I have been doing this coaching thing for the better part of a year now and over that time I have started to develop a bit of a feel for what is my coaching 'style'. As well as that though I have started to see how others coach and see what I like and also what I don't like about how they do things.
What I have found out about myself is that I like people. I like listening to them and helping them. I guess it makes me a touchy feeling sort of coach (but not in a creepy way). Some might say it makes me an easy coach, not likely to push athletes hard enough, but I would refute that. Being nice doesn't mean you can't be tough, it just means you are willing to listen when somebody comes and says things aren't going to plan.
That is probably my major contention with how I have seen some others coach of late. There seems to be a belief that to be tough you also need to be a bit of an arse. I have seen one coach who essentially views empathy as a weakness. That a coach shouldn't need to connect with the athletes at all and that the response to every query is to tell the athlete to suck it up and get on with it.
Now don't get me wrong, I understand that part of coaching is knowing when a bit of tough love is necessary. However, it is also my view that telling somebody to suck it up isn't always the right answer. Sometimes people aren't well, or have other things going on in their lives and I think it is part of a coaches job to understand these things about their athletes and make some allowances if necessary. Also, what works for one person may not work for others. For some people being told to suck it up is just what they need, for others it could be completely demotivating and what they might need a bit of a listening ear before they can get themselves into gear. The only way to know which approach will work for which athlete is to know and understand them a little.
I think some of the issue is that there are some pretty high profile coaches that come across as real hard nuts, Brett Sutton is an example that comes to mind. He certainly seems pretty tough, but if you look closely at some of the stuff that Brett Sutton says about his athletes I think it shows a pretty close understanding of them. Sure I may not agree with everything he says and he certainly doesn't seem to take any rubbish from athletes, but I have always been impressed by how deeply he understands the needs of his athletes and just what makes them tick as individuals.
I think that to simply look at coaching and think the job is to yell at people and tell them to go harder is to over simplify the entire thing. Some of the best coaches I know are the ones who have mastered the art of knowing when to push and also when to listen. Sometimes a person needs to be told to pull the finger out, but not every time. The best coaches I have seen know which time is which.
Certainly a goal to aspire too.