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Great Coaches

nick ruddock Mar 17, 2017
Here is a question that bothers me greatly, and it comes up in almost ALL coaching courses and workshops I have attended:
‘What makes a great coach?’
I can feel my blood pressure rising just writing it.
Many years ago, I would have compiled a long list of qualities that great coaches have … but not today.
You see, as I have travelled the world working alongside a vast range of coaches, many of whom are at the pinnacle of their respective field, i’ve recognised that many high performing coaches are totally flawed in characteristics we often attribute to high performance.
High technical knowledge? Not always important.
Organised? Quite the opposite.
Positive? Nope.
‘People person?’ …. absolutely not!
Growth mindset? … I wish.
You get the gist 🙂
I used to view the coaching world as a jigsaw puzzle, with coaches who are deficient in certain qualities being ‘incomplete.’ I’ve now moved to a ‘cogs’ model.
The more cogs that are working, the more efficient the system runs. But even with less cogs (or in our case desirable qualities) the system still runs, albeit not quite as efficiently. The coach can still produce results, but it might take a little more work, or have a few more rocky roads to travel first.
Sure, there are certain characteristics that most great coaches have in common, and it’s great to dream about what  qualities a ‘complete’ coach would have, but we shouldn’t be under the illusion that ‘great’ coaches possess all of these.
Besides, what does it mean to be a ‘great’ coach anyway?
The status of being a great coach often gets attributed to a coach who produces athletes that win medals at an international level. But i’m often a little more inquisitive (don’t mistake this for being pessimistic or cynical) as to how those results came about.
A coach whose athlete’s win international medals, but are left emotionally broken wouldn’t earn my status of being a ‘great coach.’ That could be mistaking being a great ‘technician’ for being a great coach. A BIG difference.
Nor would a coach who physically or technically ‘destroys’ 40 gymnasts, but manages to squeeze just one into the top spot.
Perhaps a wealthy drug dealer knows how to make money, but you’d question their ethics and most likely not look to them in admiration. Much in the same way as I view unethical coaches, who leave a path of destruction in their wake. They don’t get my vote, even if there are medals to match.
Some of the best coaches I know have never actually ‘taught’ at a high performance level. They are elite at running a recreational gymnastics class or a class full of pre-school children. That’s an art in itself and requires a mass of experience and skills.
So what do YOU think? I’d be interested in what you attribute the status of being a ‘great coach’ to?

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