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Five Steps to Becoming a More Effective Coach
by Jeff Janssen, M.S.
Website: Janssen Peak Performance

Five Steps to Becoming a More Effective Coach

Are you the coach you would like to be? If you were an athlete, would you want to play for yourself as a coach? The following article, based on an excerpt from the Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches book, encourages you to invest the time to assess and evaluate your effectiveness as a coach.

Although you are probably proud of many aspects of your coaching, virtually every coach has areas in which he or she would like to improve. This article provides you with an opportunity to reflect on, assess, and strengthen your coaching skills and philosophy. In doing so, you will maximize your potential as well as the potential of the athletes you coach.


Here is a step-by step process that will help you assess, improve, and strengthen your credibility. This process will give you the opportunity to gauge your present credibility in a variety of ways. Next it will help you pinpoint your current strengths as well as your areas for improvement. Finally, you will have an opportunity to build on your strengths and target some of your areas for development.

  1. Assess Your Credibility
    You can assess your credibility in a variety of ways. I encourage you to first rate your own credibility. Then strongly consider having your athletes rate your credibility as well for a more complete and accurate measure.

    "Would You Play for Yourself?" Reflection One of the more powerful ways to assess your own credibility is to reflect on and honestly answer the following question: "Would you play for yourself?" Imagine being an athlete who plays on your team. Would you be motivated to give your best? Would you respect and trust you? Where would your confidence be if you were your own coach? Would you develop to your full potential if you were coaching yourself? Like many coaches, Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt admits, "I don't know if I could have played for myself early on."

    Taking the time to reflect on the hypothetical question of "Would you play for yourself?" is a very powerful exercise. If the question causes you some uneasiness, embarrassment, or regret, now is the perfect time to become a more credible coach. If you would have a hard time playing for yourself then it stands to reason that your athletes may feel the same way.
    • Credible Coaching Self Assessment
      A second way to evaluate your own credibility is to rate yourself on the Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches using a one to ten scale. This short self test will help you analyze your strengths as a coach as well as your areas for improvement. Be sure to be completely honest with yourself.

      Using a scale from one (strongly disagree) to ten (strongly agree), rate yourself on the following characteristics:
      1. Character-based - I act in an ethical, honest, and trustworthy manner.
      2. Competent - I have a solid understanding of the rules, mechanics, and strategies of my sport.
      3. Committed - I work hard and am committed to building a successful program.
      4. Caring - I genuinely care about my athletes and their overall success.
      5. Confidence builder - I am effective at building and maintaining my athletes' confidence.
      6. Communicator - I am an effective communicator and listener.
      7. Consistent - I am consistent in terms of my mood and my approach to team discipline.

      Rarely has any coach given him or herself a perfect score on all of the characteristics. You will find that you have some strengths as well as areas to improve. Reflecting on and rating your credibility provides you with a good starting point.
    • Have Your Athletes Assess Your Credibility
      Keep in mind that your credibility is ultimately evaluated by your athletes. They are the true judges of your effectiveness. You might be able to trick yourself into thinking that your athletes respect you, but as the saying goes, you can't kid a kid. Because your athletes are the ultimate evaluators of your credibility, they are the best people to help you assess where you stand.

      Having your athletes give you honest feedback on your effectiveness might sound like a scary and vulnerable proposition to some coaches. But you will obtain no better or accurate appraisal of your credibility than by directly asking your athletes.

      Think of it this way. How much feedback do you give your athletes regarding their performances over a typical season? If you're like most coaches, you are continually providing them with suggestions, corrections, and compliments. The vast quantity and quality of the feedback you give them is designed to help them improve their performances. Imagine if you never provided your athletes with any feedback whatsoever, either positive or negative. How well would they develop and improve? Obviously they would not improve near as much without your feedback. Thus if feedback is so important for your athletes, it is equally as important for you.
    • Protect Your Athletes' Anonymity and Confidentiality
      If you decide to ask your athletes to rate your credibility, the process must be anonymous and confidential. Your athletes will not be completely truthful with you if they think their identity or comments might be revealed in any way. Therefore it is best to have an objective and trusted person, other than yourself, handout, collect, and tally your athletes' responses.

