I saw this post on Mike Boyle’s blog and thought it was awesome and wanted to share. There are so many brilliant points here that all coaches can learn from. Enjoy!
35 Secrets of Brilliant Coaches
“He’s ‘just’ a coach.”
“She’s ‘just’ a teacher.”
These are two sentences that make my blood pressure spike to the point that I get a little dizzy.
Managing approximately 70 gymnastics professionals, all of whom are teacher-coaches, I am acutely aware of the amount of training and education that these dedicated pros undergo to instruct their young athletes. The technical knowledge of the skills in combination with understanding the progressions necessary to achieve the elements safely and the rules and regulations that govern the various competitive levels fills volumes of books, hundreds of DVDs and dozens of trainings and conferences.
But that is only part of the picture.
While superior knowledge of the sport is a cornerstone of a brilliant coach, it takes so much more than content and procedural knowledge to be a brilliant coach or teacher. Simply because a person has great knowledge of the sport and a fabulous win-loss record, does not mean they are a brilliant coach.
1. Cherish the child over the athlete. Brilliant coaches know that being an athlete is just a small part of being a child. Brilliant coaches never do anything to advance the athlete at the risk of the child.
2. Treat their, and all other, athletes with respect. Brilliant coaches treat all of the kids in the gym, on the field, court etc. with total respect. No matter what.
3. Communicate with parents. Brilliant coaches understand that parents are not the enemy and, in fact, are an important ally in the development of the athlete.
4. Listen to their athletes concerns. Brilliant coaches don’t tune out athletes worries, fears or mentions of injury.
5. Connect before they direct. Brilliant coaches understand the importance of emotional connection. You matter. You belong. You are important to me. Not you the athlete; rather, you the person. Our most fundamental need is safety. When we feel safe we can trust and when we trust we can learn. Brilliant coaches know that this foundation of trust is essential.
6. Begin with the end in mind. Brilliant coaches keep their focus on the big picture of the goal of the athlete. They have a plan, but are flexible as they are aware the road to success is filled with twists and turns.
7. Are obsessive about fundamentals. Brilliant coaches understand the value of fundamentals as the core of all skills. The stronger the core, the more successful the athlete. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden would spend his first practice with his players instructing them how to put on socks. Correct wearing of socks prevents blisters, and feet absent of blisters can attend basketball practice.
8. Break skills into chunks. Brilliant coaches don’t simply teach a cartwheel. They break that cartwheel into several key sub-skills and instruct on those skills first before putting them together to perform the cartwheel. Brilliant coaches know that by isolating the individual elements that are woven together to achieve the skill athletes will succeed faster.
9. Embrace athletes’ struggle. Brilliant coaches understand that learning is a curve. Like muscle needs to break down before building up, athletes need to struggle to push forward. A brilliant coach doesn’t panic when this struggle happens.
10. Make the boring interesting. Brilliant coaches connect the tedious to the goal and make games out of those things that can be counted. They issue challenges and create missions. The goal is to make these dull, but necessary moments more engaging.
11. State corrections in the positive. Brilliant coaches say “do this” not “don’t’ do this.” Don’t bend your arms is less effective feedback than “push your arms straight.”
12. Find the bright spots and build from there. Brilliant coaches are aware of weaknesses and try to improve them to meet minimal standard but spend much more focus on the areas that an athlete excels. Trying to turn a strong pitcher into a better batter is less effective than trying to make him better at his curve ball.
13. Don’t try to break bad habits; rather, they build new habits. Brilliant coaches know that the most effective way to break a bad feedback loop is to replace one habit for another.
14. Give feedback in short, clear spurts that are precise and action oriented. No long speeches. John Wooden was once followed for a whole season so his motivational techniques could be studied. Wooden’s average “speech” was four sentences. Furthermore, brilliant coaches do not engage in observational coaching. (“Get your arms up.” Up where? “Your knees are bent.” Tell me how to fix that.) Concrete feedback (“Your arms need to be right behind your ears.” And “Squeeze this muscle and this muscle in your leg to make it straight.”) is given instead.
