May 12, 2021 • Athletic AdministrationBaseballBasketballCoachingFootballHockey

10 Observations of a Successful Coach

What makes a successful coach? While the answers may differ depending on who you ask, they will all undoubtedly agree there is no single way to be successful.

Through my years of working within athletics, I have made many observations about what it takes to be successful.

Below are those observations, broken down into a list of 10.

Photo: Gerry Dincher / Creative Commons

They know their audiences

  • The student body
  • The school faculty, administration, and the staff
  • The community (business, faith-based, health) and the athletic boosters
  • The system/organization that is responsible for your school
  • The media

They are organized

  • Everyone is given the same time to work with; not everyone uses time the same
  • They set goals and hold themselves accountable
  • They write things down and keep good records

They manage time and the unexpected well

  • They balance home, work, and interact with various communities well
  • They appreciate the opportunities to sleep, eat, exercise, learn
  • They use a planner

They are good listeners

  • They understand you have two ears and one month; there is a reason for that
  • They understand how to “listen” to body language, theirs and yours when they are having a conversation.
  • They are sure they are really listening and not formulating a response (or rebuttal) before the person they are talking with is done speaking
  • They focus on and try to minimize emotions
  • They often journal: they understand written records are invaluable

They make observations

  • They learn to see little things before they become big things
  • They always look people in the eye
  • They understand the differences between people, places, things-they deal with them individually as the situation dictates

They are not afraid to be assertive

  • They are leaders, not just thinkers
  • They are confident
  • They are not irritated when asked something and they are not afraid to ask
  • Successful coaches respect initiative
  • They are not afraid to fail; they learn from mistakes
  • They do not take criticism personally. They understand when they make decisions, they will not make everyone happy.
  • They know to praise in public, criticize in private
  • They understand a firm handshake speaks volumes about the person

They are flexible

  • They understand having a Plan “B” is a necessity
  • Their way, your way, the highway-they understand sometimes compromise is not a bad thing or a sign of weakness

They understand it is important to always be a student

  • They have a mentor; they are observant, listen, and learn.  These are driving forces in their growth
  • They often watch and learn from successful people (not just coaches)
  • They understand the importance of reading, writing, working with numbers, and public speaking = 4 cornerstones for success
  • They try not to make the same mistake twice
  • They do not let pride take over; they will ask for help 
  • They commit to professional development and are involved in professional associations

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They are realistic

  • Be safe, be healthy, be happy.  They listen to their own body; eat, sleep and drink water
  • They understand Rome was not built in one day; nothing lasting ever was.  Real success takes some time.
  • They understand not to compromise their ethics. Always be honest.
  • They accept they will not please everyone.
  • People can take away money, possessions, jeopardize safety, and health but they cannot take your word. Successful coaches keep your word. They say what you mean; mean what you say

They value people and build a good team getting to know key people

  • Rules compliance officer
  • An administrator who oversees your sport
  • Athletic training staff
  • Team doctor
  • Facility manager and custodians
  • Athletic secretary
  • Counseling staffs
  • Financial aid people
  • Boosters
  • Local reporters