Up Your Game This Season: 7 Leadership Skills To Master As A Coach [Part 6 - Competence]

written by Erica Quam

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Competence = your ability to perform a skill in a way that produces the desired results.

To gain competence as a coach you need two things: experience and training.

Like any skill you'll develop competency on your own timeline.  

You may learn faster than other coaches.  

You might require different types of experiences to become more competent in certain areas of your job.  


Think back to when you first learned to drive.  You started off as a novice and went through the next four stages as you gained knowledge and experience.  

1. Novice
A novice uses facts and applies rules in a simple and methodical way. You recite details to yourself vs. intuitively recognizing patterns.  You don't know what you don't know.  You assume what you see is normal and will predict what you'll see next time.

2. Beginner
As a beginner, you now have more experience.  You've been in real situations that have helped you learn judgement.  You begin to see patterns of when some rules no longer apply or are irrelevant yet you lack that bigger-picture perspective.

3. Competent
Once competent, you're able to access facts on a more intuitive level. You have an easier time establishing priorities and taking action. 

And although you're competent...you're still much slower than someone who is proficient.

4. Proficient
You're more efficient and fluid.  You spend less time analyzing.  You're not operating a car...you're just driving.

Once you're proficient, you could make the mistake of getting too comfortable...overlooking details outside your level of experience and relying on luck.

5. Expert
Experts have extensive experience. You're comfortable "winging it" because you know you can. You've got a level of confidence in your ability.

You're not always so great at teaching novices - because things come so intuitively to you.  You're better at modeling - and having them watch and ask questions.


As a coach, utilize the characteristics of each stage to determine where you are and assess what you need to move to the next level. 

NOVICES respond well to having a competent person tell them what to do and when to do it.

  • need "normal" situations to practice and apply simple rules
  • a "one reason why" level of understanding
  • keep them safe...until they develop judgement
  • give them clear directions to help them gain experience
  • teach them to ask for help when they need it

BEGINNERS need you to tell them HOW to become more competent

  • give clear instructions...and don't bail them out quite as fast
  • let them risk making mistakes (within boundaries) to learn lessons on their own
  • give them enough experience that they WANT to get better
  • coach them to succeed

Once COMPETENT, you need more diverse experiences

  • good coaching helps speed the learning process
  • be cut loose to make independent decisions with time to think 
  • need independence to be able to learn and become proficient 
  • ask them why they made certain decisions to help develop their intuition

By the PROFICIENT stage, you need opportunities to push your limits

  • need interactions with other proficient people to deepen understanding 
  • can become bored or tired by group discussion around decisions
  • can function on more diverse teams

EXPERTS are challenged to maintain expertise through experiential learning

  • easy to get complacent, lose the drive, and backslide
  • can't be bothered to answer why
  • let decisions flow: just because...
  • not always the best mentors
  • teaching is a great way to challenge experts to continue to grow 

No coach is universally competent

There's always room to grow...somewhere.  Get clear on your strengths and become aware of those areas where you can further develop your skills. 

Surround yourself with people who will guide, encourage, and offer an outside perspective.

Just like your athletes, getting the support you need as a coach will help you develop competence easier and faster than you would on your own.

Utilize these stages of competence with your athletes.  Help them see where they can grow and how they can contribute to your team at a higher level.

What's one takeaway you can use for yourself and your team this season? Share it in the comments below.