Coaching is the key to your own expansion

written by Erica Quam

Wouldn't coaching be great if you could just tell your athletes what to do and they'd just do it?

  • No complaining
  • No questioning
  • No criticizing 
  • No looking at athletes who roll their eyes
  • No difficult conversations
  • No poor judgement or bad decisions
  • No miscommunications
  • No conflicts to manage or problems to solve

Think about that for a minute. How BORING would your job actually be? What would your athletes actually learn? What would YOU actually learn?

Each and every day you get the opportunity to connect with a very special group of people. You get a chance to build and nurture human relationships. You get to explore how each person ticks...what gets in their way, what inspires them, and what you can do to help them get out of their own way.

You are in the unique position to lead a group of people and teach them how to become better leaders through sports.  What an awesome job!

Here are 7 skills you get to work on every single day:


As a coach, you'll get ample opportunities to become more self aware. Get to know your own thoughts, feelings, and wants. Understand your triggers. Know the times you need to take care of yourself before managing others. Realize how your response to a situation creates the outcome.

From there, you can teach your athletes to look at what’s going on inside themselves and how their behavior impacts others. Point out their blind spots by giving them feedback that is timely, specific and constructive.


Another leadership skill you can hone in on is communication.  You'll have to be able to listen - with an intent to understand.  Speak with the intention of delivering a clear message that can be received and understood by your athletes.

From there, you can teach players to communicate clearly using responsible language and active listening skills.  Help them adapt to whoever they are talking with for better understanding.


You are constantly being watched by your athletes.  They get to see you role model mistakes and learn grace through failure.  Show them how you can maintain a sense of humor - even during times of stress.

To help them develop this skill you can stop to point out moments of resilience and grit when you see it.  When you have a team who can keep things light and maintain their perspective and focus when times are hard you're going to have better results at the end of the season and a lot more fun.


As a coach, you can develop better judgement through a consistent 3-step process: plan, predict, and reflect.   Learn how to use the appropriate decision-making style for the situation.  Debrief with your coaching staff and athletes so you can all learn and grow together through the ups and downs of the season.

Help your team create an environment where they can develop judgement and learn from their mistakes.  Help them identify ways to overcome failures and make better decisions.


Observe the stages of team development [form-storm-norm- perform] and get good at recognizing where your team is at any moment - so you can figure out what they need.  See trust as an essential ingredient to develop and maintain throughout the season.  Understand there are different roles and ways athletes can contribute as part of the team.

Help your team create a common team language that your athletes know, understand, and utilize with each other.  Point out strengths and ways each person can contribute to the team.  Help your team to create a positive learning environment and then be there to hold them accountable when they veer off track.


Define what winning and success look like - so you know it when you see it.  Set up clear outcomes and identify specific steps to get there.  Acknowledge victories, insights, and ah ha's throughout the season.  Use teachable moments to point out growth and progress.

Create a space for your team to have their own vision of success.  Guide them on identifying the steps they need to take to accomplish their goals.  Regularly point out progress and improvements - no matter how small and have them do this for one another.


Observe behaviors to see what issues need to be addressed.  Moderate emotional issues in an appropriate way by giving each side what they need.  Diffuse strong emotions so both sides can share their viewpoint. 

Help your team define the actual issues when they come both sides can work towards a solution.  Teach conflict resolution strategies and create time to practice these...before conflict actually comes up.  Model how to moderate conflict so they learn and improve.

On a path towards mastery

There's no arrival as a coach. You never actually get "there".  The most valuable part about this career is who you become along the way.  Just like your athletes, there are lots of skills you can work on to become better at what you do.  Being on a path towards mastery is much more powerful than one single result or achievement.  Working towards mastery places you on path of ever evolving growth and expansion.

I'm curious...which of these skills have you improved the most since you started coaching? Which one will you choose to work on over the next 3 months? Share for some accountability and support in the comments below.