Wayne Goldsmith: 10 key behaviours that underpin successful coaches


Rowperfect was at a coaching conference over the weekend and the guest speaker was Wayne Goldsmith.  He’s a sports management thinker and leader who has helped dozens of teams and sporting organisations improve how they work to achieve their goals.

This is a long blog post.  It is probably the most worthwhile thing you will read this week. Take 20 minutes and read it end to end.  Take notes as you go.  And tell us – do you agree with Wayne’s points?

Improve your coaching

What is your definition of coaching greatness? Write it down.  It’s unique, it’s yours.  There are not right or wrong answers.  But if you want to be a great coach at whatever level, what would that look like?

3 critical questions for today:

  • The first step moving good to great is the challenge itself.  What do I believe it is? Where am I now as a coach?
  • What can I learn today from other coaches – accelerating my rate of development and improvement towards that goal
  • What are you going to do when you get there and have achieved greatness?  How will you manage that?

10 key behaviours that underpin successful coaches

  1. It’s not what you do it’s how you do it.
  2. Live excellence in all things at all times.
  3. Aim to accelerate your rate of learning faster than your opposition and faster than at any time in your past.
  4. Engage the hearts and minds of everyone in your team.
  5. Do more, more often.
  6. Be different. Be unique.
  7. Thrive in conflict.
  8. Be yourself.
  9. Make tough but clear decisions every day.
  10. Continuous improvement is everything.

Read the rest of Wayne’s speech…

1 – It’s not what you do it’s how you do it.  The strength and conditioning guys give the workout – they are convinced that greatness is inevitable if you only follow the workout.

At the session, any session with club athletes you see the same things – guys doing what they are prescribed – what they are asked to do by the coach.

But some athletes do it a bit better, enthusiastically or counting the reps.  In every group there are two people who get there early, use great technique, think about technique, concentrate on breathing, stabilised their core; did their recovery, rehydyated, encouraged their team mates and did one more rep than they needed; spoke to coach and asked for more training.

Wouldn’t you like those 2 guys on your team?

It’s not what you do it’s how you do it.   In any group you’ll get a range – a couple of whinging kids, a group who give 85% all the way through; another group who do the first set flat out when the coach is watching and then go easy; another lot go low but finish flat out to show how good they were.  And 2-3 who give everything to every moment and in every moment and encourage their team mates.

Engagement, heart and commitment is what it’s about for greatness if that’s your goal.  The coach gives the inspiration.

when writing a training rpogramme coaches assume they’ll do it in the way we intend it be done…. we don’t assume poor technique, sloppy attention to detail.  We intend passion, drive, courage, effort. We don’t expect mediocrity.

2 – Live excellence in all things at all times.  Leadership has 4 areas – leadership in off-field training; leadership in on-field training; leadership on game day; leadership in social and community settings and environments.

We spend a lot of money on facilities and resources.  But when you get to training ask the athletes how many have been playing on their phones all night before training?  Turn off all electronic equipment 30 mins before they go to sleep. It’s hard for kids to go to sleep when thinking about killing angry birds.  One extra hour of sleep every night equals one more night of sleep per week.  Ask them if they ate at Macdonalds on the way to training?

3 Aim to accelerate your rate of learning faster than your opposition and faster than at any time in your past.  Smartphones are the best coaching education tool – you can get anything, anytime, free.

When dealing with parent groups we are dealing with the most educated parents in all time – in the past we were the custodians of knowledge – now every parent is a coach; every athlete has access to the same information you have.  Coaching is not content-based any more because anyone can get content.  Chances are everyone knows what you know these days.

Want a breakthrough? Don’t look inside your sport.

3 places where you find solutions: Inside your sport; inside sport but outside your sport and thirdly outside sport in the corporate world, health, medicine and education.

Everyone is learning and improving all the time.  The trick is getting knowledge and applying it faster than your opposition.  Assume everyone knows what you know.  You do something here and tomorrow a kid in Scotland is doing it…. a skiers practiced a trick which was videoed by a by-passer and within a week her opponent in USA had seen her latest trick and knew what she’d do in competition

4 – Engage the hearts and minds of everyone in your team.  Understand what athletes want from the sporting experience, understand their motivation.  Are you working with kids?  No 1 thing I hear is “kids are lazy, they don’t listen, they switch off.”

