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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dillman

What is a Coach?

Coaches are everywhere. You've got sports coaches, fitness coaches and now we even have life coaches. And we've all seen good coaches and bad coaches. The good coaches are the ones that inspire a team to strive towards excellence and leads them in that direction. A bad coach creates disunity and rebellion and leads his team in the path of failure. If you've played high school sports then you know coaches have a huge influence on their players. And with great power comes great responsibility.


A few years ago my sister gifted me with a plaque the I've kept on my desk ever since. It reads, "Coach; a passionate, dedicated individual who unlocks hidden potential and maximizes a teams performance by believing, encouraging and developing." I like that definition. So much so that I used similar language when creating the Ignition Coach Co mission statement; "Create a community of athletes that push and encourage one another toward improvement."

I think our initial image of a coach is an expert teacher sharing his knowledge. And this is accurate, but a coach is so much more than just an expert in his field. Coaches have the power to motivate and inspire their athletes. Good coaches create an environment of hard work, encouragement, belief, motivation and positivity among their players. You may only think your coach is making you better at sports, but he's actually developing your work ethic, character, patience, commitment, preparation and ambition, which are all things that will help you succeed later in life.

Coaches play a bigger role than we think they do.

Coach Characteristics

How do coaches create such an impact on their athletes? I think there are several answers to this question.

  1. They model excellence. Coaches realize they are being watched and they are always on guard. They make sure that the example they give is one their players can follow. How can I tell my athletes to do one thing while I do the opposite? Coaches have to create a high standard. When an athlete sees their coach eating healthy and knocking out workouts, that will motivate them to do the same.

  2. They know their stuff. Coaches are dedicated to learning. They spend a large portion of time studying their sport and figuring out how they can lead their players in the best path towards success and improvement. This means reading articles, reading books, watching sports videos and listening to other experts in their field. And when they don't know the answer they aren't afraid to say "I don't know," but they follow up with "but I'll find out."

  3. They create buy-in. This is a big one. When athletes really trust what their coach is doing they will learn to follow his advice and teaching. They understand that their coach has their best interest in mind, even if it doesn't always look like it. Do my athletes like it when I put a 4-hour ride onto their training plan every weekend: probably not. But they realize that I'm building the fitness they desire. They're trusting the process, but they're also trusting the coach. Brett Bartholomew, in his book Conscious Coaching, "A training program is only as good as an athletes willingness to buy into it."

  4. They are goal-oriented. A coaches job could be summed up as simply helping people reach their goals. But this isn't so "simple" when you look at the details. Goal attainment is hard work. It takes a continual dedication to doing hard things over and over again. The Rocky movies have it all backwards. Becoming the best is not a 2 minute training montage. It's a process that usually takes years and years. The athletes are in the driver seat when it comes to working towards goals, but the coach is sitting shot-gun as the helpful navigator guiding them along the right roads.

  5. They are good at communication. The goal of all communication is understanding. The more communication, the more understanding. But "more" isn't always quantitative. Good coaches will figure out the best communication methods for each individual. Some athletes prefer phone calls and others text messages. Question asking can be a coaches secret weapon when it comes to figuring out the athlete. Most of the time coaches aren't fired because of poor training plans but because of poor communication skills.

  6. They are positive. Good coaches can empathize with their athletes because they've been there and done that. They know personally how hard it is to be an athlete and pursue tough goals, accompanied often by failure and setbacks. So when the going gets tough, they stay positive. They understand that an athletes biggest critic is himself so they don't add to it. With that being said, coaches still point out errors and offer corrective advice because that's an essential ingredient to the process.

Can I Trust My Coach?

One of the biggest questions you should ask when working with a coach is "Can I trust him?" And it should be asked. Athletes need to trust their coach if they expect to see benefits from the coaching. The entire coach-athlete relationship hinges on this question.

By understanding the characteristics described above I hope you can now answer that question with clarity and move forward, trusting the process and trusting your coach.

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