This was a question that myself and Duncan French discussed a while ago on this blog and it's a question that is always interesting to discuss. Around about this time last year Coach Robert Dos Remedios gave me a shout and asked if I would let a young S&C coach from America spend some time with me when he visited the UK. Seeing as it was Dos who was doing the asking I said yes and even hooked the young S&C coach up with some other key players in UK S&C.
In the summer Chad Skrederstu came up the Newcastle and spent about a week with me, watching me coach, sampling some of my sessions (pretty much every coach he has spent time with has smashed him with their toughest training session!!!), eating my homemade Chilli and basically immersing himself in all things S&C. He's a great guy and he has been having an absolute blast this year, traveling around the world spending time with S&C coaches along the way.
I was reading his blog last night and he had a great post on there that he has allowed me to share with you. Here's what Chad thinks makes a great coach and some of the lessons he has learned during his road trip.
What makes a great coach?
How do you become a great coach? Who do you learn from to be a great coach? Are there different types of coaches? What's the difference between trainers and coaches? Do great coaches share similar qualities?
These are all questions I have been searching for answers to match them on my trip around the globe. After traveling for eight months and 16 countries I realised I came on this trip not to be a better strength and conditioning coach but to become a better coach.
I had the chance to hear Vern Gambetta speak about coaching excellence and pick his brain for a few hours in Surfer's Paradise at the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA) conference a couple of weeks ago. I recently picked up Vern's book â€œAthletic Developmentâ€ and a paragraph in the forward (listed below) suddenly answered all of my questions. Vern has been on trip similar to mine but the only difference is Vern has over 40 years of experience (yeah I felt like an infant talking with Vern). Vern probably has the best mix of the ART and SCIENCE I have ever seen in a coach. So here's the point after some TRUTH!
"Imagine a scenario that has you send someone out into the world to gather information. He or she would have to be someone with a critical eye for quality information. We must imagine someone who has an intense thirst for knowledge in any area that has an effect on our particular field or endeavour. This person will continually gather information, store it, and refer to it for the purposes of raising levels of understanding. Imagine this person as someone who spans the globe to not only gather but bounce information off of different cultures, societies, programs and activities. This person not only collects this information but uses it, applies it, evaluates it and rates its usefulness to others. This person asks the tough questions in an attempt to truly understand the whys, whens, whos and hows. Finally, imagine if this person could compile and condense this wealth of information into a refined, simplified reservoir of information. This person then disperses the information, blending the world's best minds in the field."
(James C. Radcliffe from Vern Gambetta's Athletic Development).
After 8 months of meeting with the top strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers, athletes and parents I noticed the good ones were all coaches. Even cooler I noticed they shared some similar qualities. What I found is the word â€œtrainerâ€ should be used for people like dog trainers, horse trainers and/or elephant trainers. Can you imagine calling a parent a kid trainer? Great coaches coach and bring out the best no matter if it's a client, athlete or a child. Let's get to the point. Below are 10 qualities I found some great coaches possessed (in no particular order):
1. Humility - Pretty straight forward, all of the great coaches I met never needed to tell me how great they were. They are true masters' who understand mastery is egoless. Humility is a big picture idea very subjective but probably the greatest trait I saw in the great coaches I have met.
2. Great communicators - Great coaches are just as good at listening as they are at giving directions. They understand who they are working with and give feedback and instructions in a way their client/athlete/child will understand best.
3. See the big picture - Great coaches pick up on the small details but understand and see the big picture for their client/athlete/child. They have the overall goal in mind but are realistic and flexible in making decisions which will be in the best interest of their client/athlete/child.
4. Bring out the best in others - Now this is the art. Coaches know how to motivate others and understand no one client/athlete /child is the same. They put the client's/athlete's/child's needs before theirs (that's the whole humility thing again).
5. Surround themselves with smart people - They sit behind the smart kids in class and strive to be a small fish in a big pond. They might not win on the show who wants to be a millionaire but they would have tons of educated friends to call for the answers.
6. Life long learners - They keep learning and understand the more they learn the less they realize they know. They talk to others for advice, read books, goes to seminars and most all learn from their clients/athletes/children. They take big picture ideas that are complex and make them easy to understand ( i.e. where do babies come from? Answer Wisconsin).
7. They are leaders - They do the right thing for their client/athlete/child not what's right. They will stand up for their client/athlete/child even when others think they are wrong because they know what is best for that client/athlete/child.
8. They pay it forward - They help others who are working to develop themselves (good parents help younger parents, good S&C coaches share knowledge with up and coming strength coaches etc..).
9. They are good at sharing - All of the top coaches I have met open up their computers and let me take whatever I want. They recognize it's not the program or plan it's how it's delivered and tweaked. They are confident in their abilities and secure with sharing knowledge.
10. They have a strong foundation - Like a house if everything collapsed they could rebuild from their foundation and reconstruct the house but this time it would be better with a pool out back.
After hearing Vern Gambetta speak about coaching for excellence it clicked.......... I didn't need to make a transition from personal trainer to strength coach. I have been coaching people since I started personal training 9 years ago. Yeah my programs might have sucked but I coached to bring out the best in people. The coach hat is not that different if you're coaching athlete's to perform, personal training clients to feel better or raise your kids to be good people. So what's it going to be are you going to be a trainer or coach? Either way you're going to have an impact on people's lives.
Chad makes some great observations, I loved having him spend time with me in the UK and I'm sure we will hook up again at some point in the near future.