So You Want To Be An Excellent Coach?

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I want to be an excellent coach and I’m sure you do as well.  But how to do it?  Should we stalk the experts in our field…mining their brains for what has made them successful?  Or just keep grinding, hoping to stumble upon the key to excellence?  Well, according to this article titled (attention-drawingly enough) Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything, the key is simple.  Practice…and practice a lot.  So we don’t have to be coaching savants, having everything seemingly dropped at our feet…we can work our way to excellence.  It goes on to say that “numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of [deliberate] practice is the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.”  That’s great news!  That means anyone who’s committed and dogged and focused enough can become excellent.  Let’s look at how we can do it.

  • Pursue what you love. As the great book, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle says, “if you don’t love it, you’ll never work hard enough to be great.”  The passion we have for our craft has to be at such a level that we’re willing to obsess over it and still love it at the end of the day.
  • Do the hardest work first. We think we’re focused, but we’re not.  So sit down in the morning, write your to-do list and identify those things you’re not all that fired up about doing and knock them out first thing in the morning when you’ve got the most energy.
  • Practice intensely. Check out this sentence from the article:  “If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures.”  Enough said.
  • Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. I’m sure we all have peers that we know that we can chat with and know that they’ll give us good, honest advice.  The article says that we should definitely do that…only sparingly, so that we learn who we are and form our own style and philosophy.
  • Take regular renewal breaks. I love volleyball…I think it’s the greatest sport ever.  And I love coaching…I think it’s the greatest profession ever.  I read about them, I write about them, I talk about them.  I am fired up about my job.  But I can’t be this fired up all the time, my heart can’t take it.  So I enjoy my summers off, using them to relax and find out what it’s like not to always obsess over how to be better at what I do.
  • Ritualize practice. The 6 Keys article says none of us have very much will power (we think we do, but we don’t), so we’ve got to plan for getting better.  Personally, I look at a few business blogs everyday because, a) there aren’t many sports coaching blogs out there, and b) there seems to be an intrinsic link between the business and coaching worlds.  If you’ve checked the links on this site, a lot of them come from the Harvard Business Review’s blog…good stuff, highly recommended.


So it seems that excellence is closer than we think.  It’s not something innate or inherited, but something we can will to happen through our own focused hard work.  Are you up to the challenge?

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