15. Are careful about how they measure success. Brilliant coaches do not use scores or win-loss records as their sole measure of success. Brilliant coaches understand that doing so can erode the long term development of the athlete. Brilliant coaches instead develop competencies for the long run, even if that means sacrificing success at the beginning of journey. If you had to choose, would you rather have your child be the strongest student in the first grade or in the twelfth grade?
16. Use the right mixture of attainable and reach goals. Brilliant coaches have zoned in on the sweet spot of challenge.
17. Keep momentum moving forward. Brilliant coaches understand that objects in motion stay in motion, so there is not a lot of waiting around time in practice.
18. Constantly are seeking continuing education. Brilliant coaches never believe they know it all or that they cannot improve themselves. Quite the opposite. Brilliant coaches read journals, articles, books and scour the internet for training ideas. They attend professional workshops and seek mentorships from other coaches.
19. Create, instead of finding, talent. Brilliant coaches appreciate natural aptitude but know that it can only take an athlete so far. Furthermore, brilliant coaches are humble enough to admit that they are not perfect at predicting success, so they just get in there and work. Finally, brilliant coaches concede that extraordinary talent is not a fair assessment of their value as a coach; rather, they measure their coaching efficacy by taking an athlete who is less gifted and helping that athlete succeed.
20. Observe intently. Brilliant coaches are always trying to figure out what makes people tick so they can better reach them.
21. Understand interpersonal relationships of the team are important. Team building and bonding is not a waste of time but an essential element for success.
22. Use imagery in coaching. Brilliant coaches paint pictures in the athletes’ minds. “Jump as high as you can,” becomes “Push the floor away from you like a rocket blasting into space and reach that rocket to the stars.”
23. Separate learning from practice. Brilliant coaches understand that practice begins after the athletes learn. As a result, they do not have athlete “practicing” something they have not yet learned so as to avoid creating bad habits. Learning takes place with close observation and direct instruction.
24. Focus the athlete on what to do, not what to avoid. Brilliant coaches tell their athletes things like “Shoulders squared and body tight” versus saying “Don’t fall.”
25. Focus on the multiple ways of learning. Brilliant coaches use auditory, visual and kinesthetic modes of teaching each skill, acknowledging that people learn differently.
26. Understand child development. Brilliant coaches have a working knowledge of the milestones of childhood and tailor their actions and expectations to meet the athletes where they are.
27. End practice before athlete is exhausted. Brilliant coaches know that bad habits and short cuts ensue when athletes are drained.
28. Give plenty of time for new skills to develop. Brilliant coaches allow at least eight weeks for athletes to learn a new skill. As the athlete progresses in the sport that time frame will actually get longer, not shorter, as the skills are increasingly complex.
29. Use positive coaching techniques. Brilliant coaches do not yell, belittle, threaten or intimidate. They do not need to bully to get results. While short term success my occur under such pressure filled environments, a brilliant coach knows that in the long run these techniques will backfire and are dangerous to the development of the child.
30. Have a growth mindset. Brilliant coaches believe that our basic skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. They reinforce this with their athletes over and over so their athletes feel motivated and are productive.
31. Know what they don’t know. Brilliant coaches are not afraid to admit that they don’t have all the answers. They do not allow their ego to prevent them from getting additional help, training or even suggesting to an athlete’s family that the athlete needs to move to a more experienced coach.
32. Educate their athletes. Brilliant coaches go beyond instructing their athletes, instead educating them in a age-appropriate ways regarding the purpose of and objective of various drills, skill sequences and conditioning circuits.
33. Have clear rules and logical consequences. Brilliant coaches do not keep their athletes guessing with respect to the standards of conduct or the result that can be expected for breeches of those standards. Rules are applied justly without shame to all athletes, including the stars.
34. Understand that fun is an essential element in training, no matter how elite an athlete becomes. The number one reason that athletes quit sports, even sports that they love and in which they are succeeding, is because they are no longer having fun. Fun is not a frivilous sentiment but is the foundation of an athletes’ healthy commitment to a sport.
