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Coach to Coach: Follow These Four Keys to Become a Better Coach Every Day

by: Jared Wood
Sport Psychology Consultant
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As coaches, we often preach to our players, ďYou will either get better or worse today.Ē In order to get better every day, players have coaches who have made practice plans for them and provide encouragement, feedback, and inspiration. But if we, as coaches, are going to get better, who and what do we have to help us? The following is an acronym for a process you can use on a daily basis to make sure you are improving in key areas of coaching effectiveness. Follow this plan each day, and you will get better.


To be a great coach, you must build relationships. Relationships are the primary element in any change process involving two people (e.g., player and coach, student and teacher, mentee and mentor) such as improving a skill or learning a game plan. Relationship building is powerful because it deals with values, which is half the equation for motivation (i.e., a useful model for motivation is Motivation = Expectation X Value). Too often we skip over the value part of motivation and just hammer our own expectations into players and fellow staff as if they were nails just waiting to be driven into place. While expectations are important, to motivate a broad range of people effectively, we have to understand what they value, and building relationships with them is the best way to do that.

How to Build

One of the best ways to build is to listen. Ask a small question or two, truly give all your attention to listening without judgment, and you will be amazed at what people tell you. Get to know your players and fellow staff like never before. What do they hope and dream? What are their weekend plans? Who lives at home? Who insprires them? How can you help them? Do not feel like you need a great response. Listening intently is your response, and it is so rare that the person you are listening to will like you better for it and open up to you even more in the future. If a response is needed, it will come to you naturally without you having to force it.


Growth requires doing or learning something new or executing it at a higher skill level. This often feels weird or different, sometimes in a good way but often in a slightly uncomfortable way. Do not fear uncomfortable. Embrace it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Too often we sit idly in our own comfort zone because it feels familiar, yet this familiarity breeds stagnation. Donít get too comfortable or do things the same way just because thatís the way you have always done it. Push your limits. Learn. Grow. Execute at a new level.

How to Evolve

Find something new to learn. Perhaps you want to stick with Xs and Os. Thatís fine. Learn a new offense or defense. Even if you donít plan on installing it, the new knowledge will help you study film better. Maybe you want to learn more about sport psychology. Something as simple as reading a book page or a blog entry a day can educate and inspire new thinking. Even following sport psychologists on twitter would prompt new learning. Perhaps leadership is your thing. There are many great books, blogs, tweets, and videos created by excellent leaders in sport, business, military, education, and other fields. Whatever you want to learn, dive into it, educate yourself, and apply your new knowledge on a daily basis.

Synergy happens when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In order to synergize in life, each of us needs others. From studying teamwork for more than half my life, I can assure you that the team approach is always capable of producing a better product than an individual effort. The team approach is not effective, however, when some individuals on the team are selfish or bite off more than they can chew.

The solution is to involve others purposefully, and in your quest to become a better coach, the people you want to involve are your fellow coaches. To be at your best as an individual and a staff, you must utilize your fellow coaches effectively.

How to Synergize

To synergize, request the help of one or more of your fellow coaches. Figure out what they are good at and ask them to help you get better. They can do this in a number of ways, such as directly teaching you, having you watch them execute their craft, watching you try to execute the skill on your own, and having feedback and discussion. Do not fear looking weak or incapable. Other people see asking for help as a strength. It is a sign of self-confidence, and they will actually like you better for it. Furthermore, it is a great example to show others, and you will likely inspire others to do the same. You might even try organizing an entire learning culture as a staff. For example, you could have a different coach each week give a short presentation on their area of expertise.


To be a great coach, you must transcend the sport and teach the game of life. It is important to teach life lessons explicitly. Our players often do not naturally learn what is obvious to us, so point it out. Teach the connections between our great games of football and life.

How to Transcend

There are many ways to transcend sport as a coach. Iíll point out three. The first is to build relationships, the first step in the BEST process. Build relationships and others will see that you are coaching more than just football. You are coaching life lessons. The second is to lead by example. If you want your players and fellow coaches to act in certain ways and adopt certain values, then you need to show them the way. The third is to be a great story teller, sharing examples of former players who have taken the lessons learned in sport and applied them to life.

Do not assume these lessons are obvious to everyone. Make them clear by sharing them in an entertaining way. Perhaps even consider having alumni come back and talk about what they learned playing football. Reach out and build a relationship with a former player. Doing so will show your current players that your care for them is lasting.

About the Author: Dr. Jared Wood has been an educator for the past 19 years and a sport psychology coach for the past 14 years. He co-founded Champion Mindset Group (, the premiere sport psychology coaching firm in Southeast Michigan, in 2011. He recently completed and published a sport psychology training manual for players and coaches called ďItís Only Cold On One Sideline.Ē Visit his website to find free articles and training plans or to purchase the manual and other training materials. You can contact Dr. Wood at or 248-535-5358. Follow him on Twitter: @1sideline & @woodjared.


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