One of my trampoline coaches is a former Olympic diver. As you might imagine, she has incredible skill.
She is also an amazing coach and teacher. But it’s not merely a consequence of her skill that makes her an effective coach.
There’s an old adage:
Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
This is unfair to those who can do both well, and especially unfair to those who can teach something better than they can do it.
Doing and teaching require different skill sets.
Does it help that my trampoline coach has a lot of skill and years of practice and experience? Yes, of course.
But her ability to execute the skills isn’t what makes her so effective as a coach.
What makes my coach an effective coach and teacher is not that she is a master at the technique, but that she has mastered another set of skills.
7 Skills of an Effective Coach or Teacher
- Breaking down a bigger skill into its component parts.
- Communicating effectively so that the student understands how to proceed.
- Approaching a skill from various directions, so that if one approach isn’t working for the student she can offer a different drill that works with that student’s abilities.
- A compassionate approach to her students.
- Patience with her students.
- Encouragement to celebrate the small wins.
- Enthusiasm for teaching and coaching, even when a student isn’t advancing as quickly as the coach or student would prefer.
I’ve worked with trampoline coaches who were not Olympic athletes who also possess these skills. That’s what keeps me coming back even when the work is hard.
Just because you can DO doesn’t mean you can teach
Some coaches are great at doing something but can’t teach it.
I’ve had coaches who simply demonstrate a skill as a means of instruction. They might execute perfectly, but that’s not teaching. They don’t know how to break down what they are doing and communicate it in a way that allows a student to replicate the skill.
Some coaches are great at executing and can teach the skills ok, but they’re in it only for the big wins. They don’t sustain their enthusiasm for coaching unless their student is making big progress; they don’t know how to coach a client through the plateaus.
That’s unsustainable because anyone learning anything is going to have plateaus. In fact, it often appears that we have more plateaus or “regressions” than forward progress.
Some, like my trampoline coach, are great at both.
And it’s equally possible that someone might not be the best at executing personally but could still be a masterful teacher or coach. They understand what needs to be done, can break down the skills, and can communicate effectively.
What do you really want?
Doing and teaching are independent skill sets that aren’t always found in the same person. If you’re seeking help, it’s important to know what you really want:
Do you want to watch someone who is great perform and try to figure out how to to do it in your way, or do you want to be supported in your own road to mastery by someone who can teach you in a way that works for you?