35. End practice on a positive note. Brilliant coaches always find a way to seek the positive at the end of even the most awful workout. Even if it is as simple as “Tomorrow is a new day,” brilliant coaches know that both success and failure are temporary states.
It is clear that content knowledge is just the beginning of what makes a brilliant coach (or teacher). Yet, absent these other qualities, all of the knowledge in the world does not make a smart or effective coach brilliant.
What do you think? What are other characteristics of brilliant coaching?
If you found this post to be helpful, please consider tweeting, emailing, sharing on other social media or forwarding it to the brilliant coaches and teachers in your children’s lives. It will mean the world to them
Tracking, and monitoring data is at an all time high. You can see and read about how major professional teams and high major college teams are tracking speeds, distances, decelerations, heart rates and many other metrics. In the weight room, there have been tools that help measure power output and bar velocity. Many of these tools are expensive and therefore not available to those with smaller budgets.
Fortunately, there is a piece of equipment that I’ve been trialling for the past year that can be used with nearly any mobile device and gives you the feedback that allows you to program your training sessions using velocity as a variable. Most coaches and trainers use load as a primary variable but using velocity can allow you to better train for power and find the sweet spot for the optimal amount of reps to prescribe to train for this quality.
Power output is crucial for athletes and being able to know exactly what your loads as well as velocities are in training can better prepare you for the court, field or ice.
The Push band is a strap that you wear on your arm and syncs to your mobile device via bluetooth. They have an ever expanding library of exercises that you can choose from. When you select your exercise, then select your load and begin your set. As soon as your set is complete, you get immediate feedback on how to proceed for the next set. Your profile also keeps track of your progress over time. They are also working on a team/group setup that will be great for larger group settings and I can’t wait to see what else they have coming out.
I recently did an interview for Push that you can check out here:
I highly recommend the product and feel that it can add value to your program.
Check out their site:
The most important thing I want to express here is that this is the greatest opportunity of my career. There are few available spots to do this: which makes me 1 out of 125 Division Football Head Strength Coaches. You ask any assistant coach what their goal is and it is more than likely to be a head strength coach. Every oneof them has the dedication, intelligence and talent of being able to do my job as well, if not better than I can. This is what I think about every day I come to work and this is why what I am about to say means so much to me.
I essentially want to review what I think were the most important variables I had to focus on in this past year to be successful. I have found that making a transition from assistant to head changes much not only in regards to programming and coaching, but everything else that goes along with being in charge.
Coach Everyday Like this IS NOT Guaranteed:
I remember when my now current boss called and interviewed me. He asked difficult questions and gave no indication that I was a serious candidate. So leaving the interview, I had very little idea of being a head football strength coach was even a possibility. As an assistant coach for over seven years, which may not seem like a lot to most felt like dog years to me. There are not many 50 year olds coaching as assistant strength coaches, so there is a feeling that you are working in a shorter window of opportunity.
He actually called the next day and offered me the job. He asked when I could be there and I said tomorrow! Which meant I had to drive from Atlanta to New York in less than 24 hours and start; my thought being if he had 24 hours + he would change his mind and this dream of mine would be gone. So I got there the very next day at 6am waited around till 7am and showed upat his office to not act over eager.
I remember that feeling of heat, nausea and over-caffeinationvividly! The thought of what I would say to the team the first day is something I envisioned for years; and it was finally here. I was shaking uncontrollably (remember extreme amounts of caffeine mixed with very little sleep from driving the whole night before). I played out what I was going to say the ride up to New York and went over it again and again in my mind. I thought about every rule in “Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln” or “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”. I was set on changing the trajectory of this program with the greatest speech ever performed by a strength and conditioning coach!
