As a coach, I wanted to address one of the most important and common questions I’m asked by the athletes and clients I work with; What are the qualities and characteristics in a coach I should be looking for?
I’ve been lucky enough to lead two international governing sporting bodies and have coached professional athletes for 20 years. When it comes to coaching, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly; I’d like to think I’m in the good column. But all jokes aside, I love coaching because I love helping athletes achieve their goals and reach their full potential.
There are numerous reasons why golfers hire a coach and just as many as to why they decide not to. Believe it or not, not every golfer needs or even wants a coach but let me tell you this; if you find a good coach, it can literally transform all aspects of your game. The challenging part is knowing what characteristics to look for.
Many club golfers are of the belief that their game is already too far gone, but the old adage still rings true; “it’s never too late to turn things around.” A good coach can identify areas of your game that need work and target specific areas to get your game back on track in a timely manner.
Alternatively, you have other golfers who think they understand their game so well that they don’t need a coach. The trouble with this type of golfer is that they limit their potential by not being open to a second opinion, particularly that of an expert. So although you might know your game well and have a low handicap, a good coach can identify areas in your game that you’ve overlooked and help you get the most out of your game.
Maybe it’s a slight adjustment in your putting stance or slowing down your take back; these little adjustments can often have a big impact on your game. When looking for a good coach, there are several factors and characteristics you need to be looking for, such as qualifications and someone you get on well with, but in reality, it’s a lot more in-depth than that.
Many golfers choose the coach at their local club simply because it’s convenient and time-saving but remember, just because a friend or family member is doing well with one coach, it doesn’t mean the same coach will work for you.
An excellent place to start is by asking other golfers at your club and even reaching out to the governing body to help guide you in the right direction. Don’t feel pressure to be coached at your home club; other clubs in the area are more than happy for you to receive coaching from their club pro, so keep that in mind.
After a while, you should have a small list compiled to help you make the right choice regarding the best coach for you. You don’t have to meet the coach in person, although, in my opinion, it’s still the best way to get a feel if you’re a good fit for each other; remember, you’re not the only person evaluating the fit; your coach is choosing you too.
So with all that being said, let’s take a look at the many characteristics you should look for when choosing a golf coach.
Measuring Success and Personal Characteristics
I have coached professional athletes for twenty years and, as mentioned earlier, have held some pretty big gigs. Couple that with more than ten international pro wins as a coach; some might say I’ve been very successful, but have I? You might be shocked to realize that in my mind, there was a lot more I could’ve done to get the best out of myself and the athletes I coached.
So how do we actually measure the success of a coach? How do you identify exactly what qualities to look for? One of the easiest places to start is by defining what the terms “successful” and “characteristic” actually mean. According to the Collins Dictionary, “something that is successful achieves what it was intended to achieve. Someone who is successful achieves what they intended to achieve.”
The Collins Dictionary defines “characteristic” as ” the characteristics of a person or thing are the qualities or features that belong to them and make them recognizable.” Whether looking for a golf coach, hiring staff, or looking for a babysitter, personality characteristics are the one trait we look to evaluate. Its also important to note that “successful” also refers to “excellency, superiority, and winning status” in its adjective form.
Why is identifying the characteristics of a successful coach so important, and how can we do it? One of the best ways is to ask coaches why they chose the profession. The main reason most coaches start coaching is that they are former professionals and love the sport. In my case, this was not true; although I was a former professional athlete, I didn’t start coaching because I loved the sport; I started coaching because I loved helping people.
Coaches that acquire knowledge and are continually looking to educate and better themselves are characteristics most golfers should be looking for when choosing a coach. The trouble for athletes is it’s tough to “gauge” or “measure” the character traits they’re seeing in a coach. Is the coach mildly successful, or have they coached at the highest levels? And does that even matter? Let me tell you; I know many coaches at the highest levels of the game that are no better than your local club pro.
Coaching and expert performance have been extensively studied and researched for decades; although, as much as I love reading 1000-page textbooks, the language used means you need a Ph.D. to understand a single word.
However, that being said, a book like “The Cambridge Handbook of Expert Performance In Sports” is an excellent read for coaches and athletes alike.
- Hardcover Book
- English (Publication Language)
- 984 Pages - 05/17/2018 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)
The book goes into detail on topics like:
- Fundamental coaching
- Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
- Effective communication
- Deliberate practice and
- Evaluating athletes, to name a few
In my opinion, the best coaches can monitor and develop skills, motivate athletes via positive reinforcement, provide technical and mental feedback, make accurate assessments, and, most importantly, evaluate progress.
Why are those traits important to you? Because these are the exact qualities and characteristics, you should be looking for when choosing a coach.
10 Qualities of the Best Coaches
As previously mentioned, a good coach will display many of the qualities already discussed, but now it’s time to go into deeper detail and delve into the top 10 qualities and characteristics you should be looking for in a coach.
1. A Deep Understanding of the Sport
For a coach to be successful, they first must have a deep understanding of the game of golf, everything from the basics and the fundamentals all the way to teaching tactics and advanced strategies.
Although most of the best coaches were former athletes themselves, it’s not always the case. Coaches need to be able to plan for the upcoming tournament or a season, understand the progressive nature of physical adaptations, and give the athlete a simple yet effective training plan to succeed.
In coach education, we use the coaching methodology P.P.R.P.C, which stands for:
A great coach should also have the relevant qualifications, whether it be from a university or an accredited governing body. Again, I want to stress here that not all coaches have qualifications and some of the best coaches I’ve met have no qualifications at all.
