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Do star players automatically become successful coaches? What qualities do you need to keep an eye out for when choosing a coach? What skills do they require?

When a top coach is needed for the football, netball or rugby team a top-performing player is often selected. They are seen as the ‘obvious choice’, but the skills of a successful coach are completely different to the skills of a star player.


Gets results largely through their own ability and skill  Gets results by improving the skills of other people 
Can do ‘the job’ quickly and well  Coaches and develops others to do ‘the job’ 
Must be motivated and disciplined enough to practise  Inspire others to want to practise 
Be motivated to deliver  Motivate others 
Execute the strategy  Create the strategy 
Often struggle to accommodate less able and motivated team members  Is patient and enables players to learn 


When you compare the skills it becomes obvious that they are very different.

It is critical that when a player makes this transition they are trained in the new skills they require. They must not be given the job and expected to make the transition automatically, just because they have a new title!


The Must-Have Skills of a Coach


team coach holding a whistle


The coach needs to bring out the best in each player and in the team as a whole in order to win games and then tournaments. It is important the coach is competent in the sport, otherwise he/she has no credibility as a coach. But once that box is ticked, what matters is the coach’s ability to

  • Get to know each player’s skills and what motivates them
  • Inspire players to give their best, at practice and during the games
  • Coach them in the skills they need to improve and win matches
  • Create the strategy for the game plan and the style of play appropriate for winning each match
  • Set clear expectations and hold the players to account
  • Mould talented individuals into a winning team, a star team rather than a team of stars

It is these coaching skills that make them succeed or fail as a coach, with their team enjoying a winning streak or living a losing nightmare.


The Same is True for Leaders

The sports coach experience is mirrored in business with leaders and managers.

Staff who demonstrate a high level of technical or professional skill stand out. They complete tasks and projects quickly and to a high standard. Their work ethic, output and results get noticed. They are your standout performers and as a result, they get promoted to a management/leadership role, the equivalent of the sports coach.

But just as with sports, the leadership skills they need now are completely different to the technical or professional skills they are so talented and experienced in.

While they probably have talent in one or two of those skills, it is very unlikely that they demonstrate ALL five critical leadership skills, the skills which are essential for top-performing leaders. There will be some significant gaps in their leadership ability and it is critical they get training and mentoring to fix these gaps.


The Transition to Leadership



Often those gaps include learning to ‘let go’ of a number of habits.

Habits like ‘quickly doing tasks’ because they easily can, and the tasks ‘won’t take any time’. Actually, easy tasks are the easiest ones to delegate, and they should be delegated.

Habits like ‘I’ll answer that because the client knows me’ even though they now have a new account manager. In doing so, you disregard the fact that this behaviour reinforces that the client can always come directly to you. In addition, inadvertently and disturbingly you undermine the confidence and position of the new account manager too.

Habits like making decisions without consulting your team. We often excuse this behaviour with statements like ‘well, there just won’t be time to check/consult with everyone’. This excuse is half-true at best, mostly it reflects the desire to make decisions yourself and quickly, and then to take action. These are excellent skills in a high-performing team member but not so excellent in a manager or leader who wants to succeed in that role and be respected and admired by their team.



Think about the people you have promoted in your business. Do you always give them the training and skills to become excellent leaders? Or do you hope that since they were high-performers they will automatically morph into excellent leaders?

How many great future leaders have left your business as a result, believing they are failures?