3 steps to being a good mentor

Dan Pfaff - ALTIS Head Coach, and Mentor to 1000's of coaches
Dan Pfaff

Dan Pfaff

Head Coach

Mentorship is something that lots of folks talk about, and lots of folks appreciate the importance of – but there are really few effective structured mentorship programs in coaching education.  

Costs, time allotments for both parties, rules and regulations by governing bodies, a dearth of true educators in leadership roles, the lack of reward for doing mentorships other than self-gratification, liability issues, ‘life 101’ challenges, etc. – all of these are reasons why mentorship programs are few and far between.  

I have seen some decent attempts in S&C circles and sport academy settings — but opportunities are limited, and often difficult to obtain entrance into. The US system in all sports allows for some degree of random mentorship journeys as one moves up the ranks so to speak.  I see a big shift to remote mentorship works of late and also notice a growth in peer mentorship meeting groups and projects.  

This is a positive. 

I study what is occurring in US circles with coaching ladder schemes and various European football academy projects – especially in Holland and Germany. 

As stated above, there are many obstacles to the process. 

A key component to mentorship is having the mentor watch, critique and guide mentees in their work … this is a major gap in most programs as time, costs, availability, and logistics are major obstacles. 

I was fortunate to have Coach T and Victor give me such opportunities, and they continued to monitor me throughout my career with timely criticisms and suggestions. This is a critical component to trades apprenticeships and to my knowledge, very few sport agencies are addressing this piece well. 

I think most mentors exhibit behaviors addressing process-design and implementation, management skills, communication abilities, problem-solving schematics and accountability measures. There is no doubt I noticed these factors in my own mentors, and that they shifted my mindset and actions accordingly to various degrees.  

I try to address these factors in my own mentorships today. 

These heuristics are solid visionary prompts for influence. We are shaped by environmental encounters over time, so I am not sure how much one can emulate mentoring examples in total – but as in so many cases of teaching, having a blueprint for starters is invaluable. 

Over the last couple of years, I have been mentoring a group of female coaches.  It is not easy mentoring remotely, but it has its advantages over in-person as well.  The opportunity to speak to so many more coaches – as well as the interactions and relationships these coaches form with each other – have been a big bonus. And it’s been a really enjoyable experience for me!

I’m in the unique position now of mentoring coaches who are mentoring other coaches – including a few who are in the women’s program I am currently running.  They often ask me for my advice on this topic, which I can boil down into three points: 

  1. Provide advice, support and “coaching” in a timely but systematic manner
  2. Share “insider” information on how to advance in their roles, duties and career paths.  Good mentors are connectors – making and supporting introductions to key stakeholders in the industry. Peer introductions and cultivation of relationships are a critical piece in the process. When possible, I think mentors should provide highly visible opportunities for the mentee in a variety of settings
  3. Serve as a constant advocate of promotion in arenas that the mentee can not always fight for themselves

Thanks for reading. We talk about mentorship quite a lot at ALTIS — so that should tell you how important we think it is. So important, in fact, that — over the last two years — we have been working hard to put together a three-phase mentorship pathway.

You can read about it here. I hope you’ll join us

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