The Power of Transformative Coaching vs Transactional Coaching in Sports

Legendary football player/coach, Joe Ehrmann, introduced me to the idea of transformative coaching vs transactional coaching in his wonderful book, Inside Out Coaching.  Upon completing his book, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about these two distinctively different philosophies and how I want to approach coaching my teams and athletes, going forward into 2024.

Hockey great, Wayne Gretzky said, “Good coaches teach skills; great coaches build character. They inspire you to dream big, work hard, and never give up on your goals. “

Coaching is a profession that transcends mere skill development; it delves into shaping character, fostering good teamwork and nurturing personal growth. With these ideas in mind, the two distinct coaching styles mentioned previously are identified. Are you a transactional coach or a transformative coach? These paradigms are quite different in their approach, goals, and their impact on athletes.  A combination of both styles is possible and to me that seems ideal.

Transactional coaches may prioritize winning over all else and may focus on achieving immediate results over long-term player development. This type of coach would focus on X’s & O’s and strategy and less on character building and leadership skills. Winning games is the primary goal of a transactional coach and therefore emphasizing short-term gains is the main focus.

Transformative coaches, on the other hand, may lock into personal growth and player development over all else. These types of coaches aim to inspire, motivate and empower athletes beyond the field, court or rink. These type of coaches focus on instilling life skills, resilience, leadership qualities, and an overall growth mindset.

Soccer great Carli Lloyd defined it perfectly when she said, “Transformative coaches, are the ones who see the potential in you that you might not see in yourself. They push you beyond your limits and help you realize your true capabilities.”

To me, this is the true definition of a coach. My father, Gene Glisky, introduced me to this concept when I was growing up watching him coach football and baseball. His work didn’t stop when he left the field after a practice or a game; Coach Glisky was coaching off the field and truly whenever one of his players was around him.

Successful coaches often change their methods based on individual athletes’ needs and the team dynamics. Every season can be different and the approach needs to be adjusted slightly. Ultimately, the best coaches recognize the significance of both types of coaching approaches and strive to create an environment that not only fosters athletic success, but also nurtures the overall well-being and development of their athletes.

At the end of the day, winning cannot and should not be one of the goals if a coach is coaching a competitive sport (rather than a recreational sport).  However, good coaches recognize their power to transform and change an athlete’s life and should never forget the amazing opportunity to do so.

Ultimately, the best type of coaches recognize the significance of both the transformative and transactional approach to coaching and should strive to create an environment that not only fosters athletic success, but also nurtures the overall well-being and development of an athlete. After all, “winning” can happen on the ice, in the pool, on the court as well as in the locker room, classroom and in the car on the way home. What type of coach do you want to be?

linda smiling<br />

Written by Linda Martindale

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