3 Tips to Becoming a World-Class Athlete Development Coach

Athlete Development Coaching Tips

Read carefully.


But don’t forget…. I want to hear what you have to say.


Be sure to leave your comments…..


1) Read, Listen and Watch


Read books.


Listen to CD’s and audio’s.


Watch great athlete development Coaches do what they do best.


But here’s the key (and it’s something I very seldom hear anyone else mention)…


Don’t just learn from the stuff or professionals you agree with.


We all like to be validated and stay in a relative comfort zone in terms of our knowledge
base, but this industry is chalk full of professionals who cast negative opinions about certain
training methodologies without truly understanding them.


Spend 75% of your time on learning from resources you enjoy and agree with. 15% of
your time on resources you COMPLETELY disagree with and the remaining 10% on
resources you have never heard of and are not at all familiar with.


A well-rounded education is predicated on knowing parts of it all.



2) Put in the Hours


There is no glory in by-passing the grunt work. It’s what makes you a truly great athlete development Coach.


Log hours in the weight room and on the field.


Train clients of all ranges and abilities.


As when working with kids and young athletes (something I know a little bit about) the
goal is to equip them with as much non-specific ability as possible. That’s what sets the
stage for there eventual mastery in sport or completely profiency in function.


The same is true about athlete development Coaching.


You must coach. You must learn and make mistakes. You must develop a literal blueprint
for how to program, teach and mentor clients.


The great one’s are artists of this craft. The only way to get there is to log the hours. Period.



3) Be Aware of the Extras


Training is fine and so is programming, but how you communicate to your clients and
understanding how they learn are arts that too many professionals overlook.


Go well outside this industry and study resources that will help equip you with the
knowledge necessary to reach every single one of your clients on a personal level.


Developmental psychology.


Brain science.


Subjects like these will help you understand the true individual nature of the people you
come in contact with and assure that you are able to communicate with all of them in a
manner that best suits THERE needs.


Being a great Coach is not a ‘Lombardi-style’, one size fits all matter. It’s about athlete development and talking to
people on there level and inspiring them in a way that works for them.


What are your thoughts?



18 Responses

  1. Ron says:

    Your tips are excellent, but it depends on which age group and skill level you’re working with. Beginners and younger athletes don’t need the same level of expertise as older and more skilled ones. A great coach can be one who motivates, encourages and has fun. You don’t need to be a scientist to display these skills.

  2. Brian Schiff says:


    Great tips. I would add that it is very important to be yourself. Develop your own coaching style. So many times, it is easy to emulate other successful coaches (or try that is) and we may come off as phony or trying too hard.

    We must be authentic and exude passion as it naturally flows from us, rather than forcing expression that is not genuine or innate. The athletes will appreciate our own unique style provided we are listening to them and communicating clearly.

    With that said, also understand how your clients want you to communicate to them. Some may appreciate high energy and enthusiasm, whereas others may prefer a softer, gentler approach. Teach in a way they will best receive and process the information.

  3. Dean Carlson says:

    I disagree Ron. While the attributes you mention are certainly part of the picture, there is more going on.

    While a lot of kids in youth sports may never go onto be become professional athletes, every child deserves to be instructed at a high level from the very beginning.

    Perhaps the reason why the perception is that “better” coaches need to coach older kids is that they have to go back and try to reteach poor patterns that would not be there if the child received top notch instruction at an earlier age. It becomes much more challenging to teach if a poor foundation of movement is in place. The earlier good patterns are introduced and developed the better – that takes great coaching.

  4. Steve Cork says:

    Good thoughts Brian.

    Do you have any favourite resources for the communication part of coaching?



  5. Doug Garner says:

    I totally agree with all three of your points. But I think the most important componant of coaching is that you have to understand and interact with your athletes as people first. Without this level of understanding the other three points will not help you to help them!

  6. Leah says:

    Knowing that the majority of athletes will not become elite athletes, I feel it is the responsiblity of each coach to present skills and drills that will develop the enjoyment of the sport rather than the drive to make professional athletes. This should occur at all levels. Develop and present skill related fitness components that will continue to be a functional part of life as the athlete ages; speed, balance, agility, coordination, and power. They will be useful throughtout life.

  7. I just wanted to add one more thing to this discussion…

    Remember to make it FUN – for you and for your athletes. If the kids enjoy themselves, they will want to come back. If you make them better, their parents will want to send them back. But most importantly, you have to enjoy what you are doing. I routinely have other coaches remark about how they think I am nuts for wanting to work with 30 kids at the same time. That’s why I coach kids and they don’t (or shouldn’t). The kids’ enthusiasm gives me so much energy and I always leave a session smiling.

    The “X’s and O’s” of coaching are important, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.


  8. Robert says:

    I think its important not to miss the point that Brian is trying to make. You have to learn how to be well rounded and that happens through ready and learning about topics that are not necessarily about coaching all the time. I’ve seen coaches/trainers who know everything there is to know about kenisiology and program design etc, but have absolutely zero people skills. We have to continually evolve never stop learning.

  9. Al Roth says:

    I have been training youth and high school athletes for over 20 years and I still find that if the athlete are not fortunate to have someone in their lives to teach them properly, they perform at a lower level. Whether it be an experienced parent or a good trainer or coach it is imperative towards their develop. I teach all athletes young or old the basics of foundational resistant band training which is a huge advantage when it comes time to move to the free weights. It totally helps to nutrilize the weaker body parts, and develop their bodies to the fullest. As for the gentleman who says it is good to train all children at a high level, be careful.

  10. Good article. One more thing that makes a great coach/trainer. Ask questions! If you don’t know or disagree with something or someone, don’t be afraid to ask. It keeps you humble and makes you a better person.


  11. Dean Carlson says:


    By “high level” I mean the coach has a high skill level as a coach and trainer, not introducing high level skills training to kids who are not ready for it. Good catch on my phrasing.


  12. Barrie Jennings says:

    There’s lots of good responses here and I totally agree with Kim about your athletes enjoying themselves.
    For me, the real test is do you retain all your athletes while gaining more. If you do then you are doing something right, and it’s most probably that your athletes enjoy coming to you.

  13. mike says:

    I would add that it’s more important to love the kids you coach than it is the sport you coach.

  14. When working with young kids you have to make it FUN. Children learn best when they are having fun and if children aren’t having fun , they won’t want to come back. You can have the greatest technical skills in the world but if you can’t relate to your clients and your clients stop coming, then what good are those technical skills.


  15. Josh Leeger says:

    Brian, I couldn’t agree more. It’s important to embrace the entire field as fully as possible, and since our field involves human beings, that means learning more about things like psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines that don’t fall strictly within the parameters of “coach.”
    These are the big 3. I think you’ve summed it up.

  16. Ricardo says:

    Is about helping kids to enjoy sports so they find, choose and play the sport they love the most for the rest of their life.

    You can be a life, sport, skill, strength, and conditioning coach or just someone that likes to be call coach.

    At the end of the day is not about how many championships and trophies you have but about how many weddings, funerals, birthdays, and holyday parties you’ve been invited.

  17. Dave says:

    For the most part I agree. I have seen the difference in coaches that care and if you have a group of coaches who care and are allowed to give input all the better.Such as the girls b-ball program that has won state 3-4 times in the 6A bracket in our state.

  18. Nate Turner says:

    I’ll echo Ricardo’s idea. The chance to invest positively in the life of a child is a spectacular privilege. There is plenty of room for more coaches who truly care in that way, so if your gifts take you there, give it all you have. The results are more fulfilling than words can express.

    Nate Turner, Coach
    Sport Speed Austin

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