In Pursuit of Great Coaching

(Photo Credit: Al Behrman/Associated Press)

Growing up in Indiana, basketball was my first love.

Whether it was watching Larry Bird highlights, shooting hoops in my gravel driveway, or find the nearest pick-up game, I loved the game and thought that someday I would grow up to be a “coach.”

I was incredibly lucky in the fact that growing up in Muncie in the late 80’s, I got to watch some amazing basketball, highlighted by an amazing coach…

Rick Majerus.

This guy was always known for doing things his way, and getting the most out of his players.

And as a coach, what more can you ask for?

Every person who reads this blog is a coach of some sort.

Maybe you “coach” athletes…

…maybe you “coach” personal training clients…

…and maybe, the only person you “coach” is yourself.

With the passing of Coach Majerus, it’s gotten me thinking quite a bit about what makes a great coach.

What are some characteristics, or personality traits, that make up a great coach?

Here’s just a short list of qualities that I’ve come up with that defines what great coaches do, day in and day out.

Tireless dedication to improving their craft

If you watch any great coach long enough, you realize these people are in it for the long haul.

Here’s a famous quote that I love to refer to:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you live forever.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Learning the in and outs of your chosen profession takes years, even decades to refine. That’s why I love learning from older coaches who have “been there” and “done that.”

Make it an effort to learn something about your craft every single day, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a great coach.

Looking beneath the surface to motivate athletes

A transcendent talent like LeBron James, Michael Jordan or even Kobe Bryant has eye popping skills and can take over a basketball game at any point in time.

These athletes are typically easy to coach, as their motivation and drive to be the best is unparalleled.

But what about the less talented, or less skilled athletes?

As strength coaches and personal trainers, we realize that we must step back and look at the complete person in front of us: Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, if we want to get the most out of them.

Without looking beneath the surface to find out what really makes this person tick, it’s incredibly hard to maximize their talent.

They understand coaching teaches life lessons

I remember in high school my varsity basketball coach used to always tell us, “sports are a great to learn the lessons of life.”

How true that is.

If you’re a coach, you realize that the principles we employ in the gym translate to virtually every aspect of life itself.

Hard work.




When you realize that the lessons we learn in any given sport can translate to other avenues or aspects of our life, I feel that’s incredibly empowering.

Quite literally, if you can improve yourself in sport or in the gym, you have the tools to improve in life itself.

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

They focus on the task at hand

With all of the information available nowadays, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

In sports, the same thing can occur – whether it’s remembering plays or reacting to what the opposition is doing, you’re in deep doo-doo if you can’t focus.

A great coach helps you shed all the irrelevant stuff that’s bouncing around in your head, and focus on the task at hand.

Make the next move.

Take the appropriate action.

Rather than focusing on all the possible outcomes, if you focus on the next actionable step, chances are you won’t succumb to overwhelm, and you’ll perform better to boot.

Seeing athletes for what they can become

In my opinion, the most valuable component of what a coach does is to show the athlete what they can become.

When athletes come to us, they could be broken, lack confidence, or simply not that talented.

A great coach sees this athlete not for what they currently are, but for what they can become.

They say all things are created twice:

First, in the mind…

…and then, in reality.

If you can help an athlete see their destiny, or what they can become, you have truly become a great coach.


Becoming a great coach, for me, will be a lifelong pursuit.

I love working with people, and it’s something I fully intend to do for the rest of my life.

But I’m interested…

What drives you to become a great coach?

And what do you do everyday to make yourself better?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

All the best


BTW – if your goal is to become a great coach, consider becoming a part of the Elite Training Mentorship. This week only we’re offering a discounted $1 trial, and you get a ton of extra bonus materials as well.

==> Learn more about the Elite Training Mentorship HERE



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  1. The thing that drives me to become a great coach is the fact that I never had anyone to show me the ropes when it came to weights. I had to read like crazy, watch YouTube videos, and get help from people that had kind of been under the bar for awhile. I want to give the younger generations what I didn’t have access to with proper form and movement to give them the best chance to excel in competition (and in life)!

    Some of the things I do to continue to better myself is read sites like yours, T-Nation, Elite, Cressey, Dan John, Precision Nutrition, etc. I feel like I read more stuff online than I ever did in any academic setting, and it’s heavily paid off. I also try to attend seminars and get quality times with other coaches I respect, even if it’s just to sit down and pick their mind for an hour or possibly get in a good training session with them. I also make sure I spend my quality time under the bar and try new ideas and concepts on myself before ever placing them on a client.

    Thanks for the post Mike, very inspiring and excellent points to help bring out the best of all us coaches!

  2. Hey Mike,

    This question is related to CAD 2.0. I ordered it when you had the sale over Thanksgiving. Would I be able to get any of the certifications from the IYCA with this program. Ideally, I would like to obtain the High School Strength and Conditioning Cert. from the IYCA.

    • What I thought I was getting were the materials for the high school strength and conditioning certification which doesn’t seem to be the case. Also, I’m not sure if the High School S and C materials were ever sold for $200 (discount price) as the CAD 2.0 was

      • Kirk – You should really contact the IYCA directly to get these questions answered as I don’t have direct control over those products.


  3. Mike,

    Great article as always, I tend to give you a space in my must reads of the week and this is a for sure on that list. As far as I’m concerned everyone should always aspire to be the best at anything they do. I try to instill that into each and every individual I work with whether that’s an athlete, student or client. This is one of the most rewarding careers I could ever imagine. We get to mold and shape individuals to be successful in the future. It is our job to give them our very best. I also like to lead by example so I try to become better each day, week and year. Whether it’s a busy day or a light day I try to get in 1 hour of text, audio or visual learning component about something that will help me master my craft. One must also practice and practice with intent, I take diligent notes and time my workouts taking note on what cues worked, what drills worked and what didn’t so that I can become as efficient and successful as possible. I continually mold and shape my coaching style to become better each passing cycle. Becoming a great coach is like the theory of evolution, if you don’t adapt you will become extinct.

  4. Well played sir, well played. Maintaining the will to be better (Emotionally, Mentally and Physically) yet being grateful for everything I have. When you appreciate what you have and constantly strive for improvement of the EMP everything else in life falls into place. The more I improve myself, the better I become at my craft. The more adept I am at my career, the better I feel. It’s one of those positive loops that continually feeds it’s self.

  5. Had a kid play for coach for 2 years at Utah back in the 90’s and also sent my nephew to his camp. He was the best of the best. Loved watching his teams play. Was at the Mountain West tourney one year in Vegas sitting about 6 rows behind the Utes bench when Van Horn hit game winners on successive nights. “Rick the Pick” will surely be missed! Great post Mike! Thanks for what you do!

  6. I am helping out with some coaching for a high school all-girls rowing team and they just had an intro talk about goal setting and sports psychology. Great article! I copied and pasted a chunk of it into an email for them – focusing on the next actionable step to avoid becoming overwhelmed and performing better. Sweet timing and awesome information! Thanks!!

  7. I am driven to be a great coach because I want to help people realize what they are capable of. I feel like most people are afraid to try… and you have to try to know what you can do. People are always saying “I had no idea I would be able to do this!”

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