Crafty, Smart, And Experienced: Follow The Ways Of The Master Coaches


Great teachers focus on what the student is saying or doing and are able, by being so focused and by their deep knowledge of the subject matter, to see and recognize the inarticulate stumbling, fumbling effort of the student who’s reaching toward mastery, and then connect to them with a targeted message.  —The Talent Code

In his book, The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle talks about three elements to creating greatness:  deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.  I’ve written about the first two and this post will be about the final key, “master coaching”.  The master coach is the hub of the wheel of deep practice and ignition, able to simultaneously locate areas in which to push individuals to excellence, while motivating groups to greatness.  How can we become master coaches?  The book discusses four characteristics that we’ll need in order to connect with our athletes and become excellent as coaches.

4 Virtues of Master Coaches

Virtue #1:  The Matrix It’s years and years of knowledge, plain and simple…the ability to coach in many different ways in order to make a connection with their team.  Coyle calls it a “mysterious amalgam of technical knowledge, strategy, experience, and practiced instinct” that the master coach has at the ready to take their athletes from where they are to where they need to go.

Virtue #2:  Perceptiveness Master coaches listen on many different levels and are able to “use their words and behaviors as an instrument to move their [athlete] forward”.   These coaches don’t treat every athlete the same, but take the time to get to know each athlete in order to formulate the best plan to pull the most out of them.

Virtue #3:  The GPS Reflex These coaches speak with direct (not dictatorial) imperatives:  face your target, now adjust your platform, finish your armswing.  It’s delivered in the clinical way you would give directions to someone trying to navigate an unfamiliar city.

Virtue #4:  Theatrical Honesty This virtue works best when the coach is performing her most essential role:  pointing out errors.  The master coach may do this through voice fluctuations, being tough, being easygoing…whatever that particular athlete needs in order to excel.  The master coach is always searching for the way to make a connection with their athletes and is willing to be whatever that athlete needs her to be in order pull out that greatness.

The takeaway?  Go get the book, it’s great.  It’s full of great real-life examples of deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.  It gets a little science-y sometimes, but this book will motivate you to put in the hard work to become the best coach that you can be, just as you challenge your team to work hard in order to be the best…to be great.  There is something empowering about knowing that you are in control of your greatness (you do want to be great, don’t you?) and it should be exciting to your team as well.  Greatness isn’t something you’re born with…it’s something you earn over time.