How to *Actually* Get Better at Coaching

Why the common coaching paths struggle to make you a better coach.

Deliberate practice has five main components, and they all summarize to this: get a ton of reps, get feedback on those reps, and act on the feedback in rapid iterations.

So how do you get better at coaching? By coaching. Getting as many reps as possible.

Just like you don’t get better at pull-ups by studying pull-ups, you need to actually coach players to get better at coaching. Certifications and courses might give you some tools you didn’t have before, but nothing beats actually being in the arena.

So a young, passionate person gets into coaching because they want to “help players get better” (or at least that’s what they all seem to say). 

And with that altruistic goal in mind, they need one thing: a TON of reps.

Do assessments, have conversations, try a cue, have the cue fail, try a different one. Rapidly iterate in a feedback-rich environment.

But that’s not what usually happens. These young coaches are starving for coaching action, but find little.

Instead, these coaches spend more time doing field work, practice planning, recruiting, administrative stuff than hands-on coaching.

In fact, I would estimate they spend about 80% of their time doing administrative work and 20% of their time coaching – not exactly an ideal distribution of their time if they’re trying to become the best coach possible.

In an ideal world, their time distribution would be the inverse: 20% of their time on administrative stuff and 80% of their time on coaching.

Now, I know this isn’t practical for most teams. Graduate assistants and interns are important pieces for any team and teams can’t allocate their staff’s time to be this focused on coaching. At the end of the day, teams are about producing wins and a big part of that is making sure that all of the administrative stuff gets taken care of. In the team setting, producing better coaches is merely a byproduct of a good system.

So, what’s the solution? If you’re a young coach who needs reps and feedback, what should you do?

Well, one option is to hold multiple jobs. Not only does this temporarily solves the very real pay issues in sports, but if your second (and third) job is coaching, you get a chance to get more reps in. It can work, but is it sustainable?

The other option, as I see it, is to circumvent the process. Instead of “paying your dues” by sweeping floors and sleeping in the coaches’ office, come work somewhere that allows you to do the most important thing: coach.

The insight here isn’t simply that you need to coach to become a better coach. That’s too simple. Too obvious.

The real insight is that to become a better coach, you need to get in an environment that allows you to coach.

It’s a small nuance, but it’s often the nuance that makes all the difference.

Now, you may be wondering, “Where on earth am I going to find a place like that?”

Well, my friend, I have good news for you.

That’s precisely what we’ve built at Tread Athletics.

And the even better news?

We’re hiring.