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The Top Three Traits of a Winning Coach

Posted on April 2, 2018 3:00:00 PM
TRX Education

The Top Three Traits of a Winning Coach

To read part 1 of the Coach Jeff Dillman blog series, click here. 

Earlier this year, we posted a blog in which we asked the question, “Are You a Trainer or Are You a Coach?” If you’ve taken our courses, are on our email list and keep up with us on social media, you’ll know that we prefer to refer to our education grads as the latter. We believe that great coaches affect positive, long-term change—inside and out—in the people they serve.

But what exactly does it mean to be an effective coach?

To answer that question, we spoke with one of the best coaches we know, Jeff Dillman. Dillman, who is director of strength and conditioning for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football program, shares what he believes are the top three traits that make a winning coach.

It’s Never About You

Coaches make it about the player, the team, or the client, not themselves. In order to do that, we first have to know something about human nature.

“We’re born selfish,” he says.

But it’s important to overcome that predisposition and place all focus on the person in front of you so he has the best chance possible to achieve success.

“You have to always make it about them and their goals. That way, they will trust the process and be better able to focus on today.”

He adds that, when it comes to training sessions, you have to remember that this is their time and is often their only outlet for the challenges they face in life.

He says, “They’re working off stress. In some ways, it’s a therapy session. They want to be taught and to know that you love what you do. When you do that, they listen. Keep in mind that your client probably spends more time with you than most people in their lives. They need to know that you’re there for them and that you have their back.”

Keep It Simple

Dillman says that professionals have a bad habit of overcomplicating things, which may be confusing to clients.

“What is a squat movement?” he asks. “Push your knees out, hips back and sit down. That’s it. But people want to talk about 10,000 things in the movement. It’s too much.”

He says that the best way to get people to understand what you want from them is to say it simply.

“I’ve had to coach athletes with varying degrees of learning ability,” Dillman explains. “Some of them read on a third-grade level and it’s my job to break things down so everyone gets it. I do drills with them, and if they don’t get it then I figure out other drills to help them understand.”

Another way he makes sure his athletes are clued into what he wants from them follows his simplistic philosophy: Just ask.

The bottom line?

“Do simple better,” he says.

Build Trust Through Consistency

In the world of high-pressure sports, an athlete faces numerous challenges that can cause her to question everything—the coach, the program, her skills. A training client also faces his own challenges, like the never-ending promotion of quick-fix plans and the plethora of misinformation available on the Internet, that make him question the process. Dillman circumvents these concerns by making sure he has the athlete’s complete trust—and ultimately, buy-in—which takes time to build.

“You have to build their trust,” he says. “And you can’t expect them to trust you right away because they don’t know you. It’s earned over time.”

The best way to build trust?

“I get my athletes to trust me by being consistent,” he says. “When they come into the weight room, they know exactly what they’re going to get; they know what the program will be like and they know what kind of a coach I’m going to be. It’s the barbershop theory; you always know what you’re gonna get when you sit in that chair.”

Dillman adds that he’s had coaches in the past that were inconsistent in their behaviors—like being full of energy one day and withdrawn the next—and that threw the athletes and caused them to question the program. So, he made a conscious decision to present himself as an energetic and positive motivator, with a side of tough love.

He admits that it’s not always easy to be consistent and a positive mindset doesn’t always come naturally because life happens and bad days are inevitable. On those days, he has to make the conscious decision to present himself a certain way.

“I have to get my mind right,” he says. “I have to hit the reset button and not let the past affect the present or the future.”

Dillman concludes, “Aside from building trust, energy and passion are contagious. Positive feelings trigger positive actions. If you do what you know and you’re passionate about it, people will buy it.”

If his coaching success is any indication, these approaches work.

Coach Dillman will deliver the keynote address at this year’s TRX Summit where he’ll share more about what it takes to become a life-changing coach.


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