Excellent Coaching Practice

By Dr Justine Allen – School of Sport, University of Stirling

In part 1 of this series of brief reports on the findings of a project examining excellent coaching practice in hockey in Scotland we focus on the differences in coaching along the participant pathway.


Current approaches to coaching place the participant, the coach, and their working relationship at the centre of a quality player pathway and coaching system (UK Coaching Framework, 2009). Recently, sportscoachUK funded researchers from the University of Stirling to work with Scottish Hockey to identify examples of excellent coaching practice for each of the 5 hockey coaching environments: Children, Youth, Adult, Talent Development (TD), and High Performance (HP). Coaches, players, support staff and parents were interviewed to gain their perspectives on excellent coaching practice in hockey.

 Environment-Specific Features of Excellent Coaching Practice

  • Priorities for each environment
  • Learning and development over results (child, youth, TD)
  • Continued participation and family oriented (child, adult)
  • ‘Bigger picture’
  • Guided by knowledge of the participant pathway and appropriate development of sport skills (child, youth, TD)
  • A programme individualised for team or individual athlete’s progression, often related to competitions (adult, HP)

Table1. Definitions of enjoyment across environments

Child Youth Adult TD HP
Play the game and socialise Learn new skills Socialise balanced with serious competition Seeing improvement in abilities Being challenged and continuing to learn
  • Implementation
  • Proactive, enthusiastic and setting the tone (child, youth, TD)
  • Athletes encouraged to set the tone (adult, HP)
  • Use of game-like conditions
    • fun, develop an interest in the sport, and provide opportunities for teachable moments without overloading the athletes with information (child)
    • simulate the pressures and intensity of games and facilitate the transfer of learning from training to games (youth, adult, TD, HP)
  • more time and space to execute skills, clear progression of activities to extend them as they develop (child, youth)
  • minimised stoppages allowing athletes to ‘get into’ training (adult, HP)


It is clear from the findings of this study that excellent coaching practice is environment specific. Understanding the needs of the participants and the priorities for each environment provides the foundation. Shaping practice to meet these priorities and needs is the hallmark of excellent coaching practice.

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