Do former athletes make the best coaches

Over the past few months, I have undergone self-reflection, self-evaluation and researched around best practices for developing long range strategic plans for our Region on how I, as a coach, can contribute to building a winning culture.

Some of my research has directed me to the age old question…..Do Former Athletes Make the Best Coaches?

Statistically, the answer is a firm no. There is overwhelming evidence that many former athletes who turn their hand to coaching know what to do, they just don’t know how to communicate how to do it. There is no evidence that a person can only coach at the highest level if they have performed there. Of all the articles and blogs I read through, there were discussions around NFL, NBL, AFL, Tennis, Golf…….the list goes on. Very disappointingly, there was zero articles on netball, and zero data or information on statistics in this area.

I am interested you see. I am conflicted in what I have read. I look to some of the Netball coaches I admire and respect. They are all former, elite level players.

The research indicates that a player’s perception and experience comes from being just that, a player. They often are shielded from what happens away from the court; the countless hours of planning and preparation. There are the challenges that coaches face in regards to player management, being answerable to a board and stakeholders. A coach moving through into Elite ranks has a far more multi-faceted role than simply running a training sessions and putting players on court. In saying this, it is a process that can take years and years, all the while learning your craft, bringing in life experience from other sectors and other qualifications pertinent to the role.

This said, it points to the obvious. That a player playing at an Elite level who converts into a coaching role, has less time to develop holistically than a coach who has not played at an Elite level.

Still conflicted? Me too. I don’t think it is that black or white.

In my opinion the best coaches are the best communicators. This is not a skill that comes from just being a player, or just being a coach. It’s about recognising individualism, and unifying those individuals, on and off court.

As a coach, what can I bring to the table?

I can bring my experience as a former player. I have been around this game for as long as I remember. I feel the game. I can visualise being out there, how I would take on a certain opponent or how I would run plays in the attack end. When I work through this with my players, I feel a connection and mutual understanding. Whilst I never reached the pinnacle, I achieved and experienced much through my playing journey. I came through the tough love era as a junior representing QLD 17, 19 and 21. I had access to the best coaches and mentors at the time when I went to the AIS in Canberra on a scholarship. I have played against the best in the State through my time playing for the Darling Downs Panthers when we were Division 1. I was a kid from Toowoomba who travelled to Brisbane for training and games. Left my family at 17 to move to Canberra for an opportunity. I understand resilience, I understand respect and I understand sacrifice and commitment. All this has shaped me to be the coach I am becoming and all my experiences truly resonate with the players of our Region and are still relevant today.

I can bring my experience coaching different levels along the way, my life skills developed as a mother and a wife. I bring my passion, my eagerness and willingness to never stop learning. I bring my ability to leave my ego at the door, so my team can communicate with me without any barriers or fear of consequence.

I can bring a great management team to the table. I love to surround myself with people who are on my level, and share the passion and the drive. We have so many different skill sets that we can bring together to create an environment of learning and growth. In our team, we have a data analyst, an administrator, a salesman, and an electrician, university students studying education, a former basketball player, a Registered Nurse, mothers and fathers. This gig certainly isn’t about the pay check……so I know my team are there for the right reason.

So, do former athletes make the best coaches? My conclusion is that former athletes can certainly bring a level of understanding and appreciation to the game, but they shouldn’t get a free ride just because they played at a high level. Coaching is a journey that runs parallel to playing, and there is much to be learned on both continuums; whilst elite players may be fast tracked through the tactical or technical stuff, holistically coaching is a far bigger picture.

What I believe is most important, is the team around the coach. A multi-faceted, multi-sectored team of individuals sharing a common goal. Our team is changing the face of the platform that is the Darling Downs Panthers, and it’s Pathway Programs. We are committed to our people, and committed to our sense of identity and belonging. A holistic approach towards nurturing individualism for every member of our team and management team, which in turn will bring us the results we have envisioned.


Bec Stower

Head Coach – Darling Downs Panthers