Clicking with your coach is extremely important, that’s why you should know the 3 most common coaching styles.

While you consider the merits of a school during the recruiting process, you’re probably looking at the program, the facilities, the campus, the housing options, and even your potential teammates. However, while a coach may be working hard to sell you on a school, don’t forget to make sure you’re sold on his or her coaching style, too. 

In his influential book, Successful Coaching, author Rainer Martens, identifies three styles of coaching. Those styles, which Martens characterizes as command style, submissive style, and cooperative style, may vary widely, but they have all proven successful.

In the old days of iron-fist coaches, it was up to the player to adapt to the coach’s style. However, while today’s coaches may have adapted more to the modern athlete, it’s still up to you to make sure you’re comfortable with, and adaptable to, a coach’s particular style. To do that, make sure you know the characteristics of each coaching style.

Command Style

The command style of coaching most resembles that of the traditional, iron-fist coaches of old, where the coach makes the decisions and utilizes discipline and a hint of military superiority to get the most out of his or her team. The most notable examples of current-day command style coaches would be New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Alabama’s Nick Saban in football, and U Conn’s Geno Auriemma and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in basketball. In general, each of those coaches demands players work to improve themselves, while emphasizing discipline and personal accountability.

Submissive Style

While not the polar opposite command style, coaches who utilize a submissive style make fewer decisions while offering minimal guidance and less of an emphasis on discipline. Most often seen with younger, more inexperienced coaches, and more recently in the pro ranks where the players have more experience and clout than the coach, the submissive, “let ‘em play” approach has had its successes. The downside, however, is that it can also devolve into the “inmates running the asylum.” 

Cooperative Style

If command style is “old school,” the cooperative style is currently seen as the “new school” approach to coaching. A cooperative style coach is focused on flexibility and empowerment of players to be a part of the decision-making process while being more adaptive to each athletes’ style. In college football, think Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. In college hoops, coaches like Sheryl Swoopes at USC and Mike Boynton at Oklahoma State are also finding success with cooperative coaching styles. 

So is there a “best” coaching style for you? The answer is, “it depends.“ One way to gauge a coach’s style is to look at his or her results. Style doesn’t always equate to success and  “results” are more than just win-loss records. Consider a team’s graduation rate as well as the rate of transfers and drop-outs. Watch a coach during a game to see how they interact with their players, their assistants, and even the officiating. Look for consistency between a coach’s game personality and his or her personality during the recruiting process. 

Finally, when considering a coach’s style, look at it as another challenge or learning experience. A coach with a winning culture is great but, as your college experience should also prepare you for the rest of your life, make sure that culture also offers you room for learning and mentorship. 

In the end, you may still have your own style as a player, but a coach’s style can help shape not only your college career but the rest of your life. And when considering colleges, make sure you’ll fit in with a coach’s style when you find the school that’s the right fit for you.

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