Gen Y are accelerating their learning rate faster than any other previous generation.

We are the problem, not the kids.  They learn faster than any others.  Learning by sharing and collaborating (Facebook, Twitter) they are capable but we are coaching like we were 20 years ago.  We aren’t responding fast enough to their capacity to learn, we are not engaging with them to catch their imagination and enthusiasm.

When we grew up (he is 51) we did repetitions – to win you just did more reps than anyone else.  That doesn’t work any more.  We have to engage with them in the way they want to engage.

In world figures 88% of ALL Sport is soccer and 12% is everything else.  rowing/rugby/golf/cricket/tennis/swimming/motorsport.  Our sport is tiny.

We know the world is about fast learning that’s not going to change for your U13 rowing crew…we have to adapt to the way the world is going.  This will give you a significant advantage towards greatness.

5.  Do more, more often.  [there’s a big difference between  a coach who is”hard” and “bast-hard”] I can be the hardest coach in the world and never raise my voice – by not compromising on the standards I set for myself and the team.

Compromise is the cancer of achievement.

Ian Thorpe at the end of every session did an extra 2000m – his preOlympic camp in 2000; Ian chose to add whatever he wanted to the training programme.  This was his choice.

Compromising on values and standards….. one of the great myths of greatness is that you need great facilities to be great….. every coach thinks they can run the national squad better (so do taxi drivers).  Everyone thinks that they’ve got it.  But it’s a different mindset.  So much is achieved by building around not compromising on standards and values.

6.  Be different. Be unique.  The winners change the face of the sport – your club coaches may change the direction because everyone follows and copies the winners.  You assume that if they win that they’ve got all the answers.

You should never benchmark with the idea of copying but with the idea of doing it better and going another step.

It’s up to us to take it to the next level.  Greatness is about being different, taking risks and doing it first.  In our business, copying kills particularly with the internet.

The most dangerous 7 words in sport “That’s the way we do it here”  This attitude in sports clubs kills culture and change and achievement.    If you can do something – just go for it and ignore those who say you can’t.

 7.  Thrive in conflict.  High performance sport is a pretty ugly place to be.  Most people who say they have a good culture in their sports club find it’s based on popularity not performance.

People don’t say what they think because they value coffee and friendship over honesty.  You have to be comfortable in positive conflict to achieve.  The reason so few people survive in high performance sport is because they can’t handle the conflict.

Anecdote: A Lions  rugby game – after the recent death of a key former player the opposition was going to be fired up to play well in his memory.  Waynes’ team had 3 strategies – ignore it; battle it; or manage the emotion of the moment.

Emotional control.  We will thrive with the conflict by understand how it fits into what we want to achieve.

8.  Be yourself.  This is the greatest gift you’ve got.  Be comfortable being yourself.  Back yourself when others say no.  When you hit hurdles – you’ll get more resistance especially administrators.  They don’t want people thinking and working outside the box.

But people like this are the winners, they are different and unique and changing the face of the sport.  In every generation there are 2 or 3 are people who do what they know is right and think “if I go down I go down”.

9.  Make tough but clear decisions every day.  Most coaches are do-ers but we’re not listeners.  We learn by doing or coaching with other coaches.  We have to make decisions all the time.

Kerry Packer said make 10 strong clear decisions every day.  If 5 are wrong you are light years ahead of others who never take any….

It’s easy to build a new sports facility – it doesn’t give you greatness; it can sustain your capacity to stay at a high level a bit longer.

But integrity, team and learning excellence are more important to building excellence.  These are the limitations to high performance sport.

10.  Continuous improvement is everything.  Team values often include honesty, integrity, fun, humility,  mate-ship.  These all mean nothing unless you are prepared to commit to continuous improvement.

What do these values really look like – honesty?  Sometimes luck plays a bigger role than you can ever imagine.  What does an “honest” gym session look like?

I turn up early, I stretch without being told, I do my exercises to my best potential, hydration, refuel, encourage team mates, ask the coach for more work.  Look back to item 1 above.

This is the thing I prize the most in sport from all the things I’ve learnt.

And Lastly

There are only 3 sorts of teams: winners, competitive teams and non-competitive….Most of us are trying to try to sustain our capacity to be competitive every year.

What will you do to improve your team?

Read more from Wayne Goldmsith


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