Recently I've been working with a number of talented coaches and coach educators on the topic of culture and what that looks like in the field of coaching. Over the last few months, we looked at ways in which we can build a coaching culture, not just with catchy phrases and presentations, but with concrete actions and habits. Here are some of the keystone habits we identified in top coaches.

They're All Thieves

The best coaches may appear innovative from the outside looking in, but for the most part we're all thieves. We beg, borrow and steal from each other like there's no tomorrow. The very best of us take other's ideas and tweak/change/repackage them until they become our own. In our office, we started using the phrase "Steal the best, leave the rest" (we probably stole that from somewhere too!)

 Back to back Champions League winning Manager, Zinedine Zidane, stealing ideas from another coach.

Back to back Champions League winning Manager, Zinedine Zidane, stealing ideas from another coach.

 That other coach, happens to be Pep Guardiola. Zidane, before taking over as the Real Madrid manager, observes and "borrows" from one of the best modern day coaches and clubs. It doesn't go too badly for him as he leads Real to back to back Champions League titles.

That other coach, happens to be Pep Guardiola. Zidane, before taking over as the Real Madrid manager, observes and "borrows" from one of the best modern day coaches and clubs. It doesn't go too badly for him as he leads Real to back to back Champions League titles.

This approach to growing as a coach, and "borrowing" from others can apply to observing a fellow coach's session, taking ideas away from coaching courses or taking from the plethora of resources online.

The key to it, is to think critically about whether it's appropriate for the players you work with. The best coach's repurpose ideas they've ripped off, but only when it's developmentally appropriate for their players. Knowing the difference is incredibly important.

Steal the best, leave the rest
— Unknown (probably stolen)

Their Player Connection Is Unparalleled

If you think of the top managers and coaches in the game today, a lot default to Pep, Klopp or Pochettino. Most interviews with their players result in some sort of comment on their unique relationship with the coach. You can often see demonstration's of their relationship as a player is subbed off and gives the coach a hug or a handshake of some sort.

The same goes for grass roots coaches. The best we see have an unbelievable connection with the kids they work with - high fives, smiles and encouragement mean that players have a great time at practice and games. If a coach connects with their player's, not only will those player's be more likely to remain in the game, they'll also be more inclined to do that little bit extra within session's and games as they strive to impress and work for their coach.

 Who wouldn't want to play for this guy? (eh-hem, Emre Can...)

Who wouldn't want to play for this guy? (eh-hem, Emre Can...)

 

They Plan, Plan, Plan

Highly effective coaches invariably have a master plan. They have a long term vision and then break it down. Whether that's career goals, season training plans or getting a player from A to Z, they're planning it out every step of the way.

One of the more straight forward ways of progressing from a good to a great coach boils down to  session planning. The more work that's done in the planning phase, the less chance there is of a session getting derailed. Highly effective coaches have progression's and regression's up their sleeve, "what if" plans in place and transitions between activities visualized and memorized. This level of detail sets them apart and tees them up for success when they coach.

Other coach's I know of have set deadlines of when they want to achieve their UEFA A license, and while it's not a race, their planning and ambition typically fares them well as they progress in the game.

 Rafa Benitez is never far from his notepad and pen as he plans everything from session's to team talks

Rafa Benitez is never far from his notepad and pen as he plans everything from session's to team talks

 

Takeaways

  • Steal - from the best, leave the rest. Just ensure it's developmentally appropriate for your players
  • Connect - Take the time with your players; before, during, after games/sessions. The long term benefits are huge
  • Plan - Meticulously. The more detailed you are, the less chance of a curveball derailing your best laid plans.