Person First, Player Second

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Person First, Player Second

Person First, Player Second

POP QUIZ! Are you coaching a player or a person?

Yes, it is a trick question but it’s purpose is to get us to think beyond our context. It’s actually a very serious question which needs a re-think as coaches and organisations.

We are losing sight of the PERSON

The Sporting Landscape has become big business and the individual can get lost in an organisation’s quest for glory. That priority then filters down to coaches who are influenced to value performance over people.

Performance replaces people with numbers, inclusive with exclusive. It replaces longevity with short term gains.

“Talent is the graveyard of evidence. Nobody sees the dead bodies.”John Kiely

This obsession with being the best sport, the best program, producing the best player, can lose sight of one very important consideration:

Our focus as coaches shouldn’t be in the business of sport, but in the business of people.


Rather than putting the sport and the program first, imagine if we put the person first?

To put the person first, we are then directed towards human development - a holistic, long term, journeying perspective that puts the context in it’s rightful place to serve the person first.

It’s not just from a welfare responsibility that we put the person first (although it’s reason enough!) It is the foundation for success.

It’s from starting with the individual, that we can underpin a powerful development framework for any context.

Richard Branson continues to conquer the corporate context with his ‘Staff Come First’ Approach:


Embracing a Approach

If we put the person first, what are the implications for coaches and organisations?


We respect that sport is a wonderful context for human development and as coaches we are here to serve the individual needs and rights in their development journey. (See Player Rights Charter)


As advocates of their child’s journey, coaches need to work closely with parents to understand the child’s wider contexts with the opportunity to keep each other accountable in serving the person first, player second.

Sometimes parents see that little bit of talent, it overtakes them and even they can lose sight of the child. The coach may need to support and educate the parent to come back to a person first approach.


There’s no rush in development. In fact, specialise in any one context  too early and life’s potential is compromised.

Promote diverse experiences for all rather than specialisation and selections for the few.

As many as possible, as long as possible, in the best environment possible.Johan Fallby


Rather than educating coaches and parents in knowledge of the sport, we need to expand our education to Human Development and the complexities of learning.

“Every pedagogical approach needs to be underpinned by a theoretical rationale to explain how the learner learns and how learning occurs, since without such a framework principles of practice may be somewhat operational in nature.”

Excerpt From: Jia Yi Chow. “Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition: An Introduction.” iBooks.

Your role as coach needs to shift from traditional ways associated with ‘teaching’ and ‘instructing’  to becoming a Facilitator and guide.

Then the focus is taken from the ‘expert’s’ ownership and given to the individual and group needs. It’s in the Facilitation of the emerging dynamics that the expertise is required.


The complexity of human development within the organised sport context continues to challenge us.

Yet we can still seek for the person’s welfare to come first.

We keep promoting ‘person first’ whilst adapting to and working with coaches and organisations across various contexts and environments. Especially those that are ‘operational in nature‘.

Final Thoughts

- Happy people, happy organisation. We don’t need to sacrifice the child to achieve.
- POP QUIZ #2 Do you see yourself as a coach first or a person?



Promoting a HOLISTIC, ECOLOGICAL, PERSON FIRST Approach to Development.


4 Comments on “Person First, Player Second”

  1. This is a really vital point. And the parent aspect has got me thinking. I was going to organise a pre-season meeting with my Under 18s squad and essentially hand over control to them to think about how they would like to play this season, where they think our strengths lie and to formulate some team ethics/codes of behaviour (in the loosest/widest sense).

    But the need for parent buy-in is important too, so I’ve just thought about asking the parents to come along before the end and have the boys present to them what it is they are signing up to/promising to be a part of, so that they can be supported by their parents too.

    Do you have any tips on this?

    1. Wonderful to hear Kiran, thank you for sharing. Sounds like you’ve got it covered, just enjoy the ride as Facilitator 🙂

      May be helpful to explain or even better, ask the parents why you’re giving more ownership to the players but hearing from the kids will probably be evidence enough for them!

      Perhaps players also discuss how parents (and coach) can support them during the season.

      All the best with it and please tell us how it goes!

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