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June 11th, 2018

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Are You Good Enough to Coach Your Sport?

by Dr. Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

We coaches may look composed and tough on the outside, but on the inside we often have the same fears and worries that typical folks have.

I know from my own experiences, and a survey I did of recently hired coaches, that one of those worries is, “Am I good enough to coach my sport?”

I call this one of the “3 am wake-up worries” that coaches suffer. (You can probably guess where that name came from.)

So are you? Are you good enough to coach your sport?

Let’s find out.

Balancing act

A critical step to finding out if, in fact, you are good enough to coach your sport is to balance two items. Those are (a) the talents-skills you possess, and (b) the coaching outcomes your program/organization/school requires of you.

You see, if we set up a simple little teeter-totter like this one . . .

with the two items on either end, we can get an understanding if we are good enough. So, if your talent-skills basket outweighs your outcomes basket, then there’s a solid chance you are good enough. On the other hand, if your outcomes basket is heavier, chances are you aren’t good enough.

Harsh, harsh, harsh, but probably true.

Let’s drill down further…

What talent-skills do you have?

I’m going to recommend two steps. First, grab a piece of paper or a computer page and list your talents and skills. Sounds simple, and it’s a good place to start.

Yet as social psychologist David Dunning writes “people overestimate themselves.” And we certainly do.

It’s called illusory superiority, and it’s human nature—meaning everyone does it Coach, not just us. It’s just something we have to deal with, and the next step can help.

Now, take your list and let’s get feedback.

Give your list to someone. Not just anyone, but a person who

  1. knows you
  2. knows coaching
  3. who you can trust to give you honest feedback

Does she/he agree with what you’ve written? Now have that person ask you questions such as:

  • Are you a good communicator?
  • Do you have basic, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of your sport?
  • Do you know the sport’s rules?
  • Can you recruit?

As you respond to the questions watch his/her eyes.

If he asks you, “Are you good with people?” And you respond, “I certainly am” and his eyes grow wide in amazement…well…you’re getting feedback that you probably aren’t as good with people as you think you are.

Take that list, and keep it safe.

What coaching outcomes are required of you?

Now the hard part…

After you’ve gone through your interrogation it’s time to determine what outcomes are expected of you.

I did this when I was applying for my head coach job at Washington College. I asked the Athletic Director point blank, “What outcomes does the school want from me?”

Nothing shocking came out of that conversation, but the answers were critical in me taking the job, and I’m sure the question helped them see me as a serious candidate who may be after more than just a coaching-gig.

So go to your immediate supervisor and ask the question. Don’t make assumptions here. Ask the question. You need to know the answer.


Distill the information you’ve just gathered.

  • Make two columns on a piece of paper/computer page with talents-skills on one side and outcomes on the other
  • Fill in what you know under each column
  • Analyze

Are you talent-skills lacking? Start a plan of self-improvement.

Are the outcomes required well below your talent-skills? Chances are you are going to get bored.

This is a simple exercise, but one that could be important to your coaching success, and your coaching longevity.

Give it a try.

Dr. Mike Davenport is a former college coach and current consultant who works with coaches to improve their recruiting, and their college coaching career. Visit his library of articles and advice at CoachingSportsToday.com, or email him at mike@dantudor.com.

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