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Becoming a Successful Coach

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of high school coaches, and I posed an important question to them: “What does it mean to be a successful coach?” We had some great discussion and many valuable definitions were shared; and while there could be many descriptions given and lists made, I believe there are four key pillars that every successful coach will command.

These four pieces are not only what is expected of a successful coach, but successful coaches also embrace the importance of the role they play and look forward to the journey ahead. Simply put, successful coaches are known for setting the standard in each of the following areas:

1. Teach Respect

Coaches should model and teach respect to their athletes. This includes a respect for the sport, their opponents, teammates, officials, and themselves. No matter the outcome of individual games and matches, it’s important for athletes to leave each competition having shown the necessary respect to all parties involved. Truly successful coaches are continuously searching for teachable moments that will mold and shape our athletes into the young men and women that they are called to be.

2. Know and Be Known

Coaching is about much more than simply showing up at practices and games. To be a successful coach means forging intentional relationships with athletes (and their families) on more than just a surface level. This includes knowing not only the faces, but also the first names of each of your athletes’ parents. In addition, coaches should also be known by their athletes and families. This comes from developing these intentional relationships. For example, coaches shouldn’t disappear right after a game is over (win or lose). Rather, they use that time as an opportunity to know and be known.

3. Seek Mastery

On truly successful teams and programs, coaches and players to seek mastery of their sport rather than mere scoreboard wins. This means placing emphasis on the bigger process – i.e. effort, learning, experience, mistake response, etc. – over the results of individual games. To be a successful coach, you must teach your players to be NATO (Not Attached To Outcome), and rather to enjoy and appreciate short-term struggles and failures which are a pre-requisite to achieving long-term success.

4. Be A Culture Keeper

Truly great programs are known for their distinct and specific culture, and it’s the program coaches that play the key role of culture keepers. For example, at our school, the athletic department culture is defined by 3 C’s: Committed, Competitive and Contagious. As coaches, we should find success as culture thermostats, and not culture thermometers.

Each of these pillars may seem “simple” or “easy, ” and there really is no secret ingredient to being able to get each of the done. Instead, it’s a conscious and daily effort that each of us must make if we want to see a deep and impactful change in our athletes and our programs.

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