Up Your Game This Season: 7 Leadership Skills To Master As A Coach [Part 4 - Judgement & Decision Making]

written by Erica Quam

As a coach, you are continually developing judgement.  You can learn from every decision you make.

The coaches I work with often want to know if they are making the 'right' decision.

If you're intentions are positive then it's less about making a right or wrong, good or bad decision...it's more about what you decide to do next. 

Think of it more like R & D (research and development).

Judgement and decision-making go hand in hand.  Both are skills that can be developed, fine tuned, and improved.


You don't learn judgement from experience alone.  You learn through conscious reflection.


With each situation you encounter, it's valuable to take time to reflect back to see what you learned:

  • What went well?
  • What didn't go well?
  • What do I need to do next?

Most coaches don't take this time for reflection. 

When you don't take enough time to digest your experiences you stop yourself from important insights that help you decide what to do next.

It may not be in your nature to look back.  I get it.

Coaches are driven...forward thinkers...moving ahead...into the future.  

Once a goal is reached, you raise the bar higher.  Keep going.  Don't stop.

Most coaches are so overwhelmed that taking time to look back may seem like a waste. There are literally hundreds of things to get done and a feeling of not enough time or support to fit them all in.

Or when you do look back you spend time and energy second guessing yourself: judging and criticizing the decisions you made.

To develop better judgement and improve the decisions you make, you have to intentionally build in time to hit the pause button. 

Be productive and proactive in your reflection so you can get clear on your very next step.


All leaders make decisions. 

It's the leadership skill that often requires the most of your energy. 

Don't try and make difficult decisions when you feel tired, distracted, and overwhelmed. 

Make them when you're fresh, focused, and awake.

Make as many decisions ahead of time that you can - so you're not making them at the last minute. 

This includes: what you will eat, what you will wear, when you will work out, when you will stop working and go home, when you will make recruiting calls, etc.

Making as many decisions in advance will save you tons of time and energy in the end.


Sometimes you will feel stuck. 

Instead of making a decision you may find yourself avoiding, procrastinating, or dragging your feet.  

It's important to become aware of these tendencies!

Let's look closer at 3 decision-making traps:

When you find yourself waiting...instead of making a decision...examine what you're waiting ON. 

This can build an important level of self awareness.

1. Coaches wait for CERTAINTY

Maybe you have an urge to know that your decision is 'right' before you make it. You keep looking for more information, you do more research, or you ask more people questions.

It's not wrong to want to 'feel certain' about your decision.  What you need to watch out for is how long the process goes on.  Be able to recognize when it's keeping you stuck.  Your brain likes certainty...and there's an element of uncertainty in life.  Acknowledge that uncertainty and then decide.

2. Coaches wait for APPROVAL

Maybe you want or need approval from your assistant coach, your sports supervisor, your team captains, your athletes, your spouse, and anyone else who will listen to you as you go on this quest for approval and support. 

Sure, it feels great to have approval.  Is it necessary?  Is it even realistic? 

Coaches have to get comfortable making unpopular decisions.  That's your role as a coach. 

If everyone loves you all the time...

and they always love every decision that you make...

then (and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news here) 

you're probably not doing a very good job as a coach. 

It's your job to get people out of their comfort zone. 

You have to challenge your team to keep them committed and hold them accountable.

Spend less of your time searching for approval ahead of time and more of your energy educating people on the rationale behind your decision(s).

There will always be someone out there who won't approve of a decision you make. 

That's reality. 

Let it go. 

Stay connected with your vision an values.

Trust yourself.

3. Coaches wait for PERFECTION

Waiting for perfection is common for coaches.  It's different from striving to be good at what you do.

Perfectionism is a belief that if you look perfect, act perfect, and make perfect decisions you can avoid pain and criticism. 

There's only a certain amount of data to gather before you move into 'analysis paralysis' mode.

Unplug yourself from perfection.  Let go of what other people think of you.  It's none of your business!

Make an imperfect decision and then get clear on what you want to do next.  You'll feel a whole lot more freedom when you do.

These three traps have one main thing in common: they place the power and control in someone else's hands. 

Instead of looking inwards, you're looking outwards.  You're relying on the perspective of people outside of yourself.

When you begin to recognize you're in one of these traps you begin to bring your power back.

Instead of looking around...for more advice, more information, more approval, more opinions...get quiet. 

Tune in to your own inner knowing, your own inner power.

Most of the time (if you're being really honest) you already know what you need to do.


After reading this article, what's one action you'll take to improve this skill? Share it here to get clear and for more accountability.