be where we put emphasis. To build a positive relationship with the athletes we coach, what we say (teach) must be consistent with the actions we take (what we emphasize).

The coaches ability to build a positive relationship with each player often determines the success of the group. This point cannot be taken lightly and is just as, if not more important as activity selection and the scheming of X’s and O’s. Provide development for the athletes you work with through emphasizing the appropriate ideas previously taught and your player relationships will prosper.

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This article was written by Brad Nein, founder of Find more info on his website.

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