Management & Coaching Styles


There are many facets to successful sports managing and coaching. Commanding presence, motivational touch and tactical proficiency are valuable qualities, as are strong work ethic, mental toughness and excellent organizational skills. The top managers and coaches possess all these qualities to some degree, but many stress one over the others -- creating the style they will win or lose with. Some managers and coaches demand success, while others prefer to coax it from their players. Some leaders are best at firing up the players, while others owe more of their success to strategic brilliance.

Dictate with Intimidation

  • College basketball coach Bob Knight epitomized the dictatorial coaching style. He ran practices with an iron first. He tried to prod the best from his players by berating them -- a "tough love" approach that has fallen out of favor. He defended his coaching style with his book "The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results." This excerpt sums up this coaching style: "Tolerant people do not make good leaders. Successful leadership is being hard to please – and your players or employees know it. They will settle for what you tolerate. A great leader is an intolerant one."

Spur with Motivation

  • NBA coach Phil Jackson has been one of the great motivators in sports history. Pro basketball teams are composed of distinctly different individuals operating as separate companies -- each with its own support personnel. Jackson reaches these players and unites them to pursue common goals. "I think there's a deep respect for coaches that players have. It's ingrained," Jackson explained in an interview with Southern California Public Radio. "Some players have always rebelled, or maybe they started out in high school rebelling, but for the most part you're taught that your coach is your leader. He's going to direct the play and do what you have to get done. If you appeal to that part of them, you can win them over."

Elevate with Strategy and Tactics

  • The great tacticians give their teams an edge by outmaneuvering their counterparts. Major league manager Tony La Russa prepared for all 162 baseball games as a football coach would, mapping out how he could deploy players. He paid attention to the newfangled statistical analysis, but used his gut feelings to assess the human factors while making his chess moves. “You learn that no matter how you prepare and what the information is, once the game starts, the real key is the same set of priorities and values that have existed for years,” La Russa told The New York Times. “You watch the men who are playing and make decisions on what you’re observing.”

Boost with Positivity

  • Pete Carroll has used the ultimate upbeat "players coach" approach to win a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. He welcomes player input. He keeps things loose at the team facility between the business portions of meetings and practices. He reinforces that player-friendly approach during games with his animated sideline theatrics. Carroll told the Seattle Times, “... We don’t let them be themselves, we celebrate them being themselves, and we cheerlead them being themselves."

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