In coaching, “how” is more important than “what”

ACP 2-3-19 LA edit Coaches-2
Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan


Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to a few of my friends in leadership positions in sport around the world, as well as sharing a post on my Twitter account, about what type of things they value in new coaches.

My goal in this – besides simply interest – was to better understand what the types of things that coaching education should be providing for coaches.  

In my conversations with sport leaders, they mentioned one of two things: either skills (can be defined as “what we do”) were not important relative to a potential employee’s character (“how we do them”), or they assume the skills have already been developed – at which point, character takes precedence. 

“When hiring a new coach, ‘skills’ are way down on my list these days.”

– Loren Landow – Head of Strength & Conditioning, Denver Broncos

These types of responses mirrored those I received to my tweet, where “curiosity” was mentioned by over ⅓ of all respondents, while other responses included character traits like competence, humility, passion, likability, self-awareness, and adaptability.  

I can relate to this fully — when it comes to ‘technical skills’, I’d almost rather employ a totally blank slate – a coach who doesn’t come in with a bunch of faulty biases they will have to unlearn.  I just want good people, who are able to stand up in front of a group of athletes, communicate with clarity and confidence, and are willing to learn, and work, as a part of a team.  

So if character is so important to sport leaders (and we kinda already knew that, didn’t we), what are we doing to better educate ourselves on and about these attributes? 

My friend Brett Bartholomew has been beating this drum for a decade now — and has put together an outstanding package of educational materials — but besides that, it seems the educational landscape is pretty bare when it comes to teaching coaches how to apply the skills they learn.  

This is something we have been working on improving in our own education platforms for a long time now — and was the motivation behind starting our in-person Apprentice Coach Program back in 2014, as well as our digital mentorship programs last year. 

Our challenge has always been — how do we reach the maximum number of people, while still providing a high-quality program? 

Over the last few months, we’ve been putting together what we think will become our most-important program, and we can’t wait to share it with you.  

If this is something you are interested in, just register your interest here, and you will be one of the first to know the details, and will receive lower-priced early bird access.


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