Moving up the coaching ladder

If you’re ambitious and want to take on new challenges as a coach, what prerequisites do you need? Here are some key pointers to check you are ready.

Former schoolteacher, Graham Henry (R), lifts the World Cup as the All Blacks coach

Taking on representative teams can be very frustrating because you have much less time with the players than you would in a club or school scenario. You have to be able to change your mindset as well as have the coaching nous for each different circumstance.


A coach needs to understand the nature of the competition he is leading his side into. If they are running a representative side, they may have a very short season and only a few coaching opportunities with the players before each game.

Unless a coach can deal with these issues, then he is going to struggle to pull together a plan and team.


There is no doubt that a good playing background aids a coach’s ability to take sides to a higher level. It is not a pre-requisite, but former players will have had a number of experiences of being coached themselves by some excellent coaches. They will be able to bring these experiences to their own team when it comes to them coaching.

If the coach hasn’t had those opportunities, then they should have tried to work with sides who have good coaching setups, or attended as many CPD events as they can.


The first two factors in choosing a coach matter little if the coach cannot go on to deliver the coaching.

He has to have a good command of the players. This does not mean he shouts the loudest. Instead, he should have the respect of the players because what he says makes sense.

And more crucially, he needs to be correct.  The technical aspects should be strong. In his drills and exercises, they move to or are part of game-related scenarios.

Finally, in terms of delivery, there needs to be a structured training plan, balancing skills and tactics. For example, if they are playing the next day, the coach will be aware of possible fatigue issues and temper his sessions accordingly.


There is a point in every session when a player cannot learn or benefit much more. An increase in knowledge is offset by demotivation or increased tiredness. A coach should think about the player’s expectations of how long the session is going to last for.

When it reaches this psychological barrier, only the player can decide whether to carry on. Say you have trained to 90 minutes, then you could ask the players if they want to continue to complete what they are doing. This is not the time to try something new.


Sometimes it’s time to “tell”. Though more and more coaches are player-centred, with a limited amount of time with the players, you will have to “tell” more than sell, ask or delegate.

Remember the players should be pretty motivated in the first place. Yet, they will have some fixed ideas from their other coaches. You won’t have time to discuss all the aspects you might want to cover.

If you have a good understanding of the system, you can fast track some decisions to suit your circumstances.

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