      In addition to your athletes trusting there will not be negative consequences for their honesty, they must feel that you will sincerely consider their feedback and make changes when appropriate. This is not to say that you must change everything they suggest. But, you must at least consider their feedback and be willing to modify certain aspects of your coaching style or the way the program is run if your athletes indicate it will help them perform better. You will be amazed at the respect you will earn if you are willing to listen to their feedback, honestly evaluate it, and make positive changes based on that feedback.

      Like you did with yourself, you can simply ask your athletes to rate you on a one (strongly disagree) through ten (strongly agree) scale on each of the seven characteristics. Be sure you have evaluated yourself before you have your athletes evaluate you.
      1. Character-based - My coach acts in an ethical, honest, and trustworthy manner.
      2. Competent - My coach has a solid understanding of the rules, mechanics, and strategies of my sport.
      3. Committed - My coach works hard and is committed to building a successful program.
      4. Caring - My coach genuinely cares about me and my overall success.
      5. Confidence builder - My coach is effective at building and maintaining my confidence.
      6. Communicator - My coach is an effective communicator and listener.
      7. Consistent - My coach is consistent in terms of his/her mood and approach to team discipline.
    • Interpreting Your Athletes' Feedback
      When you receive the feedback from your players, it is important that you look at it as a way to improve yourself. Your first tendency is to look at the lower scores and either try to rationalize them, deny them, or figure out who gave you the lower scores and plot your revenge against them. This is certainly not what I recommend. Instead, compare the ratings you gave yourself on each of the seven secrets with those of your athletes. You will likely find similarities as well as differences. Remember that the ratings your athletes have given you are based on their perceptions of you. You may not agree with some of them, however it's your athletes' perceptions of you which determine how they respond to you. Thus, whether or not you agree with them is beside the point - their perceptions become your reality.

      Note any areas where you athletes gave you higher ratings. These are areas that your athletes see as strengths. Take a moment to reflect on why your athletes might see these areas as strengths for you. What is it that you are doing to make them strengths? Then note any areas where your athletes gave you lower ratings. These are your areas to improve. Again take a moment to reflect on why your athletes might view these as areas of improvement for you. What are you doing now that makes them an area of concern for your athletes?

      If you are willing, consider sharing your results with someone you trust and who has your best interest at heart. This could be another coach, peak performance coach, a friend, or your spouse. This person can help you make sense of the ratings if you are uncertain about any of them as well as serve as a sounding board to help you process the information.

      Be sure to thank your athletes for providing you with their honest feedback. You don't need to tell them much more than that unless you want to. By opening yourself up to their feedback, you have already made a huge first step in showing them that you value their input.
  2. Target Areas to Improve
    Once you have gone over your athletes' feedback, you next need to target some areas you would like to improve.
  3. Gain New Ideas and Insights
    Read books such as The 2R Manager, The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches, The Leader's Voice, etc., attend clinics, and talk with fellow coaches to refine and enhance your coaching and communication skills.
  4. Practice and Implement Them
    Try your new coaching strategies with your athletes. Perhaps you will begin having regular meetings with your athletes to find out how they are doing. Or you might work on paraphrasing what your athletes say before giving your response. Whatever the case, the credible coaching strategies you are using should have at least a subtle if not significant impact on your athletes.
  5. Get More Feedback
    After two to three months of using your new strategies, have your athletes rate you again to see if there is any kind of change in how your coaching is perceived. Ideally you will see improvement in the areas you have targeted.
I suggest that coaches have their athletes evaluate their credibility roughly twice a year. Schedule an evaluation about one third to one half of the way into your season and the other soon after your season is finished. These periodic evaluations will help you effectively monitor your credibility and help you address potential problems before they have more serious, long-term consequences.

For more information on becoming a more credible coach, visit Jansen Peak Performance Resources, or call 1-888-721-TEAM for more information.to order your copy of The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches by Jeff Janssen and Greg Dale.

Jeff Janssen helps coaches and athletes develop the team chemistry, mental toughness, and leadership skills necessary to win championships.

Visit Jeff's Peak Performance website for more information or contact him by the information below.

Janssen Peak Performance, Inc.
102 Horne Creek Court
Cary, NC 27519

Our thanks to Human Kinetics for sending us some excellent coaching books. You can't beat the discounted price, less than $20.

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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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"My son's high school coach gave him a copy of the book and he read it in two days. Now he is leading the effort to get himself a scholarship. The book is inspiring and effective for high school athletes."
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