17 Ways to Be a Better Coach

17 ways to be a better Coach

This post contains the first 10 Ways to be a better coach.

Are you a good coach?

Do you want to be a better coach?

Most good coaches would agree that they can get better.

Yet I would put all of the money in all of my bank accounts that EVERY great coach spends weekly time becoming a better coach.

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”  ― Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

I have had plenty of good coaches, but I couldn't tell you all of their names. 

Now, my great coaches? I have only had a few, and I could tell you their names, as well as the specific effects they had on my life.

I compiled an incomplete, yet sufficient, list of 17 ways you and I can be a better coach. Not because we need to--I am sure you are a good coach---but because we want to be better.

I compiled this list as a way for me (and you) to consistently get better as a coach, and maybe one day we will be great.

I can tell you that there is little else that inspires passion than to be able to help radically transform someone's life for the better.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  --John Wooden, Basketball

The above images display the relationship between Kareem Abdul Jabbar and John Wooden. The left is Kareem Abdul Jabbar is being coached by John Wooden at UCLA, and the right is Kareem Abdul Jabbar helping his coach, John Wooden across the basketball court. From https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/407l2t/kareem_abdul_jabbar_and_john_wooden/

I hope you are challenged and encouraged by this list of 17 ways to be a better coach:

1 - Listen More

Have you ever wondered why we weren't given two mouths?

I mean, it would make bulking phases waaaaay easier.

It would also be far worse for my customers, clients, and students. It is one of the harder challenges of my coaching and teaching career to limit my words, and make things simpler.

The biggest trouble of my verbose mind and mouth, is that it limits my ability to listen.

Often the answer lies within the person we are trying to help, but we haven't taken the time to listen.

Listening is one of the surest ways to clarify the objectives, understand the limitations, and establish trust with our people.

There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Please use them in this ratio.

More Helpful Resources:

  • Free Weekly Coaching Growth here
  • Courses & CEUs to Improve Your Knowledge here
  • Free Kettlebell Tips here
  • Free Battle Rope Tips by author here
  • Coaching Membership Community here

2 - Observe More

In the same ratio, we were given two eyes.

Listening and observing are going to provide far more impact in your life and the lives of your athletes.

I we get sidetracked, distracted, or consumed with other visual stimulus (i.e. YOUR PHONE) while you are training and coaching, you might as well quit now.

It is my belief that coaches have some of the most powerful observation techniques and skills (we are able to increase or decrease loads based off of seeing minor changes in form, facial gestures, and body language...if that isn't powerful, I don't know what is...).

It would be a waste to take those visual techniques and skills away during time with your athlete or client. (Now if you are new to coaching, it is even more important for you to observe, observe, observe...this is how you will build the afore-mentioned techniques and skills).

3 - Talk Less

Maybe it seems like I am repeating myself.

That would be because I am.

Repetition is the mother of all skill, so please do yourself a favor...

...talk less!

You will inevitably have to talk, teach, coach, and develop using your words, so try to limit them.

I used to coach kettlebell sport athletes.

For those of you that don't know, the clean and the snatch are some of the hardest techniques to teach. I had a multiple week program that I would use to teach both of those techniques to my athletes.

I then went to Marcus Martinez's Kettlebells Advanced Certification, and watched him teach the clean to beginners in a little over an hour!

He used less words, and he kept the concepts of movement simple.

Less was waaaaaay more.

I now only teach the clean that way.

Think about how much time that saves me and the athlete?

If you are a former Kettlebell Sport athlete of mine, and you are reading this...please forgive me.

4 - Ask Better Questions

If you are not the MOST curious person in the room, on the field, in the ring, on the mat, or in the gym, then you have a lot of room to improve.

If your athlete has a problem, or isn't performing to the level that she should, chances are, you need to uncover something that cannot be revealed in a movement assessment.

Trust me, I have been there, trying to drive my perfectly created periodized and highly personalized program down my athlete's throat, to realize he was moonlighting with strength training program written by his dad.

We were both wondering why his performance leveled out, because according to the program this is where he should really be seeing some massive adaptations in strength, and endurance.

Once I started asking him good questions, and then shutting my mouth and opening my ears, he was able to trust me enough to tell me his three-a-day program, inspired by his father.

What are good questions?

Any question where you are sincerely interested in the person that you are coaching. It could be about what they do for fun, how many family members they have, or if they get allergic reactions to eggs. As you ask questions and show sincere interest, your athlete will trust you enough to share the deeper and more authentic versions of themselves.

You have to earn this through good questions with sincere interest.

5 - Teach, Don't Tell

Not every set has to be a lesson (see #3 - Talk Less).

And I understand that some students, athlete, customers, and clients just want to be told what to do, so they can get it done and move on with their day.

Even this type of person will appreciate learning the context, why's and how's of the programming and workout.

