The Winning Mind and The Relationship Coach

The future coach is a coach who recognises the importance of building psychological confidence through task clarity and emotional connection. Creating effective winning relationships with players is, as research teaches us, a unique blend of affection and authority.

In 2009, educational research from professors Judy Dunn and Richard Layard presented some key findings associated with creating effective learning environments. They surveyed more than 25,000 children from schools in the UK, in order to address the question “What makes the most effective teaching style?”

Ultimately, they found two factors that defined the effectiveness of each teacher. The first they labelled control, a characteristic that reflected the ability of the teacher to maintain order and task progression within the learning environment (e.g., keeping students’behaviour in-check and on task). The second was warmth.This quality reflected the level of affection and positive energy the teachers elicited whilst teaching, typified by inter- and intra-personal qualities and characteristics.

From these two factors, four main teaching styles were categorised and rated for their corresponding effectiveness within the learning environment. The first style was labelled as Militant. This type of teacher has complete control in the environment, dictating with precision and power. Students corresponded with compliance and clear non-negotiables in terms of behaviour were established and corrected immediately. High in control, but low in warmth, this type of teaching style was effective but not found to be optimal. Although task compliance was very high, students did not always feel they could ask questions relating to the task as they felt afraid or nervous about asking a ‘stupid question’ or feeling negatively judged by their teacher.

The second teaching style highlighted was Neglectful. This type of teacher – low in control and low in warmth – created an unstructured learning environment in which the students did not feel cared for.

The third teaching style identified in this ground-breaking educational research was labelled as Permissive. Typified by high levels of warmth, students loved having fun in the classroom, but whenever the teacher needed to take control or move the lesson forward, they struggled. Locked in a perilous fight to shape the structure of the lesson, students became unruly and unfocused.

The fourth and final teaching style that was identified, unequivocally, as the most effective was labelled authoritative.  Layard and Dunn found that the central components of an effective learning environment was one where the teacher had complete control with a clear demonstration of warmth. Students knew what they had to do and also felt cared for enough to ask questions, make mistakes, and be secure with the teacher’s trust. An authoritative teacher has sound subject knowledge and understanding backed up by a range of human relationship skills which builds emotional connection and psychological confidence.


When considering these fundamental teaching/leadership qualities, and the influence they elicit in the classroom learning environment, it becomes apparent that we can apply them in coaching. After all, great coaches are great teachers.

A coach’s great privilege is to realise that they are more than the tactics, strategies, and systems they create to execute a winning game plan, although these are, of course, paramount. In recognising the importance of building healthy positive relationships to create winning attitudes, coaches gain the opportunity to become much more than an expert in strategy. They gain a capacity to enrich the hearts and minds of their players, assisting them in transforming previous levels of performance. They foster the mental, emotional, and social qualities required to create the winning player and – more importantly – person of the future.

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