What Makes a Great Coach?

Aug 20, 2010, 5:05 AM |

What Makes a Great Coach?

How do you find a great coach?  How do you recognize him/her when you find them?  How do you become such a great coach yourself?

In this brief article, I'd like to share my thoughts on the qualities that I have found to be crucial for an outstanding coach.


In my own experience and through speaking to many students over the years, I have found that a great coach is someone who has at least the following qualities:

(a) is passionate, patient, and has the energy/time to devote to coaching someone at your level. 

This is important and not easy -- imagine how many people would be willing to teach first grade students how to add numbers.  We all know that 2+2 is 4, but not everyone has the patience, passion, and energy to continually help those young kids who are just learning it. 

(b) is able and willing to tailor the instruction/coaching to your specific needs and circumstances.

Personalized coaching -- not something that works for most people, but something that works for you specifically -- takes time to craft and deliver, but is immensely valuable.  If the coach has previously worked with someone who has interests / problems / areas of focus similar to yours, this may be very helpful for you.

(c) is above your level of understanding of the subject, though not necessarily much above

An example can best illustrate my point here.  If you want to learn to drive a regular car, would you find someone you know or trust, who is a good driver (even if not the best driver) and with whom you have a good relationship, or would you hire the Nascar / Formula1 world champion?  Clearly, if you have aspirations for becoming a car racing champion, working with the champions directly is a good idea at some point in your learning path, but for most other situations it would be a better use of everyone's resources to not approach the matter so extravagantly.  It would also be easier to find a good match, because there are few champions around and they likely have less time to devote.

(d) is currently actively engaged in coaching in that domain, and learning how to do it ever better. 

I have found that teachers who have acquired a special knowledge or skill a long time ago have usually forgotten what junior students need in terms of their developing understanding of the subject, so their instruction often falls short because of that disconnect between what is needed and what is being provided.  Vice versa, someone who has more recently acquired a knowledge or skill through diligent work has a much higher chance of actually remembering what was the tough part, why it was difficult, and how to make your learning (as a student) less frustrating and more enjoyable and productive.


What else is crucial for being a great coach? 

All of us have seen examples of outstanding coaches, mentors, tutors, and teachers. 

What qualities made them so good that we still remember them?

Please share in the comment section below. 


I would like to learn from you, and also to help everyone learn from each other in the process.