2. Continues to Seek Knowledge and Thinks Outside the Box
An excellent coach has a deep understanding of the game, but they also display the qualities of continued learning and thinking outside the box.
Staying at the top of the coaching game requires coaches to keep updated with the latest research on training, nutrition, sports psychology, and much more. Attending training camps and coaching conferences is also a non-negotiable for coaches looking to stay at the top of the game.
Continually studying videos and reading relevant books is also a trait many of the best coaches display. With the advent of technology, coaches can also sign up for online Masterclasses and webinars on nutrition and sports psychology topics to further their education.
3. Has a Passion for Educating Others
The best coaches not only have the knowledge, experience, and results to back up their status, but they also have supreme confidence in their ability to share it with others. The ability to seek knowledge and advice from coaches in other sports is also a common characteristic found amongst top coaches.
Great coaches are not afraid of expanding their thinking and are constantly looking to challenge themselves all in the quest to achieve success for the player. These coaches understand their role within the sport and the coach/athlete relationship and are committed to educating athletes.
In golf, players practice by themselves most of the time, so it’s imperative for the coach to spend as much time with them as possible; by doing this, the chance of achieving success is significantly enhanced.
4. An Excellent Motivator
The best coaches in the world are also some of the best motivators; they have an infectious spirit and passion for the athletes and the sport. I can tell you that the ability to motivate athletes is one of the most significant factors in achieving success.
The power to motivate comes easily for some coaches, while others either struggle or are continually working on this aspect of their coaching. The best coaches can motivate their athletes under any number of circumstances and have the ability to communicate in different tones and different personalities.
Ways to motivate the athlete are ensuring practice is fun, engaging, challenging, and fresh. Great coaches stress the importance of staying “task-focused” as opposed to “results-orientated,” and they are continually reinforcing the fundamentals. Controlling the things you can control and not wasting time on those you can’t are also reinforced.
5. Respects the Coach/ Athlete Relationship
In my experience, this is the one characteristic that the best coaches excel at; the ability to identify and understand different athletes require different coaching styles.
While yelling and getting angry may help motivate some players for others, it can be highly detrimental and have long-term effects that can be very hard to overcome. The best coaches can individualize the message to athletes, which is crucial in achieving a successful outcome.
The best coaches can also identify the strengths and weaknesses of their playes along with their emotions and vulnerabilities. This quality is particularly important for coaches working with several different players.
6. An Excellent Communicator and Educator
Effective and “easy-going” communication is another trait that the best coaches have. They also display qualities such as respect, authority, credibility, and competence, all of which give the athlete the ultimate level of confidence.
A good coach can communicate their message in a simple and easy-to-understand manner and simply explain technical instruction. Providing clear and practical feedback is another important part of the achievement, as is the ability to acknowledge success. The best coaches, contrary to popular belief, keep things very simple.
7. A Great Listener
When it comes to effective communication, two things are required, talking and listening; the best coaches are great listeners. A coach must be a person the athletes can trust and go to if they are experiencing problems or have anxiety over the upcoming round or their recent performance.
Great coaches are continually creating an atmosphere where the athlete feels safe to talk about anything and everything. The best coaches can take their athlete’s information on board and make the appropriate changes to the training program if need be.
8. Strong Morals and Integrity
At any level of any sport, players must adhere to a specific set of rules and regulations. It’s the coach’s job to make sure the athletes perform and adhere to this moral standard the best they can.
Trust and honesty between player and coach are among the most important aspects of achieving success and helping the athletes reach their maximum potential.Trust is built by leading by example on a daily basis; this applies to the coach and player. Great coaches convey and stick to a code of conduct, and if the player does not adhere to the code, discipline may be needed.
Its been shown in research, and I can back it up, that mild discipline works best coupled with consistent moral values like integrity, honesty, and personal growth.
9. Strong Work Ethic and Leads by Example
I prided myself on leading by example, and it’s the one quality I was most proud of and displayed day in and day out during my coaching career. If we’d just landed at the hotel and the player was in the gym, I would be running right next to them.
Leading by example gives your players confidence that they’ve chosen a coach who knows what he’s talking about and lives it and believes it. It’s also a human value in that a coach who demands respect also needs to show some themselves.
For example, if you expect your player to show confidence and positivity, you also need to be positive and confident. Another example is listening; if you want your player to listen to you, you need to listen to them.
10. Committed and Passionate
Finally, the most outstanding coaches are doing what they do because they love it; trust me; once you lose your passion for coaching, it’s tough to fake your way through it. Great coaches also display a love for the game and, as was in my case, the love of helping players achieve their lofty goals.
Coaching at the highest levels requires a 365-day, 24/7 commitment; just ask my wife and daughter. Making yourself available and accessible to your player goes a long way in achieving success, building the coach/player relationship, and developing trust.
Great coaches also plan and prepare for any number of situations, and it’s this planning and preparation that allows the players to perform at their highest level under any circumstance.
The Final Wrap
The characteristics and qualities we’ve discussed in this comprehensive guide are displayed by the best golf coaches in the world. Motivating players is a critical spoke in the wheel of success, and great coaches have the ability to motivate under any circumstance.
Searching for a coach that displays excellent listening skills, communicates effectively, and is highly qualified is also recommended when looking to choose the right coach for you. Successful coaches are continually evaluating their own performance and constantly looking to educate themselves on the latest research.
Finally, I’ll let you in on a secret; you’ll never find a coach who displays all the qualities I’ve mentioned to their highest ability. But what you will find are coaches that have your best interest at heart and who will do anything to help you achieve your goals.