The Difference between Coaching and Mentoring

Coach DeChellis
Coaching (Photo credit: acaben)

There are many terms that as coaches are often pushed around the table when it comes to the role of one person. Two that are commonly used are coaching and mentoring. But as a coach do you really know the difference between a coach or a mentor?


There are plenty of definitions but the best are often the simplest. Coaching is the act of training. There is a specific focus with often a start and finish date attached. There are often specific objectives, goals or outcomes attached to coaching.


Mentoring is about development and the ongoing growth of the individual. This can be defined and measured easily in some instances while in others it involves the progression and maturing of the individual person. Mentoring can also be an open ended professional relationship where the length of the development timeline is not easily able to be defined at the start of the mentoring process.


So coaching and mentoring are different but they also have a great deal in common and the line which separates them both can be blurred easily. Both though have inherent value to any training or development situation.


An example of where coaching might be more favourable then mentoring can be in activities which are limited by time, task accuracy or are focused around a very specific and definable skill set. These types of activities can be observed and achievement of these objectives can be seen. An example might be the instruction of an athlete in how to perform a lay-up. Many coaches themselves have been a part of the coaching process in undertaking studies and courses on how to coach.


Mentoring is best put to use when a wide range of skill sets need to be utilised for the desire result to be achieved. These activities are usually overly complicated and can take some time to master. An example within a team might be the mentoring of junior team members with seniors’ team members. In this situation the senior members help the other players become accustomed to the culture of the team and its activities which make it different. The culture described here is complex and is made up of a number of different aspects of a program such as war cries, team themes and rules.


Both coaching and mentoring have their place and an effective coach knows how to use both to get the most out of each individual. This is because as players mature and become older being able to deal with athletes as individuals becomes more and more of the focus of coaching. Good senior coaches while experienced as technical and tactical coaches are also strong in player management. It is to be expected that senior athletes will have different life pressures and experience different types of adversity to when they were juniors.


By only choosing to be a coach you might be missing out on the larger amount of your players’ development. Just how important this is can been seen in statements of how athletes want to play for a coach and sight aspects of their coaching that are not on court but attributes, qualities and character traits more familiar to the role of a mentor.


In junior coaching roles the place of the mentor is more defined but no less important. Many coaches see gifted athletes and players alike fade away from sport not because they cannot perform a jump-stop but because they lack guidance to deal with significant issues off the court.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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