Coaching Styles: The Use of Autocratic or `Command` Style

May 19, 2020

By Scott Rimmer (UEFA B)

This article briefly considers the significance of coaching style when working with children, and particularly if an autocratic coaching style suits the 5 – 11 age bracket.
Whilst Coach education has naturally evolved over the years through the National Accredited qualifications, the process does fall short with respects to how the learning experience does not always fully prepare coach candidates with coaching methodology. An appreciation of how different styles are best suited with certain age groups, comparisons, benefits of each key style are often overlooked.
I have been fortunate to work with 100’s of coaches over the years, each one offering something unique. Coaches by nature can be critical when observing other coaches, assessing structure of practice, level of intervention, technical detail, and the fluidity of activities. Very rarely is guidance offered to style, and strategy to meet the needs of a group. Individual coaching tends to be question led ensuring the learner has a degree of ownership. This trust helps enhance performance.


Historically autocratic coaching has been the preferred method for working with groups of children. This has also been referred to as an authoritative method where coaches give clear specific tasks & actions. Particularly when a coach is starting out this is traditionally a common approach whilst experience is limited. Autocratic coaches make decisions with little to no input from the learners.
The coach communicates a vision for what he/she wishes to be accomplished by the group/class, and the children are expected to perform. Autocratic coaching is more direct, and practice can be quite clinical in set up. Practice can be quite rigid with little flexibility. Whilst this method sets out clear goals and strengthens discipline, it does not allow children or learners to think for themselves.
It is argued that this style of coaching works better in team sports than individual, as little ownership is given to the athlete. There is also an argument which suggests gender contributes to the success of this style where girls apparently embrace this style from a male coach but not from a female tutor, coach, or teacher. I personally have a different outlook on this as I feel empathy, trust & flexibility are key foundations when working with girls which can be established more swiftly having a different approach. You can see my previous article on Coaching Girls here…..

When working with children aged 5 – 11 personality of the coach needs to come through with his/her own footprint and twist. Likewise, with both teaching & coaching, when aiming for clear outcomes and learning objectives, the tutor will personally interpret the delivery. Ultimately, we strive to unlock a child’s or learners potential so they can maximise their performance and fulfilment. As children are inconsistent, particularly emotionally & mentally at different stages, it can be argued that an autocratic approach is not always appropriate. There are times when children need a little motivation, and the process of giving learners ownership is a good solution. Developing trust through giving ownership is a key strategy when working with children.
I am a strong believer of coach education & mentoring and feel coaches should be able to adapt and diversify. Yes, coaches need to define what type of coach they see themselves and their personal values as a coach, but we should be open to learning new methods & styles. Coaches are now being encouraged to employ questioning as an avenue to nurture growth and development, and this is certainly the case within the organisations I support.
The connection built from collaborative question and answer exchanges has become a coach’s favourite as experience is developed, and confidence is built. Autonomy within coaching is one for another day….

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