Three Word Coaching Philosophies

May 06, 2010, 8:54 p.m. (ET)

In my last blog I noted how the US Paralympic Symposium was named the same as my own simple coaching philosophy  – “Develop Amazing Leaders.”  In IMPACT and CAP courses this topic of building a coaching philosophy is covered, for it is important to be able to share your reason for coaching, with parents, fellow staff and players. In the last week, a couple of coaches have emailed me asking for some guidance in developing their own philosophy, so there have to be others pondering the same question. Chapter Four of your IMPACT manual covers this process in much detail, so I urge you to revisit that section as part of this process.

Over the last couple of years for IMPACT webinars, I have been asking for participants to type in their own coaching philosophies, in three words or less, to share with the other course attendees.   The three word limit is intended to get to the core principle(s) of your reason for coaching, while speeding up the process online. 

So to help your thinking on this topic, here is my short collection of favorite philosophies shared. In many cases, you can see the math wizardry shining forward. It reminds me of an old sports joke….A coach had a key starter failing the math course, and thus they would not be able to play in the key upcoming match. Coach spoke with the professor who finally relented and said…”If your player can answer this one math question, I will give him a passing grade.” The teacher then asked…..”What is 2 plus 2?” and the athlete responded confidently…”Four”…then the coach jumped in screaming, “Give him another chance, PLEASE give him another chance…”   Now, on to my collection of “three” word coaching philosophies…

  • Lead with Desire

  • Practice Success

  • Winners in Life

  • Never Stop Teaching

  • Recognize, Develop, Lead

  • Develop Young Adults

  • Inspire Dedication

  • Teach and Inspire

  • Build Youth Character

  • Train in Reality

  • Play the Players

  • Keep it Positive

  • Citius, Altius, Fortius

  • Carpe Diem, Carpe Noctum

  • Fac Diem Meam

  • Provide Meaningful Learning

  • Trust, Respect, Attitude

  • Make Improvement Fun

  • Bring the Positive Climate

  • Innovative not Imitative

  • Encourage Women of Integrity

  • Teach a Game I Love

  • Self-confidence Through Success

  • Help them be Better People

  • A Culture of Excellence

  • Develop Character and Ability

  • Be Honest and Inspirational

  • Practice Like You Play

  • It’s Volleyball, Not Life or Death

  • Better the Person, Better the Ball

  • You Work for Me, I’ll Work for You

  • Play Hard, Play Together, Play Smart

If you have a good one, please share it below, so we all can be better.  Twenty two years ago,  writing the the very first IMPACT manual,  I included a quote from a John Wooden interview in American Coach Magazine where he said “When I was coaching I always considered myself a teacher.  Teachers tend to follow the laws of learning better than coaches who don’t have any teaching background. A coach is nothing more than a teacher. I used to encourage anyone who wanted to coach to get a degree in teaching so they could apply those principles to athletics.”

To tie into John Wooden’s statement I first starting asking CAP coaches and now include IMPACT coaches to tell the number of GREAT teachers they have had in their school life, from kindergarten to college (teachers only, no coaches),. The average number? About three great ones….out of some 30 overall. So the next question is to share the words that come to mind when they think of those great teachers – and the list will grow to some 15-20 words/phrases – including fun, cared about me, knew their stuff, consistent, challenging and more. If you think that those teachers were that significant to you for those traits then it is likely that those traits are very important to you also as a coach.

So we are getting down to the end of the season for many of you. I hope your program is going to evaluate you in writing, as you deserve this feedback to use for your own feedforward. This also gives me the chance to remind directors and programs to make sure to include the evaluation form they will be using to gather the information on each coach, in your coaching material/booklet at the START of the season. If you did not do it, still evaluate, but it is much more valuable to give this to each coach at the beginning of the season, so they can be in synch with that which matters to the club or school program to which they belong. Thus my feedforward to those programs who did not share this information until now, is simply to make sure next year, this core information is determined in advance and given out at the season’s start.  I also urge you to have your mission statement shared more publically, putting it on the first page of your handbook, website and coaches educational material you share. Program members need to know this statement by heart, so everyone understands those words of principle that guide the organization.

I would love for you to add your philosophy below if not already noted, even if you go beyond three words….there is no time crunch in blog-land…  Thanks for helping USA Volleyball grow the game.


The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On May 10, 2010Michelle Goodall wrote

John, Love this blog! Earlier this week I was given the opportunity to share the evening with one of my players and her family at an awards ceremony for local Athletes of the Week, and the guest speaker was the UNI men's basketball coach, Ben Jacobson. He shared a wonderful message with the athletes and touched a little on their big bracket wins, their team's philosophy and such. It's amazing at how nicely that message melds with this blog! Here are a few highlights from his speech, and they could easily be added to your list, too: He said: "Dream Big. Work Hard. Expect to Win" And, he shared his team's philosophy this season was: "Toughness. Teamwork. Trust" (that 3-thing again) He also shared that a coach told him once to always remember that "2+2=4. And it always will be."--To serve as a simple reminder that hard work, works. Every time. And finally, as he talked about Ali Farokhamanesh's big end of the game 3's....he reminded all the athletes that "when you're standing there in front of your dream....go for it." He certainly captivated the audience--it was a great speech. Just had to comment as it fell right in line with your blog. This week has had a nice theme...interesting how that works sometimes. Keep up the great work!

On May 18, 2011Nic Kaiser wrote

Love the Game!


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