When the time came and the guys were filing in ready for our first workout, I was silent and patient. I remember my posture and demeanor: friendly and welcoming but reserved and composed. As I watched everyone file in, it dawned on me: I wasn’t brought here to speak; I was brought here to coach. I realized that the greatest impact I could make right now was not with words but with actions. So I threw my speech out the window with 30seconds left to spare and said:
“My name is Coach Caron, I expect you in the attire you are in (which was a team issued workout gear) with your shoes tied, on time, standing behind the line and ready to go. I want 15 Lines of 8-10 guys per line, lets go!”
That was it! The rest was just doing what I have been doing for the previous 7 years as an assistant: Coaching! What was the point of this story: the feeling I felt when I was driving the whole night from Atlanta to New York overnight with no sleep. That is the feeling I summon every day I come to work; that this is not guaranteed and at any moment my boss could change his mind and get one of the thousands of other people he could get at any moment. That’s why I coach like my job is on the line every day.
Be a Lightning Bolt of Change:
Listening to head coaches speak at clinics and conferences, you hear very little about sets, reps, etc; you hear things like culture and motivation. In my heart I will always be that guy that prefers to read nutrition, and strength and conditioning related books. I cannot stand leadership books, I find the subject boring and redundant. However, the truth is, the program I write will always come second to the culture you set for your program.
I have told my staff from day one that we will be a lightning bolt of change. I want unrelenting effort to the development of our team. Our guys will have the best coaching we can possibly give every day in every aspect of strength and conditioning. We will go way above and beyond in terms of preparation, programming/coaching and mentoring/providing extra for our athletes.
Passion and energy is contagious! People gravitate to it and embrace it. Our athletes walk into our weight room and are greeted by a staff that is going to coach every rep with intent to have the best technique and trying to squeeze every bit of potential we can get. In my opinion you can’t coach enough. Every single set, every single drill, every opportunity is going to get a cue or correction. That will be the way as long as I am here.
I’m the lucky one: I had great mentors, which I in turn, am trying to be every day. I don’t think there is a better way to show respect to the people you have worked for and the people that now work for you, than to strive to take on the best characteristics of your mentors.
To this day, I consider Tim Mullen the most selfless and dedicated coach I have met. I was so impressed by his commitment to his athletes and serving others. I have always wanted to be considered that to my athletes and my coaches.
Eric Ciano was the most prepared coach I have ever met. He was never caught off guard and was always in complete control of every situation. I was fortunate to come to the office with him at 430am every morning and observe him prepare for the day by organizing racks by lifting cards, creating coach’s cards for each assistant to understand where they need to be. He is relentless and meticulous in his preparation for his strength program and I am now fortunate to know no other way.
Aaron Ausmus is the best “coach” I have worked under. He gets in front of a group and he can get them to do things they thought were never attainable. He makes drastic changes in technique for the better in seconds. His vision on how to incorporate a program in a way that always had accountability and competition was amazing. I still think of how AA would organize this when I program anything.
The bottom line is although leading a football program is something that I had a hard time envisioning ever happening has come true. I don’t want to forget what it took to get here and plan on coaching on that way. Every day I want to give a ton of effort and when there is doubt, just do what those before me have done. That’s the best way I can describe what this year has been like.
Email Coach Caron: email@example.com
Tim Caron serves as Army’s head football strength and conditioning and came to West Point following three years at the University of Southern California. At USC, Caron was the associate strength and conditioning coach and worked with the football team on nutrition, injury and rehabilitation protocol, preparing players for the NFL Combine and oversaw the intern staff.
Prior to USC, Caron spent three years at Georgia Tech as an assistant strength coach working with the football program, specifically in regards to weight management and shoulder rehabilitation. He also worked with women’s basketball.
Caron served a bevy of internships, first with Velocity Sports Performance and later with Harvard University, Georgia Tech and the University of Mississippi before securing a role at Springfield College with the football, men’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, women’s volleyball and women’s sprinting and jumping programs.
Caron earned his bachelor’s degree in Movement Science and Mathematics from Westfield State College. He secured a master’s of science in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention from California University of Pennsylvania and master’s of exercise science in Strength and Conditioning from Springfield College.