Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches

I have recently been re-reading a book on the Seven Secrets of Successfully Coaching by Jeff Janssen and Greg Dale. Jeff and Greg interviewed successful coaches and their players at the professional and collegiate level that lead to seven key tenants to building a long lasting organization that can compete in the top ranks year after year with different players.

It All Starts at the Top

"The purpose of this book is to provide you with the answers to intriguing and important leadership questions. ... the core of what successful coaching is all about - getting athletes and teams to consistently perform to their full potential. ... Your leadership is the key component in deciding whether your team will perform to its potential or fall short. ... Yet without your ability to attract, motivate, develop, discipline, produce, and keep good athletes, your team had little chance of being successful." 

"... ultimately your success as a coach will not solely be judged on the quantity of wins you have, but also on the quality of the relationships you develop with your athletes."

Coercive Coaches vs Credible Coaches

Coercive coaches, with their command and control leadership style, force players to follow them out of fear.  They make athletes fear them by punishing, embarrassing, and yelling at them when they make a mistake or break a rule.  This overbearing and negative approach many times will work in the short term, but over the long run the players will not respect the coaches as legitimate leaders, will eventually become discouraged, and will stop developing their skills.  It is not surprising that eventually the players come to resist and resent the dictatorial and manipulative coaching style.

On the other hand, credible coaches earn their athletes' respect by the way they nurture and develop them.  They treat their athletes with dignity and respect and create an environment where they feel valued, appreciated, challenged, and competent.  They build solid relationships with their athletes based on integrity, compassion, and trust.  By focusing on making decision that are the best for the team, and not what is best for the coach short term, credible coaches earn the players respect, develop more confident athletes, and get higher player performance.

Based on interviews with over 15 of the nations top and most well respected coaches and the players that played for them, Jeff and Greg confirm that the credible coaching style leads to greater player respect, better trust within the team, and more winning seasons.

Seven Secrets of Credible Coaches are ...

  1. Character based:    Credible coaches seek to do the right thing by honoring players with high ethical standards and great integrity.  They tell the truth and never manipulate or play mind games.  They surround themselves with assistant coaches of solid character because they know that character is just as important as talented athletes in the long run.
  2. Competence:   Credible coaches have a thorough understanding of the strategies, rules, and fundamentals of the game.  They know how to put together a game plan, learn to make appropriate mid game adjustments, and are seldom outcoached.  A key characteristic is being inquisitive about innovating new tactics and improving the way things are done.  They are students of the game and understand that admitting their limitations is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.
  3. Committed:   Credible coaches are highly committed people who create successful visions for their team and are more than willing to put in the time required to make the team successful.  They are highly competitive people who truly enjoy competing and winning at the highest levels with a true passion for the sport that fuels an intense drive, enthusiasm, and passion.  They survive the inevitable storms of adversity with energy and resiliency.
  4. Caring:  Credible coaches sincerely want the best for their athletes both on and off the field of play.  They invest the time to get to know their players on a personal level by showing interest in their players' families, friends, school, and future goals.  This caring does not stop at the end of the season or the player's eligibility, but extends through high school, college, and eventual career.
  5. Confidence builders:  Credible coaches continually build their athletes' confidence by planting seeds of success in their minds and convincing them they can and will be successful.  They have the capability of convincing others that they can achieve almost anything they set their minds to.   They are demanding and set high standards, yet patient enough to help players develop and improve.
  6. Communicators:  Credible coaches are open, honest, and direct when communicating with the players and team.  They consistently remind and refocus the team on critical success factors and involve their athletes' by listening to their feedback and valuing their input.  Due to their communicative abilities, many times they are aware of player's concerns and conflicts that enable them to proactively address situations before they become a major problem or distraction.
  7. Consistent:   Credible coaches develop a sound coaching philosophy that remains stable over time while flexible enough to adapt to changing times and situations.  Whether the team is winning or losing, they bring a consistent and focused demeanor to practice and games.  They tend to have very few team standards or rules that they consistently apply to all players.  Finally, they tend to be highly organized people who take practice and game preparation seriously.

Assessment to where your coaching style is on the scale of coercive to credible coaching

Based on Jeff and Greg's description of credible coaching, I have come up with a few questions that I believe will help every coach determine where they are on the coercive to credible coaching style.  Ask yourself the following three questions:

  •   At what part of the season does the team peak?   beginning, middle, or end
  •   Would you play for yourself?
  •   Do your players return year after year?

Based on your answers, your coaching style can be determined:

  • If your team peaks at the beginning of the season or very few players returned from the prior year, then it is time to look in the mirror to discover a coercive coach.  In many many years of playing and coaching, I have never met anyone who will readily admit to being a coercive coach, even though they are the prototype of the definition.  Would you play for yourself because, as the coach, you are focusing on the teams success?  Probably not!   It is time for some self evaluation and determine how committed you are to the team's success.  Are your committed enough to change your fundamental coaching style?
  • If your team plays the best in the middle of the season, then you need to continue learning the game and build and develop credible coaching characteristics.  By the middle of the season, most teams have scouted their opponents, know their style of play and the best defensive and offensive players.  During the second half of the season, the successful coaches make in-game adjustments that enable their teams success.
  • Does your team play the best at the end of the season with many of the players returning season after season?   If this is the case, then you have several of the characteristics of a credible coach.  I say "several" because even after 20 years of coaching experience, the best coaches in the nation still readily admit to continually working to master these seven traits.  Pick one secret for success this next season and set a goal to improve in this area.

This quick book review cannot do the topic of credible coaching justice.  In Seven Secrets of Successfully Coaching, Jeff and Greg devote a chapter to each of the seven traits, with numerous stories from the successful coaches and their players they interviewed.  If you are committed to becoming a credible coach that year after year competes at the highest level, then this is a book you will pick up and read multiple times throughout your career.

Best wishes and see you in the finals!

Coaching and Leadership books by Jeff Janssen:

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April 21. 2009 18:31


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