As we teach, we learn our craft even deeper, and more importantly we arm our athletes with a truth plumb line that they will measure all future training and coaching programs with.

If we are not teaching, we may be setting up our people for a fall because, you won't be their coach forever.

When they move on, they will still hold the principles and concepts you taught them. What they won't remember is individual workouts and programs you designed for them and them told them to complete.


More Helpful Resources:

  • Free Weekly Coaching Growth here
  • Courses & CEUs to Improve Your Knowledge here
  • Free Kettlebell Tips here
  • Free Battle Rope Tips by author here
  • Coaching Membership Community here

6 - Prioritize Relationships Over Tasks

The training must get done.

The skills, techniques, and concepts must be walked out daily in order for physiological and psychological changes to occur.

At no time, should the above tasks become more important than the person.

This is to lower the human, below the task, and that is will dehumanize the process.

This is no exaggeration.

People working together with hard work and harmony, is how we become a part of something that is greater than us.

At times it may seem that the task is more important from the players perspective. This is when they are doing seemingly endless exercises or drills, but in those moments the great coaches are doing it for the athlete's transformation...not for simple accomplishing the tasks written on a sheet of paper or a white board.

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”  ― Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

Before you begin, ask yourself, will this improve the relationship, people, and team; or will this just be another notch on the wall?

7 - Improve Communication

 Talking less and speaking simply is a start, but there is great depth to communication.

How do I get what is in my head and heart, inside the head and heart of my people, while understanding what is in their head and heart?

Communication is so much easier said than done.

Keeping it simple, but effective: If your people are not doing the thing that is in your head or on your heart, you need to adjust the way you are communicating that thing. You can use their communication to help articulate what was missing or too complex in your last communication.

How will you perform the next drill?

What is the essence of this exercise?

How would you explain this to your team mates?

Think about communicating the most complex concept to your 7 year old. If she understands it, chances are, your athlete will understand it.

Also, there is no such thing as over-communicating the most essential principles (think about Coach John Wooden teaching attention to detail and importance of foot care to his college-level athletes by teaching them how to put on socks and shoes).

If your people are making fun of you teaching your concept, you know that they have it in their head and hearts (the ego will tell you that you are being disrespected, but take a step back and realize laughter is the best medicine, especially when they are able to take your complex concept or essential principle and turn it unto a humorous adage).

8 - Improve Trust By Keeping It Real

Pretending to be something you're not is a sure way to lose trust and deep relationships with your people.

The more authentic, real, and vulnerable I have been to the sphere's of influence I have, the more trust and openness I have garnered from them.

I was not open and honest to get them to be open and honest with me. I was open and honest, because I didn't want them to think of me as untouchable and perfect (especially because I am far from this.).

Obviously use common sense when sharing indiscretions with your athletes. No parent wants to hear that their child's coach shared the mistakes they made on a spring break trip in the early 20's back in 2002.

If you missed a workout because you hit snooze one too many times, got easily frustrated at your daughter during bedtime routine, made some poor nutrition choices because you were tired last month, or royally messed up when you were put in a leadership position in Marine Corps boot camp...these stories  can help create context for them to understand the reason behind the principles and concepts you are teaching them, as well as help them realize you are an approachable human with feelings and limitations, too.

9 - Focus On One Thing At a Time

A sure way to stay an average coach is to try to be everything for everyone all at once.

There are plenty of studies out nowadays to show that the myth of multitasking is ineffective at best, and devastating at worst.

In an article titled, Multitasking: Switching Cost written by the American Psychological Association on March 20, 2006, they quoted a researcher, stating, "Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time."

As a coach, you do not have time to multitask.

You also won't build report with someone if you are constantly distracted by your phone, other athletes, your past, your future, or any other thing that pulls us away from the present moment with our people.

10 - Slow and Steady Always Wins

 Although The Tortoise and The Hare is a fable from Aesop, an ancient Greek writer, the wisdom is timeless.

If you can do something consistently and sustainably for a decade, you will make far more impact than the person that goes 10x's your speed for only one month.

Let's put this into context.

If you are somehow able to build your current athletic clients at a rate of 10 per day for 30 days. You would have 300 clients (I would guess that your growth is unsustainable, because you would also need the infastructure and personnel to handle all 300 clients...but for argument sake...you made it).

Meanwhile the girl down the street, plods along, systematically growing her clientele only 5 per month for the next 10 years (120 months). She will have 600 athletes at the end of a decade (and I would argue that she would also have the infrastructure in place and the personnel to handle all 600 athletes effectively).

The same goes for finances, relationships, communication, fitness, strength, endurance, and any other area of your life that you are looking to improve. 1% per day or week that is sustainable for a decade, will be far more effective, than burning out by trying to sprint through a marathon.

Think long term investments, and reap incredible rewards!

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