Sports Coaching: Part II - 12 Attributes That the Best of the Best Coaches All Seem to Have in Common

Continuing our discussion from Part I of what the cream of the crop (the best of the best coaches) have that others can’t seem to muster, here are the last six. Keep in mind that the combination of all of these together in one individual exponentially increases their effectiveness, thus, giving the “great coach” that extra ingredient (attribute #13) detailed at the end of this piece.


And not only are great coaches exceptional in the previous areas mentioned in Part I (along with those I will discuss below), they consistently apply these aspects across the board over time. They are reliable, dependable, and are the type of person who can be counted on time and time again as they are relentless with this consistency in all aspects of their coaching duties, even discipline when it is necessary.

Competitive Atmosphere

The best of the best, they know the importance of developing that competitive atmosphere in training/practice. One thing top athletes love to do is compete, otherwise why be an athlete, right? Great coaches use this natural tendency of the athletes as a way to help them continuously strive to higher levels of performance and skill development. You know, push the edge of the envelope I spoke of earlier.


Able to think outside the box, the best coaches are creative thinkers. They are able to come up with new ways to teach, train, practice, and compete, while their counterparts typically stay with the status quo.  It is not that they abandon tried and true techniques and strategies (for that is part of that consistency piece I spoke of earlier). However, the best coaches are able take those aspects to peak levels, adapt them when necessary to meet their and their athlete’s needs, and even create something completely different, new, and more effective when the need arises.

Good Example

Great coaches who are looking to cultivate peak performance and championship levels of achievement know that saying one thing and doing another does not bode well for that type of team development. The best coach is such because they are a living example of what it is they are trying to teach. They know they are the ones who must “set the example.” One cannot expect individuals under one’s direction to follow a path that they themselves do not follow. You see, top coaches, they do more than just “talk the talk” …they also “walk the walk.”

Positive but Honest

Bolstering the confidence of athletes is certainly a part of the plan as the best coaches reinforce the positives they see in their athletes. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that they give false praise, as honesty in critique is an important part of the process. However, demeaning and berating players with negative rather than positive constructive criticism simply does not enhance the internal motivations of the vast majority. The very best coaches…they know this.

Read Athletes

Whether it is a personality trait, a gift, or a sixth sense, great coaches are able to read their athletes, meaning they know what makes them tick—what motivates them. They are not only able to feel the mood of their team as a whole but can read the different individual characteristics of each member of their team. And so, it is with complete understanding that they use this ability to adjust and adapt their approach (as necessary) in order to help all reach their true athletic potential, both as a team and as an individuals.


This one here…caring; to be considered the very best of the best, it is indispensable. The great coaches, the ones people (former athletes) talk about decade after decade, the ones that will be remembered forever, they truly CARE about their athletes. And this caring, it goes beyond just the athletic arena. Take the time to ask athletes years after their career has ended why they thought so much of that person they so fondly called “coach” and, invariably, and in some way, the idea that they (the coach) truly cared about them (not only just as an athlete but also as a person) will come out. It may be direct, or it may be inferred, but for many, that coach, at least the great ones, they often helped change the athlete’s life.


So what is it that all of these aspects, characteristics, do when they come together in one person—the great coach? Well…they create a very deep sense of RESPECT from the athletes under his or her direction. And it is not just the normal, everyday kind of respect one has for a person in authority. Oh no, it is much deeper than that.

It is the kind of respect that produces an environment, a culture if you will, where athletes are eager to commit themselves to excellence; one where they become very disciplined in that approach, where the athlete (and/or team) willingly makes sacrifices, where setting the proper priorities (the kind that leads to championship) becomes second nature to them, and where the amount of heart they bring to their training and competitive table seems endless.

Coaches that are able to earn this kind of respect from their athletes, they are the ones who can literally tell their players to “jump” and the players actually mean it when they respond with “how high and how often do you want us to jump coach?” Only the truly great ones are able to earn this type of admiration.

Are you one of those?